photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 30)








Chandra Dhungi village, Alaknanda valley, Chamoli


May 1994



Section 1
What is your good name?
My name is Dhoom Singh Rawat.

What is your age?
My age is 57 years.

Do you stay in the village?
Yes, now I live in the village. Earlier I was in the army. After retiring, I took up another job, later I came back home. 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. From that book I learnt that in the world whatever every living being does, he does it for his children. All accumulation of land, property and money is done for the children. But these days what happens is that in the end the children disown their parents. So a tree is such a thing that if you throw a stone at it, it will give you a fruit instead of a stone. It will not deceive you. As far as the environment is concerned, whether it is a fruit tree or a shady tree, oak is a very useful tree. Last year I sowed oak seeds that have germinated. I have planted at least 200 trees of mango, guava, banana, lemon etc. I went to Dhakrani (Dehra Dun) and bought plants. If every individual makes an effort at his own level then definitely the hill region can be developed.
Before 1960 Pithoragarh was nothing. Today Pithoragarh has the maximum number of orchards. Himachal was nothing before 1960 and today it is because of trees (apple etc) that Himachal is a special place. Even a small farmer there can earn enough by selling apples etc. If more of cedar, tun (mahogany), oak, walnut trees, etc are planted in the hills then all economic problems can also be solved. I have seen in Kashmir that walnut wood and other kinds of wood are used for making various goods. Rajasthan is a dry land where even drinking water is not available. 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. I would say that only that person has a right to cut trees who plants them. Who does not plant trees has no right to cut them. Even the Forest Act is good in some regards but some amendments need to be brought in it. People in the villages cut raw green wood, if this is stopped then the forests can be improved.
Section 2
How can the green wood cut by the villagers for burning be stopped?
It can be stopped if people plant trees in their fields, if they themselves plant trees required for construction, and only old trees in the forest are allowed to be cut. The forest department should do the supervision itself. The village with only 10 families, today has 100 families, but the resources are still available only for 10 families. There has been no change in it. That also results in thefts in the forest. The Forest Act that was made in the time of the British Government has not been amended by the Indian Government. It is necessary to amend the forest law. Also conversion of pine monoculture forests into mixed forests is necessary. It is better to plant walnut forest instead of pine forest. Pine is a dry tree. Other species have to struggle a lot to grow under it. It is essential to save the forests. Whenever I meet Bahugunaji (well-known activist) I shall ask him also to do something.

Your age is above 50 years, you have seen the old time as well as the present time. What was the situation in the hills earlier and in your view what changes have come?
In my view we are 50 years behind the rest of the world. In the hills people have just learned to wear [new] clothes and buy goods from the market to eat. But people have not yet learnt to produce themselves. 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. A water channel flows near our village. I have told our representatives many times to start fish culture. If a small dam is built on this channel then electricity can be generated for this entire region. 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.

What was the old custom here which you must have heard or seen?
Old people were very strong. People in earlier days ate a natural (nutritious) diet. Earlier people used to go to the forest with animals and brought buttermilk on their back to their homes. They made raimodi from spinach and timla etc. It was very nutritious. People in yesteryears used more vegetables in their food. Today they get up in the morning and drink tea. Today half their bodies are bare, earlier woollens were worn. These days there is lot of fashion from Bombay but they donít realise that there is vast difference in the climate of Bombay and Himalaya. Our health is deteriorating more because of fashion.

In the earlier panchayati system how were the community works of the village accomplished?
Panchayati work was done with mutual support of the villagers. In matters of quarrel and disputes the elderly people of the village sat together to come to some conclusion. Gradually when the gram sabhas (village assemblies) were formed, there was only one gram sabha in our entire watershed area which consisted of about 25 villages, and our development division was in Garrison. Now there are 6-7 gram sabhas. 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. In such a situation how can our children progress. There are 130 children in primary and there is only one teacher. He is also from the plains, whereas at the primary level there should be a teacher who knows the local language.
Section 3
Do you get enough food grains and milk/ghee (clarified butter) from the agriculture and cattle in your house?
Agriculture gives us food supply for the entire year, but there is more inclination towards the plantation of trees. At the moment I plan to plant mango and grapes orchard here. Fruit-bearing trees are good for old age. It would be better if people plant community orchards.

How will people get inclined towards tree planting?
Meetings should be held in all the villages. Independent workers and peopleís representatives should explain to the villagers about tree farming and community farming. Then people can become aware. The breed of animals should be improved. My daughter lives in village Panduli. I saw that her cow give 7-8 litres of milk. In this way we can improve the breeds in all the villages, increase the milk production and strengthen our financial resource. I want to start a fishery also so that something can be obtained by starting various industries. These days many announcements are made from Lucknow but nothing reaches here. As long as Uttarkhand is not formed, progress in this region would be difficult.

Do you think that the present peopleís representatives would lead to an all-round development of Uttarkhand State?
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. 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.

Will the construction of large dams, such as the Tehri Dam, lead to actual development of the hills? What do you think?
No, no, how can the large dams lead to the development of the hills? If small dams are built then there shall definitely be development. Building such heavy dams would pose as a danger for destruction in the future. We fully support Shri Bahugunaji that such dams should not be constructed and when small dams are built we should get their benefit also. In 1970-72 when a dam was broken near Kumaon, area up to Barielly was inundated in water. Around 1894 when Vihari Tal broke down, damage was done up to Hardwar. I hope tomorrow this dam also does not lead to destruction.

What changes do you find between the old generation and the new generation?
I think there is a lot of change as compared to earlier. There is a bit of education. Earlier one had to give board exam in class 8 also, therefore, boys used to work hard. Now they cheat and pass and donít go beyond High School. Recently there was a ban on cheating. It was a good step, but the other government took the restriction off. 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. In Almora, not only officials but big leaders are also settled. Big people from our area settle outside. A man told me that in Kumaon the retired officers come home and guide the younger generation. That is why Kumaon has progressed. Only those boys of Garhwal made it big, who were educated outside.
Section 4
In service (jobs) and agriculture, which occupation do you prefer?
Agriculture is a good occupation because it is our own work. If a person works very hard in his own occupation, it is not felt much. In our region, if we have more people like Jagat Singh everywhere, then within a few years the hills can be completely transformed.

What message would you like to give to the young generation?
The boys of the young generation, along with their studies should also do their own agricultural work. Vegetables from Nainitalís hot water area are reaching even here. The young generation should think of actual development. Last year I planted 50 kg ginger, and the produce was only 3-4 sacks. I am doing a type of experiment/research. I first planted plants of lemon species here. Because of hot climate lemon species cannot grow well here. But we get good crop of walnut, mango, papaya, leechi, grapes etc.

Are the villagers also thinking in this direction?
Yes, the villagers are also planting trees and they are even protecting fodder trees. But if we can get help from the administration, it will be better, because monkeys in the day time and porcupines at night are the biggest enemies of the orchards. To keep the monkeys away we can keep dogs, but at night porcupines come and destroy everything.

What is the name of this place?
The name of this place is Chandra Dungi.

Does this place have a significant past?
No, earlier we lived in Talla Kot village but because of non-availability of water our ancestor came and settled here. It is around 100 years since we are settled here.

What is the condition of women here?
The condition of women is the same as was before. There has been no change in it. Yes there has been a change only in their attire. The environment of our homes is not right. When the environment of the home is right, only then can the environment of the country be right as well.