18:13 GMT +320 January 2019
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    Indian army soldiers walk along the line of control at the Indo-China border. File photo.

    Indian Villages Look Over Border With Envy at Chinese Infrastructure

    © AP Photo / Anupam Nath
    Asia & Pacific
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    Indian villagers in a border district threaten to seek Chinese help if demands for modern infrastructure are denied.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — Pin Valley, a picturesque cold desert nestled in the Himalayan region in India's far northern state Himachal Pradesh bordering China is a feast to the eyes with its snow laden unexplored higher reaches and slopes. Villagers in the area are the perfect example of tribes trapped between their love for nature's purity and the want for modern facilities. The aspirations of these villagers have become a matter of silent unease for India and China.

    Two community leaders, Lobsang Tandup and Chhewang Topge are fighting a tough lawsuit filed against them by the Indian state in 2014. They were charged with sedition after they threatened the Indian government that they would seek China's help in infrastructure development in their area, if their demands were not met.

    Ravi Thakur, the elected representative of the area in the State Assembly, says, "There is a huge difference in infrastructure development in either side of the border. Only a few kilometers away from the Indian border, China has built four lane roads, hospitals and educational institutions. They have continuous access solar power-generated electricity. We see trains moving throughout the day. On our side (India), we are nowhere close to them."

    Thakur says, after villagers threatened to approach the Chinese administration for help, India's central administration promised to take necessary measures to fulfil their demand for better infrastructure. The local administration renovated a collapsed bridge in 2014. But that was it. The larger issues remain unaddressed.

    A bridge across Pin River
    A bridge across Pin River


    "Roads are in bad shape. In winters, the area is totally cut off from the rest of the country as snow clearing is not done due to lack of funds and facilities. Two years ago, the Border Road Organisation was mandated to take start renovation and construction work, but due to unavailability of funds, no progress was made. There is no telecom network in the area. Electricity is a necessity…for cooking and for sectors like education and industry like tourism. But the fate of the proposed Rongtong hydel power project is hanging in balance since the last 8 years."

    According to Thakur, the western command of the Indian Air Force have demanded that an airstrip be provided in the area, given its strategic location. Villagers are hopeful that this would bring with it some basic development in the area.

    Meanwhile, the Indian Army has taken an initiative towards dousing any anti-national sentiment among the villagers. Officials of the Indian Army recently interacted with the villagers and gave them motivational lectures and distributed free medical kits. They even played a friendly cricket match with the youth.

    Meanwhile, sources from the Border Roads Organisation say they are not able to perform their mandated task in the region due to a cut in fund allocation.


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