Tragedy of Hill People in Uttrakhand

Uttrakhand is called Dev Bhoomi or the abode of Gods. The state was carved out of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh and comprised of hilly areas situated both in Himalayas and Shiwalik.
Lord Shiva is the God who is associated with the region. There are places and temples related to him. The two rivers namely Mandakini and Bhagirathi which merge at Devprayag to form Ganges flow through these hills.
All through the year, tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great Tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great importance. And also the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation. And then the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation.

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Uttrakhand Floods: Shall we learn any Lessons

English: Temple at Badrinath, Uttarkhand, Indi...

It has become a tragedy of epic proportions. The loss in terms of precious human lives, property and environment is bigger than suffered in many wars. The floods which occurred in June 13 coincided with an event called “Char Dham Yatra” in which many hundred thousands have gone to the religious places in the Himalayas falling in Uttrakhand like Badrinath, Kedarnath. Thousands died and many thousands were trapped as the floods smashed many roads to smithereens blocking the way to return.

English: Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

So many hotels and guest houses fell like house of cards. As can be seen clearly in the video footage shown on TV channels these were built on the edges of the river banks without taking any precautions about safety into consideration. They fell into deep trenches and furiously flowing water and were washed away.

The cloud bursts are a common phenomena in the region causing great distress and loss of property and lives. One of the reasons may be that roads have been built in an unplanned manner. The number of vehicles carrying heavy loads of pilgrims or tourists have increased very heavily putting the pressure on these roads and weakening them. They were thus unable to withstand the onslaught of the flood fury.

Why people go in so many numbers to these places? This region is the home of many Gods and dotted with several temples. Most famous of all  these belong to the Shiva the God who is the source of dynamic forces of birth and deaths. By bringing end or death to physical form or pain or unhappiness, He transforms and purifies the things and since in Hinduism, soul is immortal, death is the way forward to life.

Also many of our saints like Kabir emphasized that there is no need to search for God outside in temples, Mosques or Jungles because the God is within us. But human beings are frail and gullible and choose the method which is visible or apparent like visiting a temple. Not only that, auspicious dates are announced by the priests and people in thousands begin congregating towards the said places.

This tragedy has caused great setback to the progress of the area. It has incurred losses of billions of rupees to the Government. So many army men, helicopters and road builders have been pressed into day and night service to rescue the people. Many families have lost all the members. It will take numbers of years to bring back the normalcy.

There are entry points which can regulate the entry of people into the region. It is a very sensitive issue to stop people from going en-mass for the fear of curbs on religious liberty, it is therefore for the people to think and learn the lessons. Since last some years, the weather is becoming very unpredictable and it is better to not to risk the adventure and be at home and worship the God at home.

Forest Research Institute, India

Dehradun is the capital of Uttrakhand State in North India. It is situated in valley surrounded by Himalayas in the North and Shiwalik Hills to its south. Due to its salubrious climate and greenery and moderate weather, during the pre-independence days, British officers used to retire to cold climes of Mussoorie which is hill station beyond Dehradun and established many institutions in Dehradun. One of them is Forest Research Institute.

Established as Imperial Forest Research Institute in 1906, Forest Research Institute (FRI) Dehradun, is a premier institution under the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE). Styled in Greeko Roman Architecture by C.G. Blomfield, the main building is a National Heritage which was inaugurated in 1929The Institute’s history is virtually synonymous with the evolution and development of scientific forestry, not only in India, but over the entire Indian sub-continent. Set in a lush green estate spread over 450 hectares, with the outer Himalaya forming its back drop, the Institute’s main building is an impressive edifice, marrying Greco-Roman and Colonial styles of architecture, with a plinth area of 2.5 equipped laboratories, library, herbarium, arboreta, printing press and experimental field areas for conducting forestry research, quite in keeping with the best of its kind anywhere in the world. Its museums, in addition to being a valuable source of scientific information, are a major attraction for tourists.

I stay very near to this institution. Many times I visit this institute in the morning for morning walks like so many others. You will find many people in the morning coming for walks. Over the years, the trees have become very mature and some of them are so huge that you cannot snap a photo of them. Trees of every variety can be found here. There is also a Botanical Garden. It is very beautiful but over the years casual attitude has caused decay in the maintenance.

