N S Rawat Mountaineering Institute, Munsyari

Munsyari.  As we were returning from Chilam-dhar, virtually the last-mile point of the Munsyari-Milam strategic road ( 60 kms from Munsyari ) very satisfied with the quality of the road under construction, especially its gradient and the most difficult hewn-rock section,  a messaage flashed on my mobile from Reena Dhamot, "Thank you. Tomorrow also happens to be the birth day also of Nain Singh Rawat. We await your visit and lectures to the first batch ! ". These easily were the most welcome words for the two of us , myself and my better hald Manjula, ever since we have settled in Munsyari. We had taken our dear guests from Benaras, Dr BMD Gupta and his grandson, Tushar, first to the last point of the road under construction and the Tribal Heritage Museum. Both the road under construction and the Tribal Heritage Museum, latter the gift of octogenarian Dr Sher Singh Pangtey, not only to the younger generation of the Shauka community but to the entire world outside, deserve a separate treatment, and therefore must await another piece for the readers. Reena Kaushal Dhamot, a daughter of Uttarakhand who set a record by skying some 900 kms to the South Pole, married to an equaly illustrious husband, Loveraj Dhamot, who has pickicked to the peak of Evert alreday five times, and decorated with a Pasm Award, last year, is the Officer on Special Duty ( OSD), was the lady who had smsed the message.

185 th Birth Anniversary !

 Having researched on Nain Singh Rawat's amazing career for quite some time I quickly calculated and realised that had Nain Singh Rawat, arguably the most illustrious Indian of the Nineteenth Century would have been celebrating his 185th Birth Day on 21st October 2015 ! What a coincidence ! Dr Sher Singh Pangtey, Capt Sri Ram Singh Dhamot and few others were quickly contacted and a visit to the newly established NSR Mountaineering Institute was arranged, along with the gouests visiting us. Reena obvioulsy was happy that her trainees of the First Adventure Coures Batch would get to know something substantive both about the gentlemena, after whom the Institute has been so justifiably named, as also to the local area, Johar-Munsyari. All the publications on Naini Singh Rawat, the world-famous Surveyor of the  Great Trigonometric Survey  ( GTS ), including a compilation Johar Itihas Samgra containing his two famous publications were collected and another book of Johari Shakas written by Dr Sher Singh Pangtey were collected which were to be gifted to the NSR Mountaineering Institute on the occasion. A set of picture post-card set on Munsyari published by Manjula was also procured for the trainees and guests.

NSR Mountaineering Training Institute, Balati Farm  

One could safely declare this Mountaineering Institute located now at the lap of serenic Munsyari valley, some 10 kms away from the Tiksen Bazar, as the best development gift given to the Munsyari-Johar valley by its present MLA, Harish Rawat, who also happens to be the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. Located on the lower side of the famous Potato Farm of Balati ( Balati Nikhupa) it has already been connected by a motorable road. As one climbs the road going towards Thal at the 8th km the new connecting road take you further inside for 2 kms and you reach a flat expanse, with the norther side covered by serrated sparkaling while , snow-capped Pancha-chuli peaks, with the north-eartern side marked by Hansling, with snow filled deep saddle, that separates its two rocky peaks. The southern side is ranged by olive green thick forests, allowing the Khalia top ridge, the drying-green bugyal at this time of the weather inviting you to climb up and feel its moist-verdure. The location of this NSR Mountaineering Institute has the making of a worl class Institute, with an unmatched snow-cum forest mountain ecosystem. Just being at the site is mesmerising enough, staying there cwould simly be heavenly. Reena tells us that it is going to thbe the highets Mountaineering Institute in entire India.

Introducing NSR, the legend

As the adjoining visual would show soon after disembarking from two jeeps we are quickly introduced to the trainees of the very first batch undergoing training here, the instructors seconded from the nehru Institute of Mountaineering ( NIM ), the other mountaineering Institute of the state, at Uttar Kashi, the other border district, on the western end of the state. NIM, a joint collaboration between the Minsitry of defence and then Government of UP, was set up in Uttar Kashi to address the mountaineering needs of the country and has since produced hundreds of eminent mountaineers, Bachendri Pal, Loveraj Dhamot, Prem Lata Aitwal, Suma Kutiyal, Savita martolia and scores of Evererester being just a few names. This writer also, way nback in 1973, avaiaed the opportunity offered and completed what is known as the Basic Foundation Course, while serving as SDM in Uttar Kashi. To a large extent his abising love for the mountais is also a gift of those days of camping at the base of Shiv Ling, during the Foundation Coures in early 1970s. That itself score the need for earliest exposure of our civil servants, rather all government servants to the love of mountains.

