In Memoriam : Remembering Pushkin and Trilok

R.S. ToliaMemoriamLeave a Comment

Dehradun. As our new state completes fifteen years of its creation and continues to battle with an ever growing development agenda, all unique to a small and mountainous region long under a quasi-internal colonial of a far bigger political entity – which could hardly ever assign any priority to its mountain-specific problems – the past four months have been witness to passing away of two individuals, who had for long toiled on these very same issues. That these two mountain well-wishers spent best part of their respective lives at two vastly different levels also points out to the complexities of issues that concerns our mountains. The first to part our company, Trilok Singh Papola, worked at a level, which even today remains mostly unoccupied – analyzing mountain-specific issues essentially at the academic level, namely public policies that ought to be informed by successful resolution of te gaping socio-economic problems that afflict our hapless rural and remotely situated compatriots. Pushkin, the second to end his pre-mature but illustrious career just yesterday succumbing to all consuming brain-Cancer, battled where it matters most, at the grass-roots. The common point, however, was ‘our mountains’, to which both were totally committed. Lest time obliterates their fond memory and enduring contributions, it is time to briefly reflect on their individual contributions to the ‘mountain cause’.

Trilok Singh Papola

             Noted economist T.S

Dr T.S. Papola was a leading economist of India with over four decades of experience in teaching, research and advisory assignments. His areas of specialization were labour and employment, development planning, industrial economics, regional development and enterprise development. Development of hill and mountain areas has always been a subject of special interest to Dr Papola. He was born in a remote village of Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand and he had school education in the village itself and then in a school 10 kilometers away, before proceeding for Lucknow for higher education. Dr Paopola taught at Universities in Lucknow and Bombay, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and finally at University of Cambridge, in UK. His abiding contribution, in so far as the well-wishers of mountain regions are concerned, was his innings at the Giri Institute of Development Studies, Lucknow ( 1977-1987). The fact that he took keen interest in earliest studies that ever got undertaken on modern Uttarakhand region, way back in 1970s speaks of his strong commitment towards his motherland, and roots. His stints in the Planning Commission, as a Senior Advisor (1987-95) followed by as Head, Mountain Enterprises and Infrastructure Division of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development ( ICIMOD: 1996-2002 ) in Nepal, has also contributed significantly to a better understanding of several least studied aspects of the Indian mountain eco-system. In ICIMOD he was responsible for developing a programme of studies and documentation, consultation and advisory services in enterprise development in not only the mountain regions of India and Nepal but all other mountain regions in the South Asia HKH countries. Dr Paopla also served in consultative and advisory capacities with several international organizations such as ILO, UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNICEF, UNDP and Asian Development Bank, leading delegations to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Gambia, Philippines and Vietnam.

This writer came to know him more intimately during the phase when he was working with ICIMOD, a major regional organization dedicated to mountain development. For some strange reason this writer’s efforts to get him associated more intimately with the development of the new state ( 2000-2005 ) could not materialize during Tewari Government. However, after he got involved with the activities of the Integrated Mountain Initiative ( IMI ), as its Councilor, this allowed an opportunity to come closer to the powers of the day, and it saw him being made to chair the Third State Finance Commission, during Harish Rawat Government. In a manner of speaking, Dr Paopla breathed his last while still at the service of Uttarakhand, in-harness so to say. This writer, like many others involved intimately with the mountain-movement of India always looked up to him for fresh academic inputs, improving the intellectual understanding of the issues that plague our public policy domain. If this writer is not mistaken, his last major intellectual contribution to his most favorite theme, was the 20th Govind Ballabh Pant Memorial Lecture, which he delivered on the Foundation Day of GBP Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development ( GBPIHED), Kosi-Katarmal, Almora on the 10th September, 2014.

“Livelihoods,” Dr Papola, warns in his last Memorial Lecture, ” have to be secured for the local population, but it is necessary to achieve it through approaches, activities and technologies that ensure both economic and environmental sustainability. Ac neglect of these considerations may lead to kinds of disaster experienced following flash floods in Uttarakhand last year.” As this state moves forward, taking early tentative steps, the counsel and academic experience of the likes of Dr Papola would have been highly coveted, and thanks to his close and constant connection now with the IMI and individuals intimately connected with mountain development in the HKH Region, it’s had become feasible. He was providing leadership to the State Finance Commission but his failing health and long journey over more than four decades, perhaps had to come to an end. Dying in-harness, while still at work for his motherland, is something that Dr Papola would have wished, had he survived his last round of illness. But, alas that was not to be. However, as an early crusader for the mountain-cause and his academic and intellectual contributions Dr Papola will always be remembered, by his friends and colleagues alike. This writer has had long innings of very intimate discussions on various mountain -issues with him and he is happy that he could always look up to Dr Papola for his contributions on any mountain-related assignment.

Pushkin Phartiyal

Dr. Pushkin Phartiyal

Loss of Pushkin, who would have turned 48 years of age on the 16th March, had he survived his about to begin radio-therapy at the Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Science at Lucknow on the 4th February, 2016, is more acutely felt – as no one was expecting such an early termination of one of the most productive career in mountain -development that one has been witness to. He breathed his last in Lucknow only the day before.

A boisterous student leader, of DSB Naini Tal lineage, Dr Pushkin Phartiyal, born to a Senior Sales Tax Officer’s family in March 1968, completed his PhD in History in 1992. That his yearning for knowledge did not end with a PhD in History is shown by the fact that he did his second Masters in Sociology, ten years later, in 2002. This writer distinctly remembers his first meeting with late Pushkin, soon after he had completed his PhD, and happened to meet this writer, when he headed the Uttarakhand Vikas Vibhag, at Lucknow, and happened to be on a tour to Naini Tal. It was at the Hutments, opposite the Up Academy of Administration, in 1992/93 that we had first met, and he instantly took a liking to him. Of, course other than the fact that he had completed his PhD in History, a subject that this writer also pursued and also went on to complete his PhD as well, later, was perhaps the common bond. Pushkin was keen to promote tourism, wished to be practically engaged in it ( which he actually did, and was encouraged to continue by this author, later when he engaged him in the Centre for Development Studies, CDS ). Journalism is something that Pushkin continued to pursue, irrespective of what occupation he changed over to.

As mentioned, Pushkin Phartiyal’s vast repertoire of interests included Journalism, he worked as the Bureau Chief and Correspondent for a Hindi daily, Dainik Jagran ( April 1992- June 1994 ), to be followed by his first innings in an NGO ( SHRAM: July 1994-Oct 1996 ) and thereafter this writer involved him as both a Faculty cum Project Director at the Centre for Development Studies ( CDS), which was a registered society under the UP Academy of Administration. His long innings at the CDS, from November 1996 to June 2003, about 7 years, saw him learning the ropes and executing a range of development programmes carried out by the CDS. This writer was the Chairman of the CDS from 1995 to 2000, and during these 5 years he worked very closely with Pushkin. After this writer moved over to Dehradun to set up the new state, his association with the Academy and thