NITI: With repeated representations to the authorities to improve infrastructure and boost tourism in this scenic village falling on deaf ears, the 70-odd residents of Niti -- the last Indian village along the India-China border in Uttarakhand -- have taken it upon themselves to attract tourists and make a living.
Niti residents now randomly walk up to tourists they happen to spot in Joshimath or Tapovan and invite them to their village by giving a brief account of its history and its natural beauty. Taking this a bit further, the villagers have now decided to build a museum on their own, showcasing the artefacts used by the Bhotiya tribe back in the 1950s and 1960s -- which they feel will be a major attraction to tourists.
'We have come to believe that the government will do nothing to improve infrastructure here. They have declared this village as a tourist destination and they think their responsibility ends there. We are trying to develop this village on our own. To sustain ourselves, we need tourists. Therefore, we decided to construct a museum, all by ourselves which will showcase antiques used by our ancestors,'' said Aashish Rana, head of Niti village.
Ashish and other villagers are now leaving no stone unturned to curate artefacts used by their earlier generations.
''We already have assembled quite a few articles our elders used decades ago which will give a glimpse into the life of the Bhotiya tribe. We have brass hookahs, knives, swords, pots, utensils, kettles and jewellery. We are looking for more. We have already finalized the place in the village where the museum will come up and the villagers are excited about this,'' said Rana.
''We also have people who will explain to tourists the history of the Bhotiya tribe, their lives in the mountains, their trade with the people of Tibet before 1962, their eating habits, rituals, etc. Though the government should have done its bit in improving infrastructure so that tourists can visit this village, we thought enough is enough and let’s do something ourselves,'' says another villager S S Rana.
While work on the museum is underway, villagers randomly meet tourists and invite them to their village. ''We met two bikers in Joshimath and invited them to visit Niti. They were part of a motorcycle company and assured us that about 40 of them would be visiting Niti soon and spend at least two days here. They will be staying with us in our homes where they can have locally made liquor and delicious food,'' said Rana, adding that with the younger generation leaving the villages for jobs, the Bhotiya culture and tradition is being forgotten.