… at the kickoff  of a long awaited farm road, whose construction has only just begun

Development: It’s not just dust that’s in the Khanduphung village air.  The construction of a 2.7km farm road that will link Khanduphung to the gewog road is only in its fifth day, but optimism is in the air for a better life.

Khanduphung in Serthi gewog is about an hour’s walk from the Lauri gewog centre road point.  Serthi is 21km from Jomotsangkha dungkhag.  Construction of the road is expected to take only three months, and should be complete by June, before monsoon.

A road was on the wish list of the villagers for long, as they produce a good quantity of citrus mandarin and potatoes.  Transporting them to the market is a problem.

The village tshogpa, Ngawang Chojay, feels it will ease the drudgery of carrying the produce on their backs. “There are no young people left in the village. The old find it difficult to carry their rations too,” he said.

Some villagers have planned to buy Bolero pickup trucks, the 38-year-old said.  Travelling to and fro to the village is also expensive.  Villagers pay Nu 200 till the road point or Nu 1,500 during emergencies, if they rent one.

A road would also mean proper toilets.  Villagers have suspended the mandatory construction of clean toilets, as they have to carry the materials from the road point. “Many are waiting for the road to complete,” the tshogpa said.

Villagers are also hoping to increase vegetable, orange and potato production, as they could then take the crop to the Samdrupjongkhar auction yard, instead of selling at lesser quantity and price to vendors from Tinali, a adjacent border town in Assam.  Most grow only for consumption.

Serthi gup, Kencho Chophel, said a budget of Nu 1.3 million was allocated from the gewog development grant, as it was not included in the 11th Plan.

The gup said the road was planned under the development grant fund, following repeated requests at several meetings and the gewog tshogde from the villagers.

The gup expects the road to stop villagers leaving the village. “Road is one way to prevent the gungtong issue,” he said.

By Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar