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Millennium Post

Glimpse of hope in Uttarakhand

The state of Uttarakhand stands ravaged by nature’s fury but human greed seems still not satisfied as the reconstruction debate gets under way. There is a lot of talk on development and it boils down to the model of development, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) versus Gross Environment Product (GEP), a new scientific model. As per Padam Shri Anil Joshi, the former measures development in brick and mortar while the latter measures development in environmental procedures. Both are relevant outlooks although the GEP model is supported by a lot of scientific study but needs more validation for mass application. A scientific study that has transparency, knowledge, people’s participation and also looks after the requirement of defence forces and takes into account the various assets and how to best use them is the need of the hour.

How the current development and reconstruction model works needs a debate. The current method is a merry go round, it has the government in the center which lacks accountability and the wheel goes round starting with the people. The people want development; the government promises the same and executes it through various government agencies that again lack accountability at all. There are a range of laws and by-laws which the mafia of various shades who act as facilitators, overcome. This all is brought to notice by NGO and activists who know what is wrong but don’t provide a set of remedial measures. The defence needs are over looked by the middleman be it public-private partnerships or project executed through government agencies. The common man is left as an outsider. Every deal reeks of corruption and is non-transparent; the people have lost the confidence to the extent if there is a forest fire the villagers ask the forest department to intervene rather than be the first to fight the fire, as was the case a few decades ago. The reconstruction model too follows the same process. It needs to be different and there is a need to reinvent the same.

What is wrong with the current development model? The first is that it lacks accountability at all levels. The legislature is answerable through votes; however, the political class beats the system by vote bank politics and manipulating institutions. On the other hand the executive lack accountability and answerability while the lower judiciary needs to be brought under the Lokpal. Who is to be held responsible for the manner of development of the fragile hills including hydro projects a dime a dozen? Who has constructed roads running along various rivers in all the hilly regions of Himalayas, as all rivers will spate and these roads will be inundated at the earliest. The various government agencies and establishment are never accountable or answerable yet the bulk of the executive tasks are done by them. This has to end for nothing but a mark of respect for the thousands who are searching for their loved ones.

It has been a gross failure at all levels but since 2010 there has been a spate of nature’s fury and lessons has not been learnt. The disaster management scene is a case of failed promises and foreign trips by all a report doing the rounds on the net shows a total of 72 visits by all government officials at the national level and let me assure the reader not a single army official has gone abroad for disaster management. This is the third major case in Uttarakhand in the last few years and the response has been lacking, yet not a single head rolls. The NDMA is a disaster by itself therefore, needs no further discussion.    There is a need for infrastructure and the half-finished projects lying abandoned need a bold decision and if the political expedient decision of leaving them unfinished is kept in a limbo then more bad than good will be done. There is a need to either finish or carry these plans based on scientific reasons. There is a need to establish more than one axis or alternative means of communication as the railway line from Rishikesh to Karanprayag adds to redundancy.
There will now be a common answer that trains are a wasteful expenditure on the hills but with correct scientific means available trains to Shimla, Darjeeling and Ooty have done excellent service. There is a crying need to build advance landing grounds and activate those that are lying defunct Gauchar is one such case with a C-130 landing there and Dharasu became an active helipad. The state is vulnerable and needs to be classified. The path to reconstruction needs firstly scientific base, transparency, and people involvement. There will be migration from the hills. The tourism sector, higher education, the real estate sector have suffered and there will be more hardships yet to come. The state of Uttarakhand was drawing international attention for its yoga and meditation, which too may have a setback. A calamity of this order shall have its negatives but it also binds us all together to work for the common good of the state. Let us all collectively stand shoulder to shoulder for reconstruction and not in a blame game which is a politically expedient culture.   

The author is a retired brigadier
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