Friday, June 15, 2007



Chungthang is one of many picture perfect villages north of Sikkim. This sleepy village is a gateway to the highland meadows of the Tibetan plateau. The community is largely agrarian with some business coming from the army battalion stationed nearby and convoys headed to the Tibetan border.
There are no cellphones and even the wired telephone coverage is patchy, especially during monsoons. The only stable connection to the outside is a police radio set.
This village has a dispensary manned by a trained nurse and everything else is referred to the hospital in Mangan, the district headquarter, which is about 28 kilometer away.
Some years ago, a woman was brought with 95 per cent burns to the dispensary. This was a major tragedy for the village, it was abuzz. People ran around trying to be useful, trying to get help from the district headquarters and the army. Unfortunately, a section of the highway connecting it to Mangan had been washed off by a mudslide caused by the monsoon rains.
The Border Roads Organisation came to the victim's rescue and agreed to get her across on a bulldozer. Everything was arranged and the ambulance left Chungthang.
At a spot, 15 km away from Chungthang, where the road was washed off the patient was shifted onto the bulldozer and it slowly but firmly completed the delicate journey.
On the other side the district collector, the SP Police, doctors, the entire district administration was anxiously waiting. A Convoy of a dozen vehicles and ambulances were ready. But all this just did not add up, all this just for one patient? And she was not even a VIP.
It must have been quite a sight with the nurse and the burn victim crossing over on a bulldozer and a 100 people waiting on the other side with the works.
In Mangan the entire hospital had been emptied. Most patients except for the serious ones had been sent home.
So what happened?
It was a case of a wire message gone wrong. The message to the district headquarters read: Chungthang Fire. 95% burnt.
Because the Sikkimese are so helpful nobody did a cross check to verify.

(karma Palzor,CNN-IBN)