A superachiever among villages

Sarita Brara | Updated on September 26, 2014 Published on September 26, 2014

Celebrity hamlet Snowbound Tholang boasts the highest per capita income in Himachal Pradesh


SS Kapur

Wealthy Tholang in Himachal Pradesh is chockful of civil servants and professionals

Tiny though it may be, with just 35 families living there, Tholang village in the snowbound tribal belt of Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, has a lot going for it. Not only is it hundred per cent literate, it has also given the country the highest number of civil services officers and professionals compared to any other village. Boasting over a hundred professionals, including IAS, IPS and HAS officers, doctors and engineers, it has the highest per capita income in the State.

With just 600 bighas of cultivable land, Tholang exports several kinds of medicinal plants, sells potato seeds to faraway places such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal, and its exotic vegetables travel to markets in the posh localities of Delhi and other northern cities.

Until some years ago, the village used to export green and yellow hops vine flowers used in beer making, but stopped cultivating it owing to steep excise duties.

Missionary help

Located near the confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers, Tholang for long was like any other Lahaul village that remains cut off every winter due to heavy snowfall. Like other villages nearby, it used to have barter trade with Tibet, Ladakh and other places. The success story of this far-flung village can be traced to the arrival of the Moravian missionaries.

Locals recall how the missionaries opened their first school here in 1920 and trained the people to cultivate and weave. The first smokeless iron firebox ( bukhari) was introduced here.

Although the first willow in the village was planted by a traveller named Sudama from Bir in Baijnath, it was the missionaries who introduced modern willow forestry management.

The transplantation of the tree is an ongoing process, says Vijay Kapur, an agriculturist from Tholang. The bark is used as cattle fodder during winter.

The villagers have been growing medicinal plants like Karu, Manu, Patish and Kutu for over a century, but it was only in the 1960s that they began cultivating potato, Kapur recalls. Apple cultivation was introduced even later, in the late 1980s. Today, the region’s agricultural activity has expanded so much that labourers from Nepal and Orissa are brought in to help with cultivation and other work. The enterprising villagers now prefer to weave carpets, which are more lucrative, instead of the traditional Lahauli woollen socks they once weaved.

Toughened folks

The region’s harsh topography and climactic conditions have made its people hardworking, says A Vidyarthi, a former Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh and the first IAS officer from the village. He also credits their success to government policies such as job reservations and other benefits for tribals.

According to Dr PD Lal, a former medical officer hailing from Tholang, migration and cross-breeding are popularly believed to be the reason why such a large number of people with superior intellect are born here.

Shyam Chand Azad, Editor of Tribal Today magazine, is proud that all women under 35 in his village are graduates.

Another native of the village, SS Kapur, a former Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir and currently Chairman of its Water Resources Regulatory Authority, reminiscences that back then the young people in Thalong wanted to join either the civil services or become doctors or engineers. Today, this has changed, with the younger generation diversifying into many other professions. In fact, the first woman commercial pilot from Himachal Pradesh belongs to the village, as do several award-winning educationists and MBAs working with reputed companies.

Suresh Kumary Taki, the three-time pradhan of the gram panchayat under which Tholang falls, shares some interesting facts about the prosperous village. Every family not only has at least three to four Class One officers, an apple orchard and a decent house to live in, but most also have business interests like hotels or guesthouses in Kullu, Manali and other tourist towns.

He reiterates with pride their ambitious, enterprising and forward-looking traits.

However, there is an irony as well in the success story. The pradhan points out that although more than 20 doctors belong to this village, none serve at its Primary Health Centre, which is without a doctor most of the time.

Published on September 26, 2014
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