A good description by Rawat on the basic problems of Vijoynagar people: roads, education, telecommunications, electricity. In other words, the area is totally cut off from development and neglected. Though the prices mentioned by the author have changed since 2009, the situation remains the same.

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Source: By Dr. J.S. Rawat (Published in Arunachal Times, 26 Nov 2009).

Vijaynagar is a remote circle in Changlang District, Arunachal Pradesh. It is a narrow stripped mountain valley; surrounded on three sides (Northeast, South and West) by Mayanmar while from Northwestern side, enclave by stretches of Namdapha National Park. There is no surface road connection to the area and is totally cut-off from rest of the world. The nearest settlement in the Indian side is Miao, at the distance of 157km. Where as, Putao (Fort Hertz), a town of North Mayanmar, lies within the radius of 40 km from the Vijaynagar. As per the census 2001, there are 13 villages in the circle with a total population of 3988. This excludes the newly established villages like Preetnagar and Daodi and also those villages inside the Namdapha National Park (Ngwazakha, Nisadhi, Niboti and Hisichu). The 19 villages are inhabited by two communities – Lisus (Yobins) and Ex-Assam Rifles with a population of about 6000.

In the beginning of 1970s this remote circle was connected by motorable road to Miao. PWD started building the road in 1972, and it was formally inaugurated in 1974. However, the road was abandoned within a short time as PWD could not maintain it.  Now, it is buried under dense forest with thick undergrowths and washed away by landslides at several points.  Thus, the area is still 157 km away from the road which, by and large, inhibits basic services to life. The non-existence of road is a curse for the miserable condition of life and impoverishment in the area. The Indian Air Force (IAF) operated AN-32, known as IAF’s workhorse, is the only mode of transportation for about 6000 population of Vijaynagar. People look to the sky, not for rain, but for the fair weather, which facilitates the get in of the sortie (AN-32) from behind the snow-clad mountain. Generally, there are two passenger sorties and a ration sortie in a month from Dibrugarh (Mohanbari) to Vijaynagar. However, air service is very uncertain constrained by many factors like weather condition, wills of IAF and officials of the Deputy Director of Supply and Transport (DDST), Mohanbari, Government of Arunachal Pradesh. To add to this, the weather at Vijaynagar is also so unpredictable that thick rain clouds suddenly engulf the valley. For months together the passenger remains stranded at both ends (Mohanbari and Vijaynagar).

The uncertain nature of air service has compelled people to rely on six days on foot journey to Miao for the essentials. Foot marching for six days through thick forest, steep accidental slopes and across the gushing waters really puts the life into stake.   In many places the foot-track passes through precipitous slopes. In between 27 to 31 miles from Miao, it negotiates steep cliff overlooking the river below. People crawl along the slope climbing up and down and holding rocks, twigs, plants and roots. Fortunately, the local MLA, since Shri Kamlung Mossang came into power in 2004, has been provisioning rest camps, bridges and occasional clearing along the foot-track out of the MLALAD fund.

Earlier the two co-operative societies at Vijaynagar catered most of the requirements of the people. They are now lying completely defunct since the Government of Arunachal Pradesh scrapped air lifting of departmental and commercial goods. The transportation of the goods on head-load for six days increases the price more than double in the local shops. The porters charge Rs.70 for every kg. Thus, a bag of cement costs more than Rs.3,000, salt Rs.80 to Rs.100 a kg and mustard oil costs Rs.150 a litre. Many often, the inhabitants endure with an acute shortage of salt and other essential commodities like rice, oil, kerosene, sugar, pulses, etc. The proscription on departmental and commercial loads has its worst effect on the supply of PDS goods, CPO items, life saving drugs, school books, mid-day-meals, etc. The story does not end here. Tragically, in January 2009 the Advanced Landing Ground at Vijaynagar has been declared out of condition by IAF for landing AN-32. Since then, not a single AN-32 landed at Vijaynagar. Very recently, the Government of Arunachal Pradesh started weekly Pawanhans (MI-172) service to Vijaynagar w.e.f. 1st September 2009. This service, if ensured regularly, could provide much needed solace to the people from ghastly and hideous foot marching for six days.  However, the MI-172 service too is not living up to the expectations. Since from 1st September 2009, only two MI-172(s) have been conceded to Vijaynagar.

