My preliminary assessment of Gungtong is revealing some interesting local political dynamics. When I say “local political”, I’m referring to the Gungtong data that is maintained and reported by local leaders to the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.
The first problem is the lack of a clear definition of Gungtong. While Gungtong, in general, is understood as abandoned houses or empty houses, it also includes lands that are left fallow even though no houses were ever built. Understandably, due to lack of proper definition of Gungtong, every Gewog defines its own Gungtong and maintains data accordingly, leading to the huge inconsistencies in the data.
Over the years, Gungtongs has increased [at-least in papers] and the increase can be accounted for the distribution/division of properties within the family members or siblings. Whenever the property gets divided, a new Gung is issued by the government, which is also considered as Gungtongs by some Gewogs. Following are three categories of Gungtong that is unfolding:
- Gungtong with an abandoned house – a house that has been constructed and wherein people were living is left empty or abandoned
- Gungtong with land but no house – there are many fallow lands, wherein houses were never constructed but have been issued a Gung
- Gungtong without land and house – there are some Gungs issued without a land, let alone having a house constructed.
Well, above is the issue of not having defined a Gungtong properly by those who are maintaining the data on Gungtong. But there exist some problems (some may want to refer to as Gewogs agenda) in reporting the Gungtong within the Gewog offices. I present here two reasons:
- Reporting more Gungtongs – some Gewogs report more Gungtongs with an expectation that the government will bring in more developmental programs in their Gewog with an intention to discourage people to leave Gungtong.
- Reporting fewer Gungtongs – interestingly there are some Gewogs who prefer to report less Gungtong than that actually exists. Such reports are made by those Gewogs having almost all the modern amenities like schools; hospitals; communication facilities; electricity; good motorable roads; etc. Such reporting is also being made to garner support during the election from the Gungtong household members too. This is because there are speculations going around that Gungtong households will be taken back by the government – directly threatening the Gungtong members.
However, Gungtong households themselves or maybe even the Gewog officials are directly responsible for the increased in Gungtongs. A considerable number of abandoned houses were built just to avail of some facilities like road and electricity. These small houses built to avail such facilities were abandoned as soon as the power lines and roads came to their land.
Gungtongs may be an issue to the government or to those communities who are still living back in the village, but the first problem that needs to be addressed is to correctly define what Gungtong is. However, my deeper questioning may reveal some issues as well as answers a couple of months from now. Just to start with, what has been coming in media is not necessarily the cause (human-wildlife conflict) of Gungtong. I believe communities were asked either loaded questions or leading questions during the process of interviews. However, I do not deny the problem our people are facing due to the conflicts with wild animals and I also do not deny that it may be one of the many drivers leading to Gungtong.
Let me see, how it unfolds with time.