Being Connected by “Xavier Marg”

By Shristi Thapa

As we were having a cup of early morning coffee at the Jesuit residence in Tipling, a village 200km north west of Kathmandu, we heard the sound of a motorbike moving around. “I feel so consoled when I hear that. I feel that I am no more cut off from the rest of the world.” commented Fr. Mike Parent, SJ, the Canadian Jesuit living there for the last couple of years. It was on 13th July 2019, the day the handing over ceremony of the, first ever Road to Tipling was to be held at 8.30 am. Now there is an assurance of social security associated with the possibility of future development in all the sectors in that remote village. Tipling has seen a new dawn.

Thanks to Xavier Network and the caring donors, whom the people of Tipling do not even know for sure, for trusting the crazy Jesuits in Nepal to let their money be spent on a project like this.  But today we make history together.

Min Ghale, Ward Chairman, Ward 1, Rt. Rev. Bishop Paul, Nepal Vicariate and Fr. Amrit Rai, Region Superior

Nepal Jesuit Social Institute’s idea of making this road came merely form the fact of how expensive it would be for any earthquake reconstruction activities be conducted in Ruby Valley Rural municipality of which Tipling is central by carrying things on Ponies or helicopters. What we wanted was sustainability and cost-effective intervention, and no doubt, a road is the foremost of all the sustainable development activities.  We are not exaggerating to say that about 9 people have bought transport equipment including trucks, pick up vans and tractors in Tipling in the past couple of months. At least five or six sacks of potatoes travelled with us back to Kathmandu as a gift from the village. There it goes, I have seen these village type bio-fertilized tasty potatoes last year being stored for long and finally end up as food for cows, having no means of selling it out.  The school has cement and iron roads in the foundation now, so are the houses that are coming up now. Whenever there is a vehicle returning from Tipling we do have a sick man or women travelling with us to the city for better medical facility, the travel is faster than the ponies and cheaper than the helicopters.

“Xavier Marg,” means the Path of Xavier, the name coined by Fr. Roy Sebastian, SJ, the director, was unanimously approved by the Jesuits and the Local people for two reasons; Francis Xavier is the patron of Nepal Mission and Xavier Network gave the fund and support. The 27km road that goes nearly 4000 mtrs high through the Himalayas should carry the name of the Saint who literally did network between the Europe and Asia sacrificing himself for bringing God’s people together. “Xavier Marg” is also an iconic representation of the motto of Nepal Jesuit Social Institute; “Reaching the Unreached.” And it is a worthy name to be addressed from the “Roof of the world.”

The local government gave a simple statement permission without much fuss. In fact, we felt that not many first believed that the project is going happen, as the terrain was steep cliff and high altitude with rocks all over. Moreover, the Tyangra pass which had no footrest for an excavator wouldn’t be crossed without blasting the rocks, an impossible thing to do with a shoe string budget of 3.5 crores Nepali Rupees while the government estimate showed nothing less than 7 crores for the same work.  There were no contractors who would do the work for less than 5 crores any way. So we were wondering how far we can go with our budget. Then it was Fr. Joesph Pulickal of Kokotta province who proposed the idea that we buy the excavator and convinced the management committee that we save taxes and avoid the daily rent amount of the machine even when we are not working. The then Region Superior, Fr. Boniface Tigga, SJ after the consult, granted the necessary permission to go ahead with purchasing the JCB 220LC excavator used for the Road construction.

We had to face several challenges mainly during the winter season, the place would be covered with snow for at least 3 months, and the landslides during the monsoon.

On 13th July, a very precise handover ceremony of the road was conducted at Tipling itself. The program lasted for one hour. Reverend Bishop Paul Simick, NJS Superior, Fr. Amrit Rai, chairman of Ruby valley Rural Municipality ward no.1 and 2 Mr. Min Ghale and Mr. Pemba Gale respectively, inaugurated the road officially through cutting the ribbon.

NJSI former and present staff felicitated

NJSI also conducted a felicitation Program on 20th July at NJSI National office at Kathmandu in order to honor the real heroes of the road construction. In the program, Fr Roy, Director of NJSI presented a short video on the construction of the road. Along with that he shared the experiences on behalf of NJSI team, the challenges faced during the implementation phase.

Keeping the main motive of the program, Fr. Roy honored 9 distinguished people who had contributed immensely to accomplish the road, namely, JCB operator Mr. Pradip Basnet, who was not only an excavator operator but also a mechanic and would work from 6 am in the morning till about 8pm in the night. He took it as his mission to make the first road to Tipling. He received a life time achievement award from NJSI and the JCB representative naming him as the Outstanding JCB 220LC Operator. Well it was appropriate to award him as he was the key figure in actually making the road through this terrain, in the extreme weather conditions. Along with him was his helpers Lo Tamang, Falam Tamang and Shiva Subedi, while Man Bahadur Tamang and Kho Bahadur Tamang cleared the sites. Kailash Thapa and Dipendra Tamang were the transport coordinators who became the first drivers of Xavier Marg.

The function was graced by the presence of Bishop Paul Simick, Former Local Development Officer (LDO) of Dhadhing, Bhagone Aryal. Vice chairman of Ruby Valley Rurla municipality, Beena Ghale, Chairman of Ruby Valley Rural Municipality ward no.1, Min Ghale, and Manager of MAW Earth Movers Pvt.Ltd (JCB), Yam Gurung and finally the whole religious communities in Kathmandu valley and the well-wishers of NJSI.