It looks like a concerted effort from the Communist propaganda to promote the region bordering Ladakh, Himachal and Uttarakhand.
And first of all 'promote' the happiness of the people in these borders areas.
Happy Old People
On May 18, Xinhua published an article about The Happy life of a senior in Ali Prefecture of Tibet. ‘Ali’ is ‘Ngari’ (as the Chinese have difficulties to pronounce the ‘Ng’, it becomes ‘A’).
The Chinese news agency mentions “a two-story house equipped with all kinds of household appliances where Cama Ciren [Karma Tseten], a 72-year-old Tibetan and his wife live.”
Karma stays there for the past 34 years, says the article.
Interestingly, the village is located in Tashigang in Gar County of Ngari Prefecture, near the Indian border (on the other side is Demchok in Ladakh).
The pattern of developing 'well-off border villages' seems the same as in Lhoka and Nyingchi Cities of Southern Tibet, (north of Arunachal Pradesh), whose fast-track development has been often been mentioned on this blog.
As reported earlier, Beijing wants the Tibetan populations living in the border areas to become: “the guardians of the sacred land and the builders of happy homes”.
This seems to me a worrying trend for India, when one think at the post-Dalai Lama era (though India was never worried, having more important political and cricket issues to follow or bother about).
Karma told Xinhua: “The village was actually isolated from the outside world in the 1980s and 1990s. There were only two or three households. Without a tent, we built a rock wall to shelter us from the wind. All of our clothes were scrabbled by hands.”
Tashigang is the last village in Tibet; on the other side of the border is Demchok in Ladakh.
One has to remember that whenever villagers in Demchok have undertaken small development work, like laying a water pipe, the Chinese PLA/Border Forces immediately stepped onto the Indian territory, to object to ‘development in a disputed area’.
It is a blatant double standard! Demchok has always been in Ladakh and Tashigang in Tibet.
Xinhua admits that on the Chinese side: “things have changed over the years. By 2012, the village was already a well-off village where each family lived in new house and a newly-built road connected the village with the outside world.”
To give these villages a ‘well-off’ status, China is building ‘model townships’, like it did in Tsona, Lepo, Marmang, Yume, or Metok in Southern Tibet.
The News Agency observed that Karma and his wife “are not supposed to labor for a living;” due to their old age, “they lead a comfortable life owing to the government subsidy policy.”
Karma told Xinhua: “The subsidies we receive each year exceed 20,000 yuan;” further, they enjoy full medical reimbursement.
The village has three college graduates; one of them is Karma’s daughter.
Even for the children, food, accommodation, and tuition fees are covered by the government. “A happier life awaits us in the future,” Karma concludes.
Everybody seems to be happy in Tashigang.
Xinhua in another article reported The Happy life of married couple in Ngari Prefecture of Tibet.
One Luo Qiming came from the Mainland (Qinghai province) to the village in 2010; he met his wife, a Tibetan Niji Lhamo; she was then running the village's only commodities store.
The News Agency says “They fell in love at first sight and soon got married.”
At first, Luo thought of moving back to Qinghai with Lhamo, but “everything went on fine for the young couple,” the store does a good business, as it is supported by the local government.
Lhamo has got subsidized loans and has expanded her store: “their little store became a mini supermarket selling a variety of commodities. Their business thrived and all their loans were paid off.”
And to make life happier, their children enjoy 15-year ‘free compulsory’ education: “Instead of paying anything for my elder daughter’s kindergarten education, we’ve received a lot of subsidies from the school.”
Compulsorily free education.
Happy Life in Purang
Let us move on the other side of the Ngari Prefecture.
An article on the China Tibet Online website speaks of Happy life on yaks' back in Ngari.
The website explains: “When one thinks of livestock carrying cargo, the first thought is often poverty, yet in Gangsha Village of Baga [?] Township, part of Pulan [Purang] County of Ngari Prefecture, people have used this way to overcome poverty and become prosperous.
Purang is at the trijunction between India (Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand), Nepal and Tibet). Also known as Taklakot, it is the first town in Tibet territory for the pilgrims on their way to the Kailash-Manasarovar (after crossing the Lipilekh pass or flying by helicopter from Nepal).
China Tibet Online says: “Gangsha Village is an essential stop on the route to renowned holy mountain, Mt. Kangrinboqe [Kang Rinpoche for the Tibetans or Kailash]. Since Mt. Kangrinboqe has an average altitude of 4,700 meters, so many tourists couldn't make it past this point and need help carrying cargo and luggage. Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, Gangsha villagers have begun to provide yak-transport service for visitors.”
Since 2010, the villagers have organized a yak-transport service association: “Whenever a tourist ordered the service, the center would organize the appropriate yak, horse, and manpower.”
Jigme Dorje, the village headman explained: “we have clear prices for hiring guides and animals; one yak is 240 yuan (37.8 US dollars), and one guide is 260 yuan (40.9 US dollars), and our service is very popular. We have already made tens of thousands of yuan in profit this year, and the peak tourism season hasn't even started yet.”
In recent years, the ‘yak-transport service’ has greatly expanded its operation; the association has used part of its income, along with Chinese government subsidies, to open supermarkets, tea houses, and inns.
The village Party Secretary Dorje Pema: "We predict that we'd have more than three million yuan (0.47 million US dollars) in income this year in just those supermarkets, tea houses, and inns. We have also hired college grads, and we hope to take online orders in three years."
While the number of Indian pilgrims trekking via Lipulekh La under the Ministry of External’s scheme remains small, pilgrims visiting Kailash Manasarovar through Nepalgunj and Simikot is increasing exponentially.
Nepali tour operators admit that some 20,000 pilgrims have booked trips to the sacred mountain and lake as of mid-May this year.
Last year, some 12,900 Indian pilgrims visited the holy place using the Nepalgunj-Simikot-Hilsa route in western Nepal.
This makes the tour operators and the yak owners happy.
Happiness in Ngari
In conclusion, everybody seems ‘happy’ in Ngari.
In the meantime, for the people of Ladakh, who for decades have been asking to reopen the traditional route from Ladakh to the Kailash via Demchok, it remains a far-away dream.
Beijing adamantly refuses and Delhi is not pushing to hard for it.
Recently, the Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association (HBCA) has urged the Prime Minister to fulfill the long pending demands of Ladakhi, particularly the inclusion of Bhoti language in 8th Scheduled of Indian Constitution and opening of Kailash-Manasarovar route from Leh to Demchok and Tashigang.
HBCA President Tashi Targais observed during a press conference in Leh that the Kailash Mansarovar road is not only holy place for Buddhists but also for Hindus and Jain community and the route from Ladakh is the shortest route and its reopening would also boost the economy of Ladakh region.
China is not ready to listen.
If the people in Ngari are so happy, where is the risk for Beijing?
But China remains nervous.