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The world famous environmentalist and receipient of several national and international coveted awards and recognitions for his exemplary contribution in the field of environment protection and creating global awareness through his and Gaura Devi’s Chipko movement ensuring end to the arbitrary practice of the mass and indiscrimate felling of trees by the forest mafia in the cohesive green jungles of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in 1973 and thereafter, Dr. Sunder Lal Bahuguna turns 92 having taken birth in a tiny village of Garhwal Uttarakhand on 8th January 1927.

A Gandhian by thought, philosophy and actions, Sunder Lal Bahuguna’s protracted career of 70 long years as a freedom fighter, the Congressman, a renowned social activist , a relentless fighter for socio cultural and environmental causes and as a vivacious reader and a prolific writer on environmental and ecological issues starts from his age of just 13 years when he was an adoloscent and actively participated in freedom movement and also against the tyrannical rule of the then Tehri Kingdom having been jailed number of times under the leadership of the then freedom fighter, a social reformer and leader of the masses Sridev Suman.

Recipient of several prestigious awards to name a few – Padma Vibhushan, Padma Shree, Megsaysay and Right lively hood award including scores of other honours Sunder Lal Bahuguna refused the Noble Peace Prize on environment in view of and as a mark of protest against the incessant degradation of global ecology and increasing green house emmisions . Immensely supported and assisted by his better half and herself a Sarvodayi woman leader Vimla Devi having worked with Gandhiji for several years , the latter, while marrying to Sunder Lal Bahuguna has put a condition that if Bahuguna would agree to live in the villages and work for the environmental protection and help the rural people, then only will she tie a knot with him. And Sunderlalji readily agreed.

They both served the masses while living in villages and formed an Ashram providing free lodging, boarding and education to the local youths for decades known as Thakker Baba Ashram. Having visited almost the entire world in world environment conferences on the invitation of various green organisations, and governments, Sunder Lal Bahuguna made a special mark by his eloquent speeches by educating the people of the world on discouraging indiscrimate felling of trees, encouraging more and more plantations and emphasising the dire need for cohesive and dense forests with clean flawless rivers considered to be the lungs and the major life line of the societies.

Bahuguna made history when he first undertook 47 days hunger strike at the site of the Tehri Dam stopping its work and lateron 74 days hungerstrike at Rajghat under the tenures of Prime ministers Narsimha Rao and HD Devegowda. An ardent proponent of small and run of the riven dams, author of several books and hundreds of articles and papers on environment, Sunder Lal Bahuguna is a globally popular and widely recognised environmentalist who made the entire world aware and mobilised by his internationaly known CHIPKO MOVEMENT alongwith Gaura Devi, the founder and her co villagers ( all women) against the rampant and indiscrimate felling of trees not only in the Uttarakhand hills but also in various countries of the world. I was also fortunate to interview him in detail at his Dehradun house twice and also present my book Havoc in Heaven to him. He too presented his one of the books with his affectionate hand written remarks.
SUNIL NEGI, PRESIDENT, UTTARAKHAND JOURNALISTS FORUM

Education

When would the NAMAME GANGE project really fructify?

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The union government has formulated a separate ministry for cleaning pious Ganges and Yamuna and has already allotted about twenty thousand crores for this highly over ambitious project with the prime minister Narendra Modi himself taking personal interest in the matter, having visited Varanasi Ghat number of times and even brought two foreign heads of the state there. This flagship initiative of PM Modi known as Namaame Gange was started in 2014 with a budget of Rs 4000 crores later on enhanced to 20000 crores with the objective to get Ganga rid of its worst pollution and modernising its ghats from starting till end including giving it entirely a new high tech look making it river sports friendly too.

The seriousness of the prime minister in Ganga’s cleanliness and rejuvenation can be gauged from the fact that not only has he enhanced the budget of this head, from 4 thousand to twenty thousands crores but has also shunted out the former minister Uma Bharti after having found her incompetent on this score.

But the moot point is what’s the use of these credible intiatives at the PM’s level when despite so much of seriousness on Narendra Modi’s part things are not crystallizing or concretely materialising at the ground level. Though lot of work seem to have been started on this front as given us to understand, the incessantly deteriorating condition of the Ganga at Haridwar, Rishikesh and even at Varanasi unambiguously gives an impression that things are still at square on and very little or negligible is being actually done to clean the Ganges considered to be the pious diety holding special religious and spiritual significance for billions of Indians from all over the country and abroad.

