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We, the Citizens

By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

Once Upon a Time … yes, this is that sort of story…

Satish Sharma had a dream. He had worked in his father’s newspaper, Doon Dwar, done media studies in Germany and was impatient to take wing on his own. He believed that the young people of Uttarakhand were ready, willing and able to tap the knowledge of the world in one of India’s two Official Languages: English. He called this restless generation Tomorrow’s People. That tag-line still appears in the title of the Garhwal Post as a clear admission of its target readership.

This happened long before Howdy Modi, Wembley Stadium and the power of India’s English-speaking Diaspora impacted on the world. Clearly Sharma was more than a pie-in-the-sky dreamer. We understand that he acquired a printing press, devoted part of its activities to commercial work and, consequently, was not dependant on the pressures of sarkari adverts.
We came into the picture when Satish visited us in our cottage in the oak-woods of Mussoorie in 1996. He told us that he intended to start a weekly paper in English, and wanted our “support”. There was nothing more specific than that. We were interested because we knew, from the impact of our fortnightly columns on the editorial page of all editions of the Indian Express, the power of the printed word. The true potential of the Garhwal Post was not realised till it became a daily on 2-7-2006 and gave its readers their morning shot of information.

Shared information is the glue that binds society. It is only when humans share information with each other that the web of Rights and Duties is woven. Governments are expected to enforce these Rights and Duties amongst its citizens. This is why we elect Legislators to enact laws for the efficient running of our country, appoint the Judiciary to interpret those laws, and select Administrators to enforce those laws. But that system worked in small city-states like Athens. When states grew large, this system broke down because rules, which were relevant for one part, would not apply in another part where the geo-physical conditions were quite different. A classic example is the permission given to build the Mussoorie Tunnel by distant netas. They have no idea of the hazards posed by such a construction to the lives of the inhabitants of these earthquake prone and spring-dependant Himalayan ranges!

To bridge this Information Gap, the classification of the Fourth Estate was born: the people who provide Information to the Citizens. This is the essential role that the Garhwal Post plays in Uttarakhandi society. This is also the reason why we are proud to be associated with the continual realisation of Satish Sharma’s dream.

Here is a dramatic case in point to illustrate the importance of Information.

Much of Mussoorie’s business depends on Tourism. Since tourist traffic had been hampered by traffic jams, our hoteliers welcomed the quick-fix solution of creating a diversionary tunnel. They had been fed with the erroneous idea that this hole through the earth could not affect the stability of the Mussoorie hills because it was “too deep”. They were not aware that all major earthquakes start miles deeper in the earth! But we will let that ignorance pass. Then an alert correspondent released the news that the Mussoorie Tunnel could rob Mussoorie of its main supplies of water. No water – no tourists, No tourists- no hotel occupancy. The Mussoorie Tunnel is losing its popularity fast!

Satish Sharma’s realised dream goes much further than providing a Forum for Citizens to get information on events that directly impinge on their daily lives. They also learn the opinions expressed by competent authorities on the strange decisions taken by our netas like the one regarding the proposed tukre-tukre Char Dham yatra. Our Movers and Shakers don’t realise that the ill-informed decisions taken by a few of them smear the image of the entire Cabinet under the principle of collective responsibility.

Finally, the GP encourages citizens to express themselves on food, gardening, the environment, exercise, human relationships, gossipy tales, history and even in everyday sketches in the delightful Grandma Moses style.

All of which is why we say,
May You Live Happily Ever After…

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other
National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour 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.)