By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
The Morbi Tragedy should get every CM thinking. Much as the prestige of our nation requires its leaders to be arrayed in the status symbols of authority, because they represent the most populous democracy in the world, its representatives must strike a more responsive posture. Mahatma Gandhi chose the right personal image to show the preening personalities of the Raj the reality of The Brightest Jewel in the British Crown!
In other words, netas and babus, our state has enormous problems which need immediate solving. Can we afford to fritter away our tax-payers’ money on such inessentials as a Ropeway?
So, dear Netas don’t you think that you should concentrate on
- Affordable Health care to reach every village?
- Piped drinking water to reach every hut?
- Give incentives to anyone who shifts to a, so-called, Ghost Village?
- Sponsor a Nation-wide competition to create a Himalayan Buggy with a hybrid engine running on solar-generated power, bio-gas vegetable-based fuels?
- Offer subsidised classes in every village to teach that aspirational Indian Language, English?
- Seriously promote the use of Himalayan ingredients as branded HIGH GROWN PRODUCTS as an elitist food?
- Make Concordance of Himalayan Festivals according to the International Calendar, so that tourists could slot them into their own itineraries. This Concordance should be for five years, updated every year and available on the Internet.
- Market gift packs of Legendary Saraswati Water in attractive gift wrapped bottles, duly certified by a local authority. Price it at Rs 1,111 and with each bottle numbered. The water should be taken from the stream gushing out of the Himalayas next to the intriguing Vyas Gufa, beyond Badrinath.
- The Vyas Gufa is a cave shrine in an interesting rock formation resembling the pages of a layered manuscript. Lord Ganesh reputedly wrote the Mahabharat here at the dictation of Rishi Ved Vyas, using his ivory tusk as a quill. When the noise of the gushing Saraswati disturbed him, Rishi Vyas banished the holy river underground.
- The third destination in this area is the beautiful village of Mana. We called it the first village of India in our Award-winning book Intriguing India – The Alluring North. The PM used this description when he visited Mana recently.
- The products of our Trout Farms need to be popularised. We, in Mussoorie, would be happy to see this fish on our plates but, apparently, it is not available here.
- Our highland homesteads produce Goat, Cow and Buffalo milk. European cheeses are semi-luxury products and we need to ask cheese experts to help us to develop luxury cheeses from all three types of milk. Particularly the high-end blue cheeses flavoured with fungus thriving in limestone caves. We have the milk and the caves. We need the expertise and the fungus. Experts can provide both and thereby augment the incomes of our Himalayan homesteaders.
- Another luxury line for our small homesteads could be herbs. There are about 7,500 varieties of MINT types known. There could be many more hybrids developing as we read this. They can be grown in small plots, window-boxes or old utensils. They are hardy, aromatic and easily transported. Mint cultivation should be encouraged as an additional income for every household and, if effectively marketed, could increase household incomes for little effort.
- Like Mint, Aromatics also have great potential and are in demand in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry as well as in food products.
Developments along these multi-pronged lines will, by itself, spread investments across a wide spectrum of activities of rural and urban groups. The buzz thus generated will project the government as one interested in all social and economic strata. Any image of the dreaded Crony Capitalism will be dispersed. But this will result in much more than an image make-over. It will project the government as an organisation interested in the welfare of all segments of Uttarakhand society. Finally, the major gain will be in a new positivity in voters dismayed by the seemingly brutal elitism of the Ankita scandal.
Without, in any way, faulting the Purkul-Mussoorie Ropeway Project, we feel that the civic time and effort devoted to that scheme would be better invested in all-round development while avoiding the in-built economic imbalances inherent in the Ropeway.
(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.)