photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 28)








Jardhargoan, Henval valley, Tehri Garhwal


January 1995



Section 1
What is your name?
Vijay Jaddhari.

How old are you?
I am 41 years old.

Where do you live?
At Nagni in Tehri Garhwal. My organisation is called Beej Bachao Andolan (Save Traditional Seeds Movement).

How many members are there in your family?
We are husband and wife and five children - four daughters and one son.

Do they go to school?
Yes, my son is in class VII and the girls in lower classes. The youngest has not yet started schooling.

What are your views on women’s education?
It is as important as educating our sons.

Is yours a traditional joint family or do you live separately?
Ours was a joint family earlier, but not any more. We are two brothers, the elder brother is in service. We separated about 15 years ago.

Which family system is better, do you think?
According to the old system the joint family was a better arrangement, but gradually it is disappearing. Every human being is planning to set up a separate household. But I feel, if it can work, that the joint family system is much better.

Why do you think is the joint family system breaking down?
It is because we all have started thinking in individualistic ways. Also the work opportunities and culture make us independent.

What facilities do you have in this village for sanitation and for health care for the family?
Not too many. In the places where they have built hospitals, there are no doctors. If doctors are available, there are no medicines. In our village we have an ANM (Ante Natal and Maternity) Centre, but the ANM sees patients only after one or two weeks. At times she comes once in a month. Even the midwife, specially arranged to look after the well-being of the mother and child, is not available at times. There is hardly any facility provided at the centre.
Section 2
How did people look after their health before this centre was opened?
Frankly speaking, all these centres are not interested in the well-being of the public as much as they are keen on working for family planning schemes. When people take ill they still go to the hospital at Chamba, 11 km away. They have to buy the medicines from the market. These centres and even the general public are not really interested in how to remain healthy, but they give more importance to medicines. Even the workers of the health centre are only bothered about family planning.

What do you think of the old system of medicine?
Those were very good. As long as we were young our parents, or our relatives, treated the sick in the family with herbs. They got well after those medicines. Jeera (cumin) was a very popular medicine. If some one had fever he was given jeera and was made to sweat. This cured the patient. In earlier times there were hardly any diseases because whatever people ate was absolutely natural and pure.

What else can you tell me about the traditional medicines?
For small ailments the village vaid (practitioner of indigenous medicine) gave only herbal medicines.

Do tell me about religion, customs, marriage ceremonies and relationships.
As an individual I am not very religious. My religion is humanism mainly. Along with that I also believe in the transcendental side of it too. By transcendentalism I mean that whatever a man feels about God – all those feelings should be expressed. Whatever it be, religion does mean good behaviour. Religion teaches this first and foremost. But today, in the present context, religion has been used to mislead people to fight and indulge in sectarianism and fanaticism.
In the hills we have marriages within the caste. The Rajputs have alliances with Rajputs, Brahmins with Brahmins, Harijans (low castes) with Harijans. Within the family, no one as a relative is treated as superior or inferior. They are treated as equals.

What changes have been brought about in the status of women?
Earlier the plight of women was very pathetic, but since the time they have become slightly aware, there has been some improvement. In the olden days there was a saying “zanami jatt, andheri raat” (women kind was compared to a dark night). But there is a lot of awakening among the Uttarakhand women in the hills and the saying has been proved wrong. Women have played a very active and important role in many a movement. First, they were very active in the prohibition movement. Then came the Chipko movement. In short, women have come out in great numbers to participate in all the movements in the hill region. Not only do they take part, they have also led several of them.
Section 3
Who shoulders more of family responsibilities, men or women?
In earlier times men used to remain at home so the burden did not fall entirely on women. Both men and women took on household chores, agriculture, cattle rearing and many other odd jobs in the family. But these days the men from the hills go the plains and cities in search of a livelihood. Hence women have to bear the entire burden. They go out early in the morning in search of firewood as well as look after the children. They have to travel long distances to fetch water. In addition to the household duties they also have to take on social responsibilities. There are many functions and festivals where they play a greater role. Another very interesting factor worth noticing is that when in comes to working in the fields – the men only plough it and after that all the agriculture-related activities fall to the women like turning the soil, weeding, watering, reaping, mandai (harvesting) – all these are done by women only.

