A local council that administrates the village community of Lachen and Lachung

June 18, 2023

Earlier this year I visited North Sikkim. And before even starting the journey, we were acquainted by our travel guide not to take any disposable water bottles after a certain point. Although it seems a bit odd at first, right before entering the village of Lachen, things were pretty clear. 

Our car driver stopped for some paperwork and told us to dump any disposable bottles we had. There was one - which we bought on the road. So, I hopped out of the car to dump it and found a 4 feet tall cage, filled with hundreds of bottles. I didn't take any pictures of it; trust me it wasn't that scenic. Instead, here's a photo while returning back to the car.

Dzumsa blogpost cover photo
Lachen entry point, North Sikkim

See that building on the right side of the road? That's the checkpoint for paperwork and the conservation fee collection point. They took 80 rupees for eight of us and gave us this ticket. That's when I first came to know about Dzumsa.

Lachen entry point ticket
"The Dzumsa is a traditional administrative system of Lachen village established during the first half of the 19th century. After the successful ban on packaged drinking water in the village, the Dzumsa has taken up another step for collecting conservation fee of Rs 10 to conduct various activities for safeguarding the pristine lake and the high altitude biodiversity."

I found this very fascinating, so did some research after returning home and found out that Dzumsa does way more than just banning plastic bottles and conserving biodiversity.

Dzumsa (pronounced as zom-sa) means "meeting place" or "gathering place". It is a local council that administrates the village community of Lachen and Lachung. Whilst the Panchayat system exists in other parts of Sikkim, these villages still follow the traditional self-governance system i.e., Dzumsa. In these parts, people usually speak Sikkimese Bhutia and Lepcha languages, although I'm not sure from which language the word Dzumsa comes.

Initially (early 19th century), anyone could join Dzumsa. But as the membership grew, new rules were set in 1990. As a result, only Lachen and Lachung-borns can join the Dzumsa now. And the village council accepts only two members a year. The council people also appoint a head known as Pipon by open elections. During the election process, people just gather around the respective candidates. Then the person having the largest number of followers is appointed as the Pipon. Quite an interesting and transparent process it seems.

Dzumsa looks over daily affairs in the villages such as maintaining local laws, resolving disputes, collecting taxes, distributing government funds, organising social functions, and many more. The roles of Dzumsa span way over the scope of this blog.

Anyway, with the increase in tourism things are changing in the villages of Lachen and Lachung, for good. It will be interesting to see how this decades-old system adapts to the change. 

Conservation fee ticket
Conservation fee ticket

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