Development: Gakiling, as the name implies, is a peaceful hamlet. But there are many stories of suffering and agony that the people of the remote gewog in Sangbaykha dungkhag in Haa have endured. However, these stories will soon come to an end.
Five years ago, it took a three-day arduous walk to reach Gakiling. But not any more, as a motor road has paved its way till the dungkhag office, just few days ago. This means people can reach Gakiling from Thimphu in about eight hours. The travel duration will only decrease with blacktopping of the Haa-Samtse secondary national highway.
“In the past we can only imagine ourselves carrying huge loads from Tergola and walking for days. Even if the road is not fully established, it is almost like having a proper road,” said a villager in Rangtse. “So far we have remained in the dark, now dawn is breaking upon us,” he added.
In three months Sangbaykha and Gakiling gewogs will be connected to Haa as well as Samtse. Moreover most of the villages are now connected with road.
But still people from villages like Sektena will have to walk for two days to reach the gewog centre. They will probably have to wait a little longer.
Sangbay, literally meaning the secret and sacred land sanctified by Guru Rinpoche has indeed remained hidden from modernisation and so are the holy sites (Nye) in the gewogs. There are only a few people who know about these holy sites.
Once the road comes, the dungkhag expects large numbers of pilgrims visiting the sites.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay who hails from Sangbaykha constituency and concluded a three-day visit to the two gewogs on December 30 said people should take advantage of this to enhance their incomes.
Talking about the progress of road construction, staffing the basic health units and electricity connection, Lyonchoen said the villagers must now start preparing for opportunities to boost their income. For instance, livestock, agriculture, and hospitality, among others, are a few areas to explore.
So far the main source of income for the people in these remote gewogs is the cash crop-cardamom.
Lyonchoen also talked about establishing a Central School for the two gewogs so that people don’t have to send their children far.
“There are lots of planned developmental works and adequate budget,” Lyonchoen said to the people at a meeting. “I am your representative and it’s my responsibility to serve you.” After having all the infrastructure in place, Lyonchoen said it is the people’s responsibility to take good care and make efficient use of it.
The road, he said, will cost the government more than Nu 500 million. But if the road doesn’t help in bringing about economic development in the community, he said the government will be wasting a huge sum of money.
The Sangbaykha gup, Thinley, said the road came as a relief from suffering for even horses, let alone human beings.
A 50kg bag of rice used to cost around Nu 3,000 including the transportation. Now with the farm shop, he said people are able to get it for Nu 1,000.
However, the Prime Minster expressed his concern that the farm shop has discouraged people from cultivating paddy. “The purpose of the road is to take the local produce to other dzongkhags and not to bring imported items,” he said.
Although there is no alternative for some commodities, Lyonchoen encouraged people to produce whatever they could. “This will achieve self sufficiency.”
Lyonchoen’s hopes are high, the people appeared motivated to work hard and works are progressing but it remains to be seen how the two remote gewogs rise to the occasion.
Tshering Dorji | Sangbaykha