What is the main occupation of the people here?
Mainly agriculture. In addition we rear cattle. I, personally, am busy writing also. We also sell whatever vegetables etc that we grow here.

Do tell me the history of your family?
I have heard from my forefathers that we have been living here for 18-20 generations. They originally came from Rajasthan and we are supposed to be the descendants of Jagder Pawar. Two of the brothers had originally come and settled here and now we have about 285-300 families.

What education facilities are provided here in Nagni?
We have two primary schools and one junior school. After passing out from here the children go to the Intermediate College at Nagni. Close by is another school, Nagdel Pathald High School, where children from the nearby villages go for schooling. Ours is a very scattered village so children go to the nearby school.

Are you satisfied with the educational system?
No, I am not. The foundation of the primary level has deteriorated greatly. A primary school teacher does not consider himself as a teacher as much as he considers himself to be an employee or a trade union worker. Therefore, the standard of education at the primary school level has gone down. The number of books has been increased so has the weight of the school bag, but teaching goes on with complete disregard for the psychology of young children. Also, schools remain closed for weeks on end. In cases where there are two teachers (male or female) they come by turns, one person one week and the other one the next week. In other areas also it is the same story. Therefore, a general decline in standards is evident at the primary school level. The foundation has completely deteriorated.

How can education be made socially useful?
The teachers should be regular. The system – the entire educational structure needs to be revised. Along with the basics of education, training in our old professions should also be given. Because when a child gets higher education, say up to the degree or intermediate level he or she is totally ignorant about his traditional profession like farming and cattle rearing.
Section 4
How strong is the community feeling nowadays, where everyone helps everyone else?
This feeling of mutual help has completely died in all the villages located near the roadside. Now all the help rendered during marriages, festivals or house construction is being done by paid labour. But in the far-flung interior villages, which so far have not been spoilt by the so-called modern culture, a lot of jobs get done with mutual help. Take for instance the job of ropai (plantation). It used to be collectively done by men, women and children in dozens. Similarly, mutual help was rendered for farming, house construction and a host of other jobs. This was locally termed as grabhaul. You can see the old chajje (awnings) on tevar (old houses). They are very heavy and taking them to the higher areas, on difficult and tough roads, was next to impossible. But hundreds of people used to make a sangh (group), and carried them to the village. In my village we still have some spirit of mutual help remaining. For example, when a solid (brick and cement) house is under construction, a lot of steel has to be brought from Nagni. So 20 to 30 people together go, make their bundles and bring the steel to the village. Similarly, they do render help in the field of agriculture too.

How far are collective decisions or orders effective and implemented?
You must be referring to the panchayat (village council) and its decisions. In our village, Jaddhar, we still do have faith in them. If there are cases of some small disputes or quarrels – they do not take the cases to the courts. Smaller disputes are mutually settled by sitting together and collectively discussing the matter. The wrongdoer is often punished, or if advice works, then both the parties are given advice and they are satisfied.

How many castes are found in your village?
We have the old residents, namely Negi, Jaddhari, some Thapas, Sonds, Rawats and some Bhalwal. We have many Harijans: about 40 to 50 families. We have some Rajgiri, carpenters (Badai), blacksmiths and the oldest of castes – the goldsmiths, who came here a long time ago. They are called Gadoi and they are basically musicians.

Has the condition of Harijans changed?
Some of them like Rajgiris and Badais, their condition has improved. But the condition of those who are musicians or other Harijans has not changed very much. They greatly depend on aid, help or dadwar (fixed amount of grain given in exchange for work) or government loans. Hence they do not seem to have improved their general condition.

