By Anjali Agrahari
The erstwhile struggle for Uttrakhand is now shifted to striving for a battle of its own capital. Nestled between the foothills of Himalaya and Shivalik hills, the so-called pseudo capital ‘Dehradun’ is still in a controversial frame within the eyes of people living in the centre of Garhwal and Kumaon region. After three months of becoming a separate state under the state reorganization act in 2000, a feasible study was conducted by the Delhi based school of planning and architecture hired by the one-member justice Virendra Dixit, commission set up in 2001. Several parameters like weather, geographical condition, air, available infrastructure, distance from national capital, transport accessibility, centralised population and safety from natural calamities etc were taken into consideration and in result, Dehradun was nominated as the capital of Uttrakhand. Since then, Dehradun has went to continuous development. The city of education not only enhanced Indian youth by providing higher quality education institutes and training institute of national importance like Indian Military Academy, ITBP Academy, Indra Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA) & Zoological Survey of India but also Garner’s good per capita income because of low population and competent education institutes. The city of salubrious weather is a major attraction for tourism also. In the outskirts of Dehradun, enriched of natural resources contributes to its economy. Since, the city has witnessed a dramatic transformation from a scenic town to a commercial centre through construction boom within the city undertaking surrounding cities. Now, Doon has been declared as a metropolitan city which means there will be loan granted at 7% rate of interest for sewerage, drinking water, PRTS and metro will provide a counter connection between the cities like Rishikesh, Dehradun, Haridwar & Vikas Nagar. Easy conveyance to the commuters residing in Haridwar, Selaqui, Sidcul and Mohabewala. Being the pseudo capital, Dehradun has jumped off to a major distance in terms of development but yet not able to fulfill a proper development plan for better sustainability and enviromental-friendly urbanization.
In parallel to all these happening at one side, another side is full of predilection and enduring commitments. Its history starts from the time of struggle of indicated Uttrakhand to get separated from United province. When the word ‘Uttrakhand’ was at the mouth of everyone, in undivided U.P, secretary Dr. R.S Tolia had finalized the Ramashankar Kaushik Cabinet Committee report in 1994 and with a perpetuating deliberation Gairsain been declared as the most suitable for capital. Soon on 9th November 2000, Uttrakhand became an independent state and as far as research is concerned, Dehradun became the capital. This led to the emotions of people living in the zone of V of seismic plate felt betrayed. Active supporters started coming up to make a chord to strive for Gairsain as a capital with the key inspiration of going straight to people, as the separation of Uttrakhand was next to impossible but it is because of people who made it possible. The activists and leaders gathered with different plans and methods to create a feeling of being considered and fulfilling the demand from the core. Since then many plans were executed in which ‘Padyatra’ was very famous. The first padyatra was started on 5th December 2006 in which well-known poet & cultural activist, Girish Tiwari and editor of ‘Pahar’ were there with many other prominent people to see them off. Accompanied by politicians like Congress MLA Pradeep Tamta, padyatra distant approx 200k.m covering Jangal Chatri, Adivasi, Karna Prayag, Rudraprayag, Vashisht Gufa, Tapovan, Rishikesh, Faisala, Bhariawala, Diwala and reaching Jogiwala on 19th December 2006. Finally, they locomoted towards Vidhan Sabha accompanying hundreds of local Sanyukta Sangharsh Morcha activists. Barricaded by police at Rispana bridge but not given up and did a meeting at the gate of Vidhan Sabha. Padyatra was followed by 5 days upvaas on Rajpur road in front of Rajya Sachivalaye gate. While all this, there was a pamphlet that had been distributed among citizens with a slogan written on it ” Gairsain ka Matlab sab ke chehre par muskaan” which shows their strong sentiments and attachment towards their prosperity included with aggression that has to be justified. Before this, many others had individually done their efforts to convert the statement of secretary into reality. Baba Mohan Uttrakhandi was one of them who lay down his life for Gairsain after a fast of 39 days. On 2nd October 2004, the activists of Uttrakhand Mahila Manch initiated a fast where when one woman whose condition deteriorated, would be replaced, continued till 63 days but the government of Uttrakhand didn’t even rotate their eyes over them. The same person whose statement was considered as the dream to be justified was now saying that Uttrakhand activists should not agitate for an impossible demand.
All these falling out could be handled if the government of Uttrakhand had recognized their past statements and not took granted the seriousness of upcoming situation created because of the birth the discussion over Gairsain for a capital, that had been started from the pre-separation phase. Also, the government had not commissioned any other feasibility study for Gairsain at the time of decision.
If a study for Gairsain had been conducted, there was much possibility to calm down people with a valid reason that why Gairsain can’t be the capital and if a study has had a better result than Dehradun then Gairsain would be the capital. As a paddler consumer of the economy not even mainstream media had cooperated much with activists fighting for Gairsain rather supported the idea of keeping up capital in Dehradun. Also, the businessmen and beaurocrates preferred Dehradun for its commercial interest rather the ill-fed villagers. People supporting Gairsain thought that they are led down by the politicians, disillusioned and disorganized, they sought consent.
