Agriculture: Samrang gewog in Samdrupjongkhar is coming back to life, so to speak. Roads and electricity have arrived, and villagers who left decades ago are coming back to the gewog.

Recently, eight households returned to the gewog. The families left their ancestral land in Samrang and had been in the neighbouring gewog of Pemathang for more than ten years.

It takes about 45 minutes drive from Samdrupcholing Dungkhag to reach Samrang. When you get there, lush plains greet you, filled with paddy fields.

This is good thing to happen to the gewog, say villagers and gewog officials. Population is gradually increasing.  Gewog officials are trying every possible means to lure people to return to the gewog.

At a time when gewogs elsewhere are facing increasing incidents of out-migration, Samrang has a different story to tell. Success, although small yet, is already loud and clear.

Although the gewog has five chiwogs, only three chiwogs had some settlements. Two chiwogs lay empty still. And the three chiwogs had only 19 households and less than 100 people. But now the number of households has now increased to 27 after eight households returned. According to the Gup MB Gurung, population has increased to about 150.

All these have been possible because of facilities that came to gewog within four years after Samrang was made a separate gewog in 2011, said MB Gurung. Samrang was earlier under Pemathang gewog.

Almost all the 264 households of the gewog left during the problems in the south in the 1990s. Elephant menace added to people’s woe, said MB Gurung. “After people left, the land was left fallow and the gewog turned into a forest. Even after it made a separate gewog in 2011, not many were willing to return.”

And, often, population creates it’s own problems. Although the gewog had enough budget for developmental activities, there were no people to help turn developmental works into reality.

“Now, electricity and roads have come. We’re already in the process of encouraging people to return,” said MB Gurung.

Besides electricity and roads, installation of electric fencing and revival of irrigational channel has also been initiated so that people are encouraged to come back and cultivate the fields left fallow.

And to add to all the good things that are coming to the gewog, Samrang will soon have a mega livestock project on an 800-acre land. Gewog officials said that 12 more households are expected to return and make use of land they abandoned a decade or so ago.

MB Gurung said that the 12 families will get land substitute from the mega project and also electric fencing. “As per our record, about 54 families from Samrang who left in 1990 are living in Thimphu. We’ve met them and have asked them to return.”

MB Gurung said that the gewog office is trying to find land substitute for five households of Thodeun chiwog. “If the people don’t return, all the developmental activities will go in vain.”

Tshogpa Dhan Bahadhur Rai said the new provision in the Land Act has also helped gewog office to call people back. If the land is not utilised in three years, it will be considered state land.

“If they return, we’re willing to share the irrigation channel and help them settle. This will really help strengthen our security,” said Dhan Bahadhur Rai.

Pelzang Wangchuk, MP from Jomostangkha Martshala efforts are being made to trace people and call them back through various means to encourage them to Samrang back to life.

According to the elders, people settled in Samrang after they lost their land to Penden Cement in Gomtu. They were given land substitution in Samrang.

Following a security threat in the nineties, the gewog was without a gup, which was then closed and later clubbed with Pemathang gewog.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupcholing