We, the Citizens
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
Before we go any further, we must acknowledge a response to our last column. An alert correspondent has written:
The luni-solar Indian year based on the constellations is less than the 12 month cycle. As such it has to be adjusted after every eight cycles by a year. Hence, the 11-year Kumbh. The government has nothing to do with the decision.
Thank you very much for your input. Comments such as this show that the Argumentative Indian is still alive and kicking! We’re not sure, however, what you mean by the term Indian year based on the constellations. A year is how long the earth takes to make an orbit of the sun and, therefore, a year on any part of the earth, or in any country, remains the same. Human calculations of it may, however, vary. Even in India, the computation of this period differs. The Telugu calendar, to the best of our knowledge, adds a Leap Month every third year. Is the Telugu year not a luni-solar Indian year?
We are also relieved to learn that “the government had nothing to do with the decision”. Access to such inside information is a privilege.
We now move on to a matter of more immediate life and death concern to Uttarakhandis.
A headline in a national daily screams Covid cases double in U’khand hills in 40 days. This is distressing. Clearly our Public Health System has failed to meet the growing challenges posed by the rapidly mutating virus. This is not the time to apportion blame because no one could have predicted the impact of this pandemic. Nor is it the time to indulge in diversionary schemes. The growing pain of losing loved ones cannot be forgotten by a Bollywood-type of eyeball-catching event. We, in Uttarakhand, must assess our shortfalls and attend to them, putting all other pre-Covid programmes aside. We are at war and we must rush all our resources to strengthen our weakest fronts.
A headline in Sunday’s Garhwal Post proclaimed “PM emphasises on door-to-door Covid testing in rural India.”
This is an excellent opinion, but there is a major obstacle to its implementation in our state. Our most vulnerable people live in our hill districts. They are weak because public health services find it difficult to reach them. This can be rectified by two simple steps.
First. Paramedics must be recruited ASAP. A paramedic is a person who has been trained to give emergency medical treatment and assist doctors. These professionals are not difficult to find. Every year large numbers of well trained para-medical personnel retire from the three Armed Forces and, possibly, from the ITBP and the BSF. They are trained, and experienced, to work in the most trying of circumstances. Offer them an attractive salary, not the niggardly hand-outs generally proposed by the babus of the Comptroller of Defence Accounts! And give them a rank one step higher than the one they had when they retired. It may be non-pensionable and honorary but it will be valued. It would be best if a separate service was created for these retired personnel, possibly on the lines of the Defence Security Corps.
Second. These specialised personnel need specialised vehicles to give them access to remote villages, particularly our high-altitude ones. American Industry answered the specialised needs of their Armed Forces by creating the General Purpose (GP) vehicle. This was the genesis of the Jeep and its smaller (Doodlebug) and larger (Peep) clones. The need for an affordable Workman’s Car in post depression Germany gave birth to the Volkswagen. We need a similar transport revolution today.
We need a sturdy, low-maintenance, vehicle to serve rural health needs. It must carry a driver and a para-medic along with emergency medical equipment and space to evacuate a patient. Also a field dish antenna. It would be best if the CII invited world tenders for such a vehicle design and construction without delay.
The leaders associated with such a vehicle would be remembered throughout the world, throughout history. Or, to repeat the words of a grey-eyed mendicant in Gaga Nahani, also sometimes known as Ganganani: “it is time to turn from adoring Bhakti to active Shakti.”
Need we say more?
(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 is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)