HP to develop remote India-China border areas after youth exodus

Concerned about reports of young people migrating from the remote regions along the 260-km India-China border in Himachal Pradesh, the state government has decided to develop more facilities for tribal residents in 76 villages.

Though the situation along the border stretching 140km along tribal Kinnaur district and 80km along Lahaul and Spiti district is peaceful now, large scale infrastructure expansion in China, especially new roads close to the sensitive Kaurik sector in Kinnaur, has left government officials worried.

The Centre allocated Rs 17 crore this fiscal for development in such regions under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) in Himachal, cutting down funding because of the economic implications of Covid-19.

Last year Rs 27.4 crore had been allocated under BADP.

More jobs, production oriented activities

BADP is aimed at creating more jobs and production oriented activities and schemes which provide critical inputs to the social sectors.

Additional funds will also be given by the government for the development of 76 villages within zero km from the border, says Onkar Sharma, principal secretary, tribal development.

The HP government had demanded more money and proposed to the Centre that a road be built between Brua in Kinnaur to Harshil in Uttarakhand via the 17,000 feet high Lam Khaga pass for better connectivity between the two states.

“We are trying to give impetus to developmental activities along the border areas, there are many projects in the pipeline, project works are periodically reviewed,” says Sharma.

“In the last three years there has been reduction in funds for development of the region. There’s a need to create more employment avenues to stop the exodus of youth from the region,” says Jagat Singh Negi, four time legislator and a senior Congress leader from Kinnaur. A police team sent by the HP government to report back on the migrations after India’s standoff with China in Ladakh last year, cited lack of facilities and economic activities as the main reasons for the exodus.

HP chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, who also holds the home portfolio, too, expressed concern over “depopulation’ of youth due to lack of economic activities.

The 198 villages in the three border blocks of 12,634 km, of Kalpa and Pooh in Kinnaur district and Spiti in Lahaul and Spiti district, do not have roads, electricity and communication systems or education and medical facilities.

Indo-China trade limits options

The government talks about tourism development but the border areas still lack basic infrastructure “ says Negi, suggesting that young people be provided land. “ Horticulture is more beneficial than tourism,” he adds.

The centuries -old traditional trade between India and China and India too has been plagued with problems with youngsters not interested in taking it up. Bilateral trade through the Shipki La pass connecting Kinnaur district to the Tibetan Autonomous Region in China the reopened in 1993 after remaining closed since 1962 since the Indo-China war.

Traders in the border areas have repeatedly approached the HP Himachal government for a revision of the list of tradable items as the items allowed are not lucrative.

“There is a need to add more facilities at trading points,” says Sharat Chander Negi, who retired as general manager from the Industries department.

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