FROM TRIBALISM TO TOURISM
There was a time when newspapers' reports on the smallest problems had a meaning for our planners.Today these newspapers find their shortest way to the dust bin. Money makes the mayor go!! What fetches money makes sense rest is all non-sense.This today stands for politicians, groups and even families!!Money makes one fly not only in aircrafts but also in the mind!!When money is the ruler then flight must take place ...Have Rocket Will Travel!!..then who would have time to care about Mother Earth? Earth landing becomes difficult till Maslow's maturity level is attained!! This phenomena becomes more painful when it applies to educational institutions and polluting industry and commercial/financial houses alike. Here China has a definite edge over India being better and more strictly managed. Social responsibility should become mandatory for all.
An old saying goes "I complained I had no shoes till I met someone who had no feet". Back in 1986 I went to a Himalayan village with my friends from the UK and was moved to see my friend's wife cry!! I asked why and she said "I can't imagine people can be so poor-look that child has no footwear nor under wear"!! I too felt the same way but was not emotional about it but felt determined to do something about it rather than just talk about it. I soon analysed that there were other factors in favour of this village : (a) It lies close to an already popular day visit picnic spot called Kempty Falls (b) The village lies on the main highway to the pilgrim place Yamunotri and is visible from the highway to all passers by who would carry the messgae accross for this Model Tourist Village's example to be followed in their village (c) This is a picturesque village decorated with corn with a small population ideal for an experiment in CBTDP (Community Based Tourism Development Program) which fulfills the requirements of the WTO Program ST_EP.
The village group against the backdrop of corn
Traditional utensils used for cooking
SO THE JOURNEY BEGAN:
Thus started my lonesome journey. My friends and family thought I was going mad. Pehaps they were and are right.
I made several visits to the village to realise that I was not welcomed there.This village lies in the officially declared tribal belt. Year after year, the village folk were kind to me BUT the moment my back turned they called me names.."This man from the plains has come to rob us of our wealth!!Why DOES he come here?What does he want from us? who does anything or anybody these days till there is money in for him". I started attending their childrens' weddings and giving them gifts.They got even more suspicious.. This effort would take us one step forward and ten steps backwards.
Fed up with their reactions and insults I took help from Anthropologists who suggested that we should make them talk more and more and keep our mouths shut!!. Just ask them questions on what THEY WANT OR EXPECT OUT OF LIFE!! Not surprisingly, they all said "MONEY".
Then came the period of political unrest..Mandal Commission, Rajiv Gandhi's assisination, struggle for a new state till BJP finally obliged us with a new state of Uttaranchal in 2000.
It again took another 7 years to break the ice with the village people!!
Their deeply imbedded suspicions about "outsiders" though I specially bought a property in the nearby village (outside the tribal zone in 1986 to be called an "insider or local resident"!!) and called it Nature Park.
ST_EP Sustainable Tourism Eliminates Poverty is a program suggested internationally for developing countries where literacy rate is low, incomes naturally very low, no industry, job opportunities nor export potential of any natural resource.
NATURE PARK: Having seen ecological destruction in the area to an extent that an Eco Task Force had to be installed here obviously showed the extent of lack of awareness in the minds of the people..Responsible Citizens!! Some elitist citizens set up eco groups were formed, which was the need of the hour, to influence the Gandhi family to do something about the damage being done to nature through tree felling and lime stone quarrying. This activity was affectively contained by their timely action.
So started a two pronged approach ST_EP and Nature Park. Let's now come to contemporary times!!
You can follow up the Nature park activities in my blog named "Global Warming". Now follows a "break through story" with the village folk:-
UREKA:The village residents of Bhatoli (5 Kms ahead of Nature Park, Kempty Falls, Mussoorie, Uttaranchal,India) finally understood and agreed to cooperate in the program ST_EP in September 2007. Their greatest hidden talents are at dancing, singing, instrumental music as well as cooking. So started my talent hunt and training followed by stage presentation practices as well as invitations to tourist groups to make it a bread earner for them. Finally I felt I had reached base camp 1986-2007!! 21 years of dedicated hard work for one village!! It's always the first time that is difficult they say!!
