Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Gharghoda of mines and elephants

Corruption and pollution is something that we come across regularly in our life. Be it a small village or a large town and be it Mumbai or Gharghoda every place has come to terms with its share of the “ion” .

Situated in the industrial belt of Raigarh, which should be more appropriately called Jindalgarh, because of the huge infrastructural presence of Jindal company, Gharghoda is the oldest block of undivided MP and Chhattisgarh, coming into existence in 1928.

If Raigarh is famous for Jindal, Gharghoda is famous for two things, wild elephants and coal reserves.

My uncle who stays in the hills of Uttarakhad had not heard about Raigarh before, but when I told him that I will be staying in Gharghoda, he promptly quipped, “Ahh! Gharghoda, the land of the wild elephants.”

Wild elephants are always in news in this part of this world. Mostly for wrong reasons. Some fifteen days back, one women who had gone to collect Mahua seed was trampled by a tusker. Similarly, while travelling to Raigarh on bus, I had the wonderful experience of being stuck in a traffic jam as the highway was blocked by a herd of elephants who were taking a merry stroll on the road.

To look after the elephants we have the forest department people and they are doing a good job of protecting both the elephants and the civilians from each other. They are very prompt in giving compensation in case of causality due to elephants. So everything is fine on that front.

They are also active when it comes to stopping illegal tree felling, of which I have already given a graphical description in my previous post. So far so good.

But the problem arises when Coal comes into the picture.

Due to coal mining, both legal and illegal, forest cover is being vastly reduced, leading to a sharp increase in man-elephant conflict. The elephants are regularly entering villages and destroying crops and huts because their habitat is shrinking.

To combat this the forest department is investing huge amount of money in increasing the forest cover by planting saplings, but its effort is being bearing little result as more and more forest are being cut to pave way for mines.

Strange paradox, isn’t it. One government department in giving money to increase the forest cover, while the other is giving permission to cut those very trees.

Stand at the local Jai Stambh chowk of Gahrghoda and you will come across many huge trailers that are carrying coals and transporting them to the numerous coal power plant near Raigarh. And most of them are illegally mined. And as is very common in our country, this is happening right under the eyes of the law as not more than 200 meters from the Jai Stambh chowk is the local police station.

The coal is mined from the many a nearby areas and as they make their way to smoke emitting coal plants they have to pass through many a check posts. And rarely have I come across a trailer being stopped for overloading and carrying illegal coal. Most of the trailers are filled more than their capacity and the chance of these huge machines losing control and playing havoc on the street is as much as you and I getting drenched in a rain if we are not carrying an umbrella.

Once in a full moon, a trailer is caught and its details are promptly published in the local Hindi newspapers. Most of the trailers are owned by one of the many big companies like Jindal.

Also having their hands full in this trade are relatively small businessmen who have come from outside and have been wise enough to purchase lands from the local villagers at throw away price and setup their business.

And this is just the beginning. Gharghoda is still a ripe bud when it comes to coal mining. Many new plants are coming up and by 2015, this place will be at its full bloom. When the clean air and green tress will be replaced by carbon monoxide and steel chimneys and when the “Saagun made Belgadi” will give way to “Mahindra Scorpios” and when the local man who walks in cotton loins will purchase a Levis.

May not sound true today, but then Noida is no myth.

Equally true is the fact that these coal consuming factories have taken the necessary permission from the environmental authorities and other concerned authorities before coming up, so they are not to be blamed.

Again a paradox that infects our system.

We allow a factory to discharge toxic waste into the river and then we come up with an authority to clean that very river.

The emission and pollution controlling authority says that they see to it that every thing is done under supervision and Regulation. Sounds just like a holocaust, where they killed selectively, under supervision and in a regulated manner.

I may look like that I from the old age, a Swadeshi, an Opposer of industrialization. Believe me I am not, but what I say here is what is I see here.

The rapid industrialization has brought lakhs of rupees for the local tribes which they have received after selling their land to coal companies. And they simply do not know what to do with it. And some of them lament that times are changing as they feel insecure when they see their neighbour living a life that is more lavish then what they are accustomed to. They don’t know how to face this disparity.

