Rolpa remained virtually cut off from the rest of the country until 1996, the year the then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) launched an armed insurgency that lasted over a decade.
The unitary government’s centralized approach to development took a huge toll on socioeconomic life of the people of the impoverished district in the Mid-western region, which served as the epicenter of the frustration-fuelled “People’s War”.
The fact that the center earmarked a meager Rs 22 million in the fiscal year 1994/95 for the development of the entire district comprising 51 Village Development Committees shows how badly Rolpa was neglected by Kathmandu.
According to some of the retired officials from the District Development Committee, the budget was like a drop in the ocean.
The district counted as one of the least developed areas of the country was hardly visible in the state’s radar. No wonder the Maoists launched their rebellion from Rolpa.
As the insurgency spread like wildfire in Rolpa, Kathmandu was forced to pay more attention to the impoverished hill district-but only with a view to contain the Maoist “hotbed”.
Naturally, whatever little development activities were being carried out in the district in the past, came to a grinding halt all through the ten years of the blood-spattered insurgency.
It was only after the insurgency ended in 2006 following the Comprehensive Peace Accord between the state and the then rebels, the center started to funnel more money in Rolpa and the entire Mid-western region for that matter.
The restoration of infrastructure destroyed during the conflict era is going on in the district. And the development budget surged to Rs 75 million in the last fiscal year.
“With the end of the insurgency, the district has opportunities and possibilities galore,” says Hira Lal Regmi, Local Development Officer. “The development activities have started to gain momentum.”
Regmi also informed that 46 out of the total 51 VDCs are now connected with road networks and they were exploring the possibility of war tourism with the development of ‘guerrilla trekking trails’ in the district.
The desire to visit the war-ravaged district, including the areas such as Holeri and Thawang that provided a safe sanctuary to the rebels during the wartime, is drawing more and more foreign as well as domestic tourists to Rolpa.
The government has also floated a plan to develop a hilly road from Sulichaur in Rolpa to Dhorpatan in Baglung that passes through Rukum as a guerrilla trekking route.
“The road has been named as Yuddha Marga (the war route). Jelbang is also being developed into a model village in the district. The district can also reap economic benefits from the promotion of homestay facility in the war-ravaged villages,” LDO Regmi opines.
The people of Rolpa, however, see it quite differently. They strongly believe that their district lagged behind the rest of the country as it could produce no influential leaders in the past to push the center for its development.
They credit the increased budget to Rolpa in the last fiscal year to the last finance minister Barsha Man Pun, who hails from the district.
“Last year there was a meteoric rise in the development budget only because finance minister Pun hails from Rolpa,” argues Dinesh Subedi, who identifies himself as a civil society leader in the district. “Yes, the district did receive some Rs 35 million three years ago. But then the incumbent government has earmarked only Rs 15.3 million this fiscal year.”
Anyway, the locals also agree that they are getting some peace dividend in the recent years.
Some of the major developmental projects being carried out in the district include the construction of the Sahid Marga (martyr road), which is being funded by the central government.
For the 60-kilometer route started by the Maoist rebels during the insurgency that links Rolpa to Ghorahi of Dang, the government has already spent Rs 433.6 million, according to the Department of Roads.
Project chief Saroj Pradhan informed that the passage has already been opened for 55-kilometer stretch of the Sahid Marga.
“The new road network would have a huge impact on the living standard of the Rolpa people,” he opines. With the return of peace, activities of NGOs have also increased in the district. More than 20 NGOs are currently active in Rolpa.
But the biggest hope for Rolpa comes from the exemplary bonding between the people of the war-torn district.
“Being utterly neglected by the state, the people have been severely marginalized, which in turn encouraged them to form a unique bonding among them,” says Sri Kumari Gharti, a district committee member of the Nepali Congress. “We are never divided when it comes to the welfare of our place and people.”
Source & References
SEJUWAL, K. and GHARTI, H. B. 2014. Guerrilla trekking, development stirrings in Rolpa. [online] 07 February. Available at: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=69186 [Accessed: 7 Feb 2014].