Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rahul Gandhi going to Uttarakhand not as VIP: Congress

NEW DELHI: Downplaying questions over the belated visit of Rahul Gandhi to Uttarakhand, Congress on Monday said it was not necessary that all leaders visit the calamity- hit state together and hamper relief and rescue work.

The party also hit out at BJP for criticising the state government over the tragedy saying it has become an "obsessive compulsion disorder" of the latter to criticise.

"Rahul Gandhi is not going there as a VIP. He is going there as a citizen, as the vice-president of Congress to oversee that the relief materials reach in place. Rahul did not say I am a Rambo and I did this and I did that," party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary told reporters as she tried to make a difference between Rahul's visit and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's tour of flood-hit area.

"There are some people who have it in their habit to publicise everything that do. Had he been able to do this during Godhra, the situation would not have gone to that extent," she said.

She said Congress works as a team and it is not necessary that all leaders visit a place together and hamper the work.

Days after the flash flood tragedy struck Uttarakhand, Rahul, who was abroad, made his first public appearance flagging off relief materials for the victims. Party sources he is now camping in the flood-hit areas and will remain there at least tonight.

Chowdhary apparently lost cool, when asked why Rahul has been found absent during occasions, when the country is fighting some big crisis.

"You do not know what he (Rahul) is doing. What do you want we should be telling you when does he has his hair cut and such things? Everybody is not like that to publicise all petty things, when does he spit out, when does he sneeze," she said responding to questions on why does Congress party not tell what Rahul was doing on those occasions.

She also accused Modi of merely doing "shadow boxing" and "making posturing and preposterous statements". Reports had it that Modi evacuated 15,000 Gujaratis trapped in the hills during his Uttarakhand visit.

"Being a Rambo does not need brains and brawns we all have," Chowdhary said reacting sarcastically to media reports about Modi's rescue act.
Responding to questions about Modi earlier raising doubts over the Centre's Bharat Nirman programme, the Congress spokesperson said, "A paranoid person always looks at everything with suspicion. It's because of his handing of post-Godhra that he has doubts over everything."

She laughed at questions whether Congress had a Modi phobia and alluded to the internal dissension within the BJP. "What phobia will we have? Who punctured the BJP's balloon? Not us."

Asked about Modi's offer to rebuild the Kedarnath Temple, she said that it was for the Uttarakhand Chief Minister to decide whose help they want to take but wondered, "Why the offer is only for Kedarnath? Even the religious place of Sikhs has been damaged there."

Attacking the BJP, she said the opposition party has a "short-sighted, tunnel vision" as they only criticise.

"I take pity on them for such an attitude they betray. All that they can do is merely criticise."

Chowdhary also came to the defence of Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna dismissing criticism about "sluggish" handling of the rescue and relief.

"It is not proper to say that the chief minister did this or the CM did not do this. It takes some time to decide, whenever such a problem suddenly comes. Such incidents happen all of a sudden," she said.

The Congress spokesperson said a total of 137 trucks have been sent for relief of which 57 were arranged by Youth Congress.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul on Monday flagged off a convoy of trucks carrying relief materials before the party vice-president left for Dehradun, where Congress has set up a control room to monitor the relief work being carried out by the party.

Uttarakhand floods: Dhari Devi’s wrath – myth or reality

Dehradun/Rishikesh: Thousands have perished in flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand. The holy town of Kedarnath was completely flattened. However, much less than shaking people's faith, the massive tragedy has reinforced their belief in the divine.
For believers, the fact that Kedarnath shrine was left untouched by the deluge and falling rocks presents ample proof of the powers of the divine. Also, the Shivlinga had not gone under the sludge and remained crowned by offerings of belpatra.
The more compelling legend is of Dhari Devi, guardian deity of Uttarakhand, whose idol was removed from her temple hours before the cloudburst. A manifestation of Goddess Kali, Dhari Devi is revered as the protector of the Char Dhams.
As per believers, Uttarakhand had to face the Goddess’ ire as she was shifted from her ‘mool sthan’ (original abode) to make way for a 330 MW hydel project that now lies in ruins. A similar attempt in 1882 by a local king had resulted in a landslide that had flattened Kedarnath.
Built by Alaknanda Hydro Power Company Ltd (AHPCL), a subsidiary of infrastructure major GVK, the Srinagar hydel project had faced opposition from locals, saints and the BJP. They are opposed to the plan to relocate the Dhari Devi temple from its original site on a small island in the middle of the River Alaknanda.
The project dam would have submerged the island.
The legend says that only the upper half of an idol of goddess Kali is called “Dhari Devi’ while her torso is worshipped as a ‘Shree Yantra’ at Kalimath Temple near Guptkashi. As per local lore, Dhari Devi changes in appearance during the day from a girl, to a woman, and then to an old lady. Only a visit to both the temples makes the darshan of the Goddess complete
As per reports, the original plan was to cut the upper half of the island and shift it to a higher location. However, owing to the lack of logistics required to carry out such a mammoth task, the plan was later altered and it was decided that only the visible part of the idol would be shifted.

Importantly, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had also opposed the relocation of the temple. In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the ministry defended the right of people to worship at the temple, drawing a parallel with the Vedanta case in which the apex court had upheld the right of the Dongria Kondh tribal people to worship the Niyamgiri hill, earmarked for blasting for bauxite mining.

However, despite opposition from MoEF, the Supreme Court gave its nod to relocate the idol to a raised platform. However, the apex court is yet to give its final order in the case.

As per conspiracy theorists, AHPCL officials artificially raised the water level in the dam so as to hasten the process of shifting of the Dhari Devi temple. Armed with all gear, the officials arrived at the temple site at 7.30 pm on Sunday (June 16) and cut off the idol from its base. Three priests and two locals then lifted the idol and placed it at the artificial platform constructed by AHPCL as the deity’s new seat.

AHPCL officials were quoted as saying that the idol was relocated in a hurry as the temple was in danger of being submerged due to heavy floods in the region.

Just when the idol was lifted there was lighting and heavy rains followed by the cloud burst in Kedarnath that has left thousands dead.

Also, two pillars of the new structure at Dhari Devi temple gave way, forcing the removal of the idol. Currently, it is said to be kept at an elevated place close to the original spot.

Dhari Devi’s wrath may or may not be behind the trail of destruction in Uttarakhand but what is undisputable is the story of exploitation of the hills and the resultant ill effects.

Environmentalists describe the tragedy as a man-made disaster while geologists feel the extent of destruction could have been far lesser if stricter regulations had been put in place.

Importantly, the MoEF – in a December 2012 notification - declared the entire watershed around the 135-km stretch between Gaumukh and Uttarakashi, along the Bhagirathi River, as an eco-sensitive zone under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

This, in practice, bans all construction activity in the area. However, the state government was opposed to it as it felt that such and blanket ban would adversely affect development and the economic progress of the region.

Clearly, there are no straight answers and the choices are tough.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vishwa Hindu Parishad volunteers rush to help Uttarakhand Victims

AHMEDABAD: While expressing shock and sorrow at the horrific events that are unfolding in Uttarakhand, VHP international working president Dr PravinTogadia said, VHP expresses sympathy toward relatives of those who are no more. Those who are injured and are taking treatment are being helped by local VHP and Hindu helpline workers. Soon, to help relatives and the affected, VHP and Hindu helpline will send teams from neighbouring states so transportation and treatment will be taken care of. Since the calamity is beyond normal human comprehension, all should work together to help the army and ITBP who are putting own lives at risk in rescue and relief operations. We had noticed and raised an opposition to a lot of tree burning, breaking of mountain ranges with dynamites for power projects etc. All this has contributed to the damage caused by rain.

