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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Two Himachal polling booths differ in topography, but share similar plight

Accessibility is the one giant problem facing both Bara-Bhagal as well as Kuther polling booths of Himachal Pradesh. One has to trek for three days to reach BaraBhangal, while Kuther, an island in Pong Lake, is accessible only by crossing the dam water on locally made boats.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 18, 2019 14:13 IST
Naresh K Thakur
Naresh K Thakur
Hindustan Times, Dharamshala
Lok Sabha Elections 2019,Election news,Lok Sabha Polls
Once a beautiful village in Kangra, Kuther was submerged after construction of Pong Dam. The people affected by the dam were promised rehabilitation in Rajasthan but that never happened.(HT Photo )

The politically significant Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh has two polling booths that are poles apart in terms of topography but share a similar plight in terms of amenities.

One is situated deep in the Dhauladhar range of lesser Himalayas and inaccessible by road while the second is a small island surrounded by the serene waters of Pong Lake.

While the residents of BaraBhangal have been fighting a long battle to get their rights on forests and pastureland, occupants in Kuther village have been branded as encroachers on their own ancestral land.

As per the 2011 census, BaraBhangal has population of about 500, and Kuther has 150-odd people.

Accessibility is the one giant problem facing both Bara-Bhagal as well as Kuther. One has to trek for three days to reach BaraBhangal, located over 4,700-metres above the sea level. The nearest village connected with road is 65 kilometres away.

Kuther is accessible only by crossing the dam water on locally made boats. While Kuther got a polling booth much earlier, BaraBhangal got a booth for the first time during the 2007 assembly elections, when the polling party used a chopper to reach the spot.

Also Read | Lok Sabha election 2019: Issues, key players and more on Himachal Pradesh

“People of Bara-Bhangal have been ignored by successive governments. Our claims under Forest Rights Act have still not been settled,” says Pawna Devi, a social activist and resident of Bara-Bhangal.

She said that a hydel project set up in the village in 2004 has been non-functional for over decade for want of maintenance. This essentially means, there has been no electricity in the village ever since. There is a high school in Bara-Bhangal which shifts to Bir village where its population migrates in winter. No teacher wants to join the remote school.

“Accessibility has always remained an issue. The village in last monsoon had reached on the verge of a famine as the only track for reaching there was damaged and ration supply stuck midway,” she said.

The situation is no different in Kuther. It too lacks electricity. The village does not exist in revenue records as the land on which it is situated is the property of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB).

“So we are voters, possess ration cards but have no other rights. We have no school, health institution and can’t even get electricity connections,” said Sunil Kumar, a local resident.

Some residents use batteries to light up their homes and run other appliances. Children study in lamplight.

Once a beautiful village having a fertile land in Kangra district, Kuther was submerged after construction of Pong Dam. The people affected by Pong Dam were promised rehabilitation in Rajasthan but that never happened. “When we approach political leaders or the officials, they express helplessness because in revenue records there is no village named Kuther,” he said.

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First Published: Mar 18, 2019 14:13 IST

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