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(INDIA 30)








Chandra Dhungi village, Alaknanda valley, Chamoli


May 1994


Although this is a short interview the narrator’s responses are detailed and contain some interesting perspectives, particularly on development and forestry. The narrator begins by describing his own efforts to plant trees: “If every individual makes an effort at his own level then definitely the hill region can be developed.” He other views on forest development include a need to amend the Forest Act: “The Forest Act…made at the time of the British government has not been amended by the Indian government.” He believes in the need for more mixed forests as other species struggle to survive in areas dominated by pine. Prepared to experiment himself, he applauds the tree-planting efforts of Jagat (India 10), another narrator who is doing his best to convert pine to mixed forest.

Like other narrators, Dhoom stresses the importance of self-help and self-sufficiency. He is optimistic about the potential of his area, with its abundant natural resources, but feels its prospects of development will be much improved if the separate state of Uttarkhand is formed. “We have forests. We can set up factories for processing herbs. We can generate electricity from water. Instead of Tehri Dam and the dam in Srinagar, small dams should be made to generate electricity.”

Although he questions the development potential of large dams and believes small dams would be a better investment, especially for the inhabitants of the hills, he is not averse to modern approaches to farming. The production of cash crops, development of orchards and the introduction of improved breeds of livestock are all mentioned as having potential. He calls on the young generation to take an interest in farming and agriculture as well as their formal studies, so that they can make a greater contribution to the development of their area.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  He returned to the village following a period in the army and another job. “After coming home I made a plan based on a book I had read by a philosopher who said one should plant trees, and that fruit as well as wood for construction could be obtained from trees.” Describes his own tree-planting efforts: “Last year I sowed oak seeds that have germinated. I have planted at least 200 trees of mango, guava, banana, lemon etc.” The benefits of trees. Compares the hills and plains: “The environment is polluted in the plains, hills are still like heaven. But they can be heaven only when we plant trees and grow forests.” His belief that “only that person has a right to cut trees who plants them. Who does not plant trees has no right to cut them.” Threat from villagers cutting green wood.
Section 2  Increase in population has placed an extra strain on forest resources: “The village with only 10 families, today has 100 families, but the resources are still available only for 10 families.” Need to convert monoculture pine forests to mixed forests. Importance of local production: “If we cultivate our own vegetables then some change will come. Tomato is being sold for Rs10/kg, ginger and chilli are being sold above Rs30/kg. Wherever there is availability of water, everything can be cultivated there.” But he goes on to explain “We are quite orthodox. We are carrying on with our old tradition. We will have to sow cash crops in place of mandua and jhangora (varieties of millet). Only then can we progress.” Changes in diet: in the past people ate better and were stronger, whereas today “they get up in the morning and drink tea”. He also criticises the trend following fashion: “These days there is lot of fashion from Bombay but they don’t realise that there is vast difference in the climate of Bombay and Himalaya.” Increase in number of gram sabhas (village assemblies): “If the financial aid is put to proper use then something can be done. We badly need to be educated. The inter-college in our area has only six vacancies… how can our children progress?”
Section 3  Although self-sufficient in agricultural terms he is now concentrating more on fruit tree production. Would also like to see improved breeds of livestock reach the area and would personally like to start a fishery but says: “As long as Uttarkhand is not formed, progress in this region would be difficult.” However, he is optimistic about the potential of this area. “If Uttarakhand is formed separately, and the representatives are alert, then how can it stop progress? What resources do we not have? From the border of Nepal to Kalsi (Himachal), and between the plains, there is abundant prosperous area.” He believes in the development of small dams as opposed to large ones like the Tehri: “how can the large dams lead to the development of the hills?” Criticises the young generation for cheating in their exams. Migration: “The main difference in Garhwal and Kumaon is that if someone from Garhwal gets into a good job, he goes and settles outside. Whereas people from Kumaon come back to their villages and cities on retirement… A man told me that in Kumaon the retired officers come home and guide the younger generation. That is why Kumaon has progressed.”
Section 4  “Agriculture is a good occupation because it is our own work… The boys of the young generation, along with their studies should also do their own agricultural work.” He’s been experimenting with growing ginger. The villagers are planting fruit trees but need assistance from the administration to protect them from monkeys and porcupines. Note on the situation of women: “The condition of women is the same as was before… there has been a change only in their attire… When the environment of the home is right, only then can the environment of the country be right as well.”