It is a bright day in Shemagangkha, Chapcha. Temperature soars by mid-day but it is not deterring a team of 35 men and women repairing the feeder road to their village.
While some villagers dig the roadside to construct proper drains, some clear the bushes. Others clean the hume pipes under the road.
Shemagangkha’s tshogpa Tazi leads the spirited team. “It is the second day of the work,” he said. “We would work another day to make the road pliable.”
The farmers call it ‘woola’, a mandatory work contribution for a common cause in the village.
Tshogpa Tazi said that it is an annual event, where residents of about 120 households in Shemagangkha come together twice every year to maintain and clean the road.
He said that those households that can’t make labour contributions contribute cash to the community.
Meanwhile, the six-kilometre feeder road serves as the economic link as it connects Shemagangkha to the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway.
Villagers say they constructed the road themselves in 1992 with approval from the government. The government also provided blasting materials then.
They said that although the road sustained with the support from the government, the people manage it.
Village elders say that the road should now get blacktopped.
Tazi said the blacktopped road would enhance transport of agricultural products and stop impending rural-urban migration.
“Many still live in towns,” he said. “A good road will encourage youth to stay home.”
He said that Shemagangkha is an agriculturally active community and farmers would benefit the most from a blacktopped road.
A villager, Phub Dem, 51, who is contributing the labour, said that vehicle condition deteriorates while plying over the feeder road. “Taxi drivers refuse to drop us to Shemagangkha when we come from Thimphu or other places,” she said.
She said that contributing the woola doesn’t give satisfactory results most of the time. “Government intervention to blacktop would benefit us.”
Shemagangkha villagers also said that the steep point where the feeder road meets the national highway is an arduous stretch as vehicles find it difficult to climb.
A village elder, Gem Tshering said that the particular strenuous point was a mistake villagers committed when they constructed the road in 1992. “Since it was constructed without engineering expertise, it poses a risk today.”
He said that after the matter was discussed in gewog tshogde, the government allotted Nu 1.4 million to reconstruct and blacktop the 300 metres stretch. “The government should now help us to blacktop the entire road, as it connects three villages in Shemagangkha.”
Villagers also said they raised the matter every time a government official visited their village but nothing happened. “We wish someone could understand our problem and blacktop the road,” a villager said.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing