Dehra Dun : While those who agitated for Uttarakhand had dreams of seeing a better future for themselves and their children, those who advocated its coming into existence said that the tremendous hydel power potential and tourism building capacity of the small mountain state would make it self-sufficient and it would not be dependant upon doles from the centre.
But just a little over 12 years of it becoming a reality on Nov 9 2000, to be exact, the myopic vision of the leaders who were at the forefront during this time, coupled with a “corrupt” and lackadaisical babudom has seen Uttarakhand slide down the hills into almost oblivion. It has neither become a power state as was being envisioned, nor a tourism hub of the country.
The rampant alleged corruption in the allotment of the hydel power projects, plus the cudgels picked up against their coming up by the powerful environmentalist lobby is the reason that not even five percent of the over 28,000 MWs of hydro power potential could not be harnassed. There has been a merry-go-round of pointing fingers at each other, while the fact has remained that there was neither the political nor the financial will to complete the projects.
And as far as the tourism potential of this small mountain state is concerned, there is no denying the tremendous potential in its picturesque glaciers and natural environs, but the planners could not differentiate between pilgrimage and tourism and by clubbing the two together, rang the death knell of both the tourism potential and pilgrimage.
What has transpired following the June 16-17 tragedy needs not to be repeated. But the fact remains that hundreds of small time dhaba, restaurant and hotel owners who flourished because of the char dhaam yatra are today being forced to close shop. While many of these have been lost to the flood waters, other owners are at their wits end how to repay the loans taken from banks and other financial institutions, as pilgrimage has taken its worst ever beating.
And its not only the pilgrimage. The ship shoddy manner in which the post tragedy situation was handled by those in power has sent shivers down the spine of potential tourists to the state. The result is for all to see. While hill stations like Mussoorie and Nainital were not touched by the holocaust, hoteliers here are being forced to retrench their staff in the absence of tourists. It is another story that they were normally overflowing with guests during this time of the year.
And though chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, known for his pro-corporate stance, has been batting for the hydel power projects and even requested environmentalists at closed door meetings not to speak against them openly, the fact remains that the June 16-17 floods have sent a message that the fragile nature in this part of the Himalayas has to be handled with caution and utmost care, ort one could have another catastrophe in the waiting.
While the union ministry of environment and forest has taken cognizance of this fact, much to the chagrin of the chief minister, an organization calling itself IItians for the holy Ganga has urged union environment minister Jayanti Natarajan that immediate orders be issued for the suspension of work on all ongoing hydro-power and tunneling projects in this small mountain state.
President of the organization, YPS Suri said that in view of the recent very unfortunate environmental disaster in the region, where hundreds of lives have been lost and thousands uprooted, there is an urgent need to re-examine the on-going so-called ‘developmental projects’ in this Ganga basin.
It has been pointed out that large scale deforestation, blasting, tunneling, destruction of underground natural streams, submergence of forests causing loss of both bio-diversity and threatened species, have resulted in the great tragedy. “The entire is highly eco-fragile and earthquake prone and as such we urged the minister to set up a technical group to explore alternate ways to produce hydro power”, he claimed.
And those who had said tourism will be the much needed money spinner and keep the cash registers ringing, have been hit by the fact that the June 16-17 tragedy has shown that the Uttarakhand government was a complete washout as far as the safety and welfare of the tourists and pilgrims were concerned. Will they take the risk again, is a question that only time will answer, but as of now thousands of owners of small restaurants, dhabas, hotels and resorts along the char dham yatra and in other parts of the state are finding it hard to make their loan payments, leave earn a livelihood.