Even in the 21st century, the remote village of Sarbal in the Ganderbal district of central Kashmir lacks all basic facilities, and the locals face many difficulties in daily life. Kashmir’s Sarbal village remains cut off from the rest of the country for months during winters. Basic facilities such as schools, electricity, etc., have not yet reached this village and are still snowbound for four months each year.
The whole village here is facing one problem or the other; water, roads in poor condition, health, insufficient electricity and the absence of educational institutions. Sarbal village, at 8,960 feet above sea level.
Speaking to Groundreport.in Hilal Ahmad Sheikh a local resident of Sarbal said ‘heavy snowfall cut off our village from the rest of the country and forced us to migrant from this place to another during winter.’ He added ‘if someone stays in the village they have to walk about 25 km from Sarbal village to Gagangir during snowfall due to lack of connectivity.
Hilal Ahmad further added: “Our village is about 15 km from Sonamarg and in winter, we cannot move because all the roads are closed due to heavy snowfall, which meant we couldn’t go anywhere. That’s why some families leave this place in November and move elsewhere for almost the next 5 months.
Sarbal has been popularised as ‘the last village of India’. It is in fact the last village in Kashmir before the Zojila that leads to Ladakh.
The village is 110 km from Srinagar, a beautiful valley, the village is one of the last villages that has kept its charm and gives us a slice of local life. The famous hiking trail through Sarbal is much loved by tourists. Sadly, this is said to be the last village in Kashmir that lacks basic facilities.
A local woman Farzi told Groundreport.in that ‘there is no health center available there, so patients, particularly pregnant women, suffer a lot. She further added that they use wooden stretchers to take patients to the hospital in an emergency. They believe that the authorities have left them at the mercy of God.
She added that nothing has changed for the residents of Sarbal over the last seven decades and they are suffering a similar fate over the last 70 years.
Farzi added: ‘We live in the Voter Bank system where certain segments of society only get all the privileges and unless this changes there will be no real development across the state or country’. She said that more and more people were migrating from the area to Kangan and other parts of the valley because they did not have access to basic facilities. India cannot be considered truly ‘developed’ until all citizens have access to basic services such as clean water, adequate housing, electricity and education.’
Waiting for school
A local teacher stated that 75% of the people in this village are illiterate. The main reason for such high illiteracy is the absence of a high school or senior high school. He said, “After Class Eight, students need to travel 5 to 18 km to attend school’.
Similar is the case with education. Parents don’t send their children to school because with the meagre income they earn, they could only provide one thing: food or education. They chose the first. Most of the generation dropped out of school after the fifth class.
The village remains isolated from the rest of the country for six months during the winters of each year. Warmly located in the foothills of the Great Himalayas, Sarbal will make you fall in love. It comes on the national highway from Srinagar to Ladakh. The last village of Kashmir is a mix of Kashmiris and darts and their rural wealth.
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