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Himalayan disasters: ISRO working on moon; it's time to see what's happening on earth

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

#ISRO is working on moon but it is time to look what is happening on the earth, the only planet so far where we can live and enjoy life so far. Important to protect it even if we find some chances or possibilities of living on other planet nothing will be better than earth. Let us  seriously look at the policies of our governments for the #himalayan regions such as #uttarakhand and #himachalpradesh which are facing the brutal assault due to heavy rains and landslide. This year has proved to be disastrous for both these states as loss of lives, livelihood at unprecedented scale has happened in both Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Ofcourse, Himachal Pradesh has faced the worst but things in Uttarakhand too are extremely worrying and dangerous. 
One must appreciate the Himachal Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh continuously leading from the front., visiting places, meeting people without the VIP fuss which is visible elsewhere. Many of the state governments have supported Himachal Pradesh but the central government or the BJP ruled states have remained silent on the matter. It is shameful. Himachal Pradesh need every one's support at the moment.
'Experts' are calling these incidents as 'climate crisis' but the fact is these are 'experts' made disaster. I wont call it 'man made' because common person is excluded in the entire decision making processes in our country, in our states in all the decision making process which affect his or her life. Our pretentions about being 'democracy' or 'mother of democracy' are high but the fact is whether Centre or states, the government consider its bureaucrats as bosses and panacea to all issues, they are the 'experts' who know everything and who can decide about the fate of a people who have been living in these regions for centuries. The  problems with the people is that they too got carried away in the narrative of 'vikas' or 'development' by the crooked political class and any one who opposed it was called 'vikas virodhi' or anti development. 
Himachal Pradesh was the first one in the race of 'development'. All the hills became abode of the five star hoteliers  who were minting money and moving beyond Simla and Manali into more mountain areas. Four lane roads had already made various mountain regions fragile but more than that it is the pressure of unplanned urbanisation that is killing. A visit to Simla or any other urban market region can prove this how the Himalayan region has been exploited but us all.
Uttarakhand is paying a bigger price. It was nowhere in picture before the state came into being. There were not many institutions except a few in Dehradun. As part of Uttar Pradesh state, people of the plains who were posted in the hills rarely went for their work and posting in the hills were always termed as punishment posts. The two well known hill stations were Mussoorie and Nainital. Very few people would go up in the hills but after the new state came into being the 'developmental' propaganda reached high and all those who were speaking about sustainability and environmental protection were hounded and wiped out socially and politically.
Uttarakhand faced the biggest disaster in the year 2013 which is called Kedarnath Disaster killing thousands of people and destroying infrastructure worth crores of rupees. Rather than learning from it, the government went on to claim to 'rebuild' the state. Now, this rebuilding done by the ruling BJP is nothing but rebranding the state with the Hindutva agenda. So four lane high way was thought over. Uttarakhand had the potential of Hydro Power projects hence at every 10 kilometers we had big dams. Not to remain satisfied with these two, the government also announced the railway line from Rishikesh to Karnprayag. The Chardham Yatra was so hyped that millions of people are travelling to religious tourism despite the known facts that most of the places in the hills dont even have infrastructure for 500 people. How will Kedarnath cope with lakhs of pilgrims but not even 500 people can stay there for a night ? And remember, it is a place on glacier but then it was promoted so heavily that people thronged despite all the warning. The Heli services made money and so were the other people engaged in the tourism process but all this damaged the eco system.
Anyone who is familiar to Joshimath Badrinath High way would vouch why the mountains are being cut to made the way for the pilgrims. During the last few years, we have seen what has happened in the region. The calamity at the Rishiganga-Dhauliganga junction near Raini village and the subsequent wash out of the Vishnuprayag Dhauliganga Hydro Power Project in February 2021  is an example that we will never learn our lesson. What has happened in Joshimath was already there in village Raini when people asked for it. Committed activists such as Atul Sati  Joshimath who went to the High Court with other activists were penalised by the court. Now the court asked us to show as what is our degree of being a 'social activist. Those working for people got punished and penalised. The state hound them and now the courts too are only stamping the seal of approval on the what the state is doing. Where does one go for justice?
This year I travelled to Yamunotri as well as in the Tons Valley and can say that the things were worst. In no place did I found the high way complete. The conditions in Yamunotri were looking worst. On the very first day of the Chardham yatra which began from Yamunotri, I came down. The landslide process had started from the very first day. Things are dangerous but the government does not bother. In May, I was in the Dharchula-Pithauragarh region visiting the Kali river valley and saw with great pain the things there. We are not only damaging mountains but also rivers for our greed. The beautiful valley which is sensitive has now become more fragile and landslide an order of the day. The risk on the lives who wanted to go for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra was tremendous. It does not want to take any action as spreading religious tourism has been on its agenda. The only one thing it has done committedly is to create a crowd of devotees who dont ask question about new schools, medical colleges, engineering colleges when our youths are satisfied with temple hopping where is the need to ask other questions that concern our life and death.
The religious tourists have least botheration about local sentiments. They need all the luxuries of life. Look at the videos on YouTube and facebook. Most of them are just insanely producing the irrational religious propaganda. Watching our youth becoming enslaved to religion is painful because they dont even follow the path of reasoning but become part of a crowd.
Uttarakhand is in serious crisis. #chardhamyatra continue to bring lakhs of pilgrims and  and in the Sawan month which is July,  you have the Kanwar yatra which was unknown in the Uttarakhand but now youths from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi throng in large number, has brought more pain to the people and infrastructure of the state. Initially, it was just Hardwar but now they want to go up with their noisy vehicles. They can hit at any one and go scot free. A kanwariya in todays time has more power than poor space scientist or our jawans serving us on the border. Kanwariyas today are bigger than our 'freedom fighters' as the governments have ensured that the police which is already over loaded with its work is put in the service of Kanwariyas. A question often asked why our space scientists hailing from Kerala and Tamilnadu ? Why nothing much coming from the north ? The answer lies in our priorities. If the state is promoting religion and superstition in the name of identity and culture then we will never be able to appreciate the beauty of nature and how to preserve it.
Those who are blinded by God can never understand the pains of the people in the Himalayan region. They protect our borders. They work under deeply difficult circumstances. The high ways are not made for them but for the tourists. In the villages, people still go walking and yet when we go from the plains, we made loads of comments as if people know nothing.
The state will not act. The state apparatus will never admit that it is due to its faulty policies people of the Himalayan regions are paying huge price. It is time people should wake up and fight to protect their region. The Supreme Court must take note of it. Please stop this mindless cutting of mountains and attempt to control our rivers. The flow of Ganges in Rishikesh or the power of river Byas at Mandi only tell us the story that don't try to control our rivers, don't test their patience, don't occupy their spaces as once they decide, they will all destroy everything you build so laboriously. Stop mindless construction in the Himalayas. Regulate tourist flow particularly the religious tourism in the Himalayas to save it from further disasters.
---
*Human. rights defender

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