So many tourists who visit Dehradun make it a point to visit the place. Here are some pictures.

Flowers in front
Flowers in front
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Botanical Garden
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Botanical Garden
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Side Entrance to main building
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Side Entrance
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Pink Flowers Tree
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A Palm Variety
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Rill
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Officers guest house

Some facts about Dehradun

Bazaar buzz

Dehradun is the capital of Uttrakhand. Earlier, it was an important town in Uttar Pradesh state. Being in the hills it has milder weather than rest of Uttar Pradesh. So British moved to hill stations during summers like Dehradun, Mussorie and Shimla: all situated in the hills of North India and were cooler. It must have been a favorite city of the British as is evident from the fact that headquarters of a number of departments like Forest and Survey of India,  are located here. It is surrounded on the North by Himalayas and in the South by the Shiwaliks thus forming a valley. The valley itself is divided into two parts by a ridge.

It boasted of famous Litchi plantations. During the summer season, one could see the vendors selling this fruit. The weather was not hot even in the summers when I first came here in 1978. Now the things have changed due to deforestation and building activity on a large scale.

Hardwar Dehradun railway line was opened in 1900 thus completing 112 years. It was the continuation of Oudh & Rohilkhand Railway from Laskar to Hardwar. Total distance is 48 miles. During British time Dehradun had many tea plantations and produced 1.6 million pounds of tea in 1903. Timber was extracted and taken to Yamuna River with the help of wet wooden planks. The timber was then was formed into rafts and floated down to Delhi.

A Trip to Dhanaulti Hill Station

A few days ago, continual rains for two days lashed Dehradun and Mussoorie hills. The temperature plummeted to freezing point and there was a snowfall in the Dhanaulti. Dhanaulti is a hill station about 30 km from the popular hill station of Mussoorie in Uttrakhand State of India. It is situated at an altitude of 2286m, and is known for its quiet environs amidst the alpine forests of Deodar, Rhododendron and Oak.

We planned to visit the place after 3 days of the snowfall. We did not expect to see any snow as we thought it would have already melted and vanished. Anyway we have read that from that place you can enjoy a beautiful view of Himalayas. We were also in two minds whether to drive in our own vehicle or hire a cab as the road is running in the hills in a sinuous manner and driving is very mind taxing.

We started in the early morning at about 8’clock. To reach Dhanaulti you have to go towards Mussoorie and take a bypass road about 10 kilometers before Mussoorie. It was brilliant sunshine. Soon the ascent began and there were curves everywhere. Along with the ascent, the temperature also began to drop. It was nearing 6 degrees Cecilius. Chill was biting the toes and numbing them. Heating had to be resorted to for keeping us warm.

We reached the bypass. From there we took a right turn and were on a road which led us to the bypass road to hill station. The route was very narrow and two vehicles coming from opposite directions could pass each other by inches only.

After this the road ran on the brink of hills. On one side of it are hills and other side very deep gorges. There were beautiful trees on the hills. Also there was a particular shrub which bore small red flowers. These shrubs grew on the walls of hills.

After traveling few kilometers, suddenly we were treated with a spectacle of breathtaking beauty. Himalayas studded with snow beckoned far off. Then there were zigzag hills showing there crests and troughs all around. There were herders herding the goats. At many places we found a novel way of storing the dried fodder by hanging the bundles from the tree branches.

Occasionally, we came across people working on the road and women who were coming with pitchers to fetch water from the newly installed water taps. It indicated that they have to travel miles for this water and it constituted a major chore for them.

When Dhanaulti was about 15 kilometers away, I spotted the white sheets of snow on the slopes of fields. Soon the roadside  was also covered with snow which has become hard and looked more like ice at many places. At many places the snow was present in good amounts.

Dhanaulti is a very small hamlet of few houses. There is a one Eco park in which you can walk the slopes to reach higher heights and see the scenery more explicitly. There were snow patches which were thawing slowly. Majestic Pine trees stood straight with their conic leaves. They looked bluish against the snow white tops of yonder Himalayas.

Crossing Dhanaulti and going 10 more kilometers is a temple called Sirkunda Devi. The head of Sati, wife of Shiva, fell here. Various other parts of her body fell at different places and are extremely pious places in India. But the Temple is located atop a very lofty hill and you have to go on foot. It takes about an hour to go up and same time to come down.

