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We need our ‘Minister for Expatriate Uttarakhandis’


By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

We shall not analyse the cause of the growing conflict in Europe. We shall, instead, confine our comments to what this cruel conflict has revealed about our own state, and the aspirations of talented Uttarakhandis.

Our CM has been quoted as saying that 188 medical students from our state are stranded there. They went there because the lectures were in English, it was affordable, and it had been safe till the Russian invasion. That begs the question.

Instead of spending our tax-payers’ money in building tunnels and ropeways, why can’t we plough that money into creating medical colleges in Uttarakhand with reservations for Uttarakhandis provided that these young graduates spend the first two years practicing in rural clinics? The gains could be improved rural health enhanced productivity because of improved health, and savings in foreign exchange.

In other words this is a superb opportunity for our state to replicate facilities offered by Ukraine. Invite Ukraine’s medical college staff to relocate to Uttarakhand for at least five years with the option of Indian citizenship after that. Set up medical colleges in our state on a war footing starting with tented accommodation if necessary. We have the expertise in our “tent houses”. This would also give a boost to our ailing construction industry and help alleviate our migrant labour problem which is now the cause of a lot of sordid finger pointing.

The crisis in Ukraine is sad and shameful but it has happened and cannot be undone. We need to help those who have been displaced by this terrible event. When the Nazis decided to eliminate the Jews, the US launched a massive covert operation to smuggle the most brilliant Jewish scientists out of Europe and into the US. These rescued master-minds were the core of America’s Manhatten Project and later of its Lunar Landing.

If we get to work on a war footing we can still replicate Ukraine’s success in medical studies using their teachers to give our venture a kick start. Financially it would be very worth-while. A press report quoted an Indian student saying: “(In Ukraine) It would cost me around Rs 25 lakhs for six years, including the fee and accommodation.” In contrast, the same report said, “The tuition fee in private medical colleges in Rohtak is Rs12 lakh per annum with an annual increase of 7.5%, Rs 75,000 as annual hostel fees which gives a total of Rs 73.5 lakh for five years. There are also additional charges for the University, examination, library, sports and medical.” This would appear to leave plenty of scope for Uttarakhand to make its medical education very attractive in spite of using the popular faculty from Ukraine!

To attract such specialists, we should think of setting up a mini Ukrainian colony in the Doon Valley. India has earned the regard of the world by opening its doors to refugees from Bangladesh and Tibet. If we establish a Ukrainian colony in the valley, using their traditional architecture and catering to their customs, traditions and lifestyle, it will greatly, and permanently, enhance Uttarakhand’s tourism image as the Tibetan ambiance of Dharamsala does!

A little bit of creative brain-storming will reveal many more avenues to help refugees from that beleaguered country while increasing the appeal of our state.

To achieve the full potential of this opportunity, we need to appoint our own Cabinet Minister for Expatriate Uttarakhandi Affairs. In setting up the medical teaching facilities on the Ukrainian patterns we should tap the expertise of Uttarakhandis who have returned from Ukraine. This activity will also fall under the new Minister’s jurisdiction.

Our next CM will have to be very careful in the choice of this Minister. The temptation to see this appointment as a golden opportunity to take foreign junkets and scam foreign exchange will attract the worst elements in politics. We, in our little state, have the land, the water with two major rivers flowing through the Doon, and the climate. All we need is the vision to create a mini-Ukraine and win the admiration of the world, while adding enormously to Uttarakhand’s global image.

The point is, are our netas up to the challenge?

(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.)