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Changing Tack

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Travelure

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

In this column we change tack.

Yes, the word is TACK.  It is a sailing term related to Tactics and Tactical. It refers to the manoeuvres that a field operative adopts to further the Strategy or long term plans of his Commanders.

To take a specific case: the Lions of Gir. These very rare felines were on the verge of extinction due to over-hunting. Then a very wise ruling prince stepped in and established the Lion Sanctuary in the forests of Gir. Our Uttarakhand forest protectors allow trees to be felled in our Tiger Sanctuary, flats to be built, a rail line to be laid through its most sensitive area, and all other anti-conservation practices to prevail.

This brings us to another Credibility Gap swiftly yawning into a Credibility Chasm.

Although our netas make all sorts of pious promises about promoting the tourism attractions of our state, their priorities seem to lie elsewhere. They must wake up to two realities. First, the Travel Industry is essential to the continued well-being of our state. It is neither a frivolity nor a luxury. It is a necessity. Second, our three major income earning activities depend on the whims of thousands of individuals. No single pilgrim, unless under a vow, has to visit the Char Dhams. There are a number of other holy shrines in our land. No parent has to send his or her child to any of our residential schools. No tourist has to visit Uttarakhand. There are a myriad other places competing for his or her vacation rupee.

So, what should our Tourism netas do?

To start with: tap our vast reservoir of well travelled, skilled, disciplined team-savvy human capital. Every year, a large number of servicemen from Uttarakhand retire and would settle in their home state if there were jobs here. We can create those jobs if we reserved the first option of recruiting personnel in our state tourism vacancies for veterans at all levels. These ex-servicemen are disciplined, loyal, accustomed to being regularly trained and inherently loyal to their employers. Their salaries in state tourism cadres must be in addition to their military pensions. They should be reasonably fluent in, both, Hindi and English.

Secondly, a veteran is, by character and profession, averse to political diktat. He is unlikely to indulge in unionism unless pushed to the brink.

Which brings us to more general areas of weakness in our state’s tourism outreach. Our current obsession with widening roads is dangerous. Our Himalayas are young mountains, still growing. Why do we want to challenge them with great earth-moving machines and four-lane highways? Spend that money in asking our creative IITs and Auto manufacturers in developing hybrid vehicles that can take on our existing roads. Hitler got his auto companies to develop a People’s car, the Volkswagen. US auto giants created the US Army’s General Purpose vehicle, the JEEP.  We need a Himgari running on solar powered electricity and Biogas.  Don’t widen the fragile Himalayan roads, create the transports to use existing roads.

Finally, abandon the hare-brained idea of increasing the number of ropeways. A road lies on the surface of the earth. A ropeway touches the surface only at its terminal stations and where its cable-supporting pylons touch the earth. If the surface of a road collapses, the rest of the road does not cave in. But if one pylon on the surface of the earth buckles, the entire cable network is endangered.  A news report in a national daily on Sunday 31 July 2022 said that Landslides block over 200 roads, National Highways in Uttarakhand. If we can’t maintain our surface roads, how are we going to maintain our up-in-the-air cable cars? Netas, don’t let your hunger exceed your loyalties to those who voted you into power.

As for the Mad-as-a-March-Hare scheme of building Tunnel Parking. The less said about them the better. Given the present state of performance of our PWD engineers, it would be safer to park your vehicles on a river bed subject to monsoon and glacier-melt flooding.

Dear netas, this is just the first of our columns in which we will bring our many decades of experience in travel and tourism, both domestic and international, to highlight the dangerous shortfalls in our state’s tourism product. Till we meet next week, we send you our deepest, sincerest and warmest regards.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 firstperson 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 was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)