We the citizens
By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
In this, our last column in 202,we Looked Beyond the gloss of political spin-doctoring to the reality of social achievements. We asked ourselves: How has any ministry improved the lives of the Citizens of Uttarakhand? In an earlier column we described how our Animal Husbandry Ministry had used goats to give our farmers a better return for their time and labour. Goat Farming is a Mid-Himalayan activity. Now we speak about how the same Ministry is helping our farmers earn better livelihoods at elevations ranging from that of our Mussoorie and all the way up to the snowline.
At this height there are a number of swift-flowing streams charged by the ice-melt of the great glaciers high above.
A former ruler of Tehri Garhwal realised that one way to use these clear, gushing, streams was to stock them with Trout and then tell the rich trout fishermen of the West to spend their angling holidays in his Himalayan kingdom. That is how tourism should be developed: find an existing need among those with disposable income, and cater to it. We don’t know how well that venture did financially because the Keepers of Royal Finances world-wide feel that it would be demeaning to reveal such details. This activity does, however, establish the fact that that fishing was not a forbidden activity. This point is further confirmed by the popularity of the annual Maun Mela held in the third week of June on the lower reaches of the Aglar River. Village people gather here and pour a powder made of the timru plant into the water. That stuns the fish for a short while and the local people gather the silver harvest. They are very protective of their traditional methods and resent such modern practices as the use of gunpowder and bleaching powder, both of which inflict lasting damage on the ecology which sustains the annual harvest from the Aglar. Modern science has confirmed the importance of fish in a human diet. Fish have an abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids. A high intake of fish could explain the apparent anti-aging effect of the much celebrated Mediterranean Diet. Finally, no major religion appears to forbid the eating of fish and the Saraswat Brahmins of Bengal and Goa have a strong preference for fish in their diet.
Sadly, the government seems to have ignored a very important aspect of Fish Farming: that it is a high altitude activity. Our high altitude regions are gravely endangered by the Chinese Dragon. The setting up of experimental Fish, or Angora Rabbit, or Yak cross Dzo breeding stations here would serve the purpose of countering the Chinese strategy. This would be beyond the reach of our state’s finance, but is the defence of India’s Himalayan borders only our little state’s responsibility ? Security is not the responsibility of the Animal Husbandry Ministry, but it has a very good reason to set up animal breeding stations in those areas. And if the Defence Services decide to try their hand at Tourism, we might even have Choose the Ultimate Escape : A Ghost Village Getaway in Garhwal.
As columnists, however, we are most interested in our Ministry’s out-reach to the citizens of our state The ministry has wisely decided to concentrate on raising the number of cluster based trout farms. Today twenty eight Prinary Fisheries Cooperatives are engaged in trout farming in high altitude areas. Six hundred people earn their livelihood from this. Their activities also benefit two thousand people indirectly. The production from these farms has risen from 4 tonnes to a reported 300 tonnes. This increase in our highly nutritious food supplies without trespassing on existing food supply areas is very important. We have found a virgin food resource to feed our aspirational nation. A fitter, stronger, citizen makes for a fitter, more disease-resistant nation with a long-lasting impact on the National Economy.
But this, clearly dynamic, Ministry has not stopped there. It has imported Marino stock to improve the breed of our native animals. When we start producing our own Himmarino wool it will also give an impetus to our Handicrafts Industry.
If our Ministry in charge of Handicrafts Development has a success story similar to the Animal Husbandry Ministry, we would be very interested to hear it.
(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.)