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Green V/s Development

The Uttarakhand disaster has raised several questions on political, administrative, economic, developmental and environment planks. Environmentalists blame the tragedy to unchecked exploitation of the hills for laying roads and bridges, developing residential colonies, haphazard growth of hotels and markets, illegal structures of various kinds, tourism, population growth, infrastructure development, blasting the hills for these developments, dams and obstructing the natural flow of the rivers. Pollution by millions of tourists has been blamed for ecological degradation. Possible corrective methods proposed are: restriction on the number of pilgrims to the holy shrines or even banning religious tourism. It is well understood by the proponents of such ideas that even the development-deprived folks living in these hilly villages have the right to development of educational institutions, hospitals etc. Beyond such honest admission of the aspirations of the local people, they offer no solutions.

It needs to be appreciated that the use of the word “holy” itself is the single most potent word for preservation of the delicate ecology of the region. Religion was used to encourage and inspire people to respect, honour  and contribute individually to these efforts for environment and ecology. Ever since religion was replaced by laws passed by the legislatures in the modern rational scientific times, places of extremely fragile and delicate ecology have come to suffer most at the hands of the greedy, who operate in a threatening nexus of the powers of the state, market and even religion. Secularism has suddenly come to occupy a higher place of honour  than religion. The result is that today nobody winks  even an eyelid if the rivers called holy are polluted by discharging sewage in to them or hazardous industrial or medical waste is nonchalantly pumped into them!. Same is also true of the hills , ghaats, reserved forests and even mangroves. You can’t police the depredation of hills, forests, mines, mangroves, coral reefs etc unless they are treated as holy. . Simultaneously, programmes  providing  succour to the population of these areas has to get priority.

 

For working out schemes for improving the living standards of the people, who suffer the consequences of non-development, adequate financial packages need to be worked out. After all they are serving to protect and preserve these valuable assets for the society and have to be compensated. Government levies developmental tax  for industrial and/or infrastructure projects. Farmers are encouraged to keep harvesting by assuring them of minimum support prices for their produce  and bonuses too. Similarly, provision needs to be made in the budget to levy some tax for financial assistance to the people of these areas for being deprived of the fruits of development. All sanctuaries and hills like the Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri etc must be covered by such financial aid. As employment opportunities are few and far between, credit has to be given to the residents of these sanctuaries for their services and sacrifice. For this, a part of the donations at the shrines could also be considered for distribution. There would be hope for environment and ecology preservation if lack of opportunities for livelihood in these difficult areas is compensated by monetary help to the locals on a need based basis. Significantly, these shrines are the sanctuaries of the old or aged, which should be acknowledged and acceded. Ideas are flying around that pilgrimage should not be allowed to the old and aged. It has been suggested that these senior citizens should feel happy by virtual Darshan or sighting of the deities. Reducing pilgrimage to an absurd ritual of virtual pilgrimage is silly, ill advised and misconceived. These virtual darshan-wallahs have no idea of the invigorating and rejuvenating gains from a real pilgrimage to any holy place. They do not understand the communion of the human person with Nature while performing the pilgrimage. To cite only one example, how many know that the hills are blessed with a tree that produces butter (ghee)? Honey, butter, fragrance, solitude, peace, elation and physical invigoration are gains otherwise not available.

In the conflict of economic development and environment protection, environment ought to get priority. If the environment suffers, living standards suffer; but if economic development suffers, better alternatives are available. Why is the world talking of carbon credits today? If birds and animals are entitled to sanctuaries, so are human beings. Whosoever suffers due to ban on economic development in any region deserves to be compensated by the state. Let there be equitable distribution of wealth and income, all round growth will be visible to everybody!

The Government of Uttarakhand has set up The Uttarakhand Rehabilitation & Reconstruction Authority. The Authority will be constrained in planning or execution of the relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes and tasks by the existing rules and policies. The nature and extent of the calamity being extraordinary, the Authority, as also both the state and the central governments, will need to think and act extraordinary. They will have to get expert services from international agencies and other friendly foreign countries, with whose help restoration work can be quickened. As against the time frame of 2 years for resumption of the Chaar Dhaam Yatra (pilgrimage to the four holy shrines), it can and ought to be resumed in the next season, for it is the single biggest economic activity of Uttarakhand and means of sustainable livelihood of thousands of the state’s residents. Attend to the requirements of the senior citizens on top priority basis. In this age of human endeavours to colonize the moon or Mars, it should be lot more easier to undertake and deliver world class rehabilitation, reconstruction and restoration of the economic and spiritual life line of the people.