Even today good number huge drains carrying thousands of tonnes of rubbish, human excreata n faeces, chemicals and poisionous waste of the leather industries called tanneries fall into this river compounded with myriad amount of plastics, polythenes, human waste and material used in spiritual activities all along the route from Haridwar to Allahabad. I remember when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister he too had started a Clean Ganga project incurring hundreds of thousands of crores but finally it was given up for the reasons best known to the government who put it in cold storage.

Last year in one of the Ganga Ghats several human corpses were found on the banks of filthy Ganges. During the season of KAAVAD, lakhs and lakhs of Lord Shiva devotees from all over the country throng Haridwar and Rishikesh and literally make mess of the area by leaving behind hundreds of thousands of killograms of rubbish, polythine and plastic bottles including left overs n dirty clothes thus polluting the already polluted Ganga.

The insanitary condition of the river banks and ghats where one can see massive amount of dirt, leftovers, human excreata and plastic materials, unambiguously speak of the sorry state of our local municipalities and the various state governments as well, who literally show THENGA to the clean Ganga and Swach Bharat flagship campaigns of prime minister’ Narendra Modi who earnestly seems to be too serious on both these counts. What is more shocking is the fact that the tributaries of Ganga like Yamuna and Hindon etc are in extremely bad, ugly and dying phase and more than 2000 crores worth of money has already been spent with no result in sight.

A recent survey by one of the prestigious pollution control body has revealed in its indept analysis that Ganga water even posseses myriad amount of faecal contents not prone to drinking purpose and desease prone as well thus throwing a direct challenge to the river’s pious relevance. The more shocking revelation by the principal scientist of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute Dr. V Kripa says that going by the current trend of increasing unchecked plastic prevalance in oceons and rivers of the country, by the year 2050 about 850 million metric tons of plastic will accumulate in the oceon compared to 821 million metric tons of fish. This is really shocking and highly disturbing a revelation.

Since the day BJP led NDA assumed power at the centre, almost four years have passed and we are heading for another national election but Ganga rejuvenation project seems to have stuck on the way, somewhere, with no hope of the Ganges becoming really clean. What would be the answer of this government to the people on on this pivotal issue, on whose mandate it came to power in 2014 and would again be striving hard to repeat it in 2019, is anybody’s guess. What’s your take friends?
SUNIL NEGIP

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Academic career of over 25 lakh students affected by paper leaks of 10th n 12th students, nationally

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About 11,38,306 and 16,38,428 students of class 12th and 10th classes have been adversely affected by the paper leaks of economics and maths subjects in the recently held board exams.

It’s a real blot on the face of the Central Board of Secondary Education for this mess and re- announcing the rescheduling of the exams thus playing with the acedemic future of over 24 lakh students at the pan India level.

There are protest demonstrations all over the country with students questioning the credibility of the CBSE chairman and secretary and even going to the extend of demanding the formers’ resignation. The affected students and their agonised parents are questioning as to why, for the fault and crime of the few, lakhs of students of both 10th and 12th standard should suffer.
The students of class 12th are especially worried saying that after the arbitrary announcement for re appear they will have to prepare for 12th board exams as well as the entrance exams for colleges which is quite an uphill and stupendous task. The crime branch is already on the job to find the real truth and conspiracy behind the paper leaks which has become a usual phenomenon these days.

What is more worrisome situation is the fact that due to the 4 days holidays there is not a single responsible senior official at the CBSE headquarter in Delhi and states to answer the genuine queries of the worried parents of the affected students and the media.

The question papers were leaked just 24 hours before the conduction of the 10th and 12th board exams of maths and economic papers.The students of other states are badly shocked and anguished as they have studied hard for hours together every day and are questioning the authorities as to why should they suffer for the leaks that took place in Delhi and not in their state or region. Two cases have been registered in this matter and 25 persons have been questioned so far with two deputy commissioners on the job.

The leaked paper got leaked in the whatsapp group of few teachers and students. The crime branch is trying to nail out the main source of the paper leaks and who are the actual benefeciaries. The police has so far only interrogated and no one has been arrested so far. Nobody has been given the clean chit so far and interrogation is being continued with 5 private tutors as well including 18 students of different schools of Delhi.

