We, the Government
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
On Saturday, 31st Oct 2020, Mussoorie residents received a questionnaire related to the proposed Ropeway. Addressed to those who travel between Dehradun and Mussoorie, it asked for details of the frequency and mode of travel, its purpose, even of the facilities expected by travellers at the terminal station.
Most significantly, however, it also asked how much the traveller was willing to pay
for a one-way trip on the Ropeway from Rs100 – Rs 300, through Rs 300 – Rs 500 and Rs 500 – Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500. This query puzzled us. Wasn’t it rather late to be seeking such financial details? Isn’t one of the prime purposes of erecting this ambitious project to increase Tourism earnings? Or is there a Hidden Agenda?
Let’s rewind a bit.
Earlier, the entire weight of the civil administration descended like a flock of vicious Predators on 84 poor families living in a place now called Shiffan Court. Eighty-four families would amount to at least 336 Indian citizens. It was raining, Covid-19 was raging. And yet these defenceless people were evicted as if they were chattel! Our babus and netas claim that they were illegal squatters. With all the weight of the administration ranged against them those people must have faced a terrifying situation. A friend tells us, indignantly, that they were not Registered! But registration is a legal formality. How many slum colonies, whose inhabitants provide essential services to the rich and powerful, have been ‘regularised’ by compliant netas and babus all across our land? Weren’t the Shiffan Court evictees also Mussoorie’s human capital, people employed by the citizens of Mussoorie? So why were they evicted in such an inhuman hurry?
We were told that their land was needed for the terminal station of the Dehra-Muss Ropeway. Really? But what was the justification for building the Ropeway in the first place? Clearly, its overt financial benefits had not been established. That is what this “Survey” is only now attempting to do, many months later!
Here’s an analogy that will put things in a clear light.
A very skilled, and expensive, surgeon enters the Operating Theatre. The patient is lying on the table, anesthetized and prepared for the procedure. The great surgeon is handed his scalpel and makes his first incision. And then the senior nurse whispers to him that the patient has not been through the obligatory pre-op tests! An operation will gravely risk his life. The operation is cancelled.
This situation would never arise in real life because the surgeon would not start the procedure before checking the health status of his patient!
So why was the essential Ropeway Survey not done earlier? Why did the state
rush in with such single-minded ruthlessness? Is there some other reason which has been kept from We the Government?
We would like to make it clear that we do not suspect that anyone has pushed this project through with an ulterior, financial, motive. We do believe that this is just another example of a desire to show results at any cost. Mantris, with 5-year shelf lives, are in a great hurry to publicise their ‘achievements’. This seems to be a marked tendency especially with the elected Movers and Shakers who are charged with the task of protecting our Forests and Environment. Those, possibly well meaning, people got a sharp rap over their knuckles when they sought to change the definition of a forest in our state. They got a second severe reprimand, recently, when they tried to justify the felling of trees to enlarge our airport. It would appear that these same myopic netas have ignored the real cost of this pie-in the-sky Ropeway project.
So we have to ask, does that estimated Rs 500 crore cover the entire cost of land handed over to the Developers for their 23 cable-supporting Towers? If, as rumoured, the so-called ‘Developers’ have been given a 30 year lease, then has the escalating cost of the gifted land been factored in? Or has it, very conveniently, been left out?
Finally, the Prime Minister has clearly stated that all developments must be human-centric and protect the poor. This project does neither. What gives our netas the confidence to go their own, defiant, way?
(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.)