The border area workers conference held on 29 to 31st October, 1968 at Gopeshwar Dist. Chamoli, Uttarakhand was the third in the series of such conference organised by the Border Area Coordination Committee on zonal basis for Western and Eastern Zones separately. In the western sector this was the 2nd conference as the first one was held last year in Kulu,(Himanchal Pradesh). The Conference was attended by about a hundred workers of all the constituent agencies of the Coordination Committee arriving from the border areas of Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The presence of Shri Jayaprakash Narayan, Shri U. N. Dhebar and other members of the Coordination Committee for all the three days shows how important it was.
We are meeting in Uttarakhand where a number of new institutions have come up during recent past. It consumed most of the time in reporting the work of each of the organisations but it was at the same time essential to listen to them and, of course, the reports of some of the persons such as Smt. Vimala Behn and Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt, were most touching and thrilling which made me recall the days of 1920-21. This reflects the enthusiasm and devotion with which you are working to shape this land to an equalitarian but prosperous Uttarakhand of morrow.
There is fundamental difference of quality in the work of an institutional worker; howsover competent he may be and that of a voluntary worker. I feel that if your experiences are put into the words by an expert writer they would certainly be most inspiring to those working in other parts of the country. I feel humiliating to be called a gandhian, particularly when I find myself amongst you who not only think ut also practise Gandhism in the strict sense of the term. As far as I am concerned, I will be put in the category of Huzurs, who do not actually represent the Gandhian way of life. The way you people identify yourself among the masses is the true Gandhism and it is Gandhism in practice and not only in ideology. The simplicity of your skill of looking on a thing more practically in the interest of a common-man are the two factors which ought to have contributed in your efforts. I wish this spirit to persist which if kept alive will have a considerable impact on the minds of the masses to understand your mission.
I understand from your reports and talks that the awareness that appears here today has its roots in the heart of Sarla Behen who was the real source of inspiration to the local workers. Her dedication to this region seems to be unequalled by any other outsider, even from within the country itself. It was most regrettable that the Government without knowing the reality and the usefulness of her presence in the region, disallowed her to move within the inner line just because of one reason that she was not so far accepted formally as an Indian citizen. It is, however, a matter of pleasure that this restriction has now been removed and I hope that her munificent and motherly treatment will again bless the workers which is needed is needed here to rejuvvenate the movement.
It should be made a point in the forthcoming meetings that the reports are prepared and distributed among the participants. While reporting one should focus on deleberating only the new experiences and not merely repeating the whole story. The general condition of the region concerned, geographic, sociological and economic affairs should be well incorporated in the written reports and there is no need to read it word by word. Main emphasis should, of course, be laid on the actual impact of the work in generating people’s power, ‘Lok Shakti’ – in the region which cannot be assessed by compiling statistical data.
There have been lot of talks on the relative utility of the local workers and those imported from outside. It was put up differently by different persons but the explanation put forth by Shri Yogeshbhai, that our ultimate objective should be to evoke ‘Lok Shakti’ and for that purpose the maximum involvement of the local people in this work will help give momentum to the movement, seems to be wise to justify the usefulness of local workers over the outsiders. Workers from outside also should be there but only to the extent they are essential to supplement and not hinder the efforts. What should be the shape of the local organisation and how to make best use of Block Simitis of Panchayati Raj and other institutions which are still within the four walls of bureaucracy and law should also be considered with a view to modify them to concede the principles of Gram Swarajya.
The village assemblies that are formed after Gramdan should be based on the mutual trust and cooperation of the people. To think of worthlessness of the Gramdan movement in bringing tabout the revolution in the community as asserted by Shri Yogeshbhai seems to have been inferred in advance without going into he depth of the idea. Unless and until all the significant components of Gramdan start functioning in the village, it cannot be said that the Gramdan is accomplished fully, nor it can bring about change in the existing pattern. It is only possible when the Gram Sabha of a Gramdani village take steps to solve it’s problems with its own efforts and resource. It requires a close follow-up action in the right direction. As and when the Gramdan is complete with all its facets it, itself will prove to be the solution of many unsolved problems.
It appears that the institutions working from outside Uttarakhand are least contributing in meeting the actual requirements of the region. I feel that the electricity is a vital necessity of th the life of his region which can alone improve its economy to manifold by utilising it for the development of small industries and increasing agricultural production. Let us see what Khadi & Village Industries Commission can do in this respect. It is an earnest desire of the people here that in view of its different conditions and situation a seperate body consisting of the local representatives should be formed to decide on all the matters of development and also to have power to sanction grants to different areas on priority basis from out of the total earmarked budget for this region. Uttar Pradesh is a big size State and I am basically against the larger States. Of course, Uttarakhand has suffered from a great neglect and it was only after the dispute with China on border question that the Government turned its attention to this with the basic objective of defence. I agree with this, that Uttarakhand should enjoy some autonomy in promoting and undertaking development programmes on its won pattern and requirements on the ground of its entirely different conditions from the rest of U.P.
There are areas within Uttarakhand where population growth is completely stationary or it is declining, not because of the enforcement of the family planning programme, but due to the con-fertility rate and higher death rate caused by several socio-sexual diseases troubling the people. There is need of such volunteers to work among the people who could help them in getting rid of their plight. Our programmes in these areas should be worked out on humane grounds after a careful sociological and economic study of their peculiar problems. We should not be lost merely in selling and producing wool and Khadi.
I think that the initial policy of having state level and regional Coordination Committees has not been materialised properly. It is essential to ensure coordination at the ground level and the identity of action of the workers in the field.