VHP has appealed to put the affected devotees' care as the only goal at this time of tragedy and not get into political blame game. All should come together to help.

In the worst ever natural calamity that struck Uttarakhand, chaar dhaam yatra area, Rudra Prayag, Gupt Prayag, Uttar Kashi and surrounding areas, thousands of people have been washed away. Many dead bodies are still being discovered in the vicinity of Kedarnath temple. Roads are blocked and cracked. Cloud burst, incessant rain and landslides have created big havoc. Gouri Kund has been washed away. Many hotels in the area, along with people in them, are missing.

4,500 mules (khacchhar) serve devotees in the area during the peak season. Each mule has one attendee. None of them have been found. Markets have been washed out with people. The number of the dead and missing may cross thousands as chaar dhaam yatra was on when the tragedy unfolded.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man-made reasons for Uttarakhand disaster

Man-made reasons for Uttarakhand disaster

Expansion of hydel projects, roads and tourism is making the Himalaya in Uttarakhand crumble

The under-construction hydropower project at Shrinagar along the Alaknanda

Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, two hill states in the Himalayan range, are so far the worst hit by the extreme rains that struck northern India in the wake of monsoons that set in early this year. Media reports say nearly 60 persons have died in Uttarakhand, and an estimated 60,000 pilgrims are stranded. Heavy rainfall has wreaked havoc on the region because of the fragile nature of the Himalayan range and poor soil stability in its steep slopes. But it is man-made factors that have compounded the scale of the disaster. Unabated expansion of hydro-power projects and construction of roads to accommodate ever-increasing tourism, especially religious tourism, are also major causes for the unprecedented scale of devastation, say experts.

"The valleys of the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Alaknanda witness heavy traffic of tourists. For this, the government has to construct new roads and widen the existing ones," says Maharaj Pandit, professor with the Department of Environmental Sciences in Delhi University. He says that a study should be conducted to assess the carrying capacity of the Himalaya and development should be planned accordingly.

Roads destabilising mountains

"A new (mountain) range like the Himalaya will remain steady if not tampered with much. But the huge expansion of roads and transport is bringing the mountains in Uttarakhand down," says Pandit. Road, he says, is a major destabilising factor for a mountain and it is a new phenomenon for the Himalaya.

Pandit, who is in Uttarakhand for a research project, recounts an observation. "I was sitting at the Prayag bridge for tea and started counting the number of buses crossing it. Withing seven to eight minutes, 117 buses crossed," he says.

Data with the Uttarakhand State Transport Department confirms this. In 2005-06, 83,000-odd vehicles were registered in the state. The figure rose to nearly 180,000 in 2012-13. Out of this, proportion of cars, jeeps and taxis, which are the most preferred means of transport for tourists landing in the state, increased the most. In 2005-06, 4,000 such vehicles were registered, which jumped to 40,000 in 2012-13—a whopping 1000 per cent increase. It is an established fact that there is a straight co-relation between tourism increase and higher incidence of landslides.

Pandit says that rampant construction, be it of roads, or dams, has led to land use change and the cumulative effect is getting reflected in the extent of damage rains have caused.

Landslides more frequent now

“Our mountains were never so fragile. But these heavy machines plying everyday on the kutcha roads have weakened it, and now we suffer landslides more often,” says Harish Rawat, a BSc student in Uttarakhand’s Bhatwari region that suffered a major landslide in 2010.

Rawat lost his home to the landslide when a major part of the main market and 28 shops were wiped out by the landslide. About 25 other houses were destroyed completely.

Another local resident, Ram Prasad Tomar, a driver by profession in Uttarkashi town, says it is road cutting that has made the mountains so weak. He says the way mountains are cut to make roads has rendered the mountains unstable. “Road contractors, who come from outside, do not understand the mountains. Most of the expressways that are being constructed now are tangled in legal cases. After cutting of mountains, landslides continue for up to four years, and contractors go bankrupt clearing the debris,” he says.

