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Dear Niti Ayog, What Next?

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We, the Citizens

By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

You came, you advised, you impressed, and you left. The one possible result of your parachuting in and flying out is that some of our netas, whose grandiose plans of getting-rich-quick had almost fructified, now had disappointing second thoughts! But they’ll recover. They have tough hides and inventive minds.

Before we go any further, however, we must tell our readers that NITI is an abbreviation for National Institution for the Transformation of India. It replaced the old Planning Commission which, according to the government, had too much of a Socialist ring about it.

But, do tell us, Niti Ayog, what did your greatly publicised visit achieve? We can’t think of anything else, so we’ll tell you what it could have achieved. It could have rattled some of the skeletons hanging in the musty corridors of power, such as:

1. Dehra’s Ice Skating Rink, an expensive mammoth. We still do not know how much money was spent on it, who sanctioned that expenditure, how often it was used, what it its present state. Most importantly, which netas and babus swept it all under the carpet? Let’s pull it out, do as much of a post-mortem as we can, admonish those responsible and then give it a decent burial. Or else, if it can be used, let us celebrate its new avatar with overdue fanfare and acclamation. The expenditure of public money needs public accountability.

2. The Mussoorie City Board’s Annual Report must be restored as a public, printed, document signed by the Chairman, along with detailed Income and Expenditure Accounts. We need to know when it was stopped, why it was stopped, and when it will be resumed. In the absence of such a public document, filthy rumours of corruption, nepotism and large scale skulduggery will continue to circulate, besmirching the reputation of all associated with our highest municipal civic authority.

3. In 2001 a Carrying Capacity Study of Mussoorie was carried out by the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration’s NSDART commissioned by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee. It said, among other things “That the construction cannot expand is clear … Although most sections of the resident population believe that the development agencies must be kept out of the city limits”. The last sentence is a clear indictment of the MDDA. We need to find out how many buildings, additions to buildings or expansions to buildings have been permitted by the MDDA since that warning was issued by the official study undertaken for the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee.

4. One other essential project languishing due to lack of supervision is the Augmentation of Drinking Water to Mussoorie by lifting water from the Yamuna. Potable water supply to permanent consumers in Mussoorie, even in the winter months, is rationed. The situation becomes so acute in the summer that private tankers draw water from below the Dhobi Ghat and, without filtering it, sell it to hotels and guest houses. The long term dangers of this have not been assessed.

5. There are a large number of Old and Infirm people in Mussoorie.

Public Health

Services are virtually non-existent. We badly need a Mobile Para-Medic Service even more than we need MBBS and 13-10-2021 doctors. We must, as soon as possible, replace the, so called “Bengali Doctors”. Money for such schemes can be found if we scrap the two seemingly extravagant, and curiously secretive proposals.

The proposed Mussoorie-Dehradun Ropeway Scheme and the repeated proposals, made by our own Ministry of Forests, to fell large numbers of trees for various low priority and often ecologically hazardous “reasons” must stop. To the Forest Ministry’s credit, however, is the recent proposal to train guides to teach an awareness of the intricate web of life which has evolved in, and continues to sustain, our greatest wealth: the Incredible Forests of Uttarakhand. We see the young, creative, out-of-the box, thinking of our CM behind this refreshingly green scheme.

We should stop Raping the Himalayas and start Respecting them as the Creators and Sustainers of our Generous Motherland.

(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.)