Uttarakhand is in deep ecological crisis

Radhakanta Barik

 Uttarakhand is no more a cool and peaceful place. Temperature of Dehradun is the same as parts of Northern India. Historically the Dehradun valley was a part of Meerut division of UP during the British time. It was a part of Uttarakhand’s ecological landscape. It is being influenced by the cold wind and snow fall of Mussourie. A decade before city of Dehradun had no fans as it was a cool place. It was decided by Britishers to make their holiday home as their families used to stay in Mussourie which is a hill station inhabited by white people and black people used to serve as their servants in the manors. This place had a network of good private schools managed by the Church and private people. It started offering best education to the elite of the North India.  North Indian elite at one time have houses like Bengali elite having a second house in Shantiniketan.

Mussourie and Dehradun are the twin cities have an intellectual landscape with libraries, bookstalls and coffee houses.  Rajpur Road with trees both sides of the road provide enough space for an evening and morning strolling. In Summer people of Dehradun used to move to Mussourie to have a cold wind from the snow-clad hills while strolling on the mall road. Solitude provides them a lot of succor for their intellectual growth.  The British officials used to stay in their manors while Indian intellectual elite lived in a close contact with them in Dehradun. There was always a possibility of contact with each other and exchange of their ideas.  Affinity of both the elites such as English and Indian elite sent their children to a famous school Doon School, as a private school has produced a large number writers and artists and musicians and civil servants and scholars. The school was founded by a Brahmo intellectual from Bengal. It has grown into a big elite institute of India.

Dehradun was made as the capital town of newly formed State of Uttarakhand which added population of two lakhs. Today it has grown into a medium sized town. Its infrastructure was made for people of twenty thousand only. With the same infrastructure around five lakhs people live in a city which is a part of valley. There is no public transport system which allowed local smoky vehicles to move on the roads. This valley has a structural limitation by its environment which does not allow smoke to go up. This has affected the city’s atmosphere.  This has turned into a polluted warm city of the Northern India. Multi story buildings have come up in the earth quake zone of the Himalayan range. The builders are very active here and no other industrialist one finds here.

Today the sky of Uttarkhand looks dusty. The bluish sky has turned into blackish one. This sort of sky one finds in Delhi. Smoke from burning forest and dust from construction activities here have created a smoggy environment. This will lead to bronchitis disease. Ten years back we went with ten people belonging to Garhwali region to Rishikesh where the new AIMS is being established to cater to health needs of people of Garhwali. All ten laughed loudly and told that the hospital would serve the people of UP. As they lead a healthy life because of pure climate. Now they are going to suffer from diseases because of polluting environment. Can they file a case in the Consumer Court or Supreme Court for getting compensation? Can the BJP government of Uttarakhand and Modi government  would take corrective steps in bringing a reverse in making a policy based on science and rational understanding of the present situation.

We found a child of eight years is carrying the child of the same age on the Mall. This was not evident some years back in Uttarakhand. Today's society and economy here progressively are disintegrating. The social compactness of Garhwali does not exist anymore. Empathy doesn't exist with the elite. In 1970s when we were students of JNU, there was a restaurant in Sapru house where the owner was so generous that people from Pahad used to come and work in his restaurant. He had so good rapport with the professors that he would request them to appoint some boys. In the process minimum a hundred boys got employment in hostels and offices. Today the small peasant economy is disintegrating. In the process child labour is prevailing in the towns of Uttarakhand. In the past the adults used to work they are getting replaced with the children. The average wage of labour is falling now. There is absence of civil society activists who can campaign for the abolition of child labour. Intelligentsia of this region has migrated to the big cities who have no time to speak for their society.

