Survival - Living for a day

Sept, 1959

Road workers in North Sikkim.

Tibetans from the transit camps were moved to temporary road construction camps in East Punjab (present Himachal Pradesh), Jammu and Kashmir, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Arunachal Pradesh (then NEFA), Dehradun and Mussoorie. Around a total of 18,000 to 20,000 Tibetans worked in these road construction sites in the 1960s.

The first group of Tibetans numbering 3,396 left the transit camps for Sikkim where they were employed as part of the 8,000 workers building the North Sikkim Road from Gangtok to Lachen in September of 1959.


Road workers in Mandi.


Tibetan refugee road camp, Rohtang Pass, Lahaul.

2 Oct, 1959

The Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre (TRSHC), Darjeeling, was started on 2nd October, 1959 by Mrs. Gyalo Thondup (Zhu Dan) with the initial funds raised locally through charity shows, donations and an exhibition football match. It was subsequently supported by the Central Relief Committee (India) and other international aid organisations.

Dec, 1960

The first group of Tibetans waiting to board the train at Pathankot Railway Station, Punjab, to begin the 2000 mile journey to Mysore and then onwards to Bylakuppe.

The Tibetan road-workers faced numerous hardships compounded by the temporary nature of this livelihood which led to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government requesting Prime Minister Nehru for a more permanent rehabilitation. On the basis of this request, Nehru wrote to a number of chief ministers of different states of India. Siddavanahalli Nijalingappa, the Chief Minister of Mysore, responded and offered 3,000 acres of uninhabited forest land near the present town of Kushalnagar in addition to allocating Rs 37,84,800 for the rehabilitation of 3000 Tibetans.


Clearing the forest in the Tibetan Settlements with support from the Indian Government where elephants were used to fell the trees and Tibetans would then clear the lands manually. Every Tibetan who worked in clearing the lands was also paid a daily wage by the Central Relief Committee.


Tibetans in the settlement threshing maize after a harvest.

In July 1964, with the co-operation between the Indian government and the Swiss Technical Co-operation, Mr. Luthi, an agricultural engineer, spearheaded the agricultural programs of the settlement. He introduced a number of schemes ranging from land use, soil tests, mechanisation, irrigation, etc. Based on his work, maize was and is still the dominant crop in the settlements.


The Tibetan Co-operative Society was started in 1961 by the first Tibetan settlers out of necessity for carrying out trading activities. It was formally registered in 1964. The first co-operative society in exile started functioning with the opening of three depots in Camp 1, 2 and 3.


His Holiness being taken on a tour of the fields where Tibetans toiled the land for cultivation.