Dehradun : It was hoped to be going down memory lane when initially the trip was planned. But what transpired could at best be forgotten.
Tall claims of development and prosperity at the grassroot level, at least that is what the government records claim, were thoroughly exposed and it appears that the residents of villages in Uttarakhand will have to just migrate in search of greener pastures.
Bhatgoan, is not a far flung interior village, but the apathy here only reflects the sad state of affairs that must be prevailing in the far-flung or distant interiors.
A mere two-hour drive from Kotdwara, earlier the entry point to the Garhwal hills, on the Kotdwara-Rishikesh highway, the village boasts of just three males living there, as all others have migrated to townships either in or out of Uttarakhand.
As a child one would bathe in the streams that flowed near by and village belles would come with their pots to fill water from the natural spring at Chaur, about half a kilometer away.
The stream and natural spring have dried up and now the villagers are dependent upon an errant water supply. The only development that one sees is a semi-metalled road just short of Chaur.
The fields are barren as there is no one to cultivate them. In fact cultivation was stopped long back as wild animals ate whatever the villages grew, till the villagers decided against ploughing their fields, as they were no longer yielding any returns.
No efforts have been made to motivate the locals to grow some alternate crop or even adopt to growing aloe vera, which is left alone by the wild animals, to supplement their income.
Open air defecation is still in vogue and one has to be careful where one ventures after dark.
Leopards are on the prowl and the couple of elders that remain in the village ensure that visitors do not stray far from the houses even to answer the call of nature.
No efforts have apparently been made to encourage the construction of toilets so that the elderly people are safe from prowling felines.
At night, one has to depend upon a kerosene lantern. Though visibly there is electricity, but the voltage is so low that the filament in the bulbs just glow to indicate that there is power supply.
No other electrical appliances work. Barren fields, empty huts that do for houses and no where to go because of prowling felines is the stark reality of this village, where the residents prospered about three decades back, till the wild life and prowling leopards threw everything our of gear.
This scribe vividly recalls the agitation for the creation of Uttarakhand state.
There was hope that the dawn for a new future would be on the cards and with statehood the children would get jobs nearer home and the government would usher in new schemes for the fields that have in contrast been rendered barren.
The villagers came in droves from the villages to Dehradun and other nearby townships to participate in the agitation, bringing with them flour and potatoes which were cooked on roadsides.
Today their voices have been drowned in the wilderness taken over by a corrupt legacy of politicians, working hand-in-glove with an equally tainted bureaucracy and land sharks and middle men all out to con the innocent villagers of their holdings and make a quick buck at the cost of anything or anyone.
The politicians that rule the roost today, including chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and his cabinet colleagues or party bigwigs, were no where when the women and youth from the hills were braving the lathis and bullets of the PAC personnel.
However, today they are enjoying the fruits of sacrifices made by these poor people.
If Bhatgoan is an example of the sad state of neglect by the consecutive governments that have ruled Uttarakhand, one wonders if the people were not truly better off as a part of undivided Uttar Pradesh.
At least then they were being neglected and ignored by unknown people. Now it is being done by those who swear in the local dialect while asking for votes and conveniently take to looting and plundering and then looking the other way after being voted to power.
This is the story of the existing ground realities of a village that is just four hours drive from the Uttarakhand capital.
What is happening in villages much further away and the plight of the people residing there can at best be imagined.
But then the state was apparently not carved out for them, but only for state political leaders who are making the most of the position they have created by proxy.
A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand).
Jagdish had worked with India’s leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards
Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.
Nobody really care about nature anymore. Everybody care about only one thing and that is ‘greenback’ aka money. Which will cost everyone someday real bad.