A vast difference in the thinking and ideals of the old and the new generation can be seen. What could be the reason for that, in your opinion?
The main cause is the modern, younger man, and the modern media, which is very effective. Even the modern markets are a powerful influence. If our hill men go out to bigger cities, they find the glamour too tempting to resist, particularly for the young men. They get the wrong ideas and feel that a trip to a city teaches you a new style of fashion, eating manners. So they have become quite urban in their style. But the older generation did not show off. The modern generation is affected and artificial. They are ashamed of doing their own work. For example, jobs like picking up cow-dung, cutting grass or carrying loads etc. There are many young men these days who are working in the cities and when they get back there, after a break in the village their mothers or sisters carry their holdall or suitcases and they walk ahead unashamed, empty-handed.
Section 5
What are the traditional customs, fairs, festivals, religious ceremonies and what role do they play in your society?
If we had a drought people prayed to God for rains. People of our village in such weather conditions, prayed to Devi Surkanda, the Kul Devi (household deity) of our village. We do so even today. It always rained when we prayed. Call it coincidence or faith, but people had a very strong belief in it. I am narrating an incidence, which is 25 years old. There was a terrible drought and people had gone to worship Devi Surkanda. We believed that we must repair or renovate the temple, but we noticed that there was no water anywhere. The villagers decided to bring the water from another place. They had taken a vow that the temple would be constructed and covered with padhale (slates) if the Devi gave water. So they all slept after dinner but at about midnight it started thundering and rained heavily. There was water everywhere - even the underground temple tank was full. The people were able to repair the temple very well and returned home. You can see, therefore, that our religious beliefs are more for collective well-being than individual gains. The fairs were a pure means of meeting people, the daughters meeting their parents after marriage and long-separated friends meeting each other during the fairs. Earlier the means of transportation hardly existed and these fairs provided a chance for people to travel to a common place and meet everyone. We used to have a number of fairs in the month of Baisakh. There was the fair of Ganga Dussehra at Surkunda which people from different pattis (groups of villages) used to attend. They used to sing their traditional folk songs and spent many nights there, singing, dancing, playing on various instruments. It used to be a wonderful sight.

What are the local religious beliefs, how are they celebrated and are they still kept alive?
Yes, they are being kept alive even today. But in the villages located near the roads, they are gradually disappearing. As far as celebration goes, our cultural festivals like Diwali, Durga Puja, (local term: Hariyali Ashtami) are jointly celebrated once a year or after a gap of two to three years. Earlier on in Diwali we had bhailla (playing with fire) and bhandara (dancing). But we see that though the zest remains, it is marred when people get drunk and start fighting.

Is there a dowry system in Garhwal, and from where has it originated?
There was no system of dowry in the hills. People performed kanyadan (“gifting” away the girl) and at a number of places they charged money for the daughter and the girls were sold. But that business of selling girls was a lesser evil than the present day dowry system. This new system has come with the people who have shifted to cities and when they return, they bring back a new culture with them. Therefore, the city culture is greatly responsible for the dowry practice here. It is such an irony that without having electricity here people get television sets, fridges, fans etc. This is a new, perverted form of dowry system. Those girls whose parents are not able to afford a handsome dowry, are constantly being taunted by their in-laws and are compared with those who have been given sofa sets, TVs, fridges and other modern gadgets. On the other hand we observe that the girls who get the sofa sets get no time and leisure to sit again on them except on the day of the marriage!
Section 6
How deep-rooted is drinking and what are its effects on society?
Its effect is very bad. Women complain of not having enough food, clothes and basic necessities at home, but the men folk, who get Rs40 per day as labour wages, get back home completely drunk. If they get Rs 40 they often spend Rs 50 for their drinks. All this has increased the problems and harassment faced by women. Earlier we had total prohibition in the hills, but for the past two to five years we’ve seen English liquor shops springing up at many places. This is illegal and a crime as it is the privilege of the permit holders, and only the certified drunkards – who hold doctor’s certificates saying that so and so can’t survive without drinking – should be allowed to get alcohol. But those shops are openly selling liquor to everyone and as much as one needs. These shops are not owned by any contractor but by the UP Sugar Corporation. But the Sugar Corporation is behaving like any other smuggler. Alongside, the country-made liquor and stills also exist. But the hill women are very actively involved in closing down these. At many places, Yuvak Mangal Dals (village youth organisations) are also busy closing down these breweries so that they do not sell alcohol.

