We, the Citizens
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
The Phoenix is a legendary bird. When it starts getting old, it burns itself on a funeral pyre and emerges young and powerful again.
This is a wonderful story that should become the Legend of Uttarakhand. Our wonderful little state was created on 9th November 2000. We are now at an age when humans start, finally, spreading their wings, shedding the shackles of paternalism, and embracing the heady freedoms of the new Information Technology Age. Today there is more information available at the slide of a Mouse or the touch of a key than all the great Renaissance Men could dream of acquiring. What has the government of Uttarakhand done with this amazing hi-tech facility?
To put it in the politest of Naval slanguage: SFA. These three letters could stand for Sweet Fanny Adams which, in turn, means “Nothing”.
Yes, our netas and babus have taken the golden potential of the most promising little state in our Sovereign Democratic Republic and are doing their best to convert it into a basket case. This appears to be the direct result of the fell hand of the self-appointed, self-sustaining, unspecified High Command. Because of their interference we have had
# Some of our CMs being appointed on whim and not on ability. One worthy was so convinced that the USA had ruled us for two hundred years that he spoke about it in public. So what was his real qualification for the job? A humble and obedient servant of the High Command?
# Then there is the case of the other worthy who, when put in charge of the fence protecting our greatest natural resource, proceeded to find devious ways of gobbling it up. Yes he was the same person who, when he was dropped from his strangely tolerant party, shed photo-op tears, then sent his relative to join the Opposition. Such shameless transactions have reduced politics to bare-faced stock-yard, neta-on-the-hoof deals!
#Then there is the remarkable creativity of the MDDA in interpreting the finding of the experts of the NSDART of the LBSNAA. That committee of specialists had stated that there is virtually no room in Mussoorie on which to put up any more buildings. And yet… miracle of miracles … buildings have arisen like mushrooms after a monsoon storm. Since they have had such unhindered success in erecting structures in the hostile environment of a resource-stressed area, NASA should seriously consider using the MDDA’s services in their extra-terrestrial colonisation programme.
When all these projects have been executed, and have collapsed as they undoubtedly will, our real young entrepreneurs can get to work. They could Phoenix-like, fuel their enterprises on the debris of the failed sarkari-sponspored enterprises. Then they could make a start with converting used plastic bottles, along with sand, into bricks with an estimated life of one hundred years! This system is already available according to a news-report.
Then there is the fascinating news-item in the Garhwal Post of the 4th of Feb, this year. It speaks of our Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways signing an agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency on capacity development for the maintenance of resilient mountainous highways. Most importantly, the report says “In India there is a scarcity of technical experts in the field of designing as well as in supervision of highway work including tunnels in hilly terrain thus creating the need for capacity enhancement … as part of this project training of personnel will be conducted both in India and Japan to share the Japanese experience.”
Even in the socialist days, Maruti Suzuki changed the face of Indian tourism by breaking the strangle-hold of our industrialists who were content to replicate our dated western car designs of cars.
Finally, Himachal is exploring the possibility of setting up an electronic Avalanche Early Warning System. The people of the Himalayas need such a system as a matter of life and death.
It is disappointing that our neighbouring state thought of this before we did. Clearly the almighty High Command needs to make a Phoenix pyre of its old shibboleths and rejuvenate our high-potential and very beautiful, little Uttarakhand.
(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 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 was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)