Leaving aside this digression, the event started with cutting a Birthday Cake honouring the 185th Birth Day ( it must be a record of sort in itself !) by the eldest present, Dr Sher Singh Pangtey, the introduction to the great Surveyor-writer was introduced by the writer himself. he shared with the audience that Nain Singh Rawat was born on 21st October in 1830, in Bhatkuda village, across Gori river, which could be seen from the Camp site. Rising from a most socio-economically family backgroud, in 1830 by the time he was honoured by the Queen Empress of India, Queen Victoria, by the Patron's Gold Medal, of the Royal Geographical Society, UK, London, and later the Companion of Indian Empire, the highets civilian award for which a citizen of the Empire was eligible, Nain Singh Rawat had become the " man who had contributed maximum to the knowldge about Asia", the biggest Continent about which hardly anything was known before he commenced his scientific explorations. His accession of several languages and local dialects, including reading and writing of Tibetan language, contributiond to the development of Khadi boli ( in Devenagiri script ), his interpreter work in the Magnetic Survey of India, with the redoubtable Schlagintweit Brothers of Prussia in 1856-1858, four great Surveys acros the Tibetan Plateau, establishment of first schools in Milam ( 11,200 feet ) and Garbyang, along the Nepal border, and innumerable scientific obesrvations, that were converted into Survey Reports, publishesd by the Survey of India, and later read at the best Geographical Societies, in several Eurpena languages, including Italian, French and German besides English, made him arguably one of the best known scintific writers during the 1870s and subsequent decades. He remained the only Asian receipient of the Royal Geographical Society Patron's Gold Medal, and a place in the Honour Board of the RGS, till recently. This writer concluded by saying that even though he had the privilege of rising to the highest civil servant post in Uttarakhand and later as Chief Information Commissioner of the state, he considers his personal achievment extremely insignificant compared to Nain Singh Rawat, as the background under which Nain Singh started his career could have demoralised any one who did not have his resoluteness and sense of determination. Nain Singh Rawat made his community and his country proud of him, as not many could lay claim to such achievements. He has been an inspiration and continues to be an inspiration to people who come from such modest family backgrounds, as he did, and remains an inspiration for all times to come. His written works are yet to receive their full due and recognition both by the literary world and Hindi scholars.

Nain Singh Rawat, His Socio-cultural millieu

Dr Sher Singh Pangtey, in his inimitable style of narration, added further to the knowledge to the audience by brining home the social norms and the adverse conditios which had to be surmounted by Nain Singh Rawat on his march towards his own salvation. he explained how the social norms of the times, the early nineteenth century, soon after freedom from an atrocious Gorkha tyrannical rule of the region, obstructed his early start and what all restraints had to be faced by him. How his own elder cousin prevented his acceptance of offer from the Schalgintweit brothers to better opportunities in Europe. How he valued his own self-respect when he departed from Mana, where he had married a wealth family, and moved on for better livelihood propspects. Having been a teacher himself, Dr Pangtey explained how even today one finds deciphering a technical text written by him, Akshansh Darpan, difficult to follow ! His descriptions of the places he visited, his accuracy of obeservations taken by him , ebeven while takig them under threat of death, proved so very correct, after Tibet was opened up in early twentieth century, post the Younghusband Mission. Dr Sher Singh's description of life during his times very lively and drew repeated cheers from the young -participant -trainees.

Trainee-profiles and Book Donations to the Institute

The first batch of trainees were thereafter requested to introduce themselves.  It was heartening to learn that all thirteen districts of the state had repesentatives who came from its constituent parts, and these were supplemented by trainees from Delhi, Vadodara ( Gujarat ), Benguluru ( Karnakatak ) and Kolkata ( West Bengal ). The introductions of guests from benaras and the instructors, as also Munsyari itself, was followed by presentation of some books that were donated by Manjula and RS Tolia, this writer. These consisted of Johar Itihas Samgra, edited by RS Tolia, consisting of two publications of Nain Singh Rawat hulself, and three others scholars from Munsyari-Johar; Asia Ki Peeth Par, a three volume publication of PAHAR, written by writer duo Dr Uma Bhatt and Shekhar Pathak and finally Johar Ke Shauka, A Janjati by Dr Sher Singh Pangtey, the book version of Dr Sher Singh Pangtey's PhD thesis. A few sets of a 12 picture picture post cards printed by Manjula Tolia were also presented to the Institute on the occasion. All the trainees and guesrs were requested to put their initials in these books, which were gifted by the writer;s family to the Institute. Reena Kaushal Dhmot thanked the guests and the writer family for the boos donated to the Institute. The day ended with Group photographs taken with background of the Pancha-chuli and the thick forests, surrounding the Camp site.