In a country like India where political parties have a major hand in making decisions and bringing change, here political parties had not been awakening till the time of the election. Due to the heavy burdensome created by the Gairsain supporters including Uttrakhand Kranti Dal, state government spent 65 crore on constructing Vidhan Sabha and hostels for lawmakers in Gairsain over 100 acres of land that has been acquired in Bhrarisen which is nearby it. The first two-days assembly session took place in Gairsain Vidhan Sabha in which both Congress and BJP agreed over the demand of Gairsain as the permanent capital or at least summer capital of Uttrakhand. The key point claim over this agreement was, Gairsain is situated in between two major hill culture which will ultimately lead to its development which was the main objective of the statehood of Uttrakhand. The strategy of taking this controversy as a host to get highlighted among people at the time of election could cost the 26 seats in the plain of Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar, and Dehradun. Out of 70 seats in the assembly, the fear of losing votes from plain led to no conclusion on the status of Gairsain.
Overall this, one of the influential problems of development in Uttrakhand is a migration of people from hill areas to the smart city to create their livelihood and upgrade their lifestyle. But something that pops the mind is that why is there still a need to migrate? There are many reasons that should be replenished after holding the statehood with its reason to be made. Geographically living in such hill areas is a tough task. Employment is one of the reason. Although the economic rate of Uttrakhand has been increased after becoming state but it is not equivalent to overall demography of the state. The share of increased revenue of hill areas has been received by districts that lie in plains of the state. According to the state’s directorate of economics and statistics, the per capita income higher than the state average is in only one hill district while the first three are of plain. Hence the hills are major contributing segment of migration. Education is again a major factor. Youth are not able to find exposure for their future career and employment. Primary schools are improved in number as well as quality but high schools and colleges are still far away in hilly areas. Healthcare facilities are still lack behind somewhere. People are more dependent in major cities for proper healthcare and medical facilities. It’s not that government has done nothing in the aspect of development. The connectivity is improved well with increased number of roads. Also government released a draft version of land consolidation that is ‘chakbandi’ bill to arrest the migration and motivate farming. As the backbone of rural economy in Uttrakhand, agriculture has declined by around 10% that is because the agriculture in Uttrakhand is primarily rain-fed but the actual irrigation capacity of hill is limited to the plain due to the lack of proper irrigation fractures. The trend of living in a well planned city leading to a huge migration from both the sides, hills to cities and cities to hills. According to the census 2011, 16,793 villages, 1053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have a solution of less than 10 in Uttrakhand. The rate of migration is not improved either before or after of making of Uttrakhand. The problem of migration become a self-propagating cycle and also linear. Experts have observed that migration is propagating itself as it leads to abandonment of villages which caused degradation of land making villagers unlivable and ultimately lead to more migration. “Jal, Jangle, Zameen” are three basic factory which are reading to migration. If Gairsain had been declared as the capital, the problem of migration has yet came to a limit. That’ why the proposal of Gairsain to be the capital is somehow connected to the solutions of problems like migration which is interlinked to many other sub-problems. Gairsain could result in the development of hill areas from the begging, though one can not say that it would be very successful. But now ” Gairsain is a sentiments that is difficult to fulfill as yet,” said an Uttrakhand senior beaurocrate.
After all, the government had started preparation to make Gairsain as capital with a project cost of ₹110 crores in 2014. From then the intention of shifting capital is followed by two-day assembly session at Gairsain. Now the question is, can the start-up project for Gairsain chase the speed of the development in Dehradun of 17 years till now? Next, to the hills of Kumaon, Gairsain is a perfect postcard picturesque but it’s 250K.m distance from Dehradun takes 8 hours to reach due to landslide-prone areas. Similarly, Gairsain needs higher jump to cover the gap to become a worthy capital in less time. It will need not only commercial and informational uprising but also the establishment of software technology parts of India (STPI) and SEZs are the challenges to overcome. Where these establishments are in the path of development process, establishment of Ordinance factories board, Defence electronics application lab and instruments research and development, Defence research and development organisations etc situated in the centre of nation defence production is virtual in terms of establishing in Gairsain. The connection of Gairsain from national capital is also a challenge to overcome because of the low-grade geographical area for heavy transportation in front of Delhi-Dehradun four-lane highway. In aspects of politics, out of 70 assembly segments in Uttrakhand, 34 are in the nine hills districts while the 36 are in the four plain districts of Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar, Nainital and Haridwar which will be again a swing-thought for nay political party to receive votes if taken in either side of the existing fight, sentiments V/s interest. “Gairsain is at the core of Uttrakhand but the commercial interest of politicians in the plain areas is too strong to be overcome,” said journalist Charu Tewari, is somehow dominates in practicality. Gairsain could result in the development of hill areas from the begging But one can not say that it would be very successful. The planning and strategy of the government are unable to fulfill the development requirement of semi-hill areas then it’s a question mark on the political parties as well as government officials that how they could handle the pressure of a hill town of less than 10,000 population.
Behind all these controversies, somewhere the motive of development of whole Uttrakhand is in dilemma. The centered ideology of development through a sustainable plan according to the uniqueness of the state including all the parameters are still suspense in the hands of people, policy, and politics. State’s like Uttrakhand need much more than sentiments and interest. A twisted strategy is needed for the growth of the state which can be obtained only if one can hold the change in individual’s mind and an overall revision is done by the existing government.