Dhruba Dangal/Republica Vice Chairperson of Jugal Rural Municipality, Sindhupalchowk, Srijana Tamang in this recent picture.
SINDHUPALCHOWK, May 24: Most parts of the Jugal Rural Municipality of Sindhupalchowk district lack electricity, communication services, and proper road networks. Residents here walk miles through dusty and very risky hilly routes to reach from one place to the other. In dry season, they at least use wooden bridges for crossing rivers but in monsoon such bridges are often washed away by heavy rains and floods.
During the monsoon the area remains disconnected with the headquarters every monsoon.
“However, things will change now,” claims 23-year-old Srijana Tamang, the newly elected vice chief of the rural municipality. “Our place is so much rural and backward that it is called as the Karnali of this district. But it is our responsibility now to create a prosperous image for it,” she added.
Tamang’s political activism and her subsequent election to the post of vice chief of the municipality is fraught with interesting stories. She was just three years old when the country got into internal conflict in 1996.
She grew up closely watching the battle between Maoists and the government. Later in her teens, she got into politics and worked closely with the CPN - UML.
“Most probably, I am the youngest deputy chief of a local body in the country so far. I have been born and brought up in turbulent political era of our country. Through these years I have been connected with the people, their needs and their potentials. This gives me confidence to assure them that they have elected the right person to work for them,” she said.
She calls herself a plant of hope and faith. Not just due to her young age, but also due to her political background. “I represent youth’s power. At the same time, I have suffered my share of pain and went through struggles that poor people face everyday. And this background gives me the ability to understand the ground realities and strive to address the core concerns that matters to our people the most. I represent the voice of the marginalized. So I find my chair very meaningful,” she narrated, a bit emotionally right after assuming office. Tamang beat her rival by around 400 votes as she garnered 2786 votes. Though the competition was tough, she was assured of her victory, she said.
“The first thing I would do here is to install communication services. In lack of phone lines and internet, people here are living life of our ancestors,” she said. “We don’t have transportation facilities. It takes hours or days to reach from one village to other.
Headquarters is far away,” she added stating the top priority of her tenure will be connect the municipality with the modern world.
Tamang looks forward to developing the municipality’s economy, agriculture, education, and health sectors while generating employment opportunities. While conceding that achieving these objectives are challenging, she expressed confidence to nonetheless push herself and the team to deliver the promises that she and the team made to the voters.
This rural municipality consists of mountainous village Gumba, Golche, Pangtang, Hagam, Selang and Baramchi. There are not even enough schools in those villages. Similarly, health posts and roads are a huge problem. “I completed my school education by changing three schools. We don’t have good education facilities here,” Tamang said.
“But now our children should not face the hassles that we faced for education,” she asserted.
Tamang says that the municipality has immense tourism potential. And she is confident that promoting tourism will open avenues for income generating opportunities for its residents. “We have Jugal Mountain here. Tourists love it but we have not been able to advertise it and other beautiful locations. We will tap into these resources,” she said.
“Along with that I am going to boost marketing of our local produces. So far, we have not been able to reach out to outer market as we don’t have good roads,” she said.
Representatives of local bodies have tenure of five years and Tamang feels that during her tenure she will be able to deliver all the promises that she made. “Our team is excellent. In five years, we can completely change the face of our place,” she said. Tamang will be working with her party comrade and chief of the municipality, Hom Narayan Shrestha.
Early years Born in a poor family in 1993, Tamang completed her primary level education from Setidevi School of her village. After fifth grade, she left home to further her study in Pangtang Village, from where she gave her SLC exams.
“I became involved in politics right from the school days. When I took SLC, I was already very active in it,” Tamang narrated. After completing SLC she came to district headquarters Chautara for studying further.
“During my days at school I was actively involved in social work. Though mostly I did it for free, I was paid at times by NGOs. These helped in furthering my studies,” she said. The role of social worker actually gave her the opportunity to get in touch with the people and polished her leadership skills.
“Though I am young, social services which involved door to door visits, mass meetings, and discussion programs helped in honing leadership skills. It is because of these abilities that my party and the voters trusted me,” she said.