Thar truths: Scarce facilities hit life in the dunes

A view of Rantaur village, close to Pakistan border in Rajasthan.

Life, at 55 degrees C of heat or near-zero degree shivering cold, combined with lack of electricity, water and health facilities, could break anyone’s spirit. Education is a far cry.

It is a harsh life out here in these far-flung areas of the Thar desert of Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan, near the limits of the border with Pakistan.

As you journey from Jaisalmer to the border, you travel miles without coming across a soul. You may notice occasionally, a herd of sheep or a camel searching for bushes with green leaves in the sand dunes. The region has one of the lowest human density — about 20 people per km.

DH visited desert on Monday, travelling some 300 km through villages and towns that are 10-20 km away from the international border (IB). There are villages where entry is prohibited, like the village of Gotaru near Longewala. Without the army/BSF's permission, no one is allowed anywhere close to the IB.

Basic amenities are an issue in these villages. Water is supplied in tanks by either the Panchayat or the BSF, but if they don’t, these villages go dry, especially in summer.

Healthcare is the other big issue. With no Community Health Centre (CHC) available close by, villages of Bahla, Dhanana and hamlets such as Harnau, Jhalaria, Karmavali etc have to take the patients to Ramgadh — the closest small town, about 60 km from the border and 50 km from Jaisalmer — for treatment.  

“When density of population is so low, how can you provide facilities?” says a government official in Ramgadh, with a frown on his face and refusing to be identified.

“With no basic facilities, doctors or even nurses refuse to go there. Although teachers are posted in schools, they don’t report, and students are the losers,” Ram Sevak, a retired official, told DH in Jaisalmer.

On way to the border areas, this writer had to give lift to several students. “We don’t have any facility to go to our schools. Sometimes, we get government buses to drop us. But mostly, we depend on lifts,” said Mohd Gouse, who sought to be dropped at his school in Rantaur, some 40 km from the border.

Electricity connection is better compared to other facilities in most villages – this was not the case even a few years ago. However, power outages are common.

However, road connectivity is good. Roads, even to remote villages, are well laid, perhaps because of the army/BSF movements. The BSNL mobile connectivity, too, is good in most of the border villages, but other networks don't work some 50 km after Jaisalmer.

Windmills are aplenty even if people in the area don’t get 24-hour power. On the way to the border, one can come across about 3,000-4,000 windmills generating energy to the grid.

Jaisalmer’s border with Pakistan extends to some 500 km and the city is at a distance of about 150 km.

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Thar truths: Scarce facilities hit life in the dunes

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