Kalap is a small village with a population of around 500 people, located 200 kms from Dehradun (Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, North India) in the Tons river valley. The nearest road is an 11 km trek away, in Netwar. It takes about five hours of trekking in winters and about eight hours in summers to reach Kalap from Netwar. Lack of connectivity meant that the village lacked electricity, education and basic medical facilities until 2013 when Anand Sankar decided to adopt it and change the lives of the people for the better. Anand Sankar, the founder of the Kalap Trust—the man who brought social inclusiveness to the otherwise forgotten village and its people.
Visiting Kalap is like stepping back in time—with traditional wooden houses, cattle and sheep in every household, and smoke curling up above the roof tops. The former photo-journalist, originally from Bengaluru (a metropolitan city in southern state of Karnatka)first visited the village in 2008. The untouched beauty of the place and the simple people struck a chord with him. He ended up making subsequent visits and eventually fell in love with everything there.
But the more he visited Kalap, the more he realized how socially isolated the village was. On one of his trips he met an old woman suffering with high fever. He gave her a paracetamol and when the fever came down, she literally fell at his feet. He then got to know that no doctor had ever visited Kalap, realizing that the many things taken for granted by city dwellers, are hard to come by in Kalap. He arranged for visiting doctors and set up the first ever health camp in Kalap in 2014. It was disturbing to know that many villagers were diagnosed with tuberculosis during the health camp.
That’s when Anand decided to do something more long term to improve the lives of people there. He set up the Kalap Trust in September 2014. And a lot has changed for good since then. A free clinic has been set up to deal with two chronic health issues affecting most people there– tuberculosis and nutritional disorders. The clinic’s focus is on the vulnerable population – children, pregnant women and the elderly.
A doctor, Dr. Nandana Acharjee, MBBS, has been appointed full time on a salary by the Trust. She has also trained two local women as her assistants who help her run the clinic. Apart from treatment, even preventive measures like spreading awareness about hygiene, cleanliness, nutrition, etc. are provided to the villagers. The doctor also travels once a month to the nearby villages to conduct checkups and health camps.
The Trust has installed specialized equipment at the clinic, The Trust dispenses medicines free of cost, which has been a boon to the villagers, since monetary transactions are minimal in Kalap where the barter system is still prevalent.
The second most important project taken up by the Kalap Trust is education. The only barely running government school was totally neglected bereft of teachers. The Trust set up a Montessori-cum-primary ‘after school’ in the village.
The purpose of this initiative is to assess the gaps in government education system and fill them. The school runs every day after regular school hours and full-time on holidays and during vacations. One of the most important things it imparts is English language training, which prepares the children to adjust easily to an English medium school later in their academic life. Another emphasis is on nature interpretation, outdoor experiential education, basic science and math education.
There are English classes for adults in the late evening. The school, like the clinic, is entirely crowdfunded! To know more about how to sponsor the school, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lack of electrification in Kalap is a serious infrastructure challenge. Though the village is connected to the power grid, the power line is too weak to serve the community’s needs. For months together, the line remains non-functional due the terrain and harsh weather conditions. To solve this energy crisis, Kalap Trust has partnered with M/s E-Hands Energy Private Limited with a long term MoU to deploy a renewable energy mini-grid for the village.
Since the village’s geographical orientation is south-facing, it is greatly conducive for solar projects because it enjoys the maximum amount of sunlight time at any given time in the year. Added to this is its location at the height of 7,800 feet above sea level, where sunlight is strong with few days of total cloud cover.
The solar grid project is structured in the form of a Village Electricity Company (VEC) called ‘M/s Kalap Solar Power’, which is entirely owned and run by two local youth from the village. The villagers pay for the electricity consumed. A long tenure soft loan was taken to finance the mini-grid and the loan is repaid from the monthly payments collected from the homes that avail of this service.
Currently, 23 homes have been electrified since June 30, 2105 by ‘M/s Kalap Solar Power’ which operates a 1 kW grid. Charging of mobile phones has enabled access to information from across the world thus ending the social isolation of the village. As travellers it was a relief to charge our phones and camera batteries in the home-stay.
Being nestled in the Garhwal Himalayas, Kalap has many trekking and hiking routes offering splendid views of the mountains. These routes pass through quaint villages, virgin forests, gurgling mountain streams and alpine meadows. Anand has started a community tourism programme, which generates gainful employment for the local people. Local men and women have been trained as mountain guides and perform other activities on a campsite like cooking, taking care of guests, etc. Rooms in village homes are used as homestays. This project began in June 2013 and has been running successfully. Visitors get to experience the local culture, interact with the village people, sample local cuisine and explore the beautiful surroundings. There are itineraries designed to suit different people.
Another important project taken up by Anand is to spread awareness about the importance of sanitation. The village people perform their morning ablutions out in the open just outside the village. Not only does that spread diseases but also ruins the beauty of the place. He has been encouraging people to construct toilets. In 2013, there were just two toilets in the village of 100 homes. Today, there are 25 toilets.
Using sustainable tourism, Kalap’s projects can benefit more and directly contribute to more initiatives in the village.
How to Reach
Kalap village is in Purola tehsil of Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.
Purola is well connected with motorable roads from major destinations of Uttarakhand. Purola is situated 403 kms from Delhi. Taxis and buses are easily available to Purola from Barkot, Mussoorie, Uttarkashi and Rishikesh.
Jolly Grant is the nearest airport to Purola situated at a distance of 169 kms in Dehradun district which is also the capital of the State.
The nearest railhead to Purola is Dehradun. Dehradun is situated 140 kms from Purola. Buses and Taxis are easily available from Dehradun to Purola.