Uttarakhand potential economic drivers wither away

Dehradun : The leaders for the creation of Uttarakhand had advocated hydel power and tourism potentials to make the state economically viable and self-sufficient and that it would not have to go to the centre with a begging bowl. But that was not to be.

While the hydel power potential was warped in corruption and caught in the tug-of-war between  pro-environmentalists and those for development, the planners and government machinery of this small mountain state kept touting pilgrimage for tourism and pilgrims as tourists.

The net result is that even after 13 years, the two biggest natural resources of the state, which are turning the economy of another hill state, Himachal Pradesh, around have been caught in the nitty gritty of not only politics, but myopic vision and zero leadership potential.

And to make matters worse, the deadly holocaust of June 16-17 in the Kedarnath Valley that had a ripple effect in the adjoining valleys, has now put a brake, even though the state government claims it to be temporary, on the potentials that the creators had claimed to revolutionise its economy.

While a ban has been imposed on the proposed hydel power projects, including those for which go ahead signals had been given and were in the pipe line, the pilgrims to the char dham yatra, who were portrayed as tourists in government records have turned their backs.

It will be time before the centre has a re-think on whether hydel power projects should be allowed in this small mountain state with its very fragile slopes and mountain faces. And even if it does, there are not many takers for the projects, as huge amounts of money have been washed down in the June 16-17 tragedy, forcing the companies to think twice.

And as for tourism the state government has no one but its leaders and planners to blame for the morass that it finds itself in today. Had they created some tourism infrastructure in its vast scenic locations and made it the hot spot for adventure tourism perhaps things would have been different.

But the pilgrims were not coming but literally thronging the four major shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri and this would continue because of the faith of the devout. If government records are to be believed over 1.3 million came for the char dham yatra in the peak season, who were conveniently shown as tourists.

But the June 16-17 tragedy has proved them wrong for caught in the pangs of fear of the mountains and sheer neglect and unpreparedness of the Uttarakhand government, the pilgrims are not touching the yatra even with a barge pole. Love for life, has as of now, got the better of religious fervor for the four major shrines.

The hill stations developed by the Britishers remain the hot spots on a tourists itinerary even today. Places that could have become money spinners and attracted thousands of tourists not only from India but abroad remain without the necessary infrastructure and wherewithal.

Places with tremendous potential for whit water rafting, para-gliding, skiing, mountaineering and trekking have neither been developed nor show cased to the world as hot spots for tourism. The planners were happy that lakhs of pilgrims were coming and putting pressure on the infrastructure of small hamlets and townships that could take crowds of a few thousand.

Kedarnath was only waiting to happen as politicians and planners showed the boot to streamlining the pilgrims coming for the yatra and lacked the vision for the need of creating the required infrastructure for luring tourists to the numerous places of interest and scenic beauty that this small mountain state has in abundance.

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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1 Comment

  1. says: Raman

    It is indeed very painful to see the plight of the state currently. The successive governments of BJP and Congress have done nothing for the hills, in the name of which the State was formed after long agitation.
    Authorities must learn from the neighbouring state of HP on how to carry out sustainable development.
    There are a lot of places in state that have a huge potential of being developed into great tourist states. But unfortunately, the leadership is either busy in corruption or engaged in placating their bosses in delhi to save their chairs.

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