How do you think prohibition can be imposed?
It is common government propaganda, which the drunkards also maintain, that 75% of the people are drunkards. Whereas the truth is that only 25% of the people drink and the remaining 75% of the population are women, children and the aged. If they all join hands and start a movement that they will not allow anyone to drink liquor in any village then this trend, it can be completely checked. Especially when someone gets drunk on festivals like marriages, Diwali (festival of light), Dussehra etc. he should be socially boycotted and fined to check this bad habit.

How have the prevailing economic influences affected community relationships?
Well, the new economic trends have made man totally dependent on money. In the earlier days we used to have an exchange or barter system for dal (lentils), rice or other things for household consumption. But now we are dependent only on money. Earlier, when I had no oxen to plough the fields, I worked with a person for two days and got the oxen for my job. But now this is not possible. I have to pay for the oxen. We took care of the farming jobs together once, but now we have to engage labour on a daily wage basis. Thus one spends more paying labour than what one gets out of the agricultural produce. Therefore there is a general degeneration of human values and mutual caring and concern due to the present economic system.

How has the modern social and political pattern affected this society, and in which way?
Earlier we had full faith in our leaders and politicians that they would work for our welfare, but not any longer. Today we know that a person who is spending so much on elections, running a number of vehicles or distributing posters and pamphlets and for whom so many workers are canvassing, will definitely indulge in some wrong practice, or he has already done so, to waste so much of money. Today’s political scene has totally corrupted people. They have started differentiating between persons on the basis of party, religion, caste, etc. This has created a major gap between common men. It was not felt earlier. During elections one gets segregated by caste, creed, religion and party. Thus, our entire life, our complete sense of nationality is being affected by elections and the political parties.
Section 7
In your society what are the main sources of earning a livelihood?
There is a decline in the agricultural produce as compared to the earlier days. The main cause of it is that the fertile top soil of our field is flowing downwards (to the plains), and due to insufficient rainfall cattle rearing too has suffered. The forests, too, are getting smaller. There used to be an abundance of ghee (clarified butter) and milk here, in the hills, but now getting ghee is only a dream. Whatever milk we have here is being collected and sent to New Tehri. Not that this is benefiting the milk sellers very much. They have to feed their cattle and getting fodder is becoming difficult and scarce. Therefore, the age-old means of livelihood, agriculture and cattle-rearing, are both gradually disappearing. These days we have to invest in agriculture. This is something that was never heard of. We now have to buy the seeds and chemical fertilisers. Therefore people who sell these things earn a handsome amount of money. You see, because farming now involves so much expenditure, people have started migrating. They cannot get fixed labour jobs here, therefore the jobs in the plains and cities are attracting most men.

How is your society being affected by this migration?
First of all, men are going away from their family homes. Earlier a man used to send the money home through a simple money order as the families stayed back. But the latest trend is that the entire family migrates. Therefore complete villages, in some cases, have no population at all. Thus our rural village culture is becoming extinct. At this rate very soon our mother tongue, the Garhwali language, will disappear. The children of the migrant families either do not know their language or do not like to speak it. Therefore the very existence of the Garhwali language is endangered.

Can you tell us about local handicrafts and architecture which people used to make and create?
First of all there is a difference in the style of construction and planning of houses. The old tevar houses were all wood and stone constructions. All the pillars, carving and designs in the tevar were beautifully done by the carpenter with the help of cheni and vasula (tools). These designs are still there in the few odd old houses still existing. In the style of stone construction the masonry was very scientific. For example, our stone seats were cool in summers and warm in winters. All the blacksmiths’ jobs, and jobs of the ringali (basket makers) are becoming extinct slowly. The art of making jewellery is also disappearing. The old art of carpentry, handicrafts, weaving, handloom, weaving woollen shawls, dumkhar (coarse blankets), making pankhis (woollen shawls) - it is all disappearing.

