People falling down from ropeway into the Mahakali River and drowning is no more a news for Darchula locals. Every year they lose their village folks to the perilous journey.
Yet, they have no choice than to use the makeshift cable crossing locally known as tuin to get into India, situated on the other side of the river. As the festival of Dashain has begun, people’s mobility in this far western district has increased, too. Many are coming from India through this way and this has made the nearly a dozen ropeways over the river busier than ever.
“We have no choice,” said Sowan Singh Khati of Sunsera village. “We know that we may fall in the river, too. It is always a narrow escape from death every time we use it. And during Dashain the movement is more than the rest of the year as people go across the border to buy things and many return home from India.”
CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli, soon after assuming the post of prime minsiter last year had announced that such risky cable crossings will be replaced by suspension bridges by July 2018.
People of the northern part of Darchula use tuin to cross the river while those in the south depend on rubber tubes. They are constantly rocked by the fear of getting drowned in the river. Yet, they don’t have any alternative for getting across the river. According to Khati, both of these mediums were initially introduced to transport goods across the river. But in lack of any better alternatives they are now used by growing number of people to get across the river.
“If essential commodities and facilities were available in our own villages, we would not have to make such risky journeys to India often. We don’t have even schools and hospitals in our place. So we have to put life at risk every now and then,” Khati lamented.
People of northern and southern part of the district generally go to Dharchula, India for shopping essential commodities. The Indian town offers goods at reasonable price, they say. “We have to make risky crossings over the river because goods and commodities in Dharchula are way cheaper then our home town.”
Locals of Rapla, Sunsera, Dhaulako, Huti, Pipalchauri and Hikila use tuins to cross the river. “Tuins have become essential part of our day-to-day life. It’s risky, but by far its best and only option we have to cross the river,” said Khati.
Apart from them, they are also used in Dumling, Maal, Rithan, Bartibagad, Malghat, Madgau, Syaku, Dokat, Tirgam, Spagadha and Huti.
According to Kunwar people are helpless. In lack of better solutions, like suspension bridges, they have been making such risky journeys for years, and yet the government has remained indifferent to their plight. Apart from the fear of losing life while using tuin and rubber tubes to cross Mahakali River, hassles at the Indian side is equally harassing, he said.
“It’s a nightmare to get across the border due to undisciplined checking by Indian officials. They check your baggage and ask you unnecessary things and most of the time you have to bribe your way through,” said Kunwar adding that things have been like this since long and said that it is disheartening to realize that things were not changing in their part of the world.
Maniraj Bhatta of Dhaulakot stated that huge number of people in the region depend on Indian markets across the border for daily commodities. To get into those markets, crossing Mahakali River is a must. “In lack of suspension bridges over the river, people are forced to cross the river using tuins. Every year around 5 to 6 lives are claimed by tuins. Yet the government remains mum,” he said.
Some years back rumors of an agreement between the government and India to build a bridge over the river had traveled in the remote corners of this far western district from Kathmandu. It had given hope of a better future. But the rumor has since has been washed away by Mahakali.
“For the politicians, people’s difficulties and their lives do not matter. They only care about their own positions and come to us only when they need votes,” Bhatta fumed. “Or else, bridge would be in place long back,” he added.
Those who are forced to use tubes to cross Mahakali River are no less disheartened.
Locals stated that apathetic attitude of the government has been talking life of innocent people. “People come home in Dashain, Tihar. And the journey is so risky,” said Manoj Nepali of Lali village. “Tuin and tubes take away the peace of our mind. When our family members announce their plans to repatriate, our joy is turned into anxiety by the thought of the perilous crossing over the river,” Nepali added.