The Uttarakhand disaster has raised several questions on political, administrative, economic, developmental and environment planks. Environmentalists blame the tragedy to unchecked exploitation of the hills for laying roads and bridges, developing residential colonies, haphazard growth of hotels and markets, illegal structures of various kinds, tourism, population growth, infrastructure development, blasting the hills for these developments, dams and obstructing the natural flow of the rivers. Pollution by millions of tourists has been blamed for ecological degradation. Possible corrective methods proposed are: restriction on the number of pilgrims to the holy shrines or even banning religious tourism. It is well understood by the proponents of such ideas that even the development-deprived folks living in these hilly villages have the right to development of educational institutions, hospitals etc. Beyond such honest admission of the aspirations of the local people, they offer no solutions.

It needs to be appreciated that the use of the word “holy” itself is the single most potent word for preservation of the delicate ecology of the region. Religion was used to encourage and inspire people to respect, honour  and contribute individually to these efforts for environment and ecology. Ever since religion was replaced by laws passed by the legislatures in the modern rational scientific times, places of extremely fragile and delicate ecology have come to suffer most at the hands of the greedy, who operate in a threatening nexus of the powers of the state, market and even religion. Secularism has suddenly come to occupy a higher place of honour  than religion. The result is that today nobody winks  even an eyelid if the rivers called holy are polluted by discharging sewage in to them or hazardous industrial or medical waste is nonchalantly pumped into them!. Same is also true of the hills , ghaats, reserved forests and even mangroves. You can’t police the depredation of hills, forests, mines, mangroves, coral reefs etc unless they are treated as holy. . Simultaneously, programmes  providing  succour to the population of these areas has to get priority.

 

For working out schemes for improving the living standards of the people, who suffer the consequences of non-development, adequate financial packages need to be worked out. After all they are serving to protect and preserve these valuable assets for the society and have to be compensated. Government levies developmental tax  for industrial and/or infrastructure projects. Farmers are encouraged to keep harvesting by assuring them of minimum support prices for their produce  and bonuses too. Similarly, provision needs to be made in the budget to levy some tax for financial assistance to the people of these areas for being deprived of the fruits of development. All sanctuaries and hills like the Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri etc must be covered by such financial aid. As employment opportunities are few and far between, credit has to be given to the residents of these sanctuaries for their services and sacrifice. For this, a part of the donations at the shrines could also be considered for distribution. There would be hope for environment and ecology preservation if lack of opportunities for livelihood in these difficult areas is compensated by monetary help to the locals on a need based basis. Significantly, these shrines are the sanctuaries of the old or aged, which should be acknowledged and acceded. Ideas are flying around that pilgrimage should not be allowed to the old and aged. It has been suggested that these senior citizens should feel happy by virtual Darshan or sighting of the deities. Reducing pilgrimage to an absurd ritual of virtual pilgrimage is silly, ill advised and misconceived. These virtual darshan-wallahs have no idea of the invigorating and rejuvenating gains from a real pilgrimage to any holy place. They do not understand the communion of the human person with Nature while performing the pilgrimage. To cite only one example, how many know that the hills are blessed with a tree that produces butter (ghee)? Honey, butter, fragrance, solitude, peace, elation and physical invigoration are gains otherwise not available.

In the conflict of economic development and environment protection, environment ought to get priority. If the environment suffers, living standards suffer; but if economic development suffers, better alternatives are available. Why is the world talking of carbon credits today? If birds and animals are entitled to sanctuaries, so are human beings. Whosoever suffers due to ban on economic development in any region deserves to be compensated by the state. Let there be equitable distribution of wealth and income, all round growth will be visible to everybody!

The Government of Uttarakhand has set up The Uttarakhand Rehabilitation & Reconstruction Authority. The Authority will be constrained in planning or execution of the relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes and tasks by the existing rules and policies. The nature and extent of the calamity being extraordinary, the Authority, as also both the state and the central governments, will need to think and act extraordinary. They will have to get expert services from international agencies and other friendly foreign countries, with whose help restoration work can be quickened. As against the time frame of 2 years for resumption of the Chaar Dhaam Yatra (pilgrimage to the four holy shrines), it can and ought to be resumed in the next season, for it is the single biggest economic activity of Uttarakhand and means of sustainable livelihood of thousands of the state’s residents. Attend to the requirements of the senior citizens on top priority basis. In this age of human endeavours to colonize the moon or Mars, it should be lot more easier to undertake and deliver world class rehabilitation, reconstruction and restoration of the economic and spiritual life line of the people.

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