Uttarakhand cancels statehood day celebrations due to Haridwar stampede

Dehra Dun : The Uttarakhand government has cancelled the functions to be held today to celebrate Statehood Day (Uttarakhand came into being on 9 Nov 2000), because of the tragedy at Hardwar in which about 20 persons, mostly women, were killed at the birth centenary celebrations of Gandhi Parivar founder Pt Shriram Sharma.

Amongst the celebrations which have been cancelled include the lighting of all government buildings in the state capital, an evening of ghazals by renowned singer Talat Aziz at Rangers’ College, aerobatics and air show by a team from the Indian Air Force, luncheon at the residence of chief minister B C Khanduri. The only function to mark the occasion will be a book release.

However, the masses feel that because of the crushed expectations and dashed hopes of the people on achieving statehood, the disappointment over lack of developmental works and creating the requisite infrastructure for employment opportunities by successive governments and the rampant corruption that has percolated to the very interiors of this tiny mountain state, there is no reason to celebrate.

Perhaps, veteran freedom fighter, former Lok Sabha member, journalist and social crusader, Paripoorna Nand Painuli, who fought the might of the erstwhile Tehri state to get it to merge with the Republic of India (Tehri was the last of the princely states to merge with the Republic of India) and is now in his nineties sums up what is by and large the reaction of the masses.

Despite frail in health, when asked how is he, Painuli’s remark always is “Better than Uttarakhand”. It is a said but true state of affairs of the state which has yet to reach its teens, that things are in such a bad shape that even a nonagenarian feels he is better than the health of this 11-year-old Uttarakahnd. True, as these 11 years have been lost in entrenching corruption and the corrupt in all services, without giving any direction to the state, by the visionless governments that ruled.

This Correspondent was witness to the formation of this state and toured extensively the interiors while reporting the struggle from the very interiors for the columns of the Times of India. The struggle was unique in the sense that it was not only the men, but more prominently the women folk who had come out on the roads, braving rain, chilly winds and a burning sun in the lower reaches. They stayed there from dawn to dusk and even braved the bullets and lathis of the police and barbaric PAC of Uttar Pradesh.

A reason of this could be the fact that the leaders of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, which spearheaded the agitation faded away because of lack of able and competent leadership. While some of its leaders seeing better opportunities preferred to get greener pastures by joining the Congress or the BJP. Even the UKD, which exists in its truncated form today is not keen to retain its regional identity and take on the existing government of the day for the benefit of Uttarakhand and its people.

There is a lot of talk of good governance, transparency and eradicating corruption. The chief minister talks of the Lokayukta Bill that has been passed to remove the rampant corruption. But there are few takers for it and legal experts here claim that the clause that all the members of the Lokayukta will have to unanimously agree to action against the complainant, makes it toothless. “It is next to impossible that all the members will agree and as such is very doubtful that action will ever be taken”, said Congress leader and lawyer Dinesh Aggarwal.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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