Kagna Renault, belonging to the beautiful mystic hills turned into a leading actor of the Bollywood. Her experiences of the hills helps her creating humorous scenes make her showing a sensitive style in the film Queen. She gave a remark over quiet and calmness of these hills. Here murder or violence scene does not happen; she doesn't have any experience of seeing these scenes. It limits her experience to act in those scenes. Yesterday going on the crowded Mall road one finds a violent action where Pahadi people's intervention calmed down the situation. A 92 year old person made a remark, 'Mall is taken over by cats, dogs, cycles, motor Cycles, cars and human beings. Some years back cycle was not allowed.' This observation is very much appropriate to the unrestricted flow of tourists into the hills by the present BJP governments.

By talking to farmers, one realizes the reason behind keeping the land fallow from 2004. There is no appropriate technology developed for application for improvement of the terrace farming. This has affected the small farmers here. There is no horticulture to support their farming. As there is no co-operative marketing system to buy their products at proper price. They migrate out. After the state formation out migration has increased by 2.5 percent. Villages without people make these areas looking as waste land. One village of Pitharogarh having 2000 people today has two people: husband and wife as wife is a school teacher. Government has no plans for area development.

Government has no plans for area development of the snow-clad Himalayan range brought mystics, film makers and ordinary person for his or her spiritual pursuits. Sunil Dutt, the first Hindi film maker picturised a love song on the snow-clad hills here. The Hollywood film Dr Strange got shot here. The film hero got a crippling disease came here to get cured. Anthropologists look for this place for understanding a mystic experience. The snow is vanishing for the reasons lying in the government policy of allowing the unrestricted flow of tourists carrying their plastics with them. Wherever one looks at the hill top to water stream one finds plastic bottles. It is polluting the top soil and water stream joining the river Ganga. Devas have vanished from here the Bhumi is getting polluted. Uttarakhand will be renamed from Devabhumi to Narkabhumi or the abode of gods to the abode of Devils.

 Uttarakhand recognised the first English person as the Raja Wilson who started as the Forest contractor who made huge money by selling wood to Railway co. for construction of the track in the middle of the 19th century. He got married to the local girls. Today the political leader turned into the forest contractors who are being imagined as the kings here. He as the forest contractor has combined with the road contactor. In plundering of natural resources he has destroyed the local forest. If required forest fire is a part of the plundering of wealth. Uttarakhand is looking barren without forest coverage. It has created a warm climate here. Snow clad hills have disappeared. One could see from Mussoorie. For the last two years snow clad hills are not seen. Some families went to Badrinath to see snow. After some years one has to go Everest tip to see snow. With the decline of forest coverage, the bird population is shrinking. Salim All the first bird watcher came here and turned into a bird lover. No Salim Ali can be created here. Ramu Guha did pioneering work in the area of Environmental history by looking at the place covered with green trees. People started Chipko movement against the tree cutting here. At present no protest against the deforestation is going on.

The way Deva Bhumi is evolving, it will be only Bhumi. Devas will migrate from here to somewhere. As Uttarakhand is an ecological sensitive zone there can't be any ad-hoc management of its environment. This is harming the ecological balance of the Himalayan belt. Disintegration of forest has brought a heat wave this year as the numbers of birds have drastically reduced. The number of butterflies has declined.  The number of animals has declined. Uttarakhand is experiencing worst forest fire this year. Over 2000 hectors have burnt down. The hills look barren. The underlying reason behind this is the tourist flow into this belt. Rich tourists want a faster movement of their vehicles. This has resulted in broadening the road. Previously there was single tracked road. Now double tracked road has resulted in destruction of forest and hills. Uttarakhand is experiencing a large number of landslides. The government must reverse the policy by which Uttarakhand can manage with the help of single tracked route.