How do you explain this?
People are aping what is called “modern”. The blacksmith thinks that his profession is useless and he should switch over to some other job. Today the mason feels that the old style and patterns are useless and wants to construct something new. He thinks that a cement and concrete construction is permanent, least understanding that type of construction is not suitable for the hill environment.
Section 8
Could you tell me something about the traditional method of agriculture?
The old style of agriculture was completely under the farmer’s control. Farmers were self-reliant and farmed on a permanent basis. They never needed to spend anything on agriculture, it was a complete system in itself. When it rained, the farmers immediately took out the seeds from bijundes (seed containers) and ploughed the fields, but today they are dependent on others, even for seeds. As and when the government gives seeds they plough the fields and sow them. Therefore the independent and self-reliant agriculture system is becoming dependent, insecure. Traditionally the peasant worked in a well-planned, coherent manner for raising crops. Like, for example, he felt that since he had cattle, the dung could be used for agriculture. But today they are on the lookout for short cuts and use artificial manure which is harmful for the soil.

What has given rise to the Beej Bachao Andolan? What are its aims and methods?
Today the safety and preservation of seeds has become a cause of serious concern. Seeds are the rarest gifts of the earth. Once the seeds die away they can’t be artificially created again. The farmers used to say that they grew rikhwa, dhyasu, jhumakia (local crops) but these are not grown here any more. This worried us all that these local seeds have vanished and they should somehow be brought back to be preserved. We had a great variety of paddy in the hills, of wheat, pulses, but they are slowly disappearing. So we thought that these types must be found somewhere and that is how we planned this Beej Bachao Andolan in Nagni. We collected small quantities of these rare seeds from all over and sowed them in our fields. When the seeds were ready, all the farmers demanded some of each type. Today the demand is so great for these seeds that we can’t meet it easily. Therefore we are giving a little of it to everyone who asks. So far we have collected 124 old varieties of paddy, eight -10 types of wheat, eight types of bhatt (soya), eight types of gahat or kulath (lentils) and 70-75 types of rajma (beans). This way we plan to give back to the farmers the seeds, which were lost, a long time ago. We do not want to hoard it but will try to ensure that it reaches the peasants and that their farms become future gene banks. So we are slowly succeeding in giving the farmers whichever type they demand.

Do tell us about the types of manure and seeds used earlier. How has the modern technique of agriculture affected it?
Our traditional or old agriculture was fully self-reliant. The seeds, the manure and the bullock, everything was personal. At the most only seeds were exchanged by farmers. For instance, if someone wanted ribba (?) seeds I gave him those and took some other seeds in exchange. But the modern system of agriculture has made the farmer fully dependent. The farmer today is totally dependent on the government machinery. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he has become a slave to multinational seeds and manure. He neither gets the seeds or any other agricultural accessories on time. The seeds earlier were never eaten away by insects. So no insecticide was used nor any culture done. But the modern seeds bring with them all the diseases as part of the dowry.
Khastpatwar tripatya (weed which has blighted fields sown with hybrid wheat) for example was never found in the hills earlier, but today the fields are full of it. The scientists in the agriculture universities are busy doing intensive research how to destroy it but so far they have not succeeded. On the contrary they are motivating people to buy the multinational product – medicines – insecticides – to finish athalai khad that grows along with wheat. They are advised to use macheri (?) and insecticides like 2-4D etc but the results of the use of 2-4D are very deadly. This was used by America during the wars against Japan and Vietnam. The people of Pantnagar Agricultural University advise people to freely use 2-4D to finish off the khaspatwar from the wheat fields. Some farmers used it but observed that although some of them died the others became more aggressive and grew stronger than the wheat plants.
Section 9
What were the crops that were grown earlier?
The old system of agriculture was basically for a livelihood and not for earning money. But the present one has diverted people’s minds to earning money. In the old farming system people grew mandua (finger millet), jhangora (barnyard millet), gahat, bhatt, marsa (amaranthus) which suited our environment. A man who worked in the hills needed high-energy food grains which gave him sufficient strength for continuing to perform the hard work. Mandua was the main grain to make the bones strong and sturdy. But the government and the scientists are telling us not to grow mandua and jhangora, but to grow soyabeans, as oil and milk can be produced from it, and it is rich in proteins. But who can extract oil and milk out of it? It is not possible for local men to do this. It can only be done in factories built at a high cost of crores (literally, ten million) of rupees. A common man cannot eat too much of it nor can it be fed the straw to the cattle. Therefore it is sold to the middle man or government agents. The dreadful result of all this is an acute shortage of fodder in hills. Earlier, when people cultivated mandua and jhangora, they had enough food grains for their consumption and plenty of fodder for the cattle. Soyabean is useless for fodder but good only for big factories.