Making NSR Mountaineering Institute, World-Class

As this writer was recording his thanks on the Visitors Book Reena Kaushal Dhamot requested this writer to make his suggestions on how to make NSR Mountaineering Institute, a world-class institutions, this writer concludes this peice with some of them, assuring that all those who attended this unique event would also be at hand to help achive the vision. Here are some of them:

1. After NIM, Uttar Kashi, NRS Mountaineering Institute, is the second Mountaineering Institute it should be properly named as Nain Singh Rawat Adventure Sports Institute, which includes Mountaineering as the core Basic and Advance Course, as without this Basic and Advance Course, the efforts made by the Institute may not be useful to the trainees. Mountaineering and Adventure Sports Courses should be helpful in livelihoods earning for the trainees. Its Courses should be got recognized by Universities like te uttarakhand Open University, for which an Expert Committee should be constituted, in collaboration with that University, and draw up suitable Courses. The Courses could also lead to Certificate, Diploma, Degree and even Post Graduate Courses. In Japan this writer had found even as early as in 1970s MA Degree Courses for Table Tennis. Similarly, Courses at NIM, Himalayan Adventure Institute, Kempty Fall ( Sri SP Chamoli ), and the Naini Tal Mountaineering Club ( NTMC ) should also benefit by such Courses, Funding and governmemt support, including budgetary support; High Mountain Guides, High Mountain Porters, and other courses that create opprtunities for local youth must receive first priority of all mountaineering institutions; NIM was forced to commence such courses at the instance of the then UP Govt, when NIM sought state aid for itself, as records would prove; 

2. NSR Mountaineering Institute should be governed by a Governing Body, chaired bySports Miinister or Chief Secretary, and its members must include eminent mountaineers, local representatives e.g. Kshetra Paramush, local MLA, eminent mountaineers and some senior citizens and it must be supported by regular budgetary support; the number of trainees that it trains must have at least 25 percent who come from the Block and MLA Constituency; 

3. A Fedeartion of all Mountaineering and Adventure Sports Associaton should be registered under the Societies registrations Act, with all existing mountaineering and adventuer sorts associations as its members, and Chief Minister Uttarakhand its Chairman, with Sports Minister its Vice Chariman and Chief Secretary, Sports Secretary, as Members, along with these institutions; the sports and adventure budgets allocated to the federation in one single go, or in two instalments, with the federation authorised to allocate it for various Courses, and events during the year, on a fair and equitous basis.

4. Mountaineering and Adventure Sports should be linked with the Disaster Management activities of the state's Disaster Mangement department and implementation of Disaster Management Act, 2015. All the Search & Rescue Courses, designed and funded by the Disaster Managemnt department must be conducted either by NSR Institute or NIM and all other Mountaineering Institutions, mentioned above; no Search & Rescue Course shoud abe allowed to be consucted by any other centre as these are not supervised or guided by experienced trainers;

5. The Disaster Management Department and its Disaster Mitigation and management Centre ( DMMC ), Dehradun must be an integral part of the proposed federation, as well as the Board of Governors of NIM and NSR Mountaineering Institute; the DMMC and DM department must have very close interaction with these two premier Training Institute and involve its trainees, on a systematic manner and compulsority in various plan preparation of District Disaster Managemt Plans and other related disaster management activities;

6. The Fedration of Mountaineering Institutions must get in touch with the State Disaster Management Authority 9 SDMA ) and the National Disasetre Management Authority 9 NDMA ) and work out how these could be made use of by both these Disaster Management Authorities, in implementation of the NDMA Plans and SDMA plans; close interaction between SDMA and NDMA would become instrumental in improveing the Plan preparation, relief and Rehabilitation programmes, of this state and the same can also be used by those mountain states, which do ot presently have such mountaineering institutions;