In the first month following number of young people stand gainfully employed:-
1) DANCERS: 23 (BOYS AND GIRLS)
2) DRUMMERS: 3
3) CATERERS:- 12 (WOMEN)
4) TENT OWNERS:- 15
5) TOURIST GUIDES: 10
6) HERB FARMERS:- 25
7) SOUVENIER MAKERS: 6
8) SOUVENIER SALES:- 6
9) PROJECT SALES EXECUTIVES:- 10
10) CHILDREN WHO PLAY GAMES TO CREATE THE RURAL AMBIENCE: 30
TOTAL:- POPULATION OF THE VILLAGE:- 175
NUMBER EMPLOYED VIDE THIS ELEMENTARY PROJECT: 130
* NOT TO FORGET THOSE WHO COME FROM OTHER VILLAGES TO SELL THEIR PRODUCTS HERE AS WELL AS THE FARMERS WHO CONSTITUTE THE NUMBER FROM 130-175 WHO SELL THEIR FOOD GRAINS IN THE EXHIBITION AREA.
** WE CAN PROUDLY SAY THAT TOURISM IS THE BIGGEST EMPLOYER AT THE LEAST COST!!
***WE CAN NOW PROUDLY SAY THAT TOURISM BRINGS ABOUT OVERALL CULTURAL UPLIFTMENT IN THOUGHT AND BODY OF MEN AND WOMEN ALIKE. 21 YEARS OF NEGATIVITY AND ONE MONTH'S POSITIVE RESULT !! THIS EXPERIMENT ALSO PROVES THAT PROJECTS OF THIS NATURE DO NOT REQUIRE CONSTRUCTING TOO MANY THINGS IN THE VILLAGE AS THAT WOULD ALTER THEIR LIFESTYLE WHICH IS OF PRIME IMPORTANCE AND SHOULD BE PRESERVED...WHAT ELSE IS THERE FOR THEM TO DISPLAY TO THE TOURIST IF IT ALL GETS CHANGED TO A MODERN TOWNSHIP!!?? INFACT OVER INVESTMENT WILL BE COUNTER PRODUCTIVE.REMEMBER TODAY I DRINK WATER IN THE VILLAGE STRAIGHT FROM THE SPRING "WITHOUT IT BEING BOTTLED"!!GOD GIVEN PURE MINERAL WATER, PLUS ORGANIC FERTILISER FED CROP FOOD!!EVEN THE SHEEP WHO'S MEAT YOU EAT GRAZES ON ORGANIC GRASS!!UNLIKE OUR POLLUTED LIVES IN CITIES WHICH WE CALL MODERN!!
SUCCESS OF THE PROJECT IS VISIBLE IN THE FIRST MONTH OF OPERATION FROM HOPELESSNESS AND UNEMPLOYMENT TO GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT AND FROM TRIBALISM TO TOURISM
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1) Come and have a lunch break on a day's outing to Nature Park and Village Bhatoli. Lunch and Entertainment costs you just Rs250/- (US $6 approx) if you come by your own transport or Rs.350 if you come by GMVN conducted tours from Library(Mussoorie)
2) STAY a night at the tents at another cost of Rs.250/- per head inclusive of Dinner and Breakfast.
3) VOLUNTEER to (a) promote active participation of the schools, industrial,commercial, and financial houses to spread awreness.(b) In habitat building and building the nursery of endemic endangered plants (c) Help in promoting ST_EP in other villages.etc etc.
Some of our volunteers from overseas(as the Indian spirit to volunteer is yet another story):
4) DONATE: Money to help the program of nature conservation and sustainable tourism development. To donate just fill in the amount in the form by clicking the Paypal button below which says "MAKE A DONATION":-
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5) SUGGEST,DISCUSS AND ACT: Start discussions to reach conclusions on better methods to even out the rich/poor gap, rural/urban gap. How humans could be made into responsible considerate and compassionate citizens. How we could unitedly fight for Earth Rights and Control global warming etc via this blog. Think it's your Soap Box at Speakers' Corner Hyde Park
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