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Hill culture falling prey to alien influences

Rajendra Bansal/Dehra Dun

Daily Pioneer — January 11, 2000

Himalayan Environment Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO), a voluntary organisation here, which was awarded the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru award for the year 1999-2000 by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, at the just concluded National Science Congress at Pune, believes that the growing acceptance — by the hill people — of developmental models alien to the locally available resources and technologies has impeded development and growth of their societies.

Hill residents have tended to gradually ignore their ethnic resources and technologies and conveniently adopt the outside ones. As a result, the various technical vocations prevalent for long among them have become a thing of the past. HESCO’s founder Dr Anil Prakash Joshi told The Pioneer as many as 41 types of craftsmen skilled in traditional technology — which included ironsmiths and masons — could fulfill the everyday requirements of the hill people. Now, even simple items, such as the hand-held sickle, used by the local residents to harvest crops and cut grass was being brought from outside the region.

It is only through self-reliance that the hill communities in the country can become economically prosperous, Dr Joshi said. Cautioning against abandoning the local traditional technologies, he emphasised, even if there was need to enrich the local brand with modern inputs, it be done in such a way that its relevance to the lifestyle of the hill folks was not entirely lost.

Dr Joshi, also the propounder of the water-movement in the hills said, mountain eco-systems prosper in plenty of water, but only a small fraction it was being used by the local communities. Calling for framing of water-centrist development programmes, he cited his organisation’s work on water-mills (gharats) of Jammu & Kashmir,Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the North-East, to push home the point that these traditional structures not only were source of cheap mechanical power, but after minor modifications, can be made to generate hydel-power at the micro-level for local consumption.

Stating that the Nehru Award given for the first time to a Uttarakhand-based organisation was a recognition by the country of the contribution being made by the highlanders in its development, Dr Rakesh Kumar, director of HESCO, disclosed he would utilise the award money of Rs one lakh for extension of traditional technologies in the hills.