Advantage and Disadvantage in Major Tibetan Settlements

by Tenzin Yangdak, Times of Tibet, Nov 9, 2004

Karnataka, India -- There are 5 major Tibetan Settlements situated in Southern Indian state of Karnataka, since mid sixties and seventies. There were over forty five thousand Tibetans, including monks and nuns, in those settlements.

The number of settlers increased in all the settlements approximately by 5% until around 1995, even with the consideration of death and birth rate since the inception of the settlements. But, since then, apart from monastic communities, the population of settlers started to decline due to the steady number of Tibetans, especially younger generations, some how, left for economic immigrants to USA and others foreign countries.

There also exist main Tibetan study centers of monasteries, big and small, from all Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Although, these settlements vary in size and population, all were established mainly as agricultural settlements. Hence, there are establishments of Co-operative society, tractor workshop and Go-down storage of agricultural products, and apart from that there are settlement offices, schools, Montessori, Health clinics and Handicraft centers to accommodate and serve the need of all the settlers.

All the infrastructure of the settlement worked quite well for about 20 years from the time of their existence. Gradually, the prospect of agricultural spirit started to decline for the settlers, following repeated drought, water shortage, crop failure and crop destroyers. Settlers now face it quite hard to survive solely by means of cultivating a small field for their livelihood. Eventually, more and more Tibetans, both men and women, ventured in small scale business of winter wears during the 4 months of winter season, spreading all over the Indian sub-continent.

In the early years most of the Tibetans could not do their own business due to the lack of capital finance, and they went to work for other well-off Tibetans during the business season. Later on local Indian banks came forward to give business loans to most of the settlers who applied for business loan. Nowadays, Tibetan traders could not find other Tibetan workers and they have to go for local Indian workers. Although, this kind of business poured in additional income for the settlers, this also led to the downfall of almost all the Handicraft centers and other low salary work sections. Because, understandably, people go for higher income generating works. During the actual business season it is, in fact, also a nerve testing adventure until you could collect the capital amount through day to day sales, working over time with very simple diets. In that way they have to some how adapt to a kind of life style, which is of two extremes; the extreme of working overtime during the winter season period, and the other extreme of unemployment and idle time passed during the rest of the time of a year. There are even parents who have to leave their children, also school going children, under a care of their neighbor and friends and go for winter business. This often lead to the degeneration of children? study and their behavior.

Agriculture work is not an attractive business, especially in Tibetan settlement of Hunsur, where the fields are not fertile and region is out of rain bed area, and because of continuous crop failure. There are exceptionally very few young Tibetans who take initiative in farming and agriculture braving any hard work and risk. They deserve official recognition and honor to exemplify their effort in front of our many young Tibetans.

What is quite comfortable and secure in those settlements is that they don?t need to pay any rent and almost any land lease. You could feel really at your own house and place. The living standard is quite simple and economical, and geographically, it is also very safe from natural disasters and catastrophe. All facilities for comfort such as Television, refrigerator, phone and even motor bikes are quite common in those remote and backward village areas. Naturally, life is getting more and more competitive and challenging within the community.

Although, that is the case more and more settlers, especially the younger generations, are getting frustrated and lost without any clear future from them. Unlike in the past, and now due to the compelling factors, there are certain rules introduced in the settlements, which is bound to respect by all the settlers. For instance, settlers are obliged to attend all the public meetings that are held under the order of Settlement office, Co-operative Society, Village Council, Village leader and etc. Even all the public prayer assembly and incense?offering gatherings are obligatory and if you fail to attend such meetings or assemblies without an excusable reason you are bound to pay the fine, needless to speak for other commune works. On the other hand, local authorities are compelled to impose such rules for the sake of the community?s welfare and settlement establishment. It is, indeed, sometimes awkward to hear settlers talking about meeting fine, Mani(Om mani padme hum) fine, prayer assembly fine, Incense-offering fine and so on.

But, if you are quite well-off and if you have a stable job, and living in the southern settlements are perfect retreat place, serene, free of pollution, peaceful, and relaxing environment despite all the above obligations.

In the past, concern for jobless youths is expressed by all the concerned authorities and leaders during all their visits and campaign. It still remains one of the crucial crisis in many settlements. Deplorably, even graduates and post graduates students also end up in foot path street business with their family members and friends. It is a pity that most of the parents of college and university attending Tibetan students ,who had to pay high fees and pocket money for their sons or daughters with great difficulty at the cost of their daily needs, and finally after finishing college they have no clear future.

One of the main problems for Tibetan parents in exile is to seek and find scholarship fee support for their children who have completed their higher secondary school. They are indeed the genuine destitudes who deserve support and encouragement to help their children achieving their educational aim.
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