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Stories of Transformation: Rural Roads of Himachal Pradesh

Vinita Ranade's picture
Challenge:
In the rough, mountainous terrain of Himachal Pradesh, farmers found it difficult to carry their produce to the nearest road for transportation to city markets. Village children had to undertake long and arduous walks to school, and medical help was hard to reach. Faced with few opportunities, young men left their villages to look for for jobs in distant towns.

Results:
The new roads have helped farmers to take their bountiful harvests to market. Their earnings have increased. Parents can now send their children to schools of their choice, with many opting for schools that teach in the English language. The older children, especially the girls, can now take the bus safely to high schools and colleges further away. Medical help is reachable more quickly, businesses are flourishing, and some migrants are returning home to farm their lands.

The region’s abundant farm produce now reaches markets in time

Before the roads were built, villagers carried their farm produce on their heads or transported it on donkeys down steep hillsides to reach the nearest road. From there, trucks would ferry their fruit and vegetables to market. This was both difficult and expensive. As a result, much of the produce perished in the fields.
 
Farmers Naresh Kumar & Shamsher Singh wait by the side of their farm to load their freshly picked cabbage
Farmers Naresh Kumar & Shamsher Singh wait by the side of their farm to load their freshly picked cabbage

“We used to walk all night to catch the early morning lorries. Only 20 percent of our produce got sent to market. Now that jeeps pass right by our farms, we manage to sell 80 percent of what we grow. I send 3-4 quintals of fresh vegetables to market every day. It gives me a good income.”

More opportunities for schooling and higher education

New roads have opened up many new schooling opportunities. Many parents are now opting to send their children to English schools in town. Higher education too is within reach, especially for girls.
 
Children wait for the car pool to take them to school in town.
Children wait for the car pool to take them to school in town.

Medical attention is quick and easy to reach

Roads have made it easier for families to take a sick child, an ailing parent, or a pregnant woman to medical facilities in nearby towns
 
Women walk up from their homes to the road
Women walk up from their homes to the road
“During the monsoons, the narrow dirt tracks down the hillsides get slippery. Earlier, when someone had a fall, it was impossible to get medical attention in time. Now, some farmers have earned enough to buy a car, and with the coming of the new road, they can drive an injured person to the hospital straightaway.”

New business opportunities abound.

With roads running through the villages, business is booming and land prices have soared. With agriculture now a profitable venture, many migrants are returning home from the cities to farm their land. Some have decided to retire here rather than invest in a home in the big city.

“I could never think of building a concrete house because carting building material on loaders or ponies was impossible and financially out of my reach. I have now decided to build two shops on my land - a chemist and a stationary and book store.”
“I was the first person to start growing vegetables once the road came to our village. Now, the entire village is doing so. Watching me work here, many villagers are returning from the cities to farm their land.”



Visiting home at festival time is now easier

With better connectivity, those who have migrated away find it easy to return home and meet their families during the major festivals. 
 
Shakuntala Devi shells corn with her visiting family
Shakuntala Devi shells corn with her visiting family

“Our pace of life has suddenly changed, people are earning better and it takes less time to travel. Even our sons, who work in the big cities, now visit us regularly for festivals.”
 

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