June 5 is world Environment day. We look at the Himalayan range and its place in ecological health and civilization of India. Its centrality can't be underplayed. Most of the perennial rivers originate from here. These rivers are life line of an agrarian society developed here which sustains one third of India's population. But the Himalayan range is in stage of disrepair. Forest coverage is declining every year. There was a seminar on the status of forest in this region in the UP acedemy of administration located Nainital of undivided UP where R S Tolia was the director. While discussing the state of forest here Tolia raised a point that the moment our State of Uttarakhand would be formed, the decline of forest would stop. The Uttarakhand got formed Tolia became its chief secretary. A lot of water flew in the river Ganga. The water slowly is looking dirtier than before. We both met in another seminar organized by H N Bahuguna University, Tolia was the chief guest and I gave the inaugural address where I raised the point which raised by him years back. In the end Tolia spoke on the stage of forest here and admitted the point he spoke in Nainital. Forests are declining here as the forest contractors with traders control the political power. The uncontrolled tourist flow has affected the environment here.

Why farmers are saying that they want to destroy their crops. I realise this staying in Mussourie. We went to buy vegetables from a shop and it was a shocking to find that the small farmers of Uttarakhand producing vegetables getting cheated by the traders. In front of me a farmer sold his beans at the cost of Rs40 per kg. She (shop keeper) sold us at Rs 80. The shop is given to her by the academy without any rent. She has made a profit of 100 percentage. Cost of production of each kg of beans is coming around Rs50. He is selling with a loss of ten. Modi government has announced a budget for farmers where there is a provision of cost of production plus fifty percent specifically for vegetables known as TOT. Neither Modi nor Rawat government of the BJP is interested in providing the price of their products. Farmers of Uttarakhand are generous to the traders and contractors as they are ruling here. Their children work as restaurant boys in Delhi at cheaper price.

In the domain of culture, there can be a progressive thinking but not Marxist thinking. Over these premises IPTA drew artists and writers. That was a view taken by PC Joshi hailing from this place. With a mystic thinking he developed a network of progressive people. A leading film star Balraj Sahni came to JNU for the first convocation address where he expressed his intellectual obligation to PC Joshi as he was associated with the university. That is the quality of his leadership who built IPTA. Today left has grown without the strength of the cultural network. IPTA had a momentous history when it got started before independence. It has branches everywhere and in each segment of human activity. Artists working in every field of human creative area have amazed everybody. The painters have picturised the agony of human sufferings of the Bengal famine. The photographers have taken some rare photos of the RSS meeting before Independence. Film stars and singers have created some great works. Writers have written some rare novels and some memorable short stories. All these activities got directions from Comrade P C Joshi hailing from Uttarakhand. His flexible approach to creative field had mystical dimensions of the Himalayan hills.

 There is another Joshi who became the Human Resource Minister of Vajapayee government. Two Joshis have hailed from this region. P C Joshi gave a foundation of the Communist Party of India and a cultural network known as the IPTA. Most of writers artists from all over India joined the progressive platform. Another Joshi,a Professor of Allahabad University rarely taught there but spent his energies and time in orgainising the BJP. The worst phase of Hindutva politics centers around Babri Masjid and RamMandir was organized by Joshi as the President of the Party.  These districts of UP became an independent state while Joshi was the minister of Vajpayee cabinet. On the assumption that it would be a pure Hindu state as they   do not recognize the Dalits and backwards as the part of the Hindu society. It is interesting to note here that this has served the purpose of their aim in construction of the Uttarakhand. Today snow clad hills have disappeared and forestry is disintegrating. Rural economy is unviable today.  But only Hindutva intellectuals are created as it has turned into a factory. Joshi must be feeling satisfied today Rawat and Yogi and Doval and General Rawat are there and all speaking in unison. While father Ajit Doval is National Security advisor and his son Shaurya Doval has started his Abhiyan in Garhwal region as he belongs to a village but there is no house in his village as reported by the media some time back. General Rawat of Indian Army speaking loudly in favour of Hindutva which is a violation of defence rules. Today a distance from the position and politics is disappearing under the Modi Raj. 

Garhwali society is a literate and educated society. They perceive Modi sarkar is anti 'siksha and Diksha' and their perception is sharp and profound. In the domain of education generation of ideas, science and technology are being done. Engagement with a society helps in transformation of a society. For these people there were concept of airplane, concept of information and technology in ancient thinking. Ideas help in connecting with a society through history and modern economy. The average Garhwali thinks that these people ignore ideas for which they want to rewrite history.

