Explained: Why The Gairsain Move By The Trivendra Singh Rawat Government Is Making Headlines In Uttarakhand

Explained: Why The Gairsain Move By The Trivendra Singh Rawat Government Is Making Headlines In UttarakhandUttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.
Snapshot
  • The BJP is moving one step closer to fulfilling its vision on Gairsain through administration changes.

    The declaration of Gairsain as the third commissionerate has seen the Congress and the AAP opposing the move.

Last week, the Trivendra Singh Rawat-led government in Uttarakhand made an announcement. Gairsain was declared a new administrative division of the state, a third commissionerate.

A commissioner and a DIG will be deployed in Gairsain.

The ‘surprise’ announcement (as how a section of the media sees it) has come after Garsain was declared as Uttarakhand's summer capital last year. The mandal is an assimilation of two districts each from Garhwal mandal and Kumaon mandal. These are: Almora and Bageshwar (in Kumaon) and Rudrapyarag and Chamoli (in Garhwal). Gairsain, the town, would now be the third administrative division, a third commissionerate.

The other two and previous ones are Kumaon and Garhwal – known as the two main identity and culture representations of Uttarakhand.

Equipping Gairsain with ‘top class infrastructure’ was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) vision for the 2017 polls. The party had said that it would consider declaring Gairsain as the state's summer capital with the “consensus of all”. The state is going to assembly polls in 2022.

Last week, Chief Minister Rawat announced that bidding for planned development of the Gairsain capital area will be done. An area of 278-kilometre roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana has been reportedly sanctioned for the region and Rs 350 crore has been sanctioned for the development of Gairsain.

The state government has announced a list of allocations that point at the emotion being pumped into the region.

Rawat added that a helipad is being developed in Gairsain to meet the capacity for landing of three MI helicopters – to improve direct access of the Prime Minister and the President.

The demand for Garsain as a separate mandal has been an element of Uttarakhand politics. The forming of the mandal would see Garsain getting a new identity as a mandal. Garsain as a mandal will enable addressing of the region’s concerns with the help of the required appointments made by the state government for the commissionerate.

The announcement was made by Rawat in the budget session of the assembly held in Gairsain, a tehsil in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district. The movement and agitation for the statehood of Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh saw Gairsain become part of the statehood narrative as a section of people thought that it was in the right position to serve as the capital. It is nestled between Garhwal and Kumaon.

The declaration of Gairsain as the third commissionerate has seen the Congress and the AAP opposing the move. However, Congress has in the past made efforts to give Gairsain the political importance it holds in the Uttarakhand narrative.

Congress, which is in opposition is not supporting the inclusion of Almora in the Garsain mandal and its removal from the Kumaon mandal. The party has taken up the issue and has protested against it and said that the step has led to the pride of Almora getting hurt in the process.

The matter is expected to shape up into a cultural issue. Almora has for long been associated with the identity of Kumaon and stood as the cultural representation and the prime centre of Kumaon, its people and narratives. The state government's decision of including it in Garsain brings a change in that status.

Those protesting the move have said that people of the region will now be compelled to travel to Garsain as the "commissionerate will now shift out of Nainital".

These, coming from locals, could be fair concerns – in administration and culture spheres. Communication and work towards addressing them are the two solutions and answers.

The Congress has reportedly said that the people's emotion is against the move and the party will ask the government to rethink the decision.

The Aam Aadmi Party, too, has opposed the move and said that the move is not appropriate. It has reportedly said that the government is misguiding the people my making Garsain a mandal when it should declare it the "sthhai capital".

It has termed the government's move as "deceit". The AAP has said that if the government was serious about serving the people of the region, it would first declare Gairsain a district and then a capital.

Reportedly, some people say that the new mandal may end up having the same or similar fate as that of the other two mandals.

The other two mandals are Garhwal and Kumaon.

During the four years of the Trivendra Singh Rawat government, the two mandals have seen developmental initiatives, programmes, policies and cultural initiatives being placed with the state government's own or the Centre-state partnership. The mandals and the state as one, is moving towards improvement every time a new and positive step or developmental change, or a culture-reviving change is taken in the state.

