Empty fields and abandoned homes

There are 400 gungtongs in Trashigang dzongkhag alone and Bartsham gewog tops the list with 240


l Tashi Wangmo, Thimphu

The social malady of gungtong- the apathetic case of abandoned households in the rural places seems to have created much flutter among the people of Trashigang. It has become a pressing issue that calls for necessary remedies from the government.

According to Trashigang Thrizin, Kinzang Dorji, there are about 400 gungtongs in his Dzongkhag. And of 15 gewogs, he said Bartsham records the maximum number of gungtong at 240.

“The gungtong practise is on rapid rise since 10 years and I think it is triggered by rural-urban migration,” he said.

“While many elder villagers migrate to the urban places to live with their children, some leave their ancestral homes in search of employment opportunities,” said the Thrizin.

He said those who leave their houses are driven by the hopes to live in comforts of urban lifestyle. “Many young villagers think that working in farms is a tiresome and economically unrewarding job. What they fail to understand is that it is always better to sweat in our farms than to cry in the urban jungle,” the Thrizin added.

The phenomenon of Gungtong has host of implications. Not only has it led to the fallowing of farmlands but also to non-payment of taxes and zero social contributions of kinds to the communities by the people who have left their properties behind.

“Fallow lands are becoming the habitats of wild animals and this is troubling the neighbouring farmers. In a way, gungtong is one cause of increasing human-wild life conflicts,” said Kinzang Dorji.

He mentioned that although the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) focused on gewog developments, the problem of gungtongs was left out. “Thus, in the 12th FYP, we are planning to address this problem and try to bind our villagers within the peripheries of their villages,” said the Thrizin.

He mentioned that they are planning to create employment opportunities for the villagers by setting up small and cottage industries. “And to do so, we will encourage and support potential farmers to establish small scale productions of pickles and juices,” said the Thrizin.

For the local youth populace, he said they will try to generate as many jobs as possible in the gewogs. “Youth are the future of our society and it is of paramount importance to hold them back,” he added.

“In order to educate the villagers about the problems associated with gungtongs, I travel across the dzongkhag whenever possible and share my plans,” said the Thrizin.

Meanwhile, some of the social and economic reasons for gungtong, the study found out, are to avoid burden of gewog activities, peer pressure and influence, marriage, poverty, lack of market for agricultural products, increased unemployment opportunities in urban areas, lack of infrastructures, old age, human-wildlife conflicts, family fragmentation and isolation.

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