THE Uttarakhand government took no heed of the many warnings about the fragility of hill towns and the Himalaya and went ahead with hydropower projects (Cover Story, February 10). It failed to take precautions to reduce the likelihood of landslides in Joshimath. It allowed the construction of too many homes and hotels on the slopes and allowed too many tourist and pilgrim vehicles up the Devbhoomi hills. The authorities took Joshimath for a ride and were clueless after they were caught unawares.
Joshimath is a wake-up call. It is time for State governments across India to take serious note of even minor landslides in vulnerable places. Development is necessary, but let it not be at the cost of the environment and people’s lives.
FOR the past few months, Joshimath has been in the limelight because it experienced subsidence. Already close to one thousand buildings, mostly houses, have suffered irreparable damage, rendering thousands homeless. Although the local population had raised the banner of revolt against the government’s unscientific development projects, their apprehensions went unheeded. Many scientific studies by experts have revealed the vulnerability of Joshimath, which is in fact located atop rubble deposited by past avalanches and landslides. The torments of Joshimath cannot be viewed in isolation as similar construction activities are rampant in other Himalayan States. When developing ecologically fragile areas such as Joshimath, one needs to take an ecocentric approach.
THIS tragedy of sorts is unbearable; a whole town was destroyed in a matter of minutes, rendering all the residents helpless. Every year, before the Budget is presented in Parliament, there is much talk about income tax slabs. There is never any mention of the downtrodden and what will be done for their uplift. This is another kind of Joshimath we are facing today. I am 89, about to step into 90, I have seen what it was like before Independence and working under British rule and thereafter under our own government. After Jawaharlal Nehru’s regime, a new India started with a lot of corrupt elements, and so it goes.
Sreedhara Ramnath Sastry
HUMAN activities have been impacting the earth one way or another right from the time of early man. The overexploitation of natural resources will cause ripple effects across the board.
The Himalayan nations and Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Maldives, and Indonesia should be roped in to come up with a large-scale natural disaster management plan. In that event, technological advances, public awareness of natural disasters, precautionary measures, and above all, faultless forecasts of catastrophes will go the extra mile to help countries tackle natural calamities.
It is important to protect the earth by nurturing natural resources so as to counterbalance the effect of a natural calamity.
P. Senthil Saravana Durai
P. SAINATH has with missionary zeal brought the unsung heroes (and heroines) of India’s freedom struggle to the fore to fill a yawning gap in documentation (“I wrote this book for the people in it”, February 10). The role women played in the freedom struggle has been underrated, if not ignored altogether. This book makes amends by highlighting their contribution on their own merits and not as appendages of male freedom fighters.
THE interview brought out different dimensions of the struggle for Independence. The facts speak volumes about the extraordinary selfless service of ordinary people who after Independence made no claims on the state and continued their lives without any fanfare or fame. Sainath has displayed his generosity by speaking up for these neglected compatriots of India.
At a time when divisive forces like the BJP and RSS are meddling with Indian history to create a narrative that suits their intolerant intentions, Sainath’s book will be a source of an honest account of valorous nationalists.
PRINT, electronic, and social media in India should not think twice about emulating the BBC’s independence and impartiality (“Modi back in the dock”, February 10). It operates without any undemocratic censorship. This will help the media carry out the work of informing, educating, and entertaining people in a way that will earn their respect. The truth always hurts, and politicians must accept and learn from it by rectifying and atoning for their mistakes rather than dismissing it as propaganda.
In a democracy the Prime Minister is duty-bound to respect, tolerate, and strengthen the media. Important lessons must be learnt from the 2002 Gujarat riots. A law that frees the police from political interference and lets them elect their own chief and deputy chief needs to be enacted immediately.
IT is unfortunate that an esteemed news broadcasting agency like the BBC released the controversial documentary. One fails to understand the logic behind the timing of the release, and there appears to be more to the issue than meets the eye. The documentary is unlikely to have any impact on the vast multitude of Indians in general and Gujaratis in particular. Further, although the riots were discussed and debated, drawing vociferous and virulent attacks from the mainstream English media in India, the electorate, time and again, brushed these aside.
B. Suresh Kumar
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
THE orans of Rajasthan are a haven for endangered flora and fauna and need to be taken care of (“Killing pastures to generate solar power”, January 27). No form of development should disturb natural biodiversity, and development schemes need to be designed with this in mind. Orans are the source of livelihood for peasants, and if they are destroyed, it can shatter people’s lives. So, orans should be conserved for coming generations.
THANK you for the article. It brought out the total disregard there is for environmental issues when “development projects” are implemented. It is Narmada Bachao Andolan all over again and again.
Either the local authorities are ignorant (unlikely) or they are hand in glove with the investors, who in turn take governments, at the Centre and in the State, for a ride, convincing them of a project’s viability minus environmental and social cost evaluations. This leaves little scope for officials of the lower level administration to take a stand.