Watershed development is core issue in Lamsoo

Dr. Mohinder Kumar
Lamsoo is located in Chiktan block, 55 km from Kargil city in Ladakh. Village is 150 years old and appears as a picture of extreme economic backwardness with level of living reminiscent of late medieval society. Villages in Kargil district are backward mostly for historical reasons. Kingship of Chiktan, which ruled this area for 700 years, kept the villages in a state of inertia and stagnation. It was not an old idyllic world, which one could long for.
Area of village is 2250 acres, including 750 acres each under common land (33%), private agricultural land (33%) and pasture (34%). Average size of owned holding is 20 acres per household. Village of 300 population and 40 households is spread in two mohallas. Entire population is Muslim Scheduled Tribe (ST) households, who speak Balti and Purkhi languages. Only 15 out of 40 houses are pucca and other 25 houses are kutcha. Of 25 kutcha houses, 10 are totally damaged and abandoned by owners a few years back and accommodated by fellow villagers even as new construction or repair could not take place due to lack of money. Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) is not accessible since not implemented though desperately desired. Houses got damaged due to snowfall. With 30% literacy (overall), villagers want development. Villagers understand that three factors shall make Lamsoo developed: education, basic amenities and infrastructure. Therefore, youths study in college.
Women are mostly involved in farming, which is a normal pattern and common trend in village (as in Kargil district). Village practices equality on all fronts: social, economic, gender, financial, etc. Village still follows old tradition whereby selling farm produce (milk and vegetables) within/outside village is considered not good. This comes as a blessing in disguise as long as village remains poor, since those who are needy could get some charitable help from those who have surplus. But ultimately it does not help in self-sufficiency, sharing (on equality basis), mutual exchange and development. Due to over-dependence on charity, free service, grant, altruism, etc. during past 150 years, Lamsoo could not break shackles of backwardness.
Sarpanch belongs to other village and rarely visits Lamsoo. He did not help farmers in getting Kisan Credit Card (KCC). MNREGA works are not planned or executed. There is a Committee of Gram Sabhas under Gram Panchayat; Lamsoo has four members in the committee. Its function is to get developmental works sanctioned under MNREGA. Sarpanch ignored Lamsoo and did not create awareness about development schemes linked with bank credit and subsidy. For drinking water Lamsoo is dependent on two nallahs and two chashmas. Piped water supply is taken from chashmas but flow is inadequate. Three supply points are given, which are insufficient even for 40 households. Villagers fetch water by head load from nallah. There are two hand pumps to fulfill drinking water demand to some extent. Village has 100 youths. One youth is Post-graduate in Physical Education and two-three are graduates. Main occupation of village is farming as all 40 households own agricultural land. Allied occupation of villagers is wage-labor tied to contractors. Five per cent youths are idle/ unemployed. Fifteen women youths are trained in tailoring from ITI. Two youths have migrated to Kargil and are working in hotel, restaurant, shop establishments, or do wage-labor. Farming is becoming “useless”, opined the villagers; trend in wage labor is increasing.
Since all farmers do subsistence farming, they do not need agricultural marketing facility in Lamsoo. Bank branch is located 20-30 km far in Shakar village. Own farm seeds, not certified seeds are used for cultivation. Villagers often take delegation to BDO or district head quarter for development works to be started in Lamsoo as village is totally ignored. There is no veterinary center in village. Villagers take their animals to Youkma Kharboo village, 10 km from Lamsoo. If animal is sick, compounder is called. Absence of veterinary center for animals is main reason why villagers do not rear sufficient number of animals: only 40 cows and 500 goats/sheep. It is very difficult to visit 10 km from Lamsoo to get veterinary help from Youkma Kharboo. Patwari visits Lamsoo for “intqal” of land records or when farm land is acquired for road project. Land records and registration of sale deeds are done properly. There is no NGO, Cooperative Society or SHG in Lamsoo. One pucca macadam link road Lamsoo-Amzaith was completed in July 2013 under PMGSY. Provision of basic amenities is poor. All roads and streets are kutcha. Domestic electricity supply is maintained for four hours (three hours during night and one hour early in the morning) by diesel generated (DG) set. Transmission lines are not installed. Power supplied through DG set in Shakar-Chiktan block covers these 15 villages: Lamsoo; Sandoo; Yokhmo Koryan; Shakar; Hagnis; Chiktan; Samra; Pargive; Hanskot; Doth Khargoo; Khangral; Stakchey; Charoks; Pukshow; and Targo. Similarly, 10-15 villages in each block of Taisuru, Sankoo, Zanskar are supplied power through DG Set.
