“Gair” in Garhwali means deep and “sain” refers to a plain, so as the name signifies, it is a rather large plain in the middle of hills. Located in approximate geographic center of Uttarakhand, Gairsain is easily accessible from all parts of Uttarakhand by a rather good two lane highway. The airfield at Gaucher is roughly 65 kms away and hopefully soon, the railways station at Rudraprayag would be an hour’s drive from there.
Very few would dispute the assertion that the State Capital should be easily accessible to all the State residents. This not only brings the people close to the Government, but the Government closer to people. For a villager to reach Gairsain from Dehra Dun or Pithoragarh it would take roughly 12 hours compared to 36 hrs now it takes from Pithoragarh to Dehra Dun. Living in Gairsain, our political and administrative masters would be more empathetic to the hardships faced by common villager in the hills, once they have experienced the hardships themselves. Merely visiting remote places for a day or two, does not generate empathy for the daily struggles in the lives of people, going through it yourself does.
Another argument against Gairsain is that it is remote, lacks a big airport and railhead and other facilities, thus making it unsuitable for being a capital. While railhead and airport can and will soon be developed at Gairsain, of prime importance however is a capital’s connectivity with all parts of the State; connections with other parts of the country while important, is relatively secondary. Gairsain is very well connected to all parts of the State, Dehra Dun is not. Lack of infrastructure in Gairsain mirrors its absolute absence of it in the hills and is in fact, a strong reason for having the capital in hills, because only then will the infrastructure then develop. After all, the aim of having our own state is to develop the hills and not just Dehra Dun.
Yet another advantage Gairsain has as a capital would be that because as of now it is a small town with vast open spaces around it, a well-planned & modern township can be built, unlike Dehra Dun, which is already overcrowded, cramped and with relatively less space to expand. Of course, given the perpetual constraints of funds, the building of a new capital can be at a slow pace, taking anything up to a decade for the final shift to occur.
Another argument is that selection of a capital is a highly scientific exercise with detailed feasibility studies and project reports and that popular sentiment is irrelevant. On the contrary, most of the Capitals selected around the world were emotional choices. An uninhabited and ruined Athens was made capital of newly independent Greece on popular sentiment of restoring Greece to its original glory. Upon reunification the underdeveloped city of Berlin was made Germany’s capital instead of the existing, well developed West German capital Bonn. After the October Revolution the Russian Capital was shifted from the developed St Petersburg to the ruined city of Moscow. Nobody spent years studying rock strata and soil composition to select them. Newly formed states in Canada selected their capitals by referendum. Therefore to quote the Dixit Commission on the choice of the capital would be irrelevant.
Unfortunately, a wide array of vested interests is against the shifting of the Capital. Hoteliers, property dealers and a wide range of businessmen profit from Dehra Dun remaining the capital. Given the financial muscle of this group in both the national parties; it’s hardly surprising that most BJP and Congress leaders do not even mention Gairsain at all. Antipathy to shifting also arises from ignorance of history of the movement and lack of awareness or disinterest about life outside Dehra Dun. In addition, most political leaders too have no real interest in developing the hills and prefer to be closer to Delhi than to people they are supposed to serve.
Therefore, there is no real reason why Gairsain should not be the capital of Uttarakhand. Even if we are much more highly educated than those who laid down their lives for creating of this State, we must respect their sentiments. The concept of Uttarakhand is incomplete without Gairsain.
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