So, to the perception being built by some sections that the third and new mandal will end up "having the same/similar fate" as the other two mandals, seems to not add up. The same people at the same time are saying that declaring Garsain a new (and third) mandal "isn't a big issue" ("koi badaa mudda nahin hai").

This seems to be pointing at a possible state of confusion.

Rawat's announcement of Garsain as the third mandal could be nibbling into a political issue that would have been taken up later – related to or surrounding Garsain.

Rawat himself has announced the positive development of Garsain as a third mandal in Uttarakhand. Gairsain is home to the Vidhan Sabha. For an assembly session, Gairsain witnesses the echelons of power, its files and accessories, the men, moving from the Vidhan Sabha and Secretariat situated in Dehradun.

The journey between the two capitals by road is nearly 10 hours.

Yet, since the declaring of Gairsain as the summer capital, the Trivendra Singh Rawat seems to be presenting the session transition in a display of regional pride.

The BJP, which is moving one step closer to Gairsain, and one step closer to fulfilling its vision on Gairsain with these administration changes, seems to be looking at the sentiments of people in the hills.

Chief Minister Rawat held meetings with his colleagues in Gairsain on his "baatein kam kaam zyada (less talk more work)" initiative.

The list of demands concerning Gairsain by some sections of people in the region's politics is longer. One is of Gairsain being made a district. Another of Garsain is being declared as 'the sthhai' capital (Dehradun being the other capital) of Uttarakhand.

With the coming up of the mandal, people of the region would expect that a ‘mandalaayukt’ (commissioner) and a team of officers address the problems of people and find solutions to the problems being faced by them.

The opposition has termed the announcement of the Gairsain mandal as a "populist announcement". It has said that the making of Gairsain a new divisional headquarter is not going to benefit the people. Their stand on the issue is that the people of the region will benefit when Gairsain becomes a district headquarter. In the current situation, it will be the "first commissionerate without a district" and so "no commissioner would like to come here."

Question: Do or would commissioners have a choice about the "would like to come here" part?

Administration and good administration in a border hill state, where people are expecting improvement in infrastructure, in lives, in health facilities, and in administration, is, rather, should not be a matter of choice or a matter of "no commissioner would like to come here."

The BJP-led government in the state and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the centre are talking about "Uttarakhand" in their "vision for the state". The Covid year saw them talk about making the adversities of reverse migration an opportunity for creating strength.

The step towards Gairsain's fate and improvement should see them talking straight on "no commissioner would like to come here" bit with those who are opposing the move of declaring Gairsain a mandal and calling it a "populist" move or announcement.

Last week, there was a clash between people protesting and the police in Gairsain on the issue of the widening of a road. Rawat ordered magisterial enquiry into the matter and spoke on the issue.

This where the BJP must talk tough if it really means business now and business in 2022. This is where JP Nadda and Amit Shah and Narendra Modi must make their voice heard, if the state voices are coming across as feeble at a time when a state, its people, the welfare, are keeping up with the vision graph. This is where they must talk about the state more than their politics.

Sections opposing CM Rawat's announcement of Garsain as the third mandal say that it "isn't a big issue" ("koi badaa mudda nahin hai"). Earlier, the government's opposition accused Rawat of "ignoring Gairsain". Now when Gairsain is getting the attention, the focus, and the beginning in a set of positive moves, the move of declaring it a mandal, is being opposed.

These are questions that the BJP and the parties trying to gain space with or without BJP must ask each other.

Why is the forming of the third mandal and Garsain as a third mandal becoming an issue at all in Uttarakhand before the poll season?

Why then, is assimilation of two districts in the new mandal, from Kumaon and Garhwal, not leading to a celebration of pahadi unity and cultural diversity in unity?

Why is the way forward, the work graph for the new mandal, not a point of discussion between those opposing the move and those supporting it?

Rest everything could be politics and not really the pahadi sentiment for Uttarakhand.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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