Lamsoo has a dispensary with poor medical facility; no private doctor/clinic or medical shop is available for emergency. Main problem faced by villagers is low stock of medicines. Villagers reported that nurse is incompetent as few medical cases got aggravated in problem and had to be referred to District Hospital Kargil. Villagers were assured that a doctor (MBBS) would be posted soon to the dispensary. Though Lamsoo is poor it does not have a fair price shop. Villagers go to neighboring village Youkma Kharboo to get food grains and sugar at fair price. Without electricity, fuel wood and in extreme cold, people of Lamsoo are forced to travel 10 km (one way) to purchase kerosene oil from Youkma Kharboo. This is real adversity. There is a government middle school in Lamsoo; teaching staff is inadequate though teachers come regularly. Students of 11th and 12th classes go to senior secondary school, walking 13 km for six hours daily, since there is no transport, no school bus, and no money to pay.  There is no private or public bus service to Shakar from Lamsoo.
Water management is the core issue in Lamsoo. Village is unable to manage rich water resource (flood water, snow melt water and water from glaciers). If water is tapped properly in ponds, its irrigation problem could be solved significantly just as neighboring village has done. The neighboring village (located below Lamsoo-la mountain top) is able to create prosperity even as it is economically advanced and politically more aware. Water is actually not scarce in Shakar-Chiktan block as it can be tapped from nallahs and stored in watershed-based ponds. Samra nalla and Kanji nallah got flooded in 2010 due to cloudburst. There are no flood protection mechanisms in Shakar-Chiktan and Sankoo blocks. Pipeline of “Chutok Hydel Project” has reached Karit village, which could be extended to Lamsoo. Without control over water flow from glacier-based nallahs, water goes waste which could otherwise benefit Lamsoo and hundreds of other such villages in the area. Flood in Samra nallah in Chiktan block caused death of a person in Samra village and destroyed four shops, three houses and a high school building. Flood in Kanji nallah caused uprooting of thousands of trees. Water scarcity and water wastage are concomitant in Shakar-Chiktan block. Water flow is good in nallahs and otherwise used for running large number of water mills (rantak or ghrut).
Rain is also a common problem. Raining “season” comes in Shakar Chiktan block including Lamsoo village each alternate year. Season lasts for not more than a couple of days and more often just a single day either in June or sometimes July month. During a particular day, it rains only for two-three hours maximum. “Rain” concept here implies two-three hours of pouring water with dark thunderous and threatening clouds during which it creates shock and havoc by causing destruction and devastation. If it rains 8-10 hours a day, it is termed as “heavy raining”. Flow of gushing rain water creates massive landslides, soil erosion and stone-slides, causing huge crop loss, washing away of agricultural lands, fallen trees and economic loss to the farm households. Village does not have protective measures against flash floods and fast flow of rain water to check its destructive impact. They survive on heavy snowfall although in recent years maximum snowfall has dropped to 1½ feet as compared to 5 feet snowfall witnessed 30-40 years ago. It could be due to climate change. Snowfall is the natural lifeline of villagers.
Problem related to lack of finance was reported specifically. It affects 50% households. All 63% BPL households faced cash problem not only for daily expenses but also for investment. All of them borrowed from informal sources (shopkeeper, serviceman). Loan repayment and indebtedness is taken care of by poor villagers based on remittances. Village has very poor mobile phone connectivity. It requires mobile tower just as its neighboring village Shakar has one. People feel helpless without mobile connectivity. Villagers demanded construction of three-four pucca ponds for storage of water for irrigation. Village receives water from nallahs for two months and that also goes wasted. From ponds, there is need for six-seven pucca drains of size 2’x1′ which can be used by all 40 farm households for irrigation.
Link road connecting Lamsoo with Karit is kutcha for the past 7-8 years. This is a shortcut road connecting Lochum with Kargil city. Though it usually remains closed in winter due to snowfall, in summer also it is used less frequently due to bad condition. Second link road from Lamsoo to Sandoo (11 km) is also kutcha. It requires laying macadam to have pucca road to connect Lamsoo with Khargoo, Shakar, and Chiktan towns.  Third link road that was required for a long time was Lamsoo – Shakar road (9 km) as it has recently been constructed pucca macadam road under PMGSY. It gets closed for traffic during winter due to snowfall. Removing snow is a problem on this road. PWD does not remove snow timely. Removing snow from village/district roads is the responsibility of PWD, and on national highway it is the responsibility of BRO. There is no proper machinery available with PWD for snow-removal even as “belcha” is fitted to the front of tipper to make it workable but it runs the risk of slippery tyres. Agencies require having “dozer” (chain vehicle) which is more efficient and safe.  Lamsoo requires management of both snow and water-resources which are sufficiently available but not tapped for its economic development.
(Author works for NABARD. Views expressed are personal)