Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Wrath of the Dhari-devi! (Dhara-mata)

Original article on Samirsinh Dattopadhye's Blog
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Just recently Uttarakhand has seen ravaging floods and the resulting human-loss. We have been watching all these news through newspaper and news channels. Bapu mentioned this catastrophe during his yesterday’s discourse. An article has been published in today’s Pratyaksha related to this; the English translation of which is been furnished as under. 

Goddess Dhari Devi
Popular belief has it that the Dhari-devi (the Goddess Dhari) protects the bhaktas who are on the pilgrimage of the Chardham. It is precisely for this reason that over the last two years, the government has been receiving continual appeals requesting it not to demolish the temple of the Dhari-devi, located on the banks of the river Alaknanda in the Shreenagar region of Uttarakhand. The local residents firmly trust that it is She, the Dhari-devi who controls and regulates the flow of the Alaknanda and it is her regulation that maintains a calm and placid stream. So everyone, right from the local religious bodies to the populace kept requesting the government to reconsider its decision about the Dhari-devi temple. However, the government turned a deaf ear to the plea saying progress is the need of the hour and electricity, its basic necessity. On 16th June at 6 in the evening the Dhari-devi temple was demolished. The idol of the Dhari-devi was moved.
At precisely this time, there was a cloudburst in Kedarnath and the two hours that followed were marked by heavy showers and consequent disarray. Thousands of bhaktas on the Chardham pilgrimage suddenly found themselves stuck in that area. The heavy rain showers and the landslide aggravated the disaster making the rescue work increasingly difficult. Whenever such a disaster occurs, the media voluntarily takes on the responsibility of tracing the cause, the one factor at the root of it all. The disaster at Uttarakhand was no exception to this. The media, while conveying information about the victims and about the plight of the bhaktas stuck in the disaster-struck regions, kept lashing out at the government by communicating simultaneously, about plans and projects chalked out mindless of environmental welfare. However, over and above these plausible factors, the local population persisted in pointing a finger at the demolished Dhara-devi temple while voicing their discontent.

Dhari Devi Temple
It was 800 years that the Dhari-devi temple had stood in its place. It is believed that this is an ancient ‘siddha-peeth’ (a base or location equipped with certain capacities and powers) and the Dhari-devi, a form of Mother Kali (Goddess Kali). The Shreemadbhagvat too mentions about this ‘siddha-peeth’. The Dhari-devi temple located in the Kaliyasur region near about Shrinagar in Uttarakhand (not the Shrinagar in Jammu-Kashmir) has been a sacred place for the local residents. May her form seem fierce and aggressive, a mother that she is, she assumes this form only for the protection of her bhaktas, is what tradition affirms. History too endorses this belief through stories.
In 1882 an eccentric king had indulged in tampering with this temple. This too invited the scorn of nature leading to terrible natural disasters. So little wonder then that the locals should have such intense and deep-rooted sentiments about the temple of Dhari-devi.

Uttarakhand floods
Should the government really demolish the temple, the people were bound to suffer some horrific aftermath, so the locals were convinced. That within a few hours of the demolition of the Dhari-devi temple there are heavy rain showers – so heavy that there is a massive deluge and that the Alaknanda, a tributary of the Ganga manifests its ferocious and furious form just cannot be shrugged off as a mere coincidence, say the shraddhavaans. The local media has published these claims made by the common man. The religious organizations and the Dharmacharya of this region too have rebuked the government severely for choosing to knock down the Dhari-devi temple. Totally uncaring and unmindful of environmental welfare, the central government has sanctioned hundreds of projects to be housed in Uttarakhand. Knocking down the Dhari-devi temple to erect a dam across the river Alaknanda is but one of these.
It is quite common that developmental projects should meet with opposition from the local inhabitants. So the government conveniently construed the local opposition to the demolition of the Dhari-devi temple in order to build a dam, as ‘just one of them’. Having dismissed it thus, the government did not feel the need to give a thought to the faith and trust that the people associate with the temple. But the executors of the project ended up oblivious to the fact that their project was an assault on the faith, on the very sentiment that inspires and fulfills the pilgrimage of Chardham. The locals are of the opinion that this is exactly what they are being made to pay a horrible price for. It is to be noted that environmentalists who do not think much of faith and dharma too were against building this dam. This leads us to conclude that the government chose to walk over both faith and environmental welfare in deciding to erect a dam across the Alaknanda.

