Super-achiever village in Lahaul-Spiti scores poorly on turnout
The village, just 113-km from tourist hub, Manali, has produced the most officers from a single village.HimachalPradeshElection2017 Updated: Oct 31, 2017 14:58 IST
The tiny village of Tholang, with just 36 families, in the snowbound tribal belt of Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, boasts of having produced over 50 professionals — including IAS, IPS, HAS officers, doctors and engineers over the years. Anecdotally, the village, just 113-km from tourist hub, Manali, has produced the most officers from a single village. Yet, the voter turnout of the village that has a population of 200 has always hovered between 50% and 60%. Of the population of 200, only 99 (50%) voted in the 2013 Lok Sabha bye election for Mandi parliamentary seat. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 105 (60%) of 185 residents voted.
The state, for comparison purposes, has recorded over 70% turnout since 2002 assembly polls and the bypolls in between. Part of the Lahaul & Spiti (reserved for ST) assembly seat, the area was declared as a Scheduled Area under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution as per Scheduled Areas (Himachal Pradesh) Order,1975(CO 102) dated November 21, 1975, that enables reservation in government jobs for residents. The village produced its first IAS in 1968, AN Vidyarthi, who went to become the state’s chief secretary.
Why the low turnout
Owing to the tough topography, majority of the villagers have moved either to Kullu or are now settled in Manali. A substantial number, who have settled outside Tholang after retirement, have taken to hospitality industry. Those settled outside are not interested in voting. Like other villages across Lahaul and Spiti, Tholang loses connectivity with the rest of the state for six months a year, when the Rohtang Pass gateway to the valley is closed due to the snowfall.
‘Harsh life fuelled desire to move out’
Vidyarthi, whose selection to the IAS, inspired others to emulate him, says, “It was just the harsh life in the village that encouraged people to venture out,” he told HT over phone from Kullu. “There was no road connectivity and electricity. Villagers had to travel quite a long distance to reach even the most basic facilities,” says BS Kapoor, a chief engineer, who retired from the Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board. Kapoor belongs to Tholang.