Saturday, March 8, 2008

A visit to Harsing

I was disheartened to hear that in the last raining season, Harsing, a beautiful old tea garden, had to suffer for our profanities of nature. Landslides crashed through this village causing heavy losses. My friend Siddartha Pradhan, one of the founder members of Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG) and I decided to visit the place.

It was a bright Sunday morning when we set off. A fresh new blanket of snow covered the mighty Kanchenjunga, and the nearby hills surrounded the Darjeeling town like a mother embracing its baby.

I attended the Sunday morning mass and stood near Divya Vani, waiting for Siddarth, who so lovingly volunteered to take us down to Harsing in his personal car. Mr. Navin Tamang from DLR Perena and Mr. Montu Gurung from Cathedral of Immaculate Conception agreed to join us too.

The air was crisp. However, it got warmer as we descended from Darjeeling to Lebong and had to remove our jackets. On our way, we were greeted by children playing on the sides of the road, women washing clothes outside their houses and some on their way to Darjeeling. The road was narrow and steep. But Siddarth maneuvered well.

As we reached Harsing, the local youth team gathered to welcome us. They were helping the landslide victims in constructing new houses. We parked and Mr. Tamang, the captain of the ship guided us up the hill through the narrow path. What a breathtaking experience!! Though we've been born and brought up in Darjeeling, it was difficult for us to keep pace with our other local friends.

Soon we reached the first site. And what a sight it was! Around 10 to fifteen villagers were building the house of a fellow neighbour. Some were busy cutting mud, while some were cutting stones. I couldn't see the house which been there earlier. On enquiry, I was told that the landslide had destroyed the house completely.

A landslide brings down more than land. It disrupts farms, homes and more importantly, lives.

The second site where Mr. Tamang took us was a beautiful mud house with local flowers around it. But its beauty was undone as soon as I entered the house. There was a deep crack right in the middle of the house, breaking it into two. It was deeply saddening.

The last site was a badly damaged house which till date, hangs from a hill.

My heart was weeping but yet hopeful. And the people that gave us hope were none other than the villagers themselves. They displayed courage and friendliness which shook us all.

One family member of each house in that village gave his or her time to construct a house for the affected people. It was a rousing example of teamwork. Even though there were hardships, the faces of the villagers didn't show any. They welcomed us with their glowing smiles and an open heart.

However, the hills welcomed us with nothing but echoes of silence. Reverberations of rues. Who do we blame for the tragedy? Everyone knows the answer, but are we really doing something to stop this? This is our wake up call. Let us respect our nature, save our hills.

I noticed the work of DLR Prerna and Anugalaya and was truly impressed and moved. They work silently, not for fame. This year too, they are re-constructing thirty one new houses which were damaged in the hills of North Bengal.

After the visit was over we were taken to the nearby house and were offered tea. Tea with so much of love and respect.

Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG) would like to thank Mr. Roshan Rai, Director, DLR Preryna, Mr. Ashish Rai, Mr. Navin Tamang, Mr. Montu Gurung, Shankar Daju and his team (Shankar Foundation Darjeeling) for involving MARG in Saving the Hills. MARG would also like to thank Mr. Hemant Bhutani and Ms Kamelesh Takkar for donating blankets which were handed to the landslide victims during our visit.

Let us all stand up and pledge to Save the Hills and save precious lives. Today we are lucky for not having been effected by these vicious landslides. We are lucky for still having a home. Some were not that lucky. Remember that.

Nirnay John Chettri



Comment by praful rao

Harsing lies at the base of the Chowrasta ie the Mal, Darjeeling and was one of the worst landslide affected places in Darjeeling last Sep2007. As with so many other cases the cause of the slides is man; water from the upper reaches ie Bhotay Busty, Lebong, Tungsung and Pandam flows thru this area. The damage was as follows:-

a)Lower Harsing :- Two houses washed away, one partially damaged, 35 houses in peril
b)Middle Harsing :- 4 houses damaged

No landslide prevention work has taken place in Harsing since Sep2007

My thanks to Mr Nirnay Chettri for this article

No comments: