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Arunachal village famous for spices

 ITANAGAR, Jan 4 – It has enough spices to ensure a better living for its residents but no road to take them forward.Enter Sissen village in East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The tiny village, perched atop a hillock on the right bank of Siang river, has earned laurels for record production of organic spices but still lacks a motorable road connecting it with the rest of the world.

The only means of communication for the few hundred villagers is a bamboo hanging bridge over the river. Adults as well as children cross the river risking their lives everyday.

The village, under the administrative control of Kebang Circle, has only 21 households and 140 voters (as per 2011 Census). The residents had boycotted the April 9 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections to draw the attention of politicians to their plight. But nothing has been done to solve their problems so far.

The village has farming enthusiasts from each household growing spices such as cardamom, ginger, red chilli, turmeric, medicinal and aromatic plants, and many other agriculture and horticulture products. Every native of the village has turned into organic spice grower to sustain themselves without depending on contract works or government jobs.

The villagers sold more than two tonnes of large cardamom (Golsey) in the nearest market in Kekar Monying (near Sisen hanging bridge), Pasighat and Assam’s Dibrugarh district last year at Rs 800- Rs 950 per kg.

“Our villagers carry their produces by head load from their respective farms to the nearest motorable road by covering around five to six km after crossing the hanging bridge. A person used to carry more than 35 kg of cardamom in local made basket that is worth around Rs 30,000 (per basket),” said Bakin Siram, a young farmer.

He said due to suitable soil and climatic condition, each household in the village earns minimum Rs 1 lakh annually from cardamom, orange and ginger cultivations.

“Apart from spices cultivation, women from the village sell vegetables, red chilli, fruits, etc.,” he said.

Earlier, the villagers hardly earned Rs 10,000 per year before opting for horticulture and agriculture farming.

“Earlier, our people could hardly earn even Rs 10,000 per annum... Now we have admitted our children to various private schools in Pangin, Pasighat, Aalo and Itanagar,” Siram said.

Witnessing handsome returns, the villagers have started cultivating rubber and medicinal plants to supplement their annual income. If things go in the right direction, the villagers could earn minimum Rs 5 lakh per annum, he claimed.

“Sisen has been one of the successful farming centres of the State. Despite communication bottleneck, the villagers scripted a success story through various schemes of the State Horticulture department,” East Siang DHO Balom Apum said.

“We provide seedlings, barbed wires and construct water tanks from government schemes for them. They identify areas for community farming near their village and utilise it judiciously,” Apum said.

To encourage spices farming, the State Government and the Spice Board of India had on October 26 last year signed a memorandum of understanding here.

According to the MoU, the Spice Board of India would set up two auction centres at Namsai and Kimin, besides model nursery at the Eastern, Western and Central Zones of the State.

The Board would provide 30 per cent share on subsidy to the cultivators and 20 per cent share would be provided by the State Government. The Board would also document the indigenous spices of the State.

The State Government would facilitate marketing of the spices through “Buy Back Policy”, and had decided to include spices in the flagship programmes of the State.

“Arunachal Pradesh has huge potential for organic spices especially large cardamom, ginger, turmeric and star anise, and we will assist farmers through various schemes,” Spice Board Director (Development) S Siddaramappa said.

Sissen village is also historically significant as the British troops had launched an attack on the Adi warriors during the 1911 Anglo-Abor War here.

Despite having all the potentials to be among the front-runners, the villagers are lagging far behind and still depending on porter tracks and ramshackle hanging bridge for all purposes.

The light of development would only reach the people once the unconnected villages, including Pongging, are linked with the Trans-Arunachal Highway from Dite-Dime to Pasighat-Mariyang Road. – PTI

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