Monsoons have arrived early this year and that too in
The central mission of the Uttarakhand Solidarity Network is to not only facilitate information sharing among individuals and groups, but also to activate both Uttarakhandis and friends of Uttarakhand to struggle on various fronts for a brighter future for all. As documented in this website, a myriad of issues and concerns lie beyond the Uttarakhand state movement, each of which need the support and active involvement of the common citizenry, both at the grassroots and cyberspace levels.
Indeed, many of the old Uttarakhand movement organizations have successfully made the jump from pre-statehood agitation of the 1990s to the contemporary challenges and issues facing Uttarakhand’s diverse population. Among these has been the Uttarakhand Sanyukt Sangarsh Morcha and Uttarakhand Mahila Manch which has not only spearheaded the women’s movement in the hills, but has also fought for the most basic demands of the Uttarakhand movement such as a permanent capital in Gairsain.
Going further back, Chipko also continues to resonate with local struggles over forest, land, and water rights. Some of these such as the Nanda Devi Campaign and the Beej Bachao Andolan with its roots in the same communities that gave Chipko its overwhelmingly female face of civil resistance, continue to grapple with Chipko’s mixed legacy, even as they attempt to forge new opportunities out of current predicaments. In this and many other efforts related to India’s serious pollution and food adulteration issues, SPECS India has lent a helping hand as a member of the groundbreaking network of Dehradun-based voluntary organizations and movements, the Alliance for Development.
As such, the multifaceted tapestry of social action and advocacy remains vibrant in the hills, woven as it is by succeeding generations of visionary but humble and self-sacrificing individuals. Each of these in turn awaken in their communities both the creativity and compassion that makes collective change possible. Hopefully, the following sample list of organizations with at least a basic web presence can provide a starting point for those seeking to more actively engage with social and environmental issues in Uttarakhand.
Unfortunately, any such list cannot even come close to doing justice to the incredible range of grassroots movements and voluntary organizations operating in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. Therefore, USN requests your assistance in contributing detailed descriptions of various organizations with a proven track record of social change work.
Organizations & Information Links
BEEJ BACHAO ANDOLAN
Reviving traditional practices for local self-reliance
Nagni Village, Tehri Garhwal District, 249 175
The “Beej Bachao Andolan” or Save the Seeds movement was initiated by Chipko stalwart Vijay Jardhari with the late Kunwar Prasoon of Jardhargaon village in the late 1980s. Its members have traveled extensively through Uttarakhand to catalogue and collect hundreds of varieties of crops such as rice, kidney beans, and millet that have been falling into disuse due to the green revolution and decline of mountain agriculture. In the course of its research, the movement has developed an institutional capacity with little financial support, establishing a seed bank, herbarium, and experimental plots. In Jardhargaon itself, the movement has revived traditional farming practices using crops appropriate to the hills of Uttarakhand, restoring the soil while moving farmers off the chemical pesticide and fertilizer treadmill that has been threatening small farmers and consumers alike. Moreover the goal of conserving biodiversity has been integrated with preserving cultural heritage and restoring a sustainable local economy.
HIMALAYAN ASSOCIATION FOR DEVELOPMENT & RESEARCH INITIATIVES
Conservation in the Gangotri-Gaumukh Region
Uttarkashi, Uttarkashi District, 249 193
Contemplating the ecological disturbances of the Gangotri-Gaumukh area, Dr. Harshwanti Bisht, renowned pioneer in mountaineering, decided to undertake practical eco-conservation work. Being a mountaineer, the experience of working in higher altitudes along with her research goals sustained her in her task over the long-term. Her first project focused on the Gangotri-Gaumukh area, which attracts the maximum number of pilgrims, trekkers, and mountaineers (Indian and foreign) in the Indian Himalayas.
MOUNTAIN SHEPHERDS INITIATIVE
Evolving a new model of community-owned ecotourism
Lata Village, Chamoli District, 246 443
The Mountain Shepherds Initiative represents a grassroots effort to evolve a new model of tourism in the High Himalayas. Beginning with the Nanda Devi Campaign for cultural survival and sustainable livelihoods in 2003, communities with the assistance of seasoned activists have prepared and actively promoted their own community-owned ecotourism plan and outreach campaign to develop interest in both the biosphere reserve and their unique trans-Himalayan culture. Mountain Shepherds is an attempt to bring these plans to fruition by throwing open the doors of Nanda Devi to the world.
PAHAR (PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION FOR HIMALAYAN AREA RESEARCH)
Filling the gap in mountain research
Parikrama, Talla Danda Tallital, Nainital, 263 001
PAHAR is that rare non-profit organization that fulfills several important roles that no government institution can. Part think tank, part research institute, and part activist body, PAHAR is best known for its publications on all aspects of Himalayan geography, culture, and politics. Under the guidance some of Uttarakhand’s preeminent historians, PAHAR has sponsored everything from archaelogical expeditions to earthquake relief measures to social movement research. In these efforts, PAHAR has bypassed overly credentialled academic work for that jointly conducted by scientists, activists, and interested citizens.
PAHAR’s multidisciplinary approach can be seen in its principal interest in the state of the natural environment and people of Uttarakhand. To this effect, PAHAR has led an epic foot pilgrimage or padyatra from the eastern to western end of Uttarakhand once every decade over the last forty years. Known as the Askot Arakot Abhiyan, the march endeavours to travel the length of Uttarakhand to collect valuable economic, social, and environmental data on the state of mountain communities. In keeping with PAHAR’s interest in culture and history, the march also aims to gather oral histories from various far flung parts of the state.
SBMA (SHRI BHUVANESHWARI MAHILA ASHRAM)
from service to advocacy and program implementation
P.O. Anjanisain, Tehri Garhwal District, 249 121
Sri Bhuvaneshwari Mahila Ashram was founded in 1977 at Anjanisain as a refuge for widows and orphans who had few other services dedicated to their plight at the time. Since then, the ashram has grown into a veritable campus that is constantly humming with various educational and planning activities. The local and international initiatives launched from the grounds of the Ashram reach over 300 villages in the Tehri Garhwal region.
During the 2002 Year of the Mountains, SBMA was particularly busy with the International Conference on Mountain Children that focused specifically on the needs of young people such as education, health care, social welfare, environmental awareness, and empowerment. Although its initial reach extended to surrounding Himalayan regions, the conference and its successor organization, the Mountain Children’s Forum, have been most successful at encouraging youth leadership in the rural regions of Uttarakhand itself. Today the forum operates independently as a loose network of groups linked with local NGOs that facilitate with capacity building and skills sharing.
HARC (HIMALAYAN ACTION RESEARCH CENTRE)
744 Indira Nagar Phase II, P O New Forest, Dehra Dun, 248 006
Himalayan Action Research Centre (HARC), is an autonomous voluntary development organization, which aims to help the mountain people by working for their holistic, integrated and sustainable development based on the indigenous knowledge, cultural values, and local resources. It was established in 1988.
HARC, has been serving the cause of people-centered, people-managed, people-controlled and people-owned development process. It believes that sustainable development and good governance can be ensured only through active and effective involvement of the local community irrespective of caste, class or gender. It strives for empowering the people in ways such that they can take their own decisions regarding their progress and build a stable society that is free of social, economic and gender inequity.