A brave and conscientious police officer in Uttarakhand saved a citizen belonging to the minority from a mob as they were in the temple. A brave police officer saved the train from attacks. By seeing the scene in the face book today remind me the incident.  As the police administration could not provide security to these brave police officer and sent on leave. One can imagine how far the administration of Uttarakhand has been communilised by the BJP government.

There was a Nepali king over Garhwal Mr Shah while he was ruling, the gang of thieves from Nepal allowed to plunder the farmers of Garhwal. Modi himself shaped as a Hindu king of Nepal. He allows the various groups. The president of India walked on the Mall of Shimla after prohibition of the vehicles on the Mall. Ten years back no vehicle was allowed on the Mall of Shimla and Mussourie. On the Mall of Shimla Indira Gandhi and Bhutto finalized the agreement while walking together in 1972. On the Mall of Mussourie Nehru and Maulana Azad discussed issues related to national movement. This road makes people egalitarian while walking. Students used to walk to their schools. Today majority going on scooter and car which makes a stratified community. On the Mall of Shimla and Mussourie writers and poets used to think of their next story and poems. This space in the hill stations create sacred space to which everybody from a beggar to a king want to visit. But cow vigilantes are attacking meat sellers belonging to the minority. By hiking of petroleum price, the present government is plundering the common people. What a historical analogy. When British rule came by removing King Shah over Garhwal, there was celebration here.

These cities require a planning by taking into account of the environmental dimensions. Dehradoon is located in a valley with its jungle and river. Unplanned growth has affected its physical infrastructure, it's drains are choked and there is acute traffic jam. Lack of public transport has allowed the movement of smoky vehicles to carry people. The city is now a polluted city. With the decline of forest coverage this year's temperature has crossed 40 degree. The city loosing it's intellectual personality. Dehradoon and Mussourie are twin cities. These were planned towns with library and books shops. House with a garden and courtyard provide space for thinking. There are thirteen internationally recognised writers. Nehru wrote his Discovery of India sitting in his house here. Occasionally moving to Mussoorie for getting new ideas. Charan Singh came here to prepare agrarian policy as the revenue minister of Pant cabinet. Today many writers sitting in their homes are writing and publishing books on history and politics.

I am now in Dev Bhumi of India where mystic thinking prevails. Snow clad hills create an echo in my heart that Om Namoh Shivaya. Life moves in material world where joys and happiness prevail. People argue that in their world they are allowed to eat everything including meat. They exported a devil to UP Yogi who has banned slaughter of any animal.Agriculture has suffered because farmers are unable to sell their animals which get them an additional income. Hills create feeling of love. Young people sing songs of love. Yogi has created fear in young people because of attacks from Romeo squad.Yogi should come back to Dev Bhumi and revive his soul.

The present government in Dehradoon is not working in the lines of democratic traditions. As the chief minister Rawat is not ready to have a talk with ateacher who came here to articulate her grievances. As democratic traditions indicate that a citizen can have a dialogue with the ruling establishment and it is upto them to listen to their grievances but may not solve the problems. But Mrs Bahuguna a teacher has got a suspension order as she met the chief minister of the state. It is not only climate is getting hotter but the ruling politicians are losing their mental balance by giving suspension order of a teacher.

While the sun was setting on the west in Moussoorie left a glow in the sky for a while and this left a feeling of happiness in my heart. The mysticism of the Himalaya range creates an echo in my heart and mind like the elegy written by Thomas Gray while leaving the abode of gods. " Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid, some hearts once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed, or waked to ecstasy the living lyre." He wrote this elegy two hundred years back being spiritually enlightened by the Church standing in the centre of the city on the Mall Road.  Hill society created a mystic consciousness of the people whether Britishers or Indians who used to carry a celestial fire in their hearts.  There is saying here that no point of building temples as the hills are the abode of gods.

Aug 22, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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