Tribals in Spiti valley opt for self-governance in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic

Updated on Jun 12, 2020 01:56 PM IST
Locals say the valley doesn’t have adequate health facilities to cope with an outbreak, have banned entry of non-locals and labourers, taken to traditional farming
Farmers in Spiti valley have decided to grow traditional crops instead of commercial crops even if it translates into losses.(HT PHOTO)
Farmers in Spiti valley have decided to grow traditional crops instead of commercial crops even if it translates into losses.(HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times/Shimla | By, Shimla

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, residents of Spiti in Himachal’s Lahaul-Spiti district have imposed self-governance and are following their own set of guidelines to ensure the valley remains corona-free.

On June 9, villagers in Spiti valley did not allow local legislator and agriculture minister Ram Lal Markanda from entering the valley. While the minister termed the protest against him ‘politically motivated’, locals say Markanda was denied entry in a bid to protect the valley and its people from the deadly contagion, as the valley lacks adequate health services.


While the Centre only imposed the lockdown on March 24, Spiti valley had begun formulating strategies, raising awareness and holding discussions about the novel coronavirus in February 2020.

On March 17, locals formed a ‘committee for preventive measures and sustainable development’ (CPMSD) comprising yuva mandals, mahila mandals, local panchayats, gram sabhas, social action groups and lamas from five monasteries.

The committee decided to shut all hotels, dhabas, and transport services in the area before the national lockdown was imposed.

The entry of non-locals was barred and a 15-day quarantine period was made mandatory for people of the valley coming from outside. The entrance to the valley is guarded by locals and the committee issued guidelines regarding arrangements to be made for home quarantine. The locals also monitored the arrival essentials such as LPG, diesel, petrol, fuel wood, and vegetables from outside the district.

“As we are located in a remote and cold desert area, which is also a tourist hotspot, we realised we were vulnerable to the disease,” said a local, requesting anonymity.


“We banned labour from outside and farmers decided to grow traditional crops instead of commercial crops even if it translated into losses,” said CMPSD member Lhmo Buitith.

The locals have also urged the government to stop HRTC bus services from plying in the area.

“CMPSD has ensured that all rules and guidelines are applicable to all people without any bias or discrimination,” said Buitith.

“It is difficult to maintain physical distance due to heavy dependence on community due to shared lifestyle and livelihood practices in the tribal area,” Buitith said.

“Separating elders and children was difficult as in most families three or four generations live together,” said Buitith.


Scheduled areas and tribes have been given special status in the constitution of India. The 73rd constitutional amendment and provisions of different acts confer powers on the local communities through gram sabhas to take decisions to protect its area, resources, livelihoods and cultural and social existence.

“At the time of such an unprecedented crisis, it is not just necessary for us to take steps to ensure our safety but also completely legitimate. Public health experts and the government’s ICMR Task Force has clearly said that the policy of lockdown should not be ‘one size fits all’, but rather be implemented according to local context,” said CMPSD member Lhmo Buitith.

“The people of Spiti, to secure and protect their existence, have decided to postpone their regular means of income such tourism and commercial farming for a whole year as such it is the moral duty of the government and its representatives to cooperate with the locals,” Buitith said.

The tribal community, which has a population of 13,000 spread across 30 villages, has also been concerned about protecting its existence, ethnic and cultural heritage, which has evolved over the years.


    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde with Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis at Mantralaya during the celebrations of Rakshabandhan and the 75th year of Independence in Mumbai on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

    Maharashtra cabinet: Fadnavis gets home; CM Shinde keeps urban development

    Days after the Maharashtra cabinet expansion, portfolios have been allocated to ministers, with chief minister Eknath Shinde keeping the urban development ministry and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis getting the home, finance, water resources, housing and power departments. Shinde also kept the public works (public projects) and transport departments five days after the first cabinet expansion of Shiv Sena-BJP government in the state.

  • The CUET has been marred with frequent delays and other glitches at different test centres across the city. (Photo: Amal KS/ HT)

    The wait for CUET is killing us, say Delhi’s college aspirants

    College life is something that every individual eagerly awaits. With the Common University Entrance Test facing several interruptions and glitches, most Delhi-based youth aspiring to get into colleges to begin their campus journey are left feeling low and disappointed. Some rue that their cool plans are gradually losing hot steam. Same case is of Parul Sharma, another class XII pass out, who wants to get into a good college the soonest possible.

  • As a tribute to the nation on 75th Independence Day, Delhi’s youngsters are enthusiastically hoisting the Tiranga at their homes. (Photo: Raj K Raj/ HT and Shutterstock (For representational purposes only))

    Patriotic vibes: Tiranga tales by DU students

    The Tricolour is fluttering high and mighty, almost anywhere one sees in the city. With the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign becoming a hit among residents, the youth in the Capital are also doing their bit to celebrate the 75 years of India's independence, with a dash of cool quotient coupled with full josh for patriotism.

  • Royal Mavericks group members will have the Tricolour fluttering high on their bikes as they ride through the city on August 15.

    Riding high on patriotism: Bike, bicycle groups revel in I-Day spirit

    August 15 is a date that brings the entire nation together as one, for everyone gets eager to celebrate the occasion when India got its freedom from the colonial rule. Marking the spirit of freedom, on I-Day, will be some riders in Delhi-NCR, who have organised group rides. Many who used to get together and mingle freely earlier, are now returning after a Covid-induced hiatus, to celebrate the day with the same fervour as before.

  • Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal  (PTI)

    As Yamuna water level rises, Kejriwal urges people to avoid visiting river banks

    Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday urged people to avoid going to river banks as the Yamuna water level has increased in the national capital. According to the flood control room, the water level dipped from 205.88 metres at 8 pm on Saturday to 204.83 metres at 8 am on Sunday, reported news agency PTI. The water level in the Yamuna had breached the danger mark of 205.33 metres on Friday.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, August 14, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now