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Having completed 90 years of his struggle full life, a living legend and an institution in himself, Sunderlal Bahuguna is widely known as a Chipko leader of international fame. Recipient of many coveted honors for the environment, ecological conservation n for preserving the forests of Uttarakhand Himalayas viz. Padmavibhushan, Padmashree, Jamunalal Bajaj and prestigious international Right Livelihood Awards, Sunderlal Bahuguna undertook 74 days of incessant hunger strike against Tehri dam during the eighties. Sunil Negi, a freelance journalist visited him at Dehradun and interviewed him in detail. Here are some excerpts of the interview.

Question: Sir, you‘ve just completed the protracted 90 challenging years of your life last month. You’ve almost given more than 7 decades or more of your pivotal life to environment conservation, deforestation, and social service as a Gandhi an. How does u feel now?

As you know, having been in the 90th year of my life I am not keeping a good health. I am bed ridden most of the time. I am really grateful and rather thankful to my better half Vimlaji for looking after me entirely and taking care of my health very minutely. This is how I am able to push my immortality further ahead. However, my son in law is also a senior doctor under whose able and experienced medical supervision and monitoring I am alive. I have been given to understand by the cardiologists that two of my heart’s arteries are blocked but due to being too old, surgery can’t be conducted. I am therefore moving ahead quite cautiously. Never mind, one has to leave this materialistic world one day. But till one is alive one should always try hard to live in the society, environment, ecology and peoples’ welfare. Even today I am deeply bothered and concerned about the environmental health of the Himalayas, Uttarakhand and its people. I regret to say that even after Uttarakhand gaining its separate existence 17 years’ ago, has not lived up truly,  to the peoples’ expectations. The very concept for which Uttrakhand has been formed has been badly defeated despite 46 movement activists sacrificing their precious lives. The successive governments, I think eight in numbers,  during the last 15 years, have proved to be completely futile as during this period more than 30 lakh people have migrated to cities, towns, and metropolis of the country for want of better job and health avenues. What a tragedy? Had the governments of the state been genuinely concerned about people’s problems related to the social, economical, industrial, cultural, health and educational aspects, the exodus of the youth and the local populace would not have been so tremendous. Isn’t is shocking that in merely one and a half decade just more than a double digit figure( of people ) have migrated outside Uttarakhand as compared to the total influx during the last 5 decades prior to granting of separate Uttrakhand status.

Question: But the government of Uttarakhand had always been boasting of extraordinary growth rate and sufficient per capita income as compared to other states. What’s your take on this?

This is absurd and ridiculous. I have always been saying for years together and it has finally been substantiated by this mass scale exodus of youths to plains from the UK and i.e. the youth and the water of Uttarakhand Himalayas has never been of any use for Uttarakhand.(Pahadon ki jawani aur paani kabhi bhi pahadon ke kaam nahi aaya).The way the water of the Ganges and its tributaries emanating(starting) from Uttarakhand Himalayas has been exploited by the outsiders either for power and irrigation through large scale dams or for other purposes, similarly, the youths of Uttarakhand after migrating to cities and metropolis are of no use to the hills. This is something very unfortunate. You will be astonished and shocked to learn that during the 1960s when Dr. Longanathan had conducted the interstate and inter district economic survey in India, Tehri Garhwal was accounted for as one of the poorest districts’ with its per capita income the lowest in whole of India whereas the district of Kumaon division, Almora was the second poorest in the country. And unfortunately even today, despite the government’s tall claims of revolutionary change in terms of development and per capita income and growth, in my personal opinion the hills of Uttarakhand are still backward and poor as far as the question of unemployment, poor health services, and industrialization is concerned. It’s only because of the lack of total absence of decentralised socio-economic and industrial development and the anti people policies of the current and the successive state governments that Uttarakhand is still a number one state in India in terms of massive exodus of youths to the cities with villages becoming empty day by day and the agricultural fields not prone to KHETI or crop cultivation. During the ancient days, the main source of income of the hill people was through spiritual tourism. Now, since roads have been constructed this very source of income of the local hill populace has also been finished. It sounds extremely surprising that in Uttarakhand the land use per human is comparatively much more but poverty is still prevalent in the interior villages, as usual. Our economic sources have been killed. The state’s economic status is in doldrums AND JEOPARDY despite the government’s tall claims of economic prosperity. The hill of Uttarakhand had been merely dependent on the money order economy since ages and the same trend is still continuing as the majority of youths of the state have migrated to cities for jobs. This a very disturbing trend. If the government of the day would not reform itself and work on decentralized economic development right up to the village level I am afraid in the near future the villages will be totally bereft of people and the very purpose for which the Uttrakhand state came into very existence would be actually defeated.

Question: Being a seasoned environmentalist and a Gandhian what is the actual remedy to this very problem?

