(May 3, 2015)

At the request of  Dr. R. S. Tolia, NTPC Chair Professor, NTPC Centre for Public Policy, Doon University Dehradun Prof. Frederic Landy, Head Department of Geography & Ass. Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies ( CEIAS ), Univesrity Paris Ouest , France,  to day shared some time with the senior citizens of Munsyari, in the Meeting Hall of Johar Club, Munsyari, one the eve of his departure back to France.

Prof Landy arrived in Munsyari on 19th April in connection with an international project which is being undertaken in five Asian countries including India, Nepal, Laos etc where a comparative study is being undertaken on landscape, agriculture and eco-tourism. Of these two Nepal and Kumaon, in India are mountainous countries. The project is back-stopped by students who are also completing their PhD thesis and M Phil courses and it includes prolonged field studies based resident observations. Prof Landy will be visiting Munsyari region again next August and on other occasions.

Dr Tolia explained the audience that this interface is first in the series where he would be able to introduce academics visiting Munsyari on similar projects in the future since he is now permanently stationed here. This process is to be formalized soon with the establishment of a state-of-the-art Library & Research Centre with the collaboration of several academics who hail from Munsyari region, and on which considerable action has been developed.

Here are the brief excerpts from this interface between Prof Landy and local people. Prof Frederic Landy spoke in English and the interface through translation was facilitated by Dr Tolia.

Prof Frederic Landy:

I am happy to be here in Munsyari as a part of an international project involving five countries and I am professionally a geographer. In this project we are particularly undertaking a comparative study mainly concentrating on eco-tourism, agriculture and landscaping. Munsyari in Kumaon, India is a mountainous landscape and its comparison with Nepal would be more apt and relevant.

Our students are here already and are in the process of completing their field -work, interviewing people through prepared questionnaires, observations and through collection of perceptions of a range of stake-holders, like Dr Tolia, a former civil servant, at the one end, and common woman-farmer on the other, tourists, business men and lodge-owners. One of our students is station in a village, in a home-stay mode, and will remain in the region for a few months.

I have been meeting various sections of people, have had two three rounds of lengthy discussions with Dr Tolia and many other people. I visited the road leading to Milam, stayed for three days at Bogdyar, Lilam and another village, observed the village life, talked to local people.  

In our study we look at various government support programme and see what is their impact on people for whom it is meant and we also look at the efforts that are made by people and how government supports such actions. We wish to know whether it is government schemes that make more enduring impact or is it the initiatives that people take and government supports them, that make better impact. 

Hyat Singh Rawat ( audience ):

What is your main experience of your present stay and visit to our Munsyari region and what is the major difference you find between the approach of French government and Indian Government ?

Prof Landy:

Look, my diary is full of my notes and I have to digest so many things and yet to summarise my field-notes, which I intend to do to-night. Well, when I first came to Munsyari I leaned that this Munsyari-Milam road is being widened, some hydro-projects have come, so many new lodges have been constructed during recent years. My first impression was that all this, the road widening, other construction works are going to be mainly benefiting the tourist, and it is going to spoil this beautiful landscape.

However, after I had my discussion with Dr Tolia and many others, and I saw the difficulty in road communication beyond Lilam and Bogdyar, near Nahar Devi, and I was told that the road widening has first to be done for the locals, the elderly, the women and the present condition is so bad, rendered worst in June 2013, it certainly has changed my first impression, which would have remained, as I said very negative, had I not been told how the local people are out-migrating because of such poor infrastructural conditions. Then, I also appreciated that road-widening is also connected with national defense, it is equally a strategic need. 

Now I see a rationale and nexus between the various infrastructural development needs, people's aspirations on the one hand, the considerations of retaining the landscape in their pristine condition, equally for keeping the scenic beauty of Munsyari attractive enough for tourism also.

Gulab Singh Pangtey:

Is there any major lesson that you have captured after your stay in Munsyari ?

Prof Landy:

Yes, as Dr Tolia said it , we should not put "all eggs in one basket". That is it is not increased tourism alone that the mountain region should be concentrating on but simulataneously  attend to agriculture, wool-base  skill for which this region is so famous. There is a major lesson to be learned from the impact of depending too much on Tourism alone, which so heavily paralyzed Uttarakhand's economy, from which it is yet to recover fully. Why look at what is right now happening in Nepal. So sad. there also the lesson is quite similar to Uttarakhand, "Putting all eggs in one basket". Nepal is suffering from at a national scale what Uttarakhand suffered at sub-national state. Mountain regions, or any regions, must not over-concentrate on a single activity, it should be as broad-based as possible. I think it is a major take for me from this visit.

Gokaran Dingh Martolia:

What is the difference in the way French government works for French people as compared to the Indian Government ?

Prof Landy :

Well, first major difference is that in France the agrarian or rural area is hardy 4 per cent, while in India it is more than 50 per cent. Then the population of India is far bigger than in France. So for the French Government is task is simpler, just to look after this 4 per cent rural population. French Government support the various activities of its rural population by adding value to what they do. Say, if rural people produce quality cheese, French govt ensures that they get good value for their Organic Cheese. All agrarian products produced in rural area get Government's support. French government thus helps all that their rural people do, produce. In India this problem is quite big, in number and the range of activities. In short the Government of India;s problems are much bigger, far more complex. here people must take initiative and if the government helps in whatever rural people are doing adding value to their efforts, getting them better return for their labour, only then it would be possible for the Government to help so many rural households. So, I think situation in our two countries are quite different and both the governments and the people have their respective roles to play.

The Interface ended with a vote of thank to Prof Landy and thanking him for the time he gave for this interaction with local people and it was hoped that a longer interface would be organised when he visits Munsyari next, in August. Dr. Landy also gave his contribution to the Johar Club and expressed his best wishes for successful Diamond Jubilee Football Tournament, commencing 1st June, 2015.


( Reported from Munsyari by R.S.Tolia, Ph.D.)

R S Tolia

Late Dr. R.S. Tolia, Ph.D., was former Chief Secretary ( 2003-05 ) and Chief Information Commissioner ( 2005-10) of Uttarakhand. He also served in various voluntary positions after retirement and devoted his time for Mountain Development Agenda.

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