A remote Chepang village in Dhading in the throes of famine
- Sitaram Adhikari
Malekhu, Dhading, Famine has gripped the people of the impoverished Chepang community at Brushabang of Benighat Rorang rural municipality in southern belt of Dhading district in the midst of thw winter cold.
They have started consuming neetle and wild tubers for survival after running out of food grain stock at home.
The Chepang settlement is reeling under food shortage and the locals are compelled to forage for wild yams and tubers in the forests or the neetle growing in the hose backyard. A government team has also witnessed this situation.
Sukrimaya Chepang is 22 years old now. She has three children to take care of. One of the child is only 17 months old and is expecting another. It is her daily routine to collect firewood, fooder for animals and forage for yams and neetle for food.
That a pregnant woman should not labour hard and she needs to eat nutritious food regularly and has to get her health checked up at the nearest health post four times during the entire period of her pregnancy is a pipedream for Sukrimaya.
"We would die if there was no neetle growing around the backyard. There is no food grain in the entire village. Three women are pregnant in our village," Sukrimaya narrated. Sukrimaya has only two baskets of maize in her house and it will take 10 months for harvesting another maize crop.
No pregnant woman from the village visits the health post for the regular health check-up as the village lacks a health post. They say that they do not go to the health post since what they have heard is they need to buy medicines there.
Not only Sukrimaya's family, all the other families in Brusabang are without food grains. They have to survive on wild tubers and the neetle broth.
"Eating the neetle broth is a different taste for a day for those who are well-off. But you feel without energy and weak when it is your daily staple," shared Prem Maya Chepang, another woman.
Brushabang is on top of a hill on the Mahabharat range bordering Dhading and Chitwan districts. It is remote and devoid of all kinds of facilities and services, lamented 78-year-old Tek Bahadur Chepang, describing the remoteness and lack of infrastructure in his village.
The village is also reeling under shortage of drinking water for many years now. The people here have to go to a water source two hours from the village in Chitwan district to fetch a bucket of water.
A government team comprising the coordinator of the District Coordination Committee, Jagannath Nepal, the Chief District Officer Shyam Bhandari, Deputy Superintendent of Police Ram Bahadur KC, among other high officials of the district visited Brusbang two days back and took stock of the situation there.
Back in the district headquarters after the on-site inspection, the team members described the situation in Brusbang as very pathetic, saying the local people are living a life of hardship and want.
The government has been running the Chepang Development Programme in the Dhading district for the last 38 years. The District Development Committee was the implementing agency. But Brusbang is far from being benefitted from this programme in any way.
"There is no impact of this programme whatsoever in Brusbang. Another government-run programme - poverty alleviation programme – also has no impact in this village. Even the programmes meant for improving the livelihood of the Chepangs that various NGOs and INGOs claim to being here have left no such impact," said Jagannath Nepal, the leader of the government team that made the on-site observation of Brusbang.
The locals voiced their problems about the lack of drinking water, school and health post in their village with the government team. They also raised issues of their right to food and health.
They also called for shifting them to another suitable location where life would be easier for them, as Brusbang is located on top of a mountain and very remote. The government team has said that initiatives would be started to shift the settlement.