Environment engineer and Ganga crusader, G D Agarwal, says that construction along the Ganga has certainly cost a lot more if one includes the cost of damage to environment. People have completely destroyed the ecology of the mountains. “We see more landslides nowadays because of unplanned development in the hills,” he says.

Experts say promotion of the state as a tourist destination is coming in way of sustainable development.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Utarkhand Flood: In Pics

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Amazing Tehri Dam, Just Amazing !

Tehri Dam is the primary dam of the Tehri Development Project, a major hydroelectric project centered near Tehri Town in the state of Uttarakhand in India. Located on the Bhagirathi River, the principal tributary of the sacred River Ganges, the Tehri Dam has a height of 855 feet (261 m), making it the 5th tallest dam in the world. The dam’s intended capabilities include a power generation capacity of 2400 MW, provision of irrigation to an area of 270,000 hectares, irrigation stabilization to an area of 600,000 hectares, and a supply of 270 million gallons of drinking water per day to the industrialized areas of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

History of Tehri

"GARHWAL" - the land of many ‘GAHRS’ meaning forts.Tehri was made up of many small forts which were ruled by chieftains. Therefore, the history of Garhwal before the dynastic rule of the ‘Panwar’ rulers was not known. Kanak Pal was the first ruler of the state of Garhwal in 823 AD. He came from what is now called the state of Maharastra. The name ‘PANWAR’ is made up of two words, ‘PAN’ and ‘MAR’ meaning, "He who crushes enemies".

Kanak Pal came to Northern India in the early 9th century to help Nepal against the uprising of Tibet. He subsequently settled down in Garhwal and started the rule of the Pal dynasty from 823 AD to 1947 AD, a reign of over 1000 years and 60 descendants. Ajay Pal, the 37th descendant, was able to unify a large part of Garhwal and do away with the reign of the chieftains. Ajay Pal established his rule after defeating the chieftains and set up his capital at Shrinagar, Garhwal. In time, the rulers of Garhwal increased their kingdom size and power. Infact, Garhwal was one of the independent kingdoms on which the mighty Mughals of Delhi had neither any influence or supremacy.

The rulers of Garhwal remained independent and repeatedly expelled the attacks of the Mughal rulers of Delhi. During the rule of Shah Jahan, the Emperor of India in the 17th century, Rajamata Karanwati of Garhwal, the mother and regent of her minor son, Prithiviraj Shah, humiliated Emperor Jahangir by not only defeating his forces but also returning the survivors with their noses lopped off. Later when Raja Prithivi Pati Shah became the ruler of Garhwal, he gave shelter to the bothers of Emperor Aurangzeb in the end of the 17th century. The use of the suffix "Shah" after the name came to be used around this time instead of the "Pal". This was similar to the Mughul rulers use of the title "Shah" to denote their kingly status. The Garhwal rulers assumed the "Shah" title alongside their name indicating their position of being kings over and independent state.


King Sudarshan Shah established his capital at Tehri town and afterwards his successors Pratap Shah, Kirti Shah and Narendra Shah established their capital at Pratap Nagar, Kirti Nagar and Narendra Nagar respectively. Their dynasty ruled over this region from 1815 to 1949.

During the Quit India Movement people of tehri region actively participated for the independence of the country. Ultimately when the country was declared independent in 1947, the inhabitants of Tehri Riyasat started their movement for getting themselves freed from the clutches of Maharaja. Due to the movement the situation became out of his control and was difficult for him to rule over the region.The 60th king of Pawar Vansh Manvendra Shah accepted the sovereignty of Indian Government. Thus in 1949 Tehri Riyasat was merged in Uttar Pradesh and was given the status of a new district. Being a scattered region it posed numerous problems for expediting development. Resultantly on 24th February 1960 the U.P. Government separated its’ one tehsil which was given status of a separate district named as Uttarkashi.