Tourism no option, 2,000 villagers in Kullu’s Malana face livelihood issues
Tourism activity has halted, and the villagers are facing difficulty in fending for themselves, says panchayat pradhan Bhagi RamUpdated: Oct 30, 2020, 21:38 IST
Eight months after covid-19 forced lockdown rocked the state, over 2,000 villagers in the remote village of Malana in Kullu district’s Parvati Valley are struggling for livelihood. A narco-tourism destination, even as every government has tried to wean villagers away from the trade, the village that traces its origin to ancient times, is known for fiercely guarding its independent traditions, which it has successfully preserved. Over 15,000 tourists visit it during a normal year.
“The panchayat banned the entry of outsiders much before the lockdown. Thankfully, there is no case of covid-19, but villagers now face livelihood issues,” says Malana panchayat secretary Tek Chand.
“Tourism activity has halted, villagers are facing difficulty in fending for themselves. Potato is the main cash crop, but there are no buyers for that also this time,” says panchayat pradhan Bhagi Ram, adding , “Barring few, residents have small land holdings in Malana,” he said, adding that the government should make provisions for granting land to villagers who are landless to help them to wean away from the narcotic.”
Traditionally, inhabitants of this land-locked village used to make baskets, ropes and slippers from hemp. In the late 1980s, however, visiting foreigners taught villagers to extract the intoxicant resin from cannabis. Hippies made this forest land their transit home and introduced drug culture to the Kullu Valley, which is known for its splendour and scenery.
Malana panchayat comprises two villages Saura behad and Dhara Behad and has a total population of 2,000 in 475 households. Successive governments have tried to wean villagers away from narcotic trade, there is no other cash crop to rival cannabis in Malana. Maize and potatoes that villagers grow don’t fetch handsome returns. “Even now, the village wears a deserted look as most of them are camping in forest to extract herbs,” said a local youngster, a member of Navyuwak Mandal, who did not want to be blamed.
Cannabis extracted from the hybrid hemp plants is grown in a clandestine manner is sold at exorbitant prices in the international market as well in key tourist spots in the country, particularly in Goa. To market the local charas, drug peddlers have invented their own brand names like Skunk balls, AK-47. The Malana cream, which is the charas extracted from hemp in the forest land of Malana village, remains the most sought after.
Villagers also claim that they the descendants of the great Greek King Alexander, with some of his soldiers also believed to have settled here.