On 15th December, the Leader of Opposition in the Uttarakhand Assembly, Harak Singh Rawat announced that he will be moving a private member’s Bill in the Assembly seeking a resolution to merge 185 villages of Bijnore district of Uttar Pradesh into Uttarakhand. Villagers of this region and in the bordering villages of Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar have been agitating for a long time to merge their villages also in Uttarakhand. Our Chief Minister too seems to be sympathetic to the plight of these villagers in the “bad condition” of UP and has lent his voice to the merger of over 200 such villages in Uttarakhand. The only party to oppose this demand has been the UKD fearing that as such a move will change the demographic profile of the state.
The demand to include the entire Saharanpur District in Uttarakhand was raised when Uttarakhand was being created in 2000, but was rejected as it was felt that such an inclusion will negate the concept of a hill state. In order to get a majority in the new Uttarakhand Assembly and to keep its majority in the UP Assembly, BJP included, almost surreptitiously, large areas of Haridwar and Terai region, under the garb of including revenue generating areas in Uttarakhand, even though these areas were never sought to be included in Uttarakhand during the Statehood Agitation.
Before deciding on the present issue one must wonder whether such an extension of boundaries will do justice to the concept of Uttarakhand.
Even before the creation of our State, politicians cutting across party lines have been attempting to drive a wedge in the population of this region to make political capital. Divide the hill folks from the people living in plains; and further subdivide the hill folks into Garhwalis & Kumaonis and then create even more divisions on basis of caste. This has been the mantra of politicians in this region. Create imaginary divisions, twist minor incidents and heighten insecurities to win votes. All this has increased manifold after Uttarakhand was born as the stakes have got bigger.
The very existence of a party by the name of “Maidani” Kranti Dal in Uttarakhand is an example of this kind of divisive politics. Purportedly created as an anti-thesis of Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, the use of “Maidani” in name of MKD implicitly equates “Uttarakhand” in UKD’s name to Hills, which is unfortunate. By claiming to represent only people of the plains the party is doing great disservice to the state since its very name perpetuates the so-called divide. There is no place in any progressive society for such divisions.
Uttarakhand is a state in debt. An estimate shows that each resident of Uttarakhand is under a debt of Rs 18,000/-. The State Government is barely able to fork out salaries to its existing staff, in spite of the fact that the present staff strength is way less than the authorized strength which in turn is much less than what the ideal strength of its staff should be. Local bodies in the State do not have money either for their staff or for any developmental work. Large parts of our State are without electricity and some even without potable water. Health care and Women’s conditions in large parts of the State are at best, precarious. In such a situation, adding more under developed areas will divert already meagre recourses, divert attention and adversely affect development. While one is sympathetic to the lack of development of the adjoining areas of UP, yet at present our State cannot take on more burden than it already has. The solution to the problem lies probably in creation of Harit Pradesh, rather than merging them in Uttarakhand.
Whether we like it or not, the boundaries of Uttarakhand are settled. Some may want to shed the Terai and non Kumbh Areas of Haridwar while others may want to include many more, but giving priority to this (non)issue over several other vital issues of development, would be disastrous for the State. Instead of encouraging such divisions for narrow partisan gains our leaders should rise above petty politics, treat its entire population as one and lead the State along the path of unity and progress.
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