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AFTERSHOCK!

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We, the Government

By HUGH & COLLEEN GANTZER 

We’ve just faced the distressing and traumatic initial impact of the pandemic. Now we’re encountering its after-effects! As usual, we’re writing about our small town, Mussoorie; our district, Dehradun; and our state, Uttarakhand.

The first after-effect was the transfer of our proactive SDM, Varun Choudhary, IAS, to be replaced by Prem Lal. The new SDM got off to a good start by ordering the cleaning of all our storm drains. This very essential drainage system, built on the hill side of our roads, curtails erosion and landslides: a major environmental hazard in our hills.

Sadly, beyond this positive step, things seem to be rather chaotic. The five private organisations, ostensibly dedicated to improving the lives of our citizens, are in disarray. They’re either acting at cross-purposes or appear to be in a post-traumatic coma! Others, whose views influence public opinion, are equally divergent in their attitudes.

Mussoorie Cong President wants tourism activities in Mussoorie to begin only after 30 June (GP 5.06.20) “He urged the hotel and restaurant owners to keep their establishments closed till 30 June to prevent the corona virus spreading.” On the same day a national daily quoted the Secretary of the Mussoorie Hotel Association as saying “Developing quarantine centres in a number of hotels scattered across the town could pose safety issues for the residents of the town.” Is our state government going to tie up our small police force to keep a 24×7 watch on the quarantined tourists to ensure that none of them walk out of their hotels? This was, clearly, a knee-jerk decision which showed an absence of logical reasoning. The Hoteliers and Traders of our neighbouring Dhanaulti were entirely justified in deciding to close their beautiful getaway “for some more time.” (GP. 10.06.20)

Then, on 12th of June, the Garhwal Post had this interesting headline: Arrival of tourists opposed in Mussoorie. It reported that the presence of four tourists from Faridabad at a local hotel “caused a stir”. The police then “convinced the tourists to return home.” This is a serious matter. The report said that “Aman, a tourist from Faridabad, said he was in Mussoorie with his family after online booking. He said they had health certificates.” If they did, indeed, have such clearances, why were they made to leave? But the story does not end there. The report goes on to say “Labour Union President RP Badoni said earlier at a press conference of the hotel association that hotels would not open in Mussoorie for the next 10 days.”

Most curious about this distasteful incident, which will give bad word-of-mouth publicity to our tourist dependant town, is the silence of the local hotel association.

Thankfully, this strange reluctance to intervene is an urban phenomenon. Our villages have hit the ground running and have turned the lockdown into a most productive period!

According to a news-report, five villages in Pithoragarh district decided to build a road. They were, clearly, fed up of being connected to the main road “by a treacherous 3 km long trek route”. On 28 May there were just five local residents working on the road. This grew to 100. Some of these were village people who had returned from Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru and had completed their quarantine period. These self-motivated villagers started to post a video of their efforts on social media. This caught the eye of the CM’s media adviser. Things began to move faster and, when last reported, they are expecting the help of a JCB. They are confident that the 3 km road, widened from “2 to 3 feet to 11 feet” will be completed by end June. A dangerous track that had been hazardous for motor-cycles will now take 4-wheelers and serve 6 villages with about 2,000 inhabitants. Said Gram Pradhan Manisha Devi, “The route passes through several agricultural fields owned by locals who gave up their land to support the initiative.”

Mahatma Gandhi was right: the villages of India will show the way. When the cooperative power of our villages combines with the expertise of the, so-called, migrant workers, India will transform. Hopefully, then, spin-doctored double-speak will also wither away.
Clearly, this is the way for We, the Government to flourish!

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)