Away from the hustle bustle of the towns, Malana, a village located in a remote area of Kullu district that acquired disrepute for its thriving drug trafficking, is now vying to be accorded "backward" status by the state government.
Lack of the bare minimum of civic amenities forced most of its residents to illegally peddle cannabis. A road leading to the village remains a distant dream and poor water and electricity supply further compounds problems for its inhabitants, many of whom consider themselves descendents of Alexander the Great.
"There is no proper water supply in the village. We have seven public taps but most of the time they remain dry. There is little water left from perennial sources. Villagers are still dependent on the age old 'bualis' (water wells). There are four of them in the village. The power supply is erratic and most of the time the voltage is very low. The villagers still use kerosene lamps to light up their homes at night," Choru Ram, the 'up pradhan' (chief) of the village panchayat told this reporter.
The villagers are also sore over the slow pace of work on the road that is being built to connect the village. Construction began five years ago but it is still 3 km away from the village, which is still a big draw for foreign tourists, particularly backpackers looking for drugs. With few sources to earn their livelihood the villagers have been engaged in the narcotics trade with 'charas' extracted from hemp plants grown in the wild. The village even caught the attention of international drug barons in the late 1970s.
Research conducted by the police's narcotic wing revealed that in some of the woods the drug smugglers have sown hybrid varieties of the hemp that is unusually different from traditional plants. These hybrid plants can grow up to 12 feet high and the leaves are bigger and broader than those of traditional plants. The 'charas' extracted from them is in high demand in the global market.
The smugglers have given own brand names to the 'charas' like Malana Cream, Skunk Balls, Cobra Bite, Black Widow, Russian Lady and even AK-47.
"People extract herbs and some of them indulge in the 'charas' trade, even though it has been reduced to a great extent now" said Ram.
Malana 'panchayat' has a population of nearly 2,800 and the villagers complain the lone middle school in the village does not have adequate staff. In the wake of representations and problems faced by the residents a team from the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and Castes will hold a public hearing in village to understand their problems. "Our main demand is the panchayat should be declared a 'backward' area," said Ram.
In 2011 the village was devastated in a major fire in which half of its area was destroyed. The villagers speak Kanashi language, considered by many to be a "dialect of the devil" who is supposed to have "resided" there long ago. The dialect is the does resemble any of the language spoke in neighborhood but it appears to be a mixture of Sanskrit and a Tibetan dialect.