Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Old Encounter Worth Constant Recall

Long years ago I went to conduct a survey of the impacts of Soapstone mining in a village called Pharsali in the then Almora District of Uttar Pradesh (now it is in the Bageshwar District of Uttarakhand). Perched at around 6000ft in the Himalayas, it is a woderful village close to the Pindari Glacier.

Close to the mine site lived an elderly lady whose cow, i was informed was wounded falling into the pit that the miners had dug. I went to interview her and know what she felt about the mine. She was forthright with her views on the mine and said it is for the benefit of one Mr Mangal Singh Aithani, a powerful person living in the nearby roadside settlement and it was not within her power to do anything but suffer the consequences of risk to cattle, pollution of the spring water, dust and rude behaviour of the miners. I said, I will faithfully report her concerns and do what was within my ability to restrict.

Having felt that my interview was inconclusive, I ventured to ask her what her other woes were. This was when she got into her moods and said she would answer me further only if I close my eyes. Not realising why she placed such a constraint and not wanting to stop her from her narration, I closed my eyes and she started with asking me as to what are my daily needs. Not knowing where to begin, I was grappling for words and she prompted me by saying - you'll need water to brush your teeth, is'nt it and go on from what you will need through the day. I said yes, I will first need water and she continued - so do I - and we have the Jal Nigam (Water Corporation) which lays the pipeline and Jal Sansthan (Water Society) which supplies water, both wings of the government who are there to provide for it - then on to breakfast - she said the Public Distribution System of the Civil Supplies Department is there to provide the rations and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (a regional development outfit) of the government was providing LPG cylinders for fuel to cook. Having completed the imaginary breakfast it was time to go to study and she pointed out that the Education Department has opened schools and colleges to attend and this went on till I could play with the help of the Sports Ministry in the evening and she advised that before I go to sleep, I should have some fruits which the Horticulture Department is promoting. Having now to go to sleep, I asked if I could open my eyes!
Yes, at your risk for if you open your eyes and look around for these they will vanish. Thats how Governments are - if you close your eyes and look for what the government is supposed to provide they are really not there, but when you close your eyes and think about their promises, there is hardly anything you want that is not provided by our welfare state.

That is why she said she encouraged people who can take on the government and also recalled how some of the people who came to her years ago have grown to prominent people and wished me to take on these causes.

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