Where, Himachal tribal women impose ban on gambling

Tribal women of Himachal Pradesh are dead against gambling and snooker and will take all necessary steps to curb any menace.

The Mahila Gram Sabha has decided to impose a fine of Rs 40,000, if anyone is caught gambling, within the area of the Kaza panchayat in the Spiti Valley, some 320 km from the state capital Shimla. Even playing cards has been prohibited.

Also, it has imposed a ban on playing of snooker by teenagers. For snooker, it has fixed timings from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Mahila Gram Sabha head Sonam Dolma told IANS over phone that playing of cards and gambling by the men has been a serious problem across Spiti, especially in winter when they are free from agriculture and related works.

“The gambling became more than a social activity with its addiction on the rise among the youth. To check it, we have unanimously decided to impose ban on gambling across the Kaza panchayat. A fine of Rs 40,000 would be imposes in case of violation,” she said.

According to her, snooker betting was also a serious issue here.

“We have decided to impose a ban on playing snooker by teenagers as they often indulged in brawls too. To check this menace, we restrict its timings from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Earlier, people were playing snooker till midnight,” she said.

“We will do surprise checking. If any teenager is found violating, we will impose a fine of Rs 5,000,” a futuristic Dolma added.

To check household waste that is often dumped in open spaces, water bodies, drains, and burnt or buried, the Mahila Gram Sabha has made a provision of a fine of Rs 1,000 on violators.

“Now we are united against another evil of liquor consumption that is destroying our families. We are demanding to shift both liquor vends out of the Kaza panchayat limits. If we succeeded, the nearby panchayats will follow our footsteps,” Reeta Negi, a resident of Kaza, said.

A part of the remote but picturesque Lahaul-Spiti district, the Spiti Valley, a cold desert dotted by tiny helmets spread over the Himalayan peaks, adjoining Tibet, takes you to a land of Buddhism and virgin nature.

In winter when there is no escaping the snow and the temperature plummets below minus 15 degrees Celsius, for the locals, mostly the Buddhists, it is time to celebrate.

Community fireworks add to their festivities that peak between sips of local barley liquor ‘arah’ and beer ‘chhang’ and sessions of ‘challo’ (gambling).

Most festivals and rituals in the Spiti Valley, which is normally cut off from the rest of the world for over four months from December owing to snapping of high mountain roads due to heavy snowfall, fall during this time.

The staple food of the locals is buckwheat. Barley, wheat and rice are also consumed, as well as lots of salted tea mixed with butter.

A century ago Rudyard Kipling in his novel ‘Kim’ described Spiti as “a world within a world” and a “place where the god lives”. Things have hardly changed there.

(Vishal Gulati can be reached at vishal.g@ians.in)