7. Basic and Advance Mountaineering Courses, as well as Adventure Sports actvities must be brought under formal skill-related disciplines, recofgnized through approved Certificate, Diploma, Degree and Post Graduate Courses ( Uttarakhand Open University and other affiliating Universities ), designed by Expert Committees and reviewred from time to time, and a large number of such courses should be conducted by the two Mountaineering Institutes, NIM and NSR, as well as Himalayan Adventure Institute, Kempty Falls, Mussoorie; Naini Tal Mountaineering Club,Naini Tal and other duly recognised Centres/Instututes, functioning within the state of Utarakhand. The following sections of the society and groups must be made to undergo courses, at varous stages of their careers, and made compulsory. As mountaineering has not been made compulsory, positions of teachers, civil servants and various other services, have employees who are afrid of mountains ( as they have not undertaken such courses ) and they have ben found avoiding postings to hill and difficult stations. By this single compulsion, most of the resistance towards going to hill-postings will also get addressed. Several public services have earned disrepute , particularly teachers and doctors besides others, who are most unwilling to go to hill postings. In a hilly state like Uttarakhand Mountaineering msut be made a compulsory condition for enetring any civil sercvice. On the other hand having acquired a Mountaineering degree should also be give extra weightage in securing and entering a public service. Some sections wher mountaineering course, of various elevls, must be made compulsory, are as follows:

( i )    All civil services, IAS, PCS, PPS and Allied, soon after appointment,

( ii )   All professional services, doctors and engineers, soon after joining service,

( iii )  All teachers, health para services and other para services, and 

( iv )  Functionaries recruited for contract services via various boards and agencies..

8. In 2004 Uttarakhand had announced its own Expedition Policy, with a Government Orders, ensuring that mountaineering expeditions resulted in earnings to the state, maximum employment of local porters, High Mountain Guides, Taxi owners, tour operators etc etc. It was not much liked by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation ( IMF). Uttarakhad must enforce those Guidelines and Orders to maximise economic benefit from that policy immediately. IMF has no monopoly of allowing expeditions, as the maximum trouble gets caused to the host states, and their shre of profits and creation of employment opportunities must be accorded highets priority. In a Federal set up all mountain states must insist on their fair share and they should vene come togther to ensure a fair deal to their benefits, with complete monopoly of employment opportunities.

Mountaineering with a Purpose: Safer Mountains

One eminent mountaineer when asked why he climbs mountains is said to have replied , 'because it exists there ! '

This writer, very early after the state of Utarakhand was created, begged to disgree with this great climber and responded by an article entitled, Mountaineering with a Purpose ( Patwari, Gharat and Chair; 2004, Bishen Singh MP Singh, Mountaineering with a Purpose: Mainstreaming Search & Rescue in Utaranchal, pages 63 – 70 ). He had averred that taking up mountaineering could not be simply for the pleasure of it and it could be made hugely useful by focuing it on Serach & Rescue operations, so often require in mlountain regions ! Tiem has come and become more opportune when we have had experiences of Kedarnath ( ask te NIM Team and those involved in salvaging the lost pilgrims even two years after the catastrophe ), Sikkim, Kashmir and recently Kathmandu and four affected districts ! Much had been made of the work of the Disaster Response Forces while it should have been routine operations, integral part of each of the elven mountain states, to convert their mountaineering and adventure sports institutions into vertitable  24 X 7 Research & Rescue course training institutions. The demand for training a very large section of public servants, affected and vulnerable regions and preparatory plans is so vast that trainig institutions like NSR, just being described, may be needed in evert set of two districts, needed huge funds to mainstream Awareness, including Rescue and Search training courses. Almost all uniform battalions of civil and armed units can do with not only training but drills, mock-drills that have now  become order of the day. ITBP, Miliatary Units, SSPbs and all para miliatry units, without a single exception, need to be covered by mountaineering and rescue courses.

Mountaineering days for pleasure are over with the natural disaster related requirements loomig large. Let this beging with equipping the NSR in Munsyari and NIM in Uttar Kashi become the role model, who in turn can be easily converted into Trainers Training Centre, with each of the eleven Indian Mountain States benefitting from what gets positioned here, with the help of of the NDMA and SDMA, beginning a New era of Safer Mountains

Let 21st October, this writer's final suggestion, be also declared as the Raising Day of the NSR Mountaineering Institute, at Munsyari and let on every 21st October, all mountain states review how safer have our mountains been made by strengthening of the actvities which were kick-started ny converting NSR Mountaineering Institute as a model for Training activities for making the Indian mountains a Safer place to live in and also visit, year round.

Tail-piece: Govind Panwar, the officail photographer who visually preserved the event though his photographs also hailed from Bhatkuda village, where Nain Singh Rawat was born on 21st October 1930. This discovery generated much hilarity among the audience, as the father of Nain Singh ( Lata Bura, aka Amar Singh ) was a much-married man ( quite fashionable during those days ) !

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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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