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Gilgit-Baltistan – Nature’s gift for tourists

By Syed Shamsuddin  

Under the circumstances, the subsistence farming here, save at a very few places, does not suffice the needs of the respective households with the yield not catering to the barest minimum requirements with the dilemma that persists being that the rest of the erstwhile land at villages earlier under cultivation, is now being steadily turned into mere habitat by the teeming village folk obviously because of ominous demographic pressures. The explosion being witnessed is so much enormous that the land historically remaining under agrarian activity can even hardly provide a shelter for the increased populace now. 

One having visited such a village barely some three decades ago would certainly be flabbergasted today on seeing the abysmal diminution and horrific decimation of the cultivable as well as the orchard land which paints a very gloomy picture due to mushrooming houses on the former fields and orchards while the old habitat itself called ‘kot’ – a cluster of houses, has at the most, been quite ruthlessly razed to the ground at places in the quest of modernity while rest are being swiftly demolished, evacuated and deserted in pursuance of decentralized constructions of houses on open spaces and the farmland around these places.

All this is happening because of non-availability of alternate land to cope with the increased requirements of the overpopulation. The cluster of houses in the rural areas has been the actual habitat of the people here from times immemorial. Such ‘kots’ were being erected at a plateaus or a hillocks in each locality to remain wary over apprehended incursions of the olden times which were quite unforeseeable those days in the face of political uncertainty prevailing then. This ‘kot’ of the olden days infact, served as an ‘observatory post’ also besides being the safest place in the face of natural vagaries and catastrophies like avalanche-slips and landslides – a regular phenomenon in this geologically unsettled region. Thus the present exodus of the masses from the ‘kot’ is but under compelling circumstances where the outgrowth of the population makes the same incommodious for the villagefolk. The ceaseless division of the erstwhile landholdings reduced each to mere negligible fragments. In this way, the subsistence farming here has now become quite inconceivable except at a very few places where it nominally survives. This fact points to a very gruesome phenomenon in the economic context being the root cause of permeating despondency. In addition, natural vagaries are equally besetting the populace as is very well evident from effacing of an entire village called Kandeh in Khaplu (Baltistan) a couple of months ago by the formidable glacial movement that devoured the whole village leaving the population in a complete hearthless state to live elsewhere under the open sky these days.

THERE are similar other places where the population of the concerned hamlets and villages is constantly threatened by such vagaries like recurring landslides as in Rondu Valley. It will perhaps be known that glaciers everywhere protrude and shrink so to say, move to and fro in a steady cyclical manner. Soil erosion is also erratically posing a recurring threat at certain places where denudation of forests has taken place. But together, all these phenomena do not at all augur well in the ecological context. The grim economic scenario exercises a very unwholesome effect on the vulnerable people being the prime of cause of eventual dent in the traditional sedateness and sereneness of these areas as has become manifest at times, in the recent past where the economic factor seems to have served as a catalyst. Alexander Pope viewed the best governance as “whatever is best administered is best”. The axiomatic validity of this postulate still holds good as it remains the time-tested phenomenon that efforts to bring about an egalitarian society have, all the time, yielded tangible results to the contentment of the people at large hence this crucial aspect constitutes the cardinal principle of good governance. Thus there is dire need of according resource-building the number one priority to be addressed to quite forcefully and cannily to usher in a prosperous era by shedding away the dismal state obtaining in agrarian societies of mountainous regions of the third world countries. The ticking time bomb poses ominously in most of the third world countries like ours hence this needs be specifically tackled as the number one problem.

NEEDLESS to mention that there have all along been governmental efforts afoot to tackle the growing unemployment but all these have proved quite unfructuous. It is to be noted that a specific recruitment policy in case of grade 1 to 16 posts created for the field formations of all Federal Ministries/Divisions in the Northern Areas must be announced in order to fill these posts by appointment thereto of local unemployed youth of this economically backward region. Even the posts in the higher grades be possibly filled by this method to help overcome the growing unemployment here. This is mainly because of the scant administrative setup. non-existence of any industry, and the alarmingly shrinking mountain agriculture here that necessitate maximal employment cover by way of a special dispensation. An efficacious alternative to this could be the announcement of a clear and an unambiguous policy whereby all the unemployed you here could be given unhindered loans from the DFIs on soft terms through a simplified procedure to be easily followed by the people. Agricultural loans to the farmers here too, are also required to be extended at a subsidized rate of interest on the same pattern. Concluded!

NAs – Nature’s gift for tourists
Part of the article appeared in ‘The Muslim’ dated December 31 ‘97
This appeared in The Muslim Monday, January 5,1998


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