I personally think that the state of the huge exodus (migration) to the plains is extremely dangerous form the social, economic, cultural and security points of view of Uttarakhand. And I keep the security aspect on the top. It’s a universal fact that expansionist China considers India as its enemy number one, though a number of mutual visits by the respective heads of the states of both the countries is being undertaken for normalization of the relations. Everybody knows how China backstabbed us in 1962 after giving the slogan of Hindi Cheeni Bhai Bhai. Today China is actively constructing its Army bases in neighboring Nepal. It has even laid down its hi tech railway lines and roads in close proximity to our borders with Nepal playing a major role in helping them. Even the Nepalese population is widespread in various blocks, districts, and cities of Uttarakhand. China is absolutely readying itself to capture, militarily our border areas and villages by bringing the local Nepalese people into confidence. Moreover, in view of our border villages being emptied day by day by the local populace in view of the dearth of employment and other opportunities our already fragile borders are in grave danger. It’s only because of this major lacunae I had always been appealing to the central government to formulate a concrete Himalayan policy for all the Himalayan states of the country so as to enable not only the solid conservation of the environment of the Himalayas but also to safeguard the borders of the Himalayan states from the possible Chinese armed intrusion inside our already porous borders. Apart from this, we will also have to change the land use of the hills including the phased wise clearance of the pine trees from the higher altitudes of the hilly terrains which are a direct  threat to our agricultural and mountainous lands(slopes)  making them totally barren and not prone to cultivation any further. The pine trees make the soil fully acetic and therefore impotent in terms of crops cultivation. All these measures would have to be inculcated in the Himalayan Policy structure of the government if we actually y want our hills, Himalayan states and Himalayas to be protected from future onslaughts of nature and our neighboring China. In addition to this, the government is hell bent upon constructing bigger dams in the Himalayan states which are the completely anti environment, anti rivers, anti people and anti development.  In nutshell, I would say that formulation of a concrete Himalayan policy with the above-cited points and change of land use of Uttarakhand hills compounded with small and run of the river hydropower projects n repatriation of people from cities to hills is the only effective alternative that can save Uttarakhand from further destruction and deaths.

Question: Recently, the government of Uttarakhand had in principle agreed to your proposal that the pine trees situated at high altitudes of the mountains will be abruptly cut in a phased manner, under a special policy to rid the hills of this dangerous species, which is entirely harmful. Does it not amount to fulfilling of one of your major long pending demands? Are u satisfied now?

Had it been so easy and convenient, I think the previous governments would have conveniently made the Uttarakhand hills bereft of these pine trees. Making hills bereft of pine trees is one thing but planning multiple species of productive and environmentally friendly tree in large numbers alternatively to substantiate for the losses of pine is another important aspect of the problem. You see, you can’t make the forests bald at a single go without arranging for the planting of a huge number of good species on the high altitude terrains. If the mountainous terrains are made completely bereft of pine trees in a single go or even in a phased manner the hills will become completely bald and there will be imminent danger of earthquakes, floods, landslides, natural catastrophes and another sort of calamities.  The roots of the trees not only keep the soil together but also stop the floods and avoid huge landslides are the order of the day in the Uttarakhand Hills. Not only this but the ­ incessant and massive cutting of pine trees will apart from creating environmental and ecological havoc also create a new breed of timber mafia who under the guise of making huge profits will also cut other useful species of productive and environment-friendly trees. Uttarakhand is unfortunately already in the grip of such mafias who are amassing huge wealth in collaboration with politicians by way of illegal mining in various parts of the state as a result of which the already fragile environment of Uttarakhand is at stake and giving birth to natural calamities of gigantic proportions.

Question: You had always been concerned for the environmental conservation and deforestation of the Hills and had been on 74 days hunger strike against Tehri dam. How do u look at the catastrophic disaster of Kedar Valley that happened in June 2013? Can we avert such calamities in the near future?

