Posted in Uttarakhand

Black Spot: A film on dam tunnels–Uttarakhand News-3

Sharing a news item on a new film on the dangers of dam tunnels in Uttarakhand

Darkness is the only end of Dam Tunnels

“Black Spot” – A film made on the impacts of Vishugaad – Peepalkoti tunnels on Alaknanda River released
“We have been ignored and treated merely as  characters to laugh at. The tunnel is being built beneath our houses. How much damage  it will do, nobody knows. The compensation for previous damages have not been made yet. If we protest then we will have to face the court cases. The Court has made restrictions on people’s visiting the Dams working sites. Now what to do?”, says Ramlal, a residence of Durgapur Village. Durgapur village is the part of Village Panchayat where dalit families reside. The THDC, Dam Construction Company, is building/ constructing tunnels for Vishnugaad – Peepalkoti Hydro Power Project Power House. Cracks have appeared on the walls of houses present above the tunnels due to high intensity blasts happened during the construction of tunnels, the future has become uncertain.
The condition of the Harsari hamlet of Haat Village is also the same. The other project affected villages are also facing the same threat and uncertainties. What is the guarantee that everything will be secure once the projects will be completed? The tunnel of Vishnuprayag dam has already brought disaster in Chai –Thai Village after years where NEPI Company had denied claims of any losses.
There has been no evaluation done of the impacts of these tunnel in World Bank fostered projects. This is how  expenditure on rehabilitation and other issues is ignored. ‘We get the threats of arrest if we resist and protest for our rights. Are the Ganga dam affected region not in India?’, questioned Rajendra Hatwal.

Narendra Pokhariyal have been struggling since years for security of his Village and constant flow of the River Ganga but got only false promises and increased confusion. World Bank and State government is responsible for not giving the right solutions of the issues. The film “Black Spot” made by Media Collective tried to cover all these aspects. This Hindi film with subtitles in English is made by Hagen Desa.

This film reveals the reality of tunnel projects through the issues prevailing in Vishnugaad – Peepalkoti Dam affected area. When there is planning to bind Ganga – Yamuna – Kali – Saryu and all their tributaries in tunnels, then this film reveals the grim realities and likely impacts in front of development planners, government agencies and financial institutions like World bank, we expect that they will learn a lot from this and bring subsequent changes in their attitude taking people’s and environmental issues on higher priorities.
This film has been released by the villagers in Gopeshwar headquarter of Chamoli district.

Posted in Uttarakhand

The Fodder Queens: Uttarakhand News-2

The fodder queens

All over Uttarakhand farmers are suffering because of the note ban. Flowers are dying and vegetables and fruits are rotting, as no one has cash to buy them. The concept of a cashless or even less-cash economy can hardly work in a region in which some of the remote, snow-bound villages do not even have electricity, leave alone banks.

In this scenario, it was a relief  to read about something better–a fodder cutting contest for the village women of Tehri Garhwal, with really attractive prizes. Women had to cut the maximum quantity of grass in two minutes, earning 10 points for each kilo of fodder. They were also given points for the quality of fodder, and for their knowledge of medicinal plants

The contest was held in Akhori village on 22 December 2016. Preliminary rounds were held in 200 villages, and 31 finalists were chosen from over 2000 participants.  Forty-year old Vimla Devi from Chilyal village was the winner. She has been used to cutting grass, she and other participants do so every day.  The fodder queen or Ghasyari, received a cheque of Rs one lakh, and a 160 kg silver crown! She cut 4.1 kilos. The first runner-up was Gyansu Devi of Dhansani village, with 51,000 and a 130 kg silver crown. Indira Devi of Akhori village was third. She received 21, 000 and a crown weighing 110 kg.

What will they do with the money? Vimla Devi wants to use it for the medical treatment of her husband, working in Chandigarh. Gyansu Devi will use it to educate her six children.

The Chetna Andolan organizes the competition. Trepan Singh Chauhan, its convenor, said that women were the best ecologists, preserving the environment in these hill regions.


Posted in Religion, Uttarakhand

The descent of the gods of Uttarakhand


The mountains have received their first snowfall. As winter sets in, the temples in the high mountains of Uttarakhand are getting ready to close. The dates have already been announced. The gods and goddesses from these will move down to their winter abodes, and return again in May.  Many rituals accompany this annual journey. After a special bath, puja and worship, the image of the deity is placed in a decorated palanquin, ready to be carried. A band accompanies it for some distance, then devotees and pilgrims continue the journey. After more rituals the deity is installed in its winter temple. Worship will continue there till the gods return.

Kedarnath, Badrinath,  Gangotri and Yamunotri, are the most important temples, known as the ‘char dham’, though others close down too. Kedarnath is one of the names of the god Shiva, at Badrinath the god Vishnu is worshipped. Gangotri and Yamunotri represent the rivers Ganga and Yamuna.

This year, Gangotri, the abode of the goddess Ganga, will be the first to close on 31 October. Yamunotri and Kedarnath will close on 1 November, Badrinath on 16 November. The goddess Ganga goes to her winter temple in village Mukhba, the goddess Yamuna to Kharsali.  The deity of Kedarnath descends to Ukhimath, and of Badrinath to Joshimath.

Pilgrims to the temples were fewer after the great floods of 2013, but reached 15 lakh [1.5 million] this year.


