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Mussoorie’s Hydraulic Barrier

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We, the Citizens

By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

As a major hill-station, Mussoorie’s reach extends far beyond its grasp. The Krishnmurthis from Pondicherry, the Pattanaiks from Puri and the deMellows from Panaji are not normally within the legal grasp of Anuj Gupta, the Chairman of our Municipal Council, but his decisions could make or mar their holiday in our town 2,000 metres above their surf-washed home towns. But a decision taken by Gupta’s Civic Council (GP 24 March ‘22 ) could have made or marred their family holiday.

On that day, our Municipality decided to install a Hydraulic Barrier at the mid-point of the Mall. This could have long lasting implications. Naturally it gave rise to a simmering cauldron of rumours. Such speculations are the breeding grounds of filthy political propaganda spun by professional Spin Doctors.

We contacted Anuj, asked many questions and were happy with his replies.

Mussoorie’s Mall is its main road, stretching across its southern face. Much of the Mall gives breath-taking views of the great Doon Valley extending to the Shiwalik Range. This view is not only incredibly beautiful but it is also our major tourist attraction. Ever since our family became involved with the civic affairs of our little town, in 1940, we have heard the Mall referred to as “The Drawing Room of Mussoorie”. It is so much of an established tradition of our town for visitors to dress up and stroll down the Mall, from 5 in the evening to 9 at night, that it cost the City Board (as it was called at that time) a lot of money to meet the wishes of its all-important tourists. This happened because all the incandescent street lights on the Mall had been changed to florescent ones which consume much less power. But then our visitors complained that these lights made their make-up and saris also change their colour and appearance. “We look like zombies and ghouls in tattered winding sheets, emerging from the grave!” said one articulate maharani, joining a chorus of similar complaints.

All the lights were changed and the bhooths and other demonic fiends went back to their fiendish abode!

Although such weird visitors no longer haunt our hill-station, over-enthusiastic and often under-aged two-wheeler drivers often do. It is largely to prevent their hazardous behaviour that the Hydraulic Barrier is being installed.

Why hydraulic? Because it can be remotely controlled by a single police official sitting in his office over-looking the barrier.

Why Police and not Municipal Employees? Because the single policeman on Barrier Switch duty at any time will be less likely to favour friends and relatives for fear of the disciplinary action hanging over his head as a member of a uniformed security force.

All that we have said so far is in support of the scheme in principle. The President of the Hotel and Restaurants Association of our state,
Sandeep Sahni, is also in full support of this proposal and wishes to be quoted on this. We will now keep a close watch on the installation of the underground hydraulic bollards which are the essential feature of this barrier.

After the disgraceful performance of the Peyjal Nigam, another long disruption of traffic on the Mall will be asking for trouble.

Finally, its actual working will have to be both impartial and efficient, as was emphasised to us by a senior Member of the Municipal Council. Any pandering to the diktats of self-styled VIPs and even those beyond-the-law High Commanders will result in a negative backlash.

Incidentally, Anuj Gupta was an independent candidate when he was elected, and is still free of any party affiliations. Would any one of our readers believe that the Humble and Obedient Servant of any High Command could ever muster the courage and independent thinking to even consider such a scheme? We doubt it. Sheep may bleat but they seldom behave independently!

Now, in all fairness, we have to ask the questions which we have put to another neta who was/is very keen to push another scheme using our tax-payers’ money. We are told that the Hydraulic Barrier scheme has been formulated by a company in Gujarat. That is not, necessarily, a Certificate of Competence. What is the Name of the Company? Have they executed similar jobs elsewhere? When? How have those schemes worked?

We need clear and unambiguous answers Mr, Chairman and Councillors.

(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.)