Aryan villages in Ladakh region struggle for survival

By Nazir Ganaie

Sep 4, 2020

Srinagar: The journey down the road for small scale women entrepreneurs, business unit holders and vendors at some of the Aryan villages in cold desert, Kargil region, seems a hope vs despair affair, a never-ending struggle for survival.

“We are struggling to meet our ends…We are mostly an agrarian community and due to the August 5 lockdown last year and the on-going Covid-19 SOPs, our businesses have suffered huge losses,” said Sajeeda Parveen, a local business unit holder.

She said  the government was making many tall claims but as far as they are concerned, so far not even a single scheme benefit has reached them. ” We are in immense losses and pain and struggling on a daily basis. She said, post August 5 last year, life has not been the same. “We have been struggling to deal with our economic losses,” she said.

The villagers say that with uncertainty looming large, the apricot orchardists in the Aryan villages are sun-drying apricot before the harvesting season picks up. Earlier, the same would be sold for Rs 500-700 per box in markets outside J&K but currently there are no takers.

“We have been witnessing the dark side ever since the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two union territories. We are suffering in silence and no one seems to be concerned about our pleas,” said, Tsering Angmo, a local activist.

“There is no tourism, which once accounted for about 7 per cent of the state’s GDP. The transport has also come to a grinding halt due to lockdowns post Covid-19. So with no buyers or visitors, we are struggling for survival,“ Tsering Palmo, a local woman entrepreneur, said. “We have no market available for the apricot produce. If the situation would have allowed, we would have preferred to ship outside markets and gained good profit,” she added.

Post August 5, many schemes were promised and announced by the government. They have also assured that they will purchase the fruits directly from the growers after quality checks and grading. However, no such relief reached this part of the word. The government launched schemes are just planned on paper” said one of the ladies not wanting to be named.

“In my neighbouring villages, women can be seen making small slices of apricot to be put under the open sky to dry, because that way it will have a longer shelf life,” said Sonam Palmo. She said that his village mostly depends on farming for its livelihood. The village, according to her, produces amble apricot produce.

Another lady from the village Tsering Yanges added, “this area otherwise also remains cut off from the rest parts. The government needs to take a humanitarian view of our situation, as we are suffering and no one is listening to us”.

Pertinently, the Srinagar based policy group Ehsaas has launched a series of meetings and research trips in various areas of Ladakh region in order to exclusively understand the women perspective of the socio-economic issues, confronting these areas.

According to the organizers, the exercise in the region was launched, in order to see what were the major challenges confronting these women.

Ehsaas, under its initiative on Women in Tourism Empowerment Programme, has been working in the region of Ladakh, especially Kargil to bring it on the tourism map. In the last few it has held a series of interactions with women living in Hunderman, which is the last village near the line of control and documented their issues and stories. The women in that area have been given basic skills in tourist behaviour, as trekkers and climbers, in addition to training them as women guides to enhance their employment opportunities.

Ezabir Ali Founder, Secretary Ehsas said, “it is hoped with these small interventions, Kargil will receive attention as a must-visit tourist destination in Kargil and help to broaden the scope of career options for women of that region in addition to gender mainstreaming”.

“As a follow up to our successful intervention in Hunderman, we are currently focussing on Aryan Villages. I have held various interactions with women living in Garkon village and Batalik area and have documented various issues faced by them, post 5th Aug 2019, due to the socio-politico changes. Most of the women shared they are struggling for survival as they lack marketing support for their main product- apricot,“ Ali said. “I am exploring options and linkages where the women entrepreneurs from the Aryan regain can be linked for marketing support,” she added.

Situation Post August 5

Kashmir Economy faces Rs 40,000 Cr losses Since Aug 5, Business Community said. Kashmir, which was almost shut for the last one year, which has cost Rs 40,000 crore to its economy, says the business community. On last August 5, the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre abrogated Article 370. Similarly, the villagers in Kargil—especially in these Aryan villages, accused the government of ruining their businesses. They accused the government of turning a deaf ear towards them and ignoring their pleas. On one hand the otherwise vibrant and vocal Kashmir Chamber and Commerce didn’t even mention Ladakh region in their survey of losses. The office bearers of the KCCI didn’t even agree to comment on the problems faced by the several villages in Kargil region, saying that it was no more in their “domain.”

It may be recalled here that the Brogpas (or Drogpas) living in Ladakh claim to be the last of the Aryans. Tourists, whether domestic and foreign, in addition to researchers and visitors are lured by the “last Aryan village” located in the remote Himalayas.

The inhabitants of the villages of Dha and Hanu are commonly called Dhahanu, Darchik, and Gahanu – These villages are situated 163km southwest of Leh, the administrative capital of Ladakh. The 5,000 or so members of its community follow Tibetan Buddhism.

One theory says they arrived from Gilgit, Pakistan in the seventh century; a popular story is that they are descendants of Alexander’s army, while many argue that the Aryans are the indigenous inhabitants of India.

The Aryan villages of Dah, Hanu, Biama, Garkon, Darchik are nestled high in the Himalayas, with a heavy Indian army presence. Until recently, these were not accessible to civilians, but now tourists can visit them with prior permits which can be procured in Leh.

“We are working to have a proper survey of such areas and tourist attractive destinations. We will have some schemes to offer such womenfolk, who would want to contribute to the region’s overall GDP growth.” Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Ladakh, Umang Narulla, said.

—-India News Stream