The social fabric is being rewoven in this part of the world as money is pulling someone up and pushing many of them down.

I though draw solace from the fact that I won’t be staying her for long. I will leave way before any of these rivers and trees and green leaves this place, affectionately called GG. And though I may come back , they will not.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mussorie tale

I have been to many a place where I have only felt love and nothing else.

Mussorie ranks high on that very list. Some times back I went to Mussorie, and it was one of those memorable journey which you remember till you say the final goodbye to the world.

Absolute bliss it was. I stayed at the DRDO guest house, courtesy my ever jovial and lovable uncle, KK, who is perhaps more romantic at heart than me. The DRDO guest house is one of the highest residential place in Mussorie where you can stay. And if you go there at the time of monsoon , you will loose your breath again and again by the sheer simple beauty of that place,which is also called Landour cantt area near the famous Lal Tibba.

From there you can watch the exhilarating view of the majestic Himalayas as it white snow covered peak stare at you in a gentle silence. You can also hear the sound of Himalayan Langurs giving out their mating call which is heard for kilometers. You can watch beautiful Kumaoni girls with red cheeks and a mystifying smile climbing the high hills as if they are walking on plains. Or you can just close your eyes and feel the nature outside as it embraces you.

The beauty of a natural place is enhanced if it has legends and myths associated with it. And in the case of Mussorie, it has many a tales. Some haunting, some not so haunting. Stories of Memsaabs and Sirs that took place during the ear of Raj. The British Raj.

One night after having my dinner at the guest house, I came out and started taking a stroll down towards Lal Tibba. As I was walking, I heard some kind of chanting that was coming from a far distance. It was kind of mesmerizing and I climbed a rock to get a better view of the spot from where the sound was coming. And not too far away, in the middle of deep forest , I saw some foreigners carrying Mashals( torch light), as they danced in a circle and sang songs.

Standing at an elevated position i could only see their body under the faint light of the torch that they were holding. It was something that is hard to explain in words. Dark foggy cold night and people singing ancient hymns. It was an out of world experience. God knows how desperately how I wanted to be a part of that group who was enjoying life in its fullest terms.

Mussorie is home to many a legends. Ruskin bond, the great writer is one of them. And thanks to my uncle, I got the opportunity to meet him once. He is the most well known Mussorian and has written many books on Mussorie. A true gentleman. Also if are fortunate enough you can watch the towering Tom Alter sipping coffee at the historical Char Dukan.

If you are in Mussoire you have to go to 4 dukan. They are 4 small shops, located in the heart of Landour, where you find the most mouth watering pakodas and a highly recommended tea. There you can sit, chit chat with the local and the foreigners, watch small pahadi children going to school or just simply watch the sun rising or going down as the time maybe.

Please keep in mind that when I am saying Mussorie, I am implying, the area near the Landour cantt and not the over crowded mall road of Mussorie.

The Landour area is a magic in itself. The climb from the guest house on the gravelled path, surrounded by lush green forest comprising many a tall trees, mostly Pine. The ever present fear that if you are lucky enough you might come across a leopard, who too like you , is enjoying the clouds, that have stopped for few hours to cuddle you in their cold moist arms.

The Landour cantt area also has a language school that is more than 200 years old. Here foreign student come and learn Hindi. This very language school is adjoining a church, which in itself is a marvellous example of a serene construction.

Mussorie gives all this experience for free but in return you will have to promise that you won’t disturb anything. Not pluck the flowers, not harm the butterflies or the trees, not litter the place. And most importantly keep a smile on your face whenever you come across a marvel of nature, be it a tree,animal, clouds, fog or a human being.

The term, love is in the air is literally felt by our soul in Mussorie in no small way. If you are in love or thinking of falling in love go to Mussorie. It has an unexplainable lucky charm that will work for you and this I say on a personal experience.

Mussorie enlightens love in heart...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...