We, the Citizens
By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
As the shadow of the noose tightens on the Ankita criminals, many important people are running for cover. Smoke-screens are being created to conceal influential wrongdoers. This is quite common. Some years ago, in another state, a CM tried to soft-pedal a sexual assault crime by the anodyne “Boys will be boys!” as if rape is the youthful norm! This lame-duck explanation is an anodyne and it must not be used to defuse the gravity of the Ankita case.
To start with, therefore, we ask “If the presence of body fluids are essential to prove rape, would such fluids still be present in a victim after her body had been immersed in swiftly running water for a substantial length of time?” Perhaps the SIT has asked this question, but then the answer of the specialists should be revealed to the public.
We now learn, what many people have long suspected, that the resort in which Ankita worked, was not registered. How then did it operate with such seeming impunity? We do not wish to condemn anyone without evidence, and we have every reason to believe that the SIT is doing a competent job. Having said that, however, we know that influential political people have been involved in the activities of this unregistered resort and that fact, in itself, would lead to the logical presumption that political pressure is still being exerted to use anodynes to blunt the impact of Ankita’s death. This must not happen. And so we ask:-
- There are, reportedly, thirty-six illegal hotels in Rajaji National Park. If this is correct it reveals the corrupt base of our state’s tourism product. Has our state culpably under-estimated the need to recruit personnel to supervise such “facilities”? It can be argued that the Ankita tragedy is a direct result of such lack of control.
2 How many of these illegal institutions are owned directly or indirectly by politicians and what parties do they belong to?
- The unregistered resort in which Ankita worked was preparing to host a large birthday party. The person who was celebrating a birthday should be named and questioned about how he came to know about the resort and why he chose it.
These questions are well within the domain of the SIT as well as that of our Minister of Tourism. A recent news report, however, has raised a more important issue which is a matter of concern exclusively to our Tourism Minister. His Department has “Planned to set up what it has termed a tourism force to aid visitors coming to (our) state.” These Paryatan Veers will interact with hotels and resorts and keep an update on the staff working there. The personnel of this Force will be drawn from Departmental Staff and outsourced employees. The Minister’s reasons for setting up this force is that “lots of tourists come to Uttarakhand for a day or two. If they have issues related to hotels, taxi or chopper bookings, they cannot wait for long. Under such circumstances a specialised force needs to solve their grievances at the earliest. The force would also aid police.”
In other words, we are creating an auxiliary Police Force without any POLICE TRAINING. Do we need this after the terrible example of the so-called Revenue Police in the Ankita case? A more appropriate solution would be for a specialised wing of the state police be created and identified as Tourism Police,
Moreover, we do not have enough personnel in the Tourism Department to fulfil the obligations imposed on the Department, as the scandalous existence of unregistered resorts reveals. Finally, if a colleague is given such extra authority it will create status issues in the Department.
Sadly, the proposal to create this Force shows our government’s increasing reliance on a Bulldozer Mentality. The totalitarian governments of Russia, China and Iran are facing the fraying effects of such authoritarianism gone berserk. We don’t need to go down that path. We don’t need our professional bluffers to spin out their anodynes.
(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.)