We returned without climbing to the temple. On the return journey, I was thinking to skip Mussoorie from the trip but my wife would have none of it. So we drove on a very narrow road towards the place. On reaching the Mussoorie the roads ran almost along the doors of houses and it was aweful to drive. I even thought how the vehicles have been able to reach here or once arrived have they ever left this place.

I was thinking about Ruskin Bond the famous expat English author of children books and the books like “Flight of the Pigeons” . He lives in Mussoorie. I saw in a documentary made on his life that he frequents a book store in the evening where he meets and talks with his fans and autographs the books they have purchased.

Here are some photos of the Dhanaulti.

Trees in Mumbai & Dehradun

The geographical locations of both the cities are very different. One that is Mumbai is sitting by the Arabian sea. Its importance is largely due to being a fine harbor. Thus it is a window through which India looks at the world. The city is hemmed in by the sea from all sides and hence has limitation in expanding in itself. So the population spills over to the mainland around it. Its weather is strongly affected by the breeze from the sea. Strong breeze breaks up at the noon time as the lighter hot air over the land is displaced by the cool air from the sea surface.

Dehradun on the other hand is nestled in the lap of Himalayas and is a valley. It is surrounded by lower Himalayas on North and West sides. Although it becomes very hot in the summers now, on the whole the weather is not so harsh as over the plains of Northern India. Being situated in the valley, hardly any breeze blows here.

I have lived very long years of my service in Mumbai and observed the flora over there. Now for the second time I am posted here in Dehradun. Due to the habit, the mind started to compare the flora of both places. First of all, the brain seeks to find the same trees at new place as were present in the older place.

I found some of these trees common at both places. But the look and color of leaves and flowers is different. The trees in Mumbai seem to be in haste of growing flowers. In this process they also wither away too fast. Winds aid this process. On the other hand, in Dehradun they seem to be taking their own time for maturing. They stay fresh for long periods. In fact, they seem to be like Yogis, simply serene and majestic, lost  in meditation being completely detached from the surroundings. Sometimes, it seems that they are standing still and waiting to be photographed. They are like the wallpapers on the computer screen.

Dehradun Now

I have returned to Dehradun after a gap of 25 years. Like other cities in India, it has also changed a lot. Everywhere it is overcrowded. 25 years ago, there were only bicycles and scooters and life went on a leisurely pace. I remember that most of time, we used to walk down from our office. Now you cannot even walk on the roadsides without being constantly vigilant because of never ending traffic of cars, jeeps and scooters. Building activity is very high and rates of land have skyrocketed since the time Dehradun became the capital of Uttrakhand.

In the Paltan Bazaar the scene is still the same. There are lines of scooters parked in front of shops and only a small space is available for walking. You are constantly jostled by the crowds.

Some good things have also happened. Roads have been widened or new ones constructed. Bus stand have been shifted to outer place and it is at present clean. A very difficult step have been taken by the Government. The Chakrata road near Clock Tower had become a nightmare for the public. There was not a inch of it that was vacant. The road has been widened three times the dimensions of present road. In this process many shops have been razed.

The Rajpur road is very neat and clean. It has so many offices around it. As you move away towards Rajpur which is Tibetan dominated town, there is less crowd and area is full of fresh air.

Today, we visited Sahastardhara, a place around 16 kilometers away from the city. The road is very good and for last 4 kilometers is a serpentine one. There used to be no shops and eateries when I was in Dehradun 25 years earlier. The water of the springs contains sulfur and was thought to be good for the cure of skin disorders. Now the place has been fully commercialized. There are several shops selling inner wears, eateries selling tea, cold drinks and pakoras. And many restaurants serving lunch. The area around the rivulet is very dirty.

Only good thing was the ropeway. For hundred rupees it takes you to the top of a hill. At the top there are well maintained gardens, ozone park and playthings for children. There is a one temple also.

While returning we took a detour and came via Rajpur Road. My God, the whole road was fantastic. Equally good is the scenery. The route to my house is through the Army Cantonment area. This is very well kept and neat and clean.

I shall come again and again as I explore the more places.