Most of these students are first year students. These details were given in the Delhi police briefing right now appearing in TV channels. A mail message is the main source of the initial information.
SUNIL NEGI

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Uttarakhand’s education system and schools in terrible mess

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The education system and the schools in Uttarakhand are passing through an extremely pitiable phase with tentatively over 2000 schools either closed or near closure due to the increasingly decreasing students’ addmissions in the rural areas, dilapidated conditions of school buildings, lack of teachers or the diminishing teaching standards.

However, the government says that the its happening because there is tremendous dearth of students where as the number of teachers is more in several primary and middle schools. Whatever, but one thing is absolutely clear that the successive state governments have literally failed in upgrading the standard of primary, middle, secondary and intermediate schools and colleges in entire Uttarakhand resulting in schools in dilapidated conditions with shattered roofs, leaking walls, students sitting on mats, non availability of quality mid day meals, absense of desks, furnitures, science labs, lavatories, computers, uniforms, staff and even teachers of English and science in particular.

In all there are approximately 17000 schools in entire Uttarakhand with 2300 primary schools financed by the government of the state. Out of these, about 2000 schools have already been closed due to shortage of students as per the logic of the state government. Though there had been tremendous tall claims by the state education minister and the secreyary education of improving the quality of education and providing the latest infrastructure to improvise the education system but if one visits in the majority of the schools situated in the interior villages the situation is tragically appalling.

After the influx and exodus of over 30 lakh people from villages to the cities, towns and metroplises of the state andthe country due to the absence of decentralised development and lack of basic health, jobs and educational facilities the conditions of the educatiin system and government schools have become bad to worse thus opening doors for more and more english medium high profile private schools and institututions in the hills who are minting handsome profits in collusion with the state authorities.

It may be recalled that even the High Court of the State has in 2016 while expressing serious concern over the appaling condition of the primary, middle and Secondary schools of the state has issued clear directions to the state government to improve the deteriorating standards of schools in Ittarakhand by providing mid day meals of high quality, renovating all the dilapidated buildings, arranging computers, adequate science labs, providing free winter and summer dresses, arranging adequate number of toilets in schools, especially for girl students, providing desks and furnitures and sports facilities to the students but of no avail.

Not only this but the Uttarakhand Child Rights Commission too has in 2018 written to the chief secretary about the sorry state of affairs in government schools of the Uttarakhand hills after conducting in depth surveys and have given them seventeen points about the various inadequacies with which the students are suffering. But despite all this nothing fruitful seems to have been done except hollow promises and mere cover ups despite the governments tall claims of allocating maximum budget to the education sector of the state.

The point is had there been quality education in the schools of Uttarakhand and availability of the minimum basic facilities why would 2000 schools witness the tragic end of closure. It’s really shocking that on four important sectors of rural health, education, employment and agricultural development the successive governments of Congress and BJP has literally failed thus encouraging uncontrollable exodus of peoole from the villages to plains.

This unambiguously speaks of the fact that while Uttarakhand lacks leaders and planners with accurate developmental vision there seems to be an urgentand mandatory need for shifting the state capital from Dehradun to Gairsain to enable a clear cut decentralised village oriented development, the actual concept for which separate Uttarakhand state came into existence 18 years ago. The main reason behind the lack of an overall development and the environmental friendly scientific innovation in the interior hills is due to the non participation of our lawmakers, planners, engineers and bureaucracy etc in the core hill development issues like health, education, agriculture, improving water augmentation, sewer system, horticulture and the small and cottege industries etc.

And thisis because no one wants to climb the hills or becomeparticipatory in the developmental process by living in the interiors with their families. They have become prone to comfirts and luxuries of the capital Dehradun. The declaration and contruction of the new capital right between the hills equidistance from Kumaon and Garhwal districts will inculcate in them an urge and necessity for the decentralised development and as such Gairsain is the need of the hour. It will also lead with reverse migration on a massive scale opening a new chapter of a vibrant and resurgent Uttarakhand. What’s your take friends?
SUNIL NEGI, PRESIDENT, UTTARAKHAND JOURNALISTS FORUM

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