Nobody can ever control the catastrophic disasters nor can we predict it on the definite basis as to when exactly the calamity arrives. Yes, we can counter it to a great extent. Today, unfortunately, under the guise of revolutionary scientific developments and the blind uncontrolled race of technological advancements, the whole world is in the grip of global warming created by huge green house emissions. A vast population of India and other countries of the world are suffering from various respiratory disorders and diseases like asthma, of heart and lungs including contagious abnormalities. This dangerous trend of global warming has not only increased the mortality rate world over but has also resulted in speedy melting of the Himalayan glaciers which are highly dangerous to the global civilization’s existence. The gigantic Himalayan catastrophe of 2013 which I consider purely a manmade one is merely an indication of future disasters in the offing measuring as just a tip of an iceberg. Whenever the humanity has played with nature under the guise of anti environmental scientific developments or advancements, nature has slapped humanity and governments with massive ecological disasters like that of Kedar valley one that happened in June 2013.Uttarakhand Himalaya is considered to be an abode of Gods where spiritual and cultural tourism would have been majorly encouraged but unfortunately the unholy nexus of the capitalists, builders, contractor, politicians and corrupt bureaucracy has by way of building huge dams, buildings, luxury hotels, buildings for commercial gains and huge structures alongside the rivers have literally played havoc with our already fragile environment, hills, rivers and the local populace thus inviting such huge calamities taking the toll of thousands and leading to colossal loss to public exchequer. We shouldn’t forget that huge dams not only control the smooth flow of rivers but also lead to massive landslides and therefore in return to flash floods. The explosions at dam sites lead to landslides and make our hills hollow and vibratory from inside. Lots of deforestation takes place. Mountains become bereft of plants, trees, and green vegetation. And when an earthquake occurs the hollow and weak hills in the form of huge landslides including building come down like the pack of cards. The tons of silt coming out of the tunnels of dams fall straightaway in the rivers making them narrow and hugely prone to flash floods. There are umpteen other reasons that make our hills and its environment prone to such disasters and fatal consequences.

Interview of Sunder Lal Bahuguna, eminent environmentalist of world fame By SUNIL NEGI

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China directs Pakistan to shunt Hafiz Sayeed out of the country

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An extremely significant political development has come into effect that the traditional ally of Pakistan which has been till date promoting Pakistan in all its anti India endeavours like obstructing international terrorist and head of Jamaait Ul Dawa Mohammed Azar as being labelled as International terrorist in the UN list and India’s entry in the prestigious Nucleur Suppliers Group etc has now castigated Pakistan for aiding and abetting the dreaded terrorist and Mumbai’s 21/ 11 mastermind that killed 160 people and directed Pakistan to send him to any country of the West with immediate effect as the latter is considered to be the greatest threat to the entire Asian Subcontinent.

China’s recent directive to Pakistan in the context of the dreaded terrorist Hafiz Sayeed is being assesed in International forum as China’s vindication of India’s stand that Pakistan had been consistently sponsering terrorists in its periphery particularly the hard core terror sponsers like Lashkare Tayyeba chief Hafiz Sayeed and Jamait Ul Dava’s Mohammed Azhar but had been always turning a blind eye thus boosting Pakistan’s morale to carry on its anti India stance.

Even China’s bete niore USA has also held Pakistan responsible for sponsering terror activities in Afghanistan, India and the Western world and had stopped the annual military aid after Donald Trump assumed the significant office of the US presidentship. Trump literally scolded Pakistan’s political and military leadership of openly supporting terrorists and and terror sanctuaries in various parts of Pakistan including POK and misusing the American Aid by aiding and abetting terror than to eliminating them from their land. As a sequel to this threat Donald Trump stopped the financial aid till Pakistan really proves its mettle in dismentalling the terror camps and terrorists

The entire credit for the sudden change of dragon’s mind in asking Pakistan to shunt Hafiz Sayeed out of the country is being attributed to Prime minister Narendra Modi and the NSA Ajit Doval die hard efforts and meticulous diplomacy, who had done tremendous ground work on this pivotal issue and finally proved successful in convincing the Chinese head Xi Zingping to apply pressure on the Pak leadership who are fully in the grip of him and can in no way avoid his directives.

Today China is running the economy of Pakistan which is literally shattered, particularly after stopping of the financial aid to Pakistan by USA. The country is tremendous financial crunch not even able to pay the interests against the huge international borrowings.

Half of the POK is under Chinese occupation through its heavy investment in China Pakistan Economic corridor worth 40 billion USD.

The national elections in Pakistan are also due in the near future and China who had tremendous stake in Pakistan would never like that dreaded and hard core terrorists like Hafiz Sayeed and his political off shoots enter the Pak assembly creating problems for dragons in future.

Hence in the interest of India, China and rest of the western world crushing such hard core terrorists is the need of the hour.

However, it still remains to be seen as to how much strongly and credibly Pakistan acts on Chinese instructions on the issue of Hafiz Sayeed and if the dragon is really serious and honest on this issue.

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Kumaraswamy sworn in the 24th CM of Karnataka. Significant presence of galaxy of non BJP opposition leaders in the swearing in ceremony

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The leader of the minority group of mere 38 MLAs and former chief minister H. D. Kumaraswamy has finally been sworn in as Karnataka’s CM today at the highly decorated precincts of Vidhan Saudha, originally the Mysore palace in the presence of the gallaxy of almost all the non BJP opposition leaders of the country including the Andhra CM Chandra Babu Naidu who left NDA just a few months ago, in the conspicuous absence of Bollywood star turned politician Kamal Hassan and the Telangana chief minister T Chandra Shekhar Rao.