Place of Dhari Devi Temple
Even those who believe that the cause of the present disaster has to do with the environment and not with the demolition of the temple, strongly condemn the utter lack of sensitivity and consideration exhibited by the government in razing to the ground, this 800 year old sacred place of worship. Moreover, even if this disaster had not occurred, it was in any case unjustified on the government’s part to show blatant indifference towards popular sentiment. Also, if we turn our attention to the arbitrary and domineering decisions implemented under the garb of generation of electric power in the Himalayan region considered to be ‘the land of the gods’, we will realize that the central and the state government have been disregarding both faith and environment.
The dams erected across the stream of the Ganga are essential for the generation of electricity, so the government claims. But this has adverse affects on the stream of the Ganga leading to increased pollution of its waters, which fact the government just refuses to acknowledge. Do we actually need to convince the government that this entire issue is not merely a matter of faith, the very life of Indians depends on the rivers of the Himalayas! In the course of expressing concern about the degradation of the environment and in view of the current disaster in Uttarakhand, the question that we face is, ‘how in the world can this machinery called the government be so uncaring and callous about the rivers that are vital beyond doubt in all fields ranging from religion and culture to economics?’ The internet, a totally democratic platform has recorded reactions that attack this unfeeling attitude of the government.
The social networking sites too have become platforms for expression of fervent criticism against the insensitivity of the government. On the one hand are seen relevant write-ups with headlines that ask a question like ‘Did the demolition of the Dhari-devi temple cause the deluge?’ and on the other appeals for the nationalization of the river Ganga make their way to the President, Shree Pranav Mukharji’s office. The Himalayan rivers occupy a unique position in the Indian culture and that they be protected and along with them the environment, is the wish not only of those who have trust in the dharma but also of the environmental experts. Therefore nobody can or should ignore the issue.
Neither the government at the centre nor the government at the state level need be under the misapprehension that it can take decisions disregarding the sentiment of the people and then successfully distance itself from the consequences. The declaration of aid and funds for the relatives of victims or that of the execution of new projects can in no way compensate for the devastation that followed the knocking down of the Dhari-devi temple. May the government not lose sight of the fact that an assault on the faith or pure sentiment of the people will necessarily end up inviting reactions in one way or the other. Measures that restrain wild and ferocious rivers or hold back the fury of nature elude technology even today. The government therefore requires to stop promoting right now, this progress which is by no means a journey forwards and that in fact invites devastation. Instead of debating whether the disaster was super-natural or natural, what the government actually ought to do is, admit its mistake and take steps to make amends. If it does so, this will prove that it still harbours some sensitivity and consideration for the people’s sentiments apart from saving its credibility and trust; if not in addition to the horrifying series of disasters the government will be compelled to face the disgrace of not just the super-natural and the natural but that of the people too.