There are seven primary schools, one middle school and one secondary school in the area. Almost all the primary schools are run by single teacher, although there is no dearth of qualified locals. Of course, few of them are engaged in teaching by MLA at the rate of Rs. 2000 per month.  The daily routines of most of the single teachered schools include attendance, one or two periods of classes, games and sports, etc. Most of the teachers are appointed under Sarba Siksa Abhiyan (SSA), and apparently display lack of interest. Due to the communication bottleneck the teachers cannot join on time after the vacation. Consequently, the schools remains closed during such period of time. The teachers are also very often assigned with official duties such as election duty, revision of electoral rolls, census operation, economic survey, etc which further deteriorates the school activities. The non-availability of books, blackboards, chalk, toilet, dirking water, inadequate or dilapidated conditions of school buildings and teacher quarter also calls mention.  Consequently, the performance of Secondary School in the CBSE examination since its up-gradation in 1994 is zero percent every year. Similar is the story of the service into the area. Most the time the lone Health Unit at Vijaynagar runs without Doctor or trained staffs and it is looked after by untrained subordinate staffs. The patients are straight way referred to the Assam Medical College (AMC), Dibrugarh.

There is no supply of electricity in this remote border area. Power Department of the State government has an installed generator set which is lying unused in the want of diesel. Department of Hydro Power has taken up construction of a micro-hydel power plant with a generation capacity of 100 kilowatt at Gaherigaon, with two turbines of 50 kilowatt each. The construction of canal started in the year 2003 but the mini-hydal is still half way through. Although, Arunachal Pradesh Energy Development Agency (APEDA) has been distributing Solar Home Light System, but the number of beneficiaries are very few.  Recently, drinking water facilities have been provisioned in almost all the villages by the Department of Public Health and Engineering (PHED). The water is piped directly from the river or springs without any siltation and treatment tanks. Since the area has no banks, the Post Office provides the service of savings apart from the routine postal deliveries. More so, there is no landline or mobile facilities available in the area. The Circle Office had one INMARSAT satellite phone which charge Rs.50 plus for a “hello” and Rs.5 per minute. Therefore, it was popularly know as “Hello 50”. Now, with the installation of Digital Satellite Phone Terminals (DSPT) system in the month of July 2003, people are no longer required to pay the extra Rs.50. However, the call charge in DSPT is still Rs. 6 per minute.

Certainly, the reopening of the Miao-Vijaynagar road, therefore, can go a long way to emancipate the people of Vijaynagar from rigorous condition of life, unpredictable and irregular sorties and hardships of six days foot marching. The revival of this road would not only bring these remote people into the national mainstream but also streamline developmental activities in the area. Given the proper road and other facilities, the nearby Chaukan pass would serve as yet another important gateway for India’s looking to the east. It is this Chauken route served as shortest route to India through Port Hertz for the rescue operation during Worl War II. Through better road connectivity would thus bring Port Hertz, (an important town in North Myanmar) as well as other South East Asian countries within shortest range from the Indian soil.  Better road and communication would also help improving the affectivity of surveillance and patrolling by forest guards and armed forces in the Namdapha National Park as well as in the border areas. Last but not the least, the road would also facilitates tourists, nature lovers, adventurers, researchers and environmental activists to reach fascinating destinations inside the Namdapha and into the picturesque valley of Vijaynagar surrounded by majestic mountains. ( The contributor is with Department of Geography, Rajiv Gandhi University, Rono Hills,  E-mail:jsr_06@rediffmail.com)

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