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Rich Visitors: Potential Developers



By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

The month that was, July, was the hottest that the world has known for a very long time, according to weather watchers. That is bad news for the world but every cloud has a silver lining. If Climate Change brings more visitors to our Himalayan state, it also brings more Indians with disposable income and aspirations to do better in life. We are the most aspirational people in the world. Our basic needs go beyond food, clothing and shelter. The fourth Indian need is education, if possible in English. This accounts for the success of our Diaspora. For us, in Uttarakhand, this is a great opportunity.  Every Indian who checks into a good hotel has both ambition and the means to achieve it. All he or she needs is the opportunity. This is what our state must tap.

When such visitors check in to a good hotel, they should be handed a small brochure, titled Uttarakhand: Opportunities Unlimited. This booklet should contain a list of the Green Industries we wish to develop in our state.  Apart from animal husbandry, fisheries and bee keeping, it should include low bulk and high value agricultural products like spices, aromatics and herbals. We should also try to develop gourmet cheeses which would include the highly rated blue cheeses matured in limestone caves. The FAO could assist us in this with their Swiss and French experts. We should also try to market our unique Himalayan spices. Another venture with high potential would be wines and liqueurs made from our own plants. Finland has done this very successfully and whiskey, gin and beer were once homemade beverages. We are sure that the list of products will be increased once Uttarakhandis realise the potential of their home-grown products.

If this venture is to be successful, we must ensure that it does not get bogged down in bureaucratic lethargy or political avarice. All queries from interested investors should be addressed to an Investors’ Coordination Office directly under the Chief Secretary. It should be the responsibility of this office to acknowledge all queries, forward them to the appropriate department, and ensure that these departments send replies in a reasonable time. Weekly Reports of such follow up action should be submitted to the CM.

We have dealt with the development of products native to our Himalayan states. There are, however, two areas of enterprise which Uttarakhand could specialise in. The first of these is the growing digital world. Individual companies have opened their centres in the plains. There is a growing need, however, to have a consolidated sales, maintenance and training centre for our digital age. Dehradun is ideally suited for such an institution. Much of the financing of this hub would be contributed by the major gadget companies, but whoever invests in the rest of this venture would be assured of rich returns. We visualise classes in everything from how to make affective use of the smart phone to advanced technology in the creation of special effects for cinema. This would be India’s first Digicity.

Finally, there is a growing hunger for Information.

The increasing popularity of the National Geographic and Discovery Channels is proof of this. The investor who sets up an INFOGAON, by renewable sources of energy, is likely to have year-round occupancy. This facility should offer short courses in subjects such as Tibetan Buddhism, Himalayan Geology, the people of the Himalayan region and their unique customs.   We visualise this series concentrating on our unique range of mountains as the world’s youngest and highest range. It also is responsible for the world’s most life giving cycle of storms: the monsoons. Finally, because of its great expanse of ice and snow, it is known as the Third Pole. Our state government should tap the resources of all the specialist organisations, particularly the academic ones, to draw lecturers for this facility. We need also to include the beliefs, myths and legends of the many people of the Himalayas in this series.  Our Dev Bhoomi is deeply imbedded in the Psyche of the People of India. We need to build on this.

These suggestions only scratch the surface of the potential for the green development of Uttarakhand.

(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.)

(The opinions and thoughts expressed here reflect only the authors’ views!).