By Col Prem Bahadur Thapa (Retd)
Uttarakhand will be one of the very few states in the country to have the luxury of two capitals. J&K enjoyed that for long but its future is uncertain now. Yet, HP has its winter sessions in Dharamshala, as also Maharashtra which conducts its winter session from Nagpur. Andhra Pradesh is going in for three, for the most primary reason of simultaneous development of different regions in equal measure. (These three will accommodate the legislature, the executive and the judiciary singularly at each one of them).
Now Gairsain has tickled the minds of many. While rival political parties are claiming victory/half victory (meaning foul), many of us are still wondering if it is ‘a complete’ decision. One thing is uncertain and that is – Do we need Two? Or still, can we afford ‘Two’? But what is certain is … it maybe already redundant because the deed has been done and there is no other option but to go forward.
Now, how the government goes forward is anticipated and will be keenly watched. If it is intended to make it the permanent capital, later, (which of-course hasn’t been spelled out), the investment will have to be heavy; but if it is to serve only in summer, then the Nagpur/Dharamshala models may find an easier way to acceptance. Whichever option is adopted, basic infrastructural necessities for accommodating government functionaries will have to be created in Gairsain to allow effective governance from both capitals. The only difference being the size and investment, meaning thereby that, if Gairsain is used during the four months of April to July (the rains will thereafter interfere too severely), then the entire government machinery will perhaps not (or never) be moved up, leaving the bulk of work being still done from ‘Doon’, itself, (and how effective it will prove in answering people’s aspirations, is a question mark).
That is in the future. Right now, what makes Gairsain’s task a little ticklish is its rather under-developed state, although it has the size to accommodate the undertaking. Everything that is required to regulate and sustain a ‘capital’ township will have to be built from very limited resources/civic amenities presently available…and far better all weather connectivity with other parts of the state and the country will have to be developed, simultaneously, if it is to serve the intended purpose of the ‘hills’. In this regard, a comprehensive survey report regarding Chamoli district’s overall development, with special reference to Gairsain, by the State Rural Development Authority (including the issue of alarming migration from hills), has been submitted to the Chief Minister, recently, which may become the basic guiding factor to commence the undertaking.
Few Nations or States make more than one capital and keep shifting every few months, or function from multiple locales for different purposes of governance. While studying its various advantages and disadvantages, the undoubtedly heavy financial burden in raising and maintaining multiple capitals, coupled with regular movement of the legislature and executive, who have to function together in many big and small ways, (coupled with the pains of running to different capitals for different tasks) the disadvantages outweigh the former; though the advantage of development of multiple regions is a factor in its consideration. By this, migration of population (especially in our case) can also be checked to quite some extent; but if Dehradun continues to retain its ‘one of two’ status, Gairsain may not attract as much of developers’ interest/investment, as desired. Thus, if Gairsain and, thereby, the “Hills” are to truly develop and reap its consequent benefits, then it needs far more legitimacy than what’s been announced.
Political appeasement or adjustments often dictate unfortunate decisions. That is what, in the first instance, delayed this subject despite the ‘Committee’ set up for it having submitted its report more than a decade ago. Public sentiments had wanted it in the hills all along and ever since the struggle for a separate state started in the early ‘90s. However, the temporary capital at Dehradun continued to function to attain near permanency because of its enormous advantages in comparison to others. Practicality and sentiments often do not go hand in hand, and initial and subsequent governments knew it was a challenging task for a newly formed and financially weak state, to go by sentiments alone. Now, add the dilemma of intense (and continuous) rivalry between political parties to form their government … and they have had very little time to devote for more serious tasks. More so, they did not have the ‘number’ or the ‘will’, and the picture of dithering and delay is almost complete.
Yet , one would say that despite the odds against Gairsain and the agonising delay, it is the right decision, which needs to be further corrected by making it the “only and the permanent capital” by continuous work on its development. Otherwise, its purpose, as briefly stated above, will never materialise. We cannot afford two capitals and also maintain our High Court in Nainital. The overwhelming advantage of Dehradun will be a serious obstacle and those whose interests lie here will perhaps prevail, if the Government also finds it convenient to delay. Therefore, inspite of the enormousness in choosing and developing a totally undeveloped place to locate the seat of governance, there, it was a unanimous and much considered platform on which the entire agitation for a separate state was carried forward and won. There was no reason why it should not have been accepted immediately. By now we would have been more than half way home… and Dehradun’s easy establishment would have been nothing more than a staging area.
But better late than never and, perhaps, an independent select committee, to plan and subsequently monitor the completion of the future (permanent) capital-town under the chairmanship of the CM himself is suggested (if not already done). Gairsain has the potential to equal any other hill stations like nearby Ranikhet /Nainital, which developed similarly. (One wonders why this combine was overlooked since it has all the hill sentiments and necessary basic infrastructural platform to “expand”, (and our judiciary was already there). Not centrally located?… but these are ifs and buts now. So let’s put our heart and ‘plough’ to Gairsain, to allay any doubts about sincerity. While Dehradun and the Plains will still progress (with or without a capital), Gairsain and the Hills, that comprise nearly 75% of land and population of the entire Uttarakhand, will never reap the benefit of development if its declared new status remains a half measure and continues to remain an unending acrimonious debate to haunt political affairs to nobody’s benefit.
Our folk lore and folk songs (a-la- Negi) will continue to pour their hearts out to lament the neglect of their beloved hills, while their leaders are galloping in the plains of Dehradun.