Where was the source of water for irrigation? What is its condition like today?
For agriculture we mainly depended on rain. At some places in the valley, there were kucchi guhls (temporary canals) for irrigating the paddy fields. But slowly there has been tremendous decline in rainfall, and what is more, it no longer falls at the right time. This erratic rainfall is the result of forest felling, or one can say the natural balance has been disturbed. As part of a development programme the kucchi guhls were abandoned and they started building the pucka (permanent, proper) ones, but due to unchecked corruption the construction by the governmental agencies is so poor that they break within a period of six months or so. As a result all the water does not reach the fields but leaks out at many places en route. Therefore to make these guhls effective they have to make them strong and of high quality cement concrete and permanent. Otherwise the kucchi ones were much better. No efforts have been made to fix hand pumps, only guhls have remained, the main medium for conveying water to the fields.
Section 10
Could you tell me something about traditional folk music, folk dances and instruments in this area? How are these kept still alive?
The traditional folk music and dances are slowly disappearing, but one can still find it alive in the valley at Jaunsar or Khai where people go to the Naach Ghar (a place where dances are held) and sing and dance in ecstasy. This is how they get the entertainment and also relax after the day’s hard work. On special occasions, like in the month of Magh (January/February), dances are organised. The old instruments like ransingha, dhol and nagara are played on many an occasion. In this region of Garhwal, during Madanda (Pandav dance) and other occasions, the dhol and nagara are played and people sing and dance. During the Pandav dance, at Diwali, people dance a lot. During the course of the Pandav dance the couples of the Anji complete the Mahabharata and all the festivals are depicted. It is very essential to keep these traditions alive wherever they still exist and this is possible only if the invasion of the outer, urban culture can be checked on time. The popularity of media and TV has made the disco culture very popular. There should be proper popular movements to enforce a check on this media to protect and promote our art and culture. TV films should be made and a proper coverage be given to Madanda to motivate and promote it.

What are your views on old beliefs – are they genuine faith or merely orthodox attitudes?
Orthodox attitude and faiths are two separate things. We are not in favour of the orthodox thinking as these are largely superstitions. On the contrary it should be done away with. For example people used to sacrifice goats and buffaloes, in the name of God. This is absolutely inhuman and should be abolished. But our local gods and goddesses, if done simply and without sacrifices, should be worshipped because faith is transcendental in our hill region. But the belief that the Gods and the ghosts or evil spirit capture human beings is absolutely obscurantist thinking. This needs proper scientific analysis and thinking as it is not suitable for the hill people. Most of the time and money of the people is wasted in this. Sometimes they say that a person is in the grip of some deity or an evil spirit. For this they go to wakis or ojhas (same as baqi: someone who divines a problem and suggests its solution) who make them perform ashtabali (the sacrifice of eight things) or other ridiculous rituals. With scientific ways of thinking, all these dogmas and superstitious ways should be mended.

