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Expatriates to help development
DIASPORA and nostalgia are inseparable. And a mix of the two, in the past, has reared head only as a reactionary expression to contemporary issues. So, it comes as a whiff of fresh air when the strong human resource from the Uttaranchal hills settled in distant corners of the globe get together to brainstorm over the possible shape the development in the nascent State should take. An enterprising Cyprus-based IT professional, Sanjeev Naithani, and his wife, have given concrete shape to that abstract emotion. Their creation, a website on Uttaranchal (Garhwali.com now Uttaranchal.ws), has emerged as a meaningful platform for Non-Resident Uttarankhandis (all migrants from hills are called NRUs in jest) to interact. Emotion, nostalgia and even debt to the motherland are invoked to urge the scientists, IT professionals, engineers, managers, consultants to help make Uttaranchal a success story.
While it is impossible for people for quit their “bread and butter’’ jobs to serve their emotional predilections, the website has emerged as a potent information carrier as also a strong conference hall. A great majority remains the silent supporters but a few into consultancy and development have taken a lead. Devendra Kainthola with his consultancy firm Hiteishee eggs them on. And they do respond. From April 9, a workshop on economic future of Uttaranchal will be held in Delhi. Unlike the usual seminars, six speakers with “specific plans and dreams’’ will speak. The workshop intends to target the entrepreneurs with money and ideas. It will be chaired by Dr Kailash Joshi, founding member of The Indus Enterprise, which will collaborate with Bill Clinton during his visit for promotion of Indo-US trade. Kainthola informs that a seminar of hill professionals was held in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in January where scientists from all disciplines approve the Mandaar Development Project, conceived to create local enterprise of animal husbandry and IT with mini-hydel power projects as the fulcrum. Dr B Pant, a reputed name in India hydel projects since independence and a consultant on dam safety with West Bengal and Maharashtra, has agreed to oversee. “His best creation was the Koyna Dam, which survived the disaster earthquake,” says Kainthola.
In the face of prophets of doom speaking on the ‘’stillborn State’’ which will turn into a liability, the website comes as a welcome relief. For, the NRUs are harping on people-oriented private enterprise with minimal government support. The Mandar Valley Watershed has received tremendous support. The project aims at setting up an NGO of social scientists, activists, defence personnel and civil servants to “shift emphasis from jobs to creating revenue-generating opportunities like agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry.’’ A 10-member team will take care of the sensitive hill environment by sensitising people on “long-term value and encouraging the project initiatives by sharing costs and profits’’.
The Mandar valley has a population of 5500 residents and 4500 migrants in an area of 15 square kms. The idea is to create mini-hydel projects with a generation of 50 MW. The power can be used locally and for setting up processing industry while the water can serve irrigation. Fishery and power are the short-term (three year) projects, cold-storage and chilling units and computer training institutes are medium-term (five years) objectives while Herb processing, tourism, food processing industry are long-term aims to be realised in a decade’s time.
The call of motherland reverberates on Garhwali.com. People are listening. Devendra Budakoti, a social activist, who migrated to Kuala Lumpur for good, has decided to return in July. Loud cheers greeted him. Dr Chandra Mohan Pant from Cardiff will soon visit the hills to decide on setting up isolation plants. An industrialist, he set up Cardiff Chemicals and Neem Biotech Limited to isolate products like intermediate for the anti-cancer drug (TAXOL), anti-malarial drugs and many other medicines and also helped set up the largest Neem processing plant in Andhra Pradesh. He now wants to set up an export plant in the hills. And when Naithani flooded the web with the slowdown in IT industry in US, he got a curt reply: “Come back with the enterprise you have and we need you.’’
Emotions run high. And the intensity can be guaged from the fact that there exists a Uttaranchal Association of North America! It was set up in 1993-94 when the Uttarakhand movement peaked. Dr PDS Negi of Erie in Pennysylvania was its first president. Ajay Rawat of Virginia is its current president and its third annual convention will be held in August in Boston where one of the board members Rajiv Rawat resides. While the large number of expatriates express solidarity with the movement, post statehood they are busy brainstorming about its future. The commitment is unquestionable. As Rajiv Rawat informs: “Uttarakhand Support Committee was formed in 1995 in Toronto to give voice to the movement internationally. That was when our men and women faced bullets and humiliation.’’ For a region where high migration in search of jobs led to the coinage of Money Order Economy, it is bound to look up to the fortunate ones who have made it big.
Fortunately for Uttaranchal, the latter are equally concerned. And Garhwali.com has given a voice to all of them.
Author: Subodh Ghildiyal