By: SAROJ THAKUR
The silky smooth drive on the National Highways in Himachal would make any Himachali proud as Himachal has come a long way in providing quality roads to its populace. The roads constitute the very life line of Himachal’s economy. Not only this, the roads bring about a social and emotional integration among the people as they have a readily available means to travel and to meet others.
The big towns of the state are having as comfortable roads as are possible in any hilly terrain. Some people may think that as the urban roads act as a felicitator for tourist influx hence the Governemnt pays attention toward these stretches of road lengths. But this is not what the truth is. The Government is providing roads in rural areas so as to make life easy for the people living therein. This fact dawned upon me during my recent visit to one such area.
Though I must confess that roads for me, during my childhood, meant only the Mall Road and the Cart Road in Shimla as I could not just think beyond! My understanding about the roads had remained so had it not been for a yearly pilgrimage back home to a remote village of Mandi that would make me aware of the real Himachal and its roads. The journey would be tedious and arduous as the roads were narrow and sometimes my little heart would be filled with fear when the tyre of the bus would be just on the outer curve of the road! I would pray and pray to God for safe journey. The bus from Baijnath would take us to some distance and after that we would have to walk. I still remember my father being so happy walking towards his ancestral home whereas we would be grumbling for being put to so much of discomfort! And from Lad Bharol, a small village, it would be an arduous ascent to Simsa village that is so famous for its Simsa Maa Temple, the child bestowing deity! The terrain was tough but the scenic beauty captured and soothed the tired souls. During the steep ascent, at one place, under the shade of a tree, we would sit to provide some respite to our feet and would watch around. It was really amazing that it was the only tree on that steep ascent and we would look at it intently waiting to reach the spot so as we could sit under it. From that point we would gaze at a miraculous projection in the hill that provided natural cover to the houses constructed under it. It would be so wonderful to watch the people living in the houses where the rain water never entered as the natural cover overhead saved it from the rains! We would watch and watch this particular spot.
Natural projection as a roof
At some more height a steep ascending hill, with a house on the top of it, wound capture my gaze and I would wonder how these people ever get down and was so surprised to learn that small children from the village walk everyday to Lad Bharol High school. As if it was not enough I was told by my proud father that many young people from the village had made a name and a place for themselves in various fields. I would be plain envious as well as appreciative for their undying spirit to succeed. But one thing I was certain of that no road can ever be constructed to reach this part of the inhabitation.
Gradually over a period of long duration, the roads were constructed, first the kutchha ones and then the metalled ones! I found out that the Himachal Government is as liberal in connecting the remote areas of the state as it is for providing better road facility in the urban and semi-urban areas. During my recent visit to Lad Bharol area of District Mandi, I was pleasantly surprised to find a jeepable road at a place where a few years back, I would stand, stare and wonder as to how people living in some houses over there could ever get a vehicle to their village. I would think–why these people prefer to live there instead of migrating to some other place connected by road. But this time when I stopped at that spot to pay my obeisance to Lord Shiva’s nature-made idol, I was surprised to find a ‘Z’ shaped road where I would not even dare to crawl on my all fours! I thought it to be in the making as this was what I could make out from a distance. When I came back and talked to my Ma about that road she told me that the road, though kutchha, was jeepable and people used this road to carry goods and other essential things. I was really appreciative of the good work being done by the Government to provide this basic facility to its people. As a road is nothing less than a life line for the people of hilly states like Himachal!
And last but not the least, the fact that Himchal ranked second lowest so far as the roads per 100 square kilometres of area were concerned in the year 1969 and today we are at second place in “Infrastructure building” according to a recent survey conducted by India Today. An achievement that would make any Himachali proud of!