Getting Some Basics Right In The Mountains….

Feb 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Adaptation, Agriculture, Ecosystem Functions, Food, Forest, Governance, Government Policies, Guest Speak, India, Information and Communication, Livelihood, M-20 CAMPAIGN, Migration, Opinion, Population, Rio+20, Urbanization, Vulnerability, Water, Women

Mr. Cyril R Raphael: In this article Mr. Raphael writes the agony of mountains in general by taking an example of overall development in one of the Indian mountain states called Uttarakhand. His discourse covers the social and economic development, governance, leadership, availability of basic amenities, health, education, livelihood, effectiveness of information and communication, role of media, among others.  He also talks about  ‘mountain perspective’, and what it meant to the mountain people.

For over three and a half decades I have been working at the grass roots with an organization in who’s vision and mission statement the operative word is “happy” – happy children living in happy families who live in happy communities. The renowned psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung once said “your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart – who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awaken”’.

And Confucius said ‘they must change often who would be constant in happiness’.

In socio-economic development if you remain true to people centric strategies, you will appreciate that in Uttarakhand (a mountain state in India) the people believe that their unhurried sense of time is also a form of their wealth. There is a rhythm in life -a taal- and it is important that leaders and administrators must connect to this.  These rhythms vary from region to region and from people to people and more and more it becomes a matter of accompanying communities rather than imposing solutions no matter how theoretically sound they may seem.

Even before the creation of Uttarakhand state, politicians cutting across party lines have been attempting to drive a wedge in the population of this region to make political capital.  Divide the hill folks from the people living in the plains, and further subdivide the hill folks into Garhwalis and Kumaonis, and then create even more divisions on basis of caste.  This has been the mantra of leaders in this region. Create imaginary divisions, twist minor incidents and heighten insecurities to win votes. Our politics must surely change.

Uttarakhand is a state in debt.  One estimate shows that each resident of Uttarakhand is under a debt of Rs 18,000/- +. The State Government is barely able to pay salaries to existing staff, in spite of the fact that the present staff strength is way less than the authorized strength, which in turn is much less than the ideal strength of its staff should be. Local bodies in the State do not have money, either for their staff or for development work.  Large parts of the State are without reliable electricity or proper road connectivity and several without potable water.

Health care, education and livelihoods are precarious – drudgery in women’s lives persists and nearly half our children are malnourished.  Yet, we are battered with the trumpeting of being 3rd best in GDP in the country (India), that we have impressive per capita income levels, and we witness the laying of hundreds (or is it now thousands) of foundation stones of development projects that don’t ever see the light of day in a rosary of lies, damned lies and ‘statistics’ that are cleverly used. Faguni Devi (a women) cannot be blamed if she grows increasingly despondent.  But it will be the challenge to ensure that the public grows in an awareness of its rights and knows how to access them.

Sadly, there is an all pervading apathy in Uttarakhand.  It would be marvelous if the legacy of the ‘doosra dashak’ (second decade) would include infusing a sense of hope because what gives hope its power is the release of human energy generated by a longing for something better.  What holds people back is not the pressure of reality but the absence of dreams.  One kind of world is dying. Another is struggling to be born. We may not be able to predict the future but we can invent it.  Whether we do or not depends on the awareness of enough people of the human predicament, recognition to the limits of growth and the futility of supposing that technology can solve all our problems.

I wonder if you will agree with me when I say that there are three pillars of change – active citizenship, an effective and accountable state and a responsible and accountable private sector.  Among the major development challenges in India today is the need for “effective dialogue”.  The way’s in which institutions interact, the quality of dialogue among them, and their ability to arrive at consensus quickly is an institutional ability of great value to societies.  The private sector can bring its ability to manage economic resources efficiently, NGOs their passion for the rights of the less privileged, and democratic government their legitimacy in imposing authority.  Effective dialogue is the key to faster, more equitable and transparent reforms in India.

But for this to happen, perhaps it is a different kind of human being we need, one who is comfortable with change, who enjoys change, who is able to improvise, who is able to face with confidence, strength and courage a situation of which they have absolutely no forewarning.  Mountain communities would probably be among the best contenders for this. Maybe then the scary scenario’s of climate change and global warming and the dreaded carbon footprint – basically unfettered, anti environment behavior – can begin to be addressed – the realities of some having lifestyles that are dangerously over the top whilst others measure improvements in the quality of their lives by the type of crumbs that fall from the table above …

We have to focus on bridging gaps between two India’s (Bharat and India Shining) by promoting inclusive development in the lagging states and with lagging groups, as also to build a supporter base among the youth and middle class. But youth and everyone else for that matter will have to understand that the technology revolution did bring efficiency to production but at a cot – the dehumanizing of work.

The young ones will also have to be informed and know how to participate and maybe also learn how to live simply so that others may simply live. The perennial discontent of youth could be a blessing in disguise if we are to believe that “discontent is the mainspring of progress which is the spring of action for change” … (George Bernard Shaw).  And maybe this change could start by creating a ‘mentality of caring’ among the youth and the middle class.

CHANGE WILL COME, but not before the governance of Uttarakhand improves exponentially; civil society and the NGOs shake off the status of bystanders and sub-contractors; and the youth, even if they still must run after the bright lights of the city do so with skills that keep them out of the tandoors of dhaba’s in Gurgaon.

When the new state was born we were exuberant, hopeful and idealistic.  Today, a spiritless establishment does not seem to be in synch with the collective notion of the people.  So involved has it become in trying to address sectional interests, it has forgotten what Uttarakhandi’s want as a collective entity. Government goes in one direction and the people in another. Enthusiasm is confined largely to a sponsored media and maybe schoolchildren who get time off from studies to prepare for parades and cultural events.

If the States “leaders” from all walks of life cared even a little for the future they would try and rise above the pettiness that is successful politics today.  They would also try to understand what inspired the Uttarakhand Movement to free the region of the image of a ‘cap in hand’ society trying to promote (pedal) what in popular parlance is called “the mountain perspective” – fragile, remote and marginalized simply to milk financial back-stopping; and instead lead with positive energy, dedication and commitment and wonder why politics and development has become a career option rather than a mission.

People are resigned to the fact that politics (all hues) requires money and that it is extracted from the “system” to play the game. The real Republic should turn its back on all of this and forge alternatives.  When and how it will emerge; what shape it will have cannot be stated as yet; but the “leaders” should realize that it is coming – the day of the people is approaching.

Featured Photo: Sanjay Joshi, Uttarakhand India


Author: Mr. Cyril R. Raphael is Chief Advisor, Shree Bhuvneshwari Mahila Ashram (SBMA) and Convenor of the Himalaya Desk – A Movement for the Renaissance of Uttarakhand and Mountain Regions. Email:

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Himalaya team.


Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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2 Comments to “Getting Some Basics Right In The Mountains….”

  1. Gajendra Nautiyal says:

    it is good to see cyril ji on action . this will enrich knowledge of mountain activist and lover !

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