Posted in Dehradun, Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand News–1


020I’ve often thought of writing a weekly news item on Uttarakhand, the state in which I live. I was born here, in Mussoorie, and though I never spent many years here, visits were constant. Can’t forget those up and down Delhi-Dehradun trips, by bus, by train, and after Sweetie began living with me, by taxi, and all the hazards and delays on those trips. I used to love the forests, trees and birds of Dehradun, and they are still here, though diminishing every day. Newcomers, if they think about the road names might wonder at the names, Canal Road, Eastern Canal Road, Eucalyptus Road. Once canals crossed Dehradun and were used for many purposes, now they are covered up and perhaps dry. Eucalyptus Road was lined with huge Eucalyptus trees, now none remain. Changing the names of localities, a constant pastime of most city officials, has happened in Uttarakhand, though not to the same extent as elsewhere. Thus we still have Jolly Grant Airport, because the land was once owned by Jolly Grant, Herbertpur, after someone named Herbert, Astley Hall and Nashville Road; Survey Road and Old Survey Road, as Dehradun was the headquarters of the Survey of India, right from British days. Some locality names, I don’t know the origin of, such as Selaqui or Sinola.

Uttarakhand hardly figures in the national news unless there are disasters. The 2013 flood was prominent in the news, and more recently the death of the horse Shaktiman, and the government destabilisation. Then after the opening of the Char Dham in May, the four sacred temples, and Hemkund Sahib, the Sikh shrine, the news is about the pilgrims.

Now the monsoon has arrived with steady rain. In 2013 Dehradun got even more rain than Mawsynram, the place with the highest rainfall in India.

In the local news today it says that 83 villages in the Kumaon region may be washed away by rising rivers with the current rains. It also says there are 3 lakh [300,000] empty houses in the hills, with migration taking place because of poor facilities. And it has been noticed that there are 12,000 dry springs. The president tried to visit the shrine at Kedarnath, but returned because of the weather.

Posted in cow, Dehradun, Uttarakhand

A cow has breakfast

[reposting from another blog, written in 2012]

The car was parked near a nondescript small restaurant in Dehradun, and I watched the scenes around me. A black cow, looking dirty and uncared for, came and stood with its front legs on the single stair leading to the restaurant. Soon a young worker, perhaps just out of his teens, came and fed the cow with left over rotis and naans. Another young worker came and put a pile at the cow’s feet. It did not take her long to eat them all–there must have been twenty to thirty rotis, left over from the previous night’s dinner. The two workers went inside, and the cow eyed the huge bag of tomatoes on the counter. Catching it with her teeth, she dropped it to the ground and began eating them. A worker from a neighbouring shop called out to them, and the two young fellows came out. They pushed the cow away a bit, picked up whatever they could, and then urged the cow to finish off the squashed tomatoes at her feet. Sorting through what they had picked up, they even threw her a few more squashed ones.
Such a pleasant sight–they were amused and not angry, and allowed the cow a good breakfast.

Posted in Festivals, Hardwar, India, Kumbh Mela, Uttarakhand

Ardh-Kumbh at Hardwar

The Ardh-Kumbh is scheduled to begin at Hardwar, Uttarakhand [India] on Makar Sankranti, 14 January 2016. Hundreds of thousands of people will arrive for this.
The newspapers are full of the arrangements for the Kumbh, the much needed revenue for the state that will be one of the results, and the problems that still exist.
Some interesting aspects:
The police to be deployed will be given a six-day crash course in English to enable them to help tourists. What will they learn in six days? The focus will be on asking questions with ‘five ws and an h’–where, when, what, who, why, and how. They will also learn to introduce themselves in English.
The railways: the number of trains on the Laksar-Hardwar route will be increased to 60, and there will be 40 additional ticketing windows.
The sewage problem: handling all the waste is a huge problem, and it is hoped the Ganga will not be further polluted.
The Pari akhara: a woman’s akhara may be allotted land for the first time, and the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad is against this.
Dev Prayaga: this has been included as a site for the kumbh for the first time, but there are few facilities there. The bridges over the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, the sources of the Ganga, are shaky, the ghats and changing rooms are not ready, and the chains haven’t been placed for pilgrims to hold on to while bathing in the icy river. Without these there is a danger of being washed away.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Kumbh Mela is a Hindu festival, held in rotation at four sacred places, Prayaga ( Allahabad), Hardwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. At each place the festival takes place once in twelve years, while an Ardha-Kumbha, or half-Kumbha, is held every six years, and a Maha Kumbh every third year. Legends associate the festival with the churning of the ocean of milk for Amrita or divine nectar. When it finally emerged from the ocean the Asuras [beings opposed to the gods, often wrongly translated as demons] and Devas [gods], who had forgotten their enmity and joined together to get this nectar, now struggled for its possession. In the course of the struggle, twelve drops fell on the earth, four of them at the above places, and the Kumbh Mela commemorates this event.
Some date the Kumbh Mela to the time of Harshavardahana, a king who ruled over north India from 606-647 CE, but this is doubtful, as Harsha was a Buddhist. He did hold a large gathering at Prayaga [Allahabad] where a Buddha statue was set up on the first day, on the second day of Adityadeva or Surya, and on the third of Ishvaradeva or Shiva. Large amounts were distributed in charity to Buddhist monks, brahmanas, Jains, members of other sects, and wandering mendicants, after which alms were given to the poor, the orphans and the destitute, by which time Harsha’s entire treasury was exhausted.
According to other accounts, it was Shankara of the ninth century who first organised the Kumbh Mela.
Contemporary references to the Kumbh exist from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries.
It is also originally said to have been a fertility festival, in which pots of grain were dipped in the river to ensure a good harvest. Each Kumbh Mela, spread over several weeks, is visited by lakhs of people, and it is considered particularly auspicious to bathe in the sacred river at these places.