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Millennium Post

Caught in development dilemma

The tragedy of Uttarakhand is attracting the wrath of environmentalists who are blaming the government for this natural calamity which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people and destruction of property worth thousands of crores. This natural disaster may be the man-made but the response of the government after the calamity was far less than adequate. The whole administration of Uttarakhand seemed to be paralysed. When the chief minister was required to oversee the rescue-relief and rehabilitation works, he was seen running towards Delhi to get help from centre. One district magistrate had suffered heart attack. Even the administration could not properly co-ordinate the rescue operations being carried out by paramilitary forces and the Army. The rescued persons could not be provided food, shelter and in most cases even medical facilities. The whole administration seemed to have collapsed.

The Uttarakhand state government’s utter failure has once again proved that the division of Uttar Pradesh was not a wise decision. NDA government had divided three Hindi speaking states 12 years ago. Jharkhand was carved out from Bihar, Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh. It was interesting to see that movement for separate states was going on in non Hindi states too but the government divided only Hindi speaking states. These divisions were made in the name of promoting development. The kind of development taking place there can be seen by their development’s statistics and figures. Before division, it was argued that Jharkhand would develop at a fast pace because it was endowed with rich minerals and Bihar would be the loser.

However we can see that Bihar is developing fast when we compared to Jharkhand. Similarly Madhya Pradesh is developing fast compared to Chhattisgarh. It is absurd to talk of development in Uttarakhand after the division of Uttar Pradesh as this is cursed with the natural calamity we are witnessing.

The basic fault of our development model is that we attach development with the region. In this development model, we leave the local people residing in the region out. Not only the locals, we ignore the ecology and environment of the region as well. Development can be made and is being made at huge social cost, we just ignore it. No cost- benefit analysis is based on social cost. People of a region want a separate state for self development but new states were being made to develop the region at the cost of the people. If some studies are being made to see the response of local people of Uttarakhand to the so called development projects. It may open up our eyes to see how people were protesting through their resistance went unheeded, if not unnoticed. There was a Chipko movement launched by the local population of Uttarakhand. People were resisting the cutting of trees for development purposes. The Chipko movement went unheeded, trees continued to be cut for their use in development and for clearing the areas where trees were standing for some development projects. There was stiff resistance against the building of Tehri dam. The works on the dam went on for decades. The resistance of the people was ignored and what they could get by their movement was only compensation.

So far the dam has not caused any damage but what would happen if an earthquake damages it and the water stored in it comes out abruptly? According to an environmentalist, the whole low lying areas would get destroyed and the destruction would not be limited only to the hills but extend to the plains of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The water of Tehri dam can even reach Delhi and cause devastation there by washing out the national capital.

In fact what we need in Uttarakhand is not the exploitation of its waters for electricity and development of religious place for tourism but to preserve it in its natural form. Himalayas cannot withstand the population pressure witnessed in the Gangetic plain. They cannot withstand a consumerist society which has come into existence lately, where the destruction of ecology has become a rule to own more consumer goods and go for more consumption. Himalayas save us when they are in natural form, if we tamper with it, we may face harm. Development of India is not sustainable if we continue to harm the Himalayas.

The newly formed Uttarakhand govt suppressed the voice of resisting masses which were agitating against the ill conceived development and the state administration found itself paralysed when the disaster arrived. A small state like Uttarakhand does not have sufficient administrative capability to tackle the consequences of such disasters. It could not have even provide sufficient resources to rescue the people and do other needful activities. Had Uttarakhand been a part of Uttar Pradesh, such kind of helplessness on the part of the state administration could not have been seen.

We can see how things are moving in Uttarakhand. Its separation from Uttar Pradesh has hardly served any purpose of which people were dreaming. Scenes in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are not different. Both these states are suffering from naxal problems. Creation of these two states by bifurcation of Bihar and MP has only alienated the weaker sections. Here again the small size of the state and state government small administrative-manpower renders them more dependent
upon the Central Paramilitary force to tackle the extremist activities.IPA

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