European Economy

Bekele Geleta
Just last week, the Secretary General of Red Cross, Bekele Geleta, warned that the ever increasing unemployment and poverty in some of the European countries is fuelling unrest and that these issues may result in a sudden uprising of the masses if proper measures are not taken to resolve them. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Finance Minister of Germany, while talking about the same issues, warned of disintegration of Europe if unemployment was not brought under check.
Just preceding these statements, Sweden, one of the most stable and economically sound countries of Europe, witnessed the eruption of massive riots in its capital city, Stockholm. Interestingly, the Swedish capital of Stockholm is considered to be one of the most economically affluent cities in Europe. Never before in the past has Sweden witnessed riots on such a large scale. These riots have effectively underlined how the proverbial bubble regarding Europe’s affluence has burst over the years.
Most of the countries in Europe are facing significant reduction in their GDPs, with most countries facing a rising mountain of debt. Amidst all this, Sweden has managed to maintain a healthy rate of economic growth, so much so that today Sweden is considered to be financially much stronger than Germany and France. That the riots have taken place such a large scale inspite of the sound financial health of Sweden has left many confused. The reason for the riots inspite of the sound financial health of the country is being attributed to the changed circumstances over the past few years, in the aftermath of the recession. Stockholm and its adjoining areas have witnessed a huge influx of migrants. People have come here in hordes in search of jobs and dreams of a better future, but still these remain distant realities for them. Employment opportunities have drastically reduced and even the young, educated class has found it difficult to get jobs. A similar situation is being faced across Europe. The highest youth unemployment rates in Europe have been observed in Greece where they have skyrocketed to 64.2% and are also close to hitting 75% in some parts of the country. Spain too has been facing this extremity where youth unemployment rates have been at a staggering 56.4%. Portugal too is not far behind with youth unemployment rates being as high as 42.5%. At the same time, other EU members viz., Cyprus, Latvia, Ireland, Lithuania and Estonia have also been seeing higher and increasing rates of unemployment. Also a whopping one third of all individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 are at risk of poverty in the EU.
Coupled with this, over the past two years, the local self-governing bodies have also drastically reduced their spendings on various social welfare schemes, which also includes cuts in the grants to educational institutions. This has further aggravated the disenchantment and dejection of the youth, which found expression in the form of the Stockholm riots.
London Riots
Similar riots were witnessed on the streets of United Kingdom in the year 2011. London was up in flames for five long days. This violence and disquiet soon spread to its neighbourhoods and adjoining towns. Shops were being looted and police were seen to be helpless. It was later observed that these riots too had their roots in similar economic problems of growing unemployment, poverty, influx of migrants and the widening rich-poor divide.
The Stockholm riots have not only underlined that fact that the conditions in Europe haven’t improved since 2011 but have rather pointed towards the possibility of a break-up of the Eurozone, which would ultimately result in the break-up of Europe. The picture of reduction in recession and improvement in economic conditions which is being projected is, in reality, much below its actual rate.
To reduce the strain on their exchequers most of the countries have introduced multiple austerity schemes. The growing helplessness owing to job losses that have resulted in backbreaking of family spendings and sustenance which, coupled with significant reduction in the release of grants from Governmental schemes, has been fuelling the popular discontent across Europe. Countries like Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain have clearly witnessed this popular discontent against the cuts in social spending in the recent past. It is, however, worth noting that this discontent is also being witnessed in an economically stable nation like Germany.
In the year 2011, while the Arab countries were engulfed in the flames of revolt, streets in the US and Europe were being rocked by the ‘Occupy’ agitations. Scores of people had taken to streets during these agitations which were targeted against the western governments that were engaged in protecting the interests only of capitalist businessmen. Many major cities across the globe were also witnessing these agitations. A similar movement, under the name of ‘Blockupy’ has now been brewing in Europe since a year or so. The situation seems highly contrary as the European countries that benefited and prospered from their capitalist policies are now actually facing a revolt against the same. It is important to note that Europe and even the economically stable Germany has been the land of origin of these agitations. These agitations are mainly against the austerity measures that are being imposed on various European governments the by European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund because of the bailouts that have been issued by these organizations to them.
What has compounded the crises further is the demand of many economically prosperous regions in various European countries that have been longing for their independence. The list of these regions is very long and includes the Veneto and Lombardy regions of Italy, Scotland which is part of United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain, Flanders in Belgium, Corsica in France, etc. Being prosperous, these regions have been contributing the maximum to their respective national GDPs and tax collections; yet the benefits, facilities and developmental projects that they get in return are abysmal. This disparity has been fuelling a long standing discontentment in these regions, which are now transforming into vociferous demands of independence. Thus, in short, the economic downfall in Europe may not just result in the breaking up of the Eurozone, but may also result in the separation of various regions and provinces of many European nations.
At a time when the US Dollar has already become unstable, the future of Euro too looks unsure. It surely can be said that this huge increase in unemployment and poverty, coupled with diminishing growth rates of European economies are pointing towards outbreak of yet another recession, which would result in the sinking of not just the Eurozone but of Europe as a whole. It is also worth noting that against the backdrop of these events Indian Rupee has been seeing a massive fall against the US Dollar with Rupee falling to its all time low of 57.14 to the US Dollar as on today.