Ap Gyeltshen and Aum Zangmo left their village, Zangthiy, and moved to Samdrup Jongkhar three years ago to live with their daughter who has a government job. They left their house and four acres of land and never came back.
Their land has turned into a forest. The roof of the house has caved in and looks haunted in the middle of fallow land. When it is tax time, they send money to the local leaders.
A long time back, Zangthiy village had about 200 households. But life was hard here. Villagers have to walk two days uphill from the nearest motor road to reach their village. Zangthiy is a fertile land where farmers cultivated crops such as wheat and barley among others.
But there is not many people cultivating the land. As of December 2018, more than 15 acres of land in the gewog was left fallow, as villagers have left in droves. More than 20 households left the village after Ap Gyeltshen moved to Samdrup Jongkhar.
With most of the farmers having to contribute Woola it had become difficult for Ap Gyeltshen at his age. He left the village because his sons and daughter are not willing to stay in the village. They hardly visit them. “We are old and nobody is there to help us work in the field,” said Ap Gyeltshen. Both his children have government jobs.
An office goer, Cheten who went to visit his village recently said that he was surprised to see many of the people missing in his village. “Most of the houses are empty and the land is left fallow,” said Cheten who went to his village after two years. “People are leaving because of opportunities outside Zangthiy.”
He added that the lack of modern amenities could be driving people away. Before, his village had no electricity although a rough road has reached it.
A farmer, Karma Dorji, 61, said that people are leaving because there are opportunities to earn outside the village. “Old people are facing problems while the young think there is no opportunity in the village,” he said.
Another farmer, Sonam Dema said that there are not many young people in the village to look after and work in the fields. “Even my son insists every time to come and stay with him in Thimphu,” she said. “I came back, because there is nobody in the village to look after my land and house.”
Lauri Gup, Pempa Gyeltshen, said that the gewog is thinking of strategies to encourage people to stay back. “Villagers leaving Zangthiy continues to be a trend.”
He added that almost 20%-30% of the people have migrated to urban areas.
“I believe that if we develop the facilities in the village, people will come back. I have put a proposal to the dzongkhag administration about the issues villagers face and they have ensured that they will provide budget,” he said The gewog started constructing a farm road to enhance access to market, farm inputs and other essential services for the village people. “People are leaving because there are not enough facilities such as electricity, shops, road and hospitals nearby,” he said.
Kinley Yonten from S/Jongkhar