As I cruise along the two laned roads of Dehra Dun in my air conditioned car with flashing lights, I sit back and marvel at the progress this city has made since we attained statehood. Beautiful roads to drive on, footpaths for walking, water fountains adding so much to the beauty of the city and the imposing State Assembly makes one proud of living in the State Capital. The Government has spent so much on transforming this small sleepy town into a comfortable capital. How proud I feel! Yet the small voice in me again wonders, how much more proud I would have been if the Capital of Uttaranchal was one of the most under developed towns of India but all its villages were electrified, had access to road, telephone and potable water. Money spent on footpaths could have provided so many inaccessible villages with solar electricity panels. Money spent on doubling the VIP Roads of Dehra Dun, could have saved lives by providing motorable roads to at least a few, otherwise inaccessible villages and helping easy evacuation of patients. If even one person in Uttarakhand lost a near one just because he could not reach a doctor in time, how can we be proud of our State?
Was the Uttarakhand Agitation aimed at creating a beautiful and comfortable capital?? Or is the cry of desperate villager too far away to be heard by those in power? If you belong to this State, how could you not love your state? And if love your state, how can you not be concerned about the people of your state, especially those who do not have the resources or the votes to make their voices heard. If you cannot travel in your car with the air conditioner off, think of your people who live their entire lives without electricity. If you are not concerned about them, who will be? How desperate we get when our electric supply goes off for a few hours, how much the headlines of our newspapers scream when lights fail in Dehra Dun even after a storm. Have we paused and wondered how they feel who never have had a bulb light up in their homes? Have the newspapers ever screamed about the huge number of villages in Uttaranchal without electricity? If not, please think, why not?
Recently I saw a photograph of a beaming tourism minister signing an accord with a private company to setup a five star hotel in Dehra Dun, the logic being it will earn the state good revenue. If the aim of the Government is to earn money, it can easily do so by handing over acres and acres of land to multinational companies. But should the Government be aiming to make money out of 5 star hotels? If in place of one 5 star hotel in Dehra Dun, the government signed an accord for 10 small hotels in remote but beautiful parts of Uttaranchal, would that not show the people it cared?
There are innumerable small but very beautiful hamlets in our state which are called “Money Order villages” where the only economic activity is the arrival of the monthly money order from the male member of the family working far far away. Most of the houses in the village have only female members and children. The women tend their small fields raising a small amount of crop for their own consumption. Would not small hotels in such villages transform the lives of the people and prevent migration of men folk from the villages? Would not the tourism minister have more reasons to be pleased if he knew he had provided jobs to at least five families in 10 remote Uttaranchal villages and hence prevented migration of at least 50 people to the plains? The fortunes of such villages would have changed and the government would have earned money, maybe not in the same quantity as in a 5 star Dehra Dun hotel, but is earning more money Governments priority? When we talk of migration of people from the hills we talk of statistics. Almost as if, a piece of furniture has moved, from one room to another. Have we ever felt the anguish of families thus separated? The helplessness of those children whose fathers work in lands far far way, the loneliness of those women whose life partners are never near by to share their lives? How sad your children feel when you go out of town for a few days? How sad would their children feel when their fathers go out of village for years? If you love your state, and you love your people, how can you not feel the pain and anguish behind migration of people from hills to plains? Instead of giving them doles and promises, help them earn their livelihood in the land of their ancestors. What better way to do this than by making hotels in small villages and promoting eco tourism? Building 5 star hotels in Dehra dun is neither the answer nor a priority. Creating facilities in and aggressively marketing smaller places in Uttaranchal will bring a smile to a lot of faces. Isn’t that not, what we fought for?
Why do we have to think big, big cities, big hotels, big roads, big banglows and big dams? If we loved big so much, why did we fight to be a small separate state, we should have still been a part of a big state? Should not the scarce resources of State be spread more evenly so as to reach more people in remote areas? If our government loved Uttaranchal, it should ensure that only a small negligible fraction of its financial resources are spent on Dehra Dun, and the bulk of it reached the remote areas of the state; the more remote the place, the more share of funds it should get. Only then can our fight for a separate small state be justified. If the State Governor or the Chief Minister spent a two day vacation in a hamlet, one hour trekking distance away from the main road, that would be what we fought for. If lush forests replaced the scrubs and the cacti growing on the barren slopes of Uttaranchal, that would be what we fought for. If all the people who migrated to the plains, return and stayed in their villages, that would be what we fought for. Till all these things happen, we can only dream, but dream we must. Because only those who dare to dream, make things happen. Jai Uttarakhand!
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