What was the old method of agriculture and what changes do you find these days?
We had two methods – irrigated, and un-irrigated or the ukhadi one. For ukhadi agriculture the farmers, during the monsoon, sowed barahanaja (literally, 12 seeds) or 12 types of food grains together, along with mandua specially. In addition there was jhangora, kauni, dalhan (pulses) etc. After growing barahanaja the field was left uncultivated for one winter season and thereafter it was used for growing jhangora. Next year the cycle changed and wheat was sown in place of jhangora, and after wheat, mandua. Thus there was a cycle of cultivation. Under barahanaja people grew whatever they needed for food, like rotis (bread) were made of mandua and marsa, pulses like moong, urad, bhatt, naurangi (literally, nine colours - variety of pulse, speckled with different colours) and soonta (black-eyed beans) etc which were used for stuffed roti, sag of gahod (Gathanni), fanda of gahad and kultha, a tasty traditional food of this area. Under the irrigable agriculture also people had a lot of variety of crops of paddy; agata paddy, basmati rice. Nagni was renowned for its basmati and during the rule of the Kings, they specially brought the rice for Tehri. People these days are bent upon stopping the barahnaja crop as they argue that the cultivation of mandua and jhangora shows that people are backward. The government is asking us to grow soyabeans instead. Many have taken to growing soyabean and selling it. As a result of all this mandua and jhangora are no longer available and people have to eat very poor quality of rice. Not eating mandua and jhangora has affected the health of the people very adversely. These grains suited the environmental conditions and gave extra energy to the hardworking locals. It provided fodder for the cattle both during summers and winters. This we can’t get by growing soyabean. So the traditional crops are good both for men and cattle.
Section 11
Was cattle rearing a source of income?
Actually most of the people consumed the entire quantity of milk and ghee, but some of them sold ghee which has been a main feature of the local economy. They carried tins of ghee to the plains and bought things for their use like, salt, gur (unrefined sugar), oil etc. but these days people have started selling milk to other places all the way up to Tehri. This has helped some people, mainly widows, to earn a living.

In addition to agriculture, how are the people inclined towards horticulture?
It is closely connected with agriculture. For instance, apple growing has not been successful anywhere. In the Chamba-Mussoorie fruit belt, large forests of banjh, burans (oak and rhododendron) were cleared for apple orchards on the assumption that apple growing will improve the economy of this area. But actually there are many diseases, which afflict apples, and its cultivation is so technical that the farmer is unable to look after it. As a result, all the apple orchards are fast disappearing. Thus the dream of Chamba-Mussoorie fruit belt was shattered, had the belt not been used for growing unseasonal vegetables. In this vegetable belt they are growing potato and peas and cauliflower during monsoon. The unseasonal peas, which are being grown, once in August and in January, fetch the farmers a handsome return in the plains at the time when fresh peas are not available there.
Section 12
How is land divided here?
It’s very traditional. If a father had four sons, the land would be distributed in four equal parts. But now the land size is fast decreasing, and the impact of this is being felt specially since the population is increasing.

What are the other sources of income?
In addition to agriculture there is cattle rearing. Then there are blacksmiths and tailors who are still carrying on with their traditional profession. But the professional tailors have changed over to doing something else because those who get trained in the cities are doing a better job. We have vegetable sellers, a few contractors. Walnut and citrus lime cultivation also provides people with enough income for the entire year. Those who grow ramdana (amaranth) and kale bhatt, they also get a good price. In Kujdi and Saklana area they are cultivating chillies and getting a good bargain price.

What are your views on the state of soil fertility?
In earlier days people boasted that in a particular field so many dhons (local weight measurement) food grains grew but these days it’s not even half of that or even less than that. This is because the fertile topsoil is being washed away from the fields towards the plains. As the forests are being felled, soil is immediately affected. It gets washed away. It is believed that it takes one thousand years to make one inch of soil, but washing it away takes no time at all. If it rains heavily when the fields are empty then the entire soil is washed away which has decreased soil fertility. As a consequence of all this cattle rearing is also decreasing today. Chemical fertilisers are used instead of the natural manure, eg in the Chamba-Mussoorie belt initially people used to get good produce due to the use of chemical fertilisers but after some years it started getting less and less.

What were the forests like, earlier?
There were vast stretches of them; as a result the land for cultivation was less. The villages were smaller and closer to jungles. “Ghas-lakhru and pani” (grass, wood and water) were the major needs of the people, so they always settled close to the places where these things were found. Gradually the forests are shrinking. If earlier we found grass and wood, say a kilometre away, today we have to walk a distance of 10 to 15 km to get these. The forests are receding very fast.