The oath of office was delievered by the controvertial governor Vajubhai Vala to HD Kumara Swamy of Janata Dal (S) and G. Parameshwara of Congress as the 24th chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively. HD Kumaraswamy is the son of the octogenerian former prime minister of India HD Devegowda, who was also present in the swearing in ceremony seen receiving all the opposition leaders with generosity and ambivalence, despite being not in so good health condition.

Prominent amongst those present in the swearing in ceremony were Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, AICC president Rahul Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati, Lok Dal President Ajit Singh, West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee, Andhra CM N. Chandra Babu Naidu, CPM general Secretary Sita Yachuri, Chandra Babu Naidu, Sharad Yadav, CPI national Secretary D. Raja, Danish Ali, Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, BSP MP and general Secretary Mishra, RJD’s Laloo Prasasd Yadav’s son and former deputy chief minister Bihar Tejasvi Yadav, Kerala chief minister Mr. Vijayan Pirayani, veteran leader, NCP’s Sharad Pawar and former UP minister, SP MLA Rajendra Choudhary.

However, the prominent super star of the south and Bollywood actor turned politician Kamal Hassan and Telangana chief minister Chandra Shekhar Rao were conspicuous by their absence. Both the chief minister and Deputy CM took the oath in Kannada.

Thousands of people participated in the swearing in ceremony which lasted hardly for 40 minutes altogether.

The atmosphere was too cordial and all the anti BJP opposition leaders met each other most heartily waving to the cheers of the crowd. The chemistry between Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi seemed to be extremely cordial with Sonia and Mayawati holding each other’s hands’ tight and embracing one another smilingly. They also posed for a photograph holding high each others’ hands alongwith other opposition leaders soon after the swearing in ceremony.

The West Bengal CM Mamta Bannerjee who came just before the swearing in did not go to meet Rahul, Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi but was seen in deliberations with Andra CM Chandra Babu Naidu who didn’t mixed much with this trio of Mayawati, Sonia and Rahul for the reasons best known to him. However, later on Mamta met Mayawati , Akhilesh Yadav and Sonia Rahul duo too, pleasingly. However, when Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi arrived on the stage they first of all went to Mamta Bannerjee and exchanged pleasentaries remaining closeted with her for some moments.

This swearing in ceremony witnessed such a huge gathering of the non BJP opposition leaders of all partes after a long time unambiguously sending a transparent message across that leaving few ifs and buts, majority of them are very much in a mood to unify against prime minister Narendra Modi and his BJP led NDA government in the run up for the 2019 national elections, particularly after the successful Karnataka experiment and earlier victories in the bypolls in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar defeating the saffron party in its own home turfs.

They seemed to have clearly understood that if thay at all want to stop the Modi juggernaut and avoit splitting of votes they will have to under any circumstances come together on one political platform in complete unanimity and todays conglomeration at Bengaluru gives an impressiin about something very credible and positive likely to happen in the near future.

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Forest fires of Uttarakhand result in raising the temperature of the hills !

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The massive fires in the forests of the hills of Uttarakhand has not only created havoc to its precious wild life, flora and fauna, the timber, green trees and the soil including damage to the catchment areas killing the pivotal water sources, it has also resulted in enhancing the temperature of the summers to 41 degree celsious in towns like Dehradun and 29/ 35 degree celsious in the interior hills termed to be the summer destinations which used to remain pleasent and pretty cool.

What is more worrying is the fact that the fire which has started from Pauri forests or the adjoining hill districts has now engulfed the forests of Tehri, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Karnprayag and even Uttarkashi and the pictures of deers, cows, calves n roasted condition ging viral in facebook, though not yet authenticated as from which areas these pictures of dead animals in forest forest have been procured from.

Even in the stretches of Kotdwar jungles this ravaging fire have spread. According to the latest new reports, the expeditiously ravaged forests by massive fires which is still continuing due to the air pressure has also led to increase in the temperature of the hill areas particularly the towns and cities already under the influence of global warming.

Though the staff of the forest division are trying their best to didge the fire through whatever minimum means they possess but the magnitude of the fire has now gained such a tremendous proortion that its not within the reach of the limited staff of the forest departmentdevid of the lated hi tech technical facilities and equipments.

The only and the best way, though highly expensive is sprinkling of water over the forests fires through helicopters as done in countries abroad as depending on natural rains would be an extremely risky and dangerous proposition.

It may be recalled that UK had rain deficit of 68%. And Pauri Garhwal is already reeling under 82% rain deficit since Dec, Jan months. Therefore the entire forest cover has gone dry thus enraging widespread fire on a rapid scale. Decrease in rain increases temperatures and results in forest fires.

Moreover, it has been a tradition of burning the dry grass during summers expecting the birth of new grass after monsoon for fodder of animals. And in this immature exercise the entire jungles are put on fire causing irreperable damage to the flora and fauna and the wild animals on a vast scale. Some disgruntled elements also do it deliberately pre strategically and conspiratorially for various vested interests.

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