Do you still find old types of jungles anywhere?
There are two types of jungles – the reserved and the civil-soyam (civil revenue) one. The first category is directly managed by the government whereas the looking after of the second category is done by the forest department of the civil-soyam. Even the reserved forests are only called reserved for name’s sake. They are not dense any longer and are getting rapidly less so.

Who, do you think, can maintain them better?
For better and proper maintenance it should be in the hands of the village fully. So the public should be in complete charge. If the people are motivated to feel that the forest is yours and whatever wood and grass is available will be yours then they will take it on with a greater sense of responsibility, and the jungle will gradually grow in size. There is a live example of all this in our village Jaddhar. A forest covering an area of 8-10 square kilometres was taken over by people. No forest department official is allowed to enter this forest. In this piece of forestland there are countless banjh-burans, kafal (wild fruit) and ayar trees. It has become so dense that nothing can be seen inside it. It has 100% canopy cover, and one can see only the trees and their shadows. People did not have to spend a paisa on it, except that they saved it against animals and human beings.
Section 13
What is the situation regarding forest fodder here?
In some villages this ghas-patti (mountain grass) fodder is not easily available but in some areas the situation is improving. But the villages where the jungle is far away the women have to walk 15 to 20 km everyday, even today to procure it.

What are the water sources in the village?
Earlier it was directly from the natural fresh water springs but gradually proper planning is being done to bring the water up to the villages from natural sources. But due to the vast spread of corruption the planning has turned into a plan of dry taps. As a result people are going back to the old customary water sources.

How serious is the landslide problem here?
In some areas it is very grave. Near the Kodia jungle, on the higher reaches, for instance, people grow potato on the slopes. So a lot of soil gets washed away. At places there are very deep crevices. As a result a field which was right on top, say about 20 years back, has slid one, two, to three feet deeper down.

What is being done to check it?
Nothing so far. The soil preservation department is taking some measures, like they make check dams on the streams and fissures, but for all this they have to cut away a lot of the land which is causing more harm. So their measures are not very effective.

The big hydro projects, construction of huge dams and roads, are dislodging many people of the hills. What are your views on that?
The construction of big dams is an open invitation to large-scale destruction - not only for the people of the hills but of the plains as well. These dams can’t provide electricity for a long time nor can they look after the peoples’ need for water. For example, the Tehri dam is in the news but as far as the construction goes – not a single stone is visible. No dam exists as yet, only the surroundings and smaller jobs connected with the dam are being done. The people who have been thus uprooted have moved to the plains and are so miserable that many of them have come back. The lack of security and violence have driven them back home. Their homes have been destroyed but they are taking shelter with some relatives or friends and trying to settle down afresh.
We need smaller roads wherever they are very essential. But some people demand that there should be bigger roads right up to their village, which causes greater disadvantages. But in the far flung areas, where it would help minimise the local people’s difficulties in travelling, roads should be scientifically planned and constructed so that there is not too much loss of soil all over large areas.
Dams are going to generate electricity, which is very important. What is of greater importance is the construction of smaller dams, which can be termed as a mini hydel programme. In Nagni there was a project. But it has not been implemented as the government has no plan to start small dams or small-scale hydro electricity projects. I feel that panchakkis (water mills) should be used for generation of electricity.
Section 14
Lots of plans are being thought of to promote tourism. What are your views?
Well, the government tourism promotion plans are to openly invite the “five star” culture. Hence big hotels are being constructed, so are airstrips. This is not going to bring any development for the locals. It is the western style of tourism. What we need to encourage is the spiritual tourism in this area, as a special place for pilgrimage. So people should come here for peace and tranquillity, to that I do not object. But people who come here with material and physical pleasure in mind cause more damage to the natural surroundings as well as to the local culture. Big hotels should not be constructed nor should the western culture be allowed in this region.

How about the modern methods of development?
All the government plans for development are not suitable for the public. The so-called big development plans are not going to benefit local people. Local circumstances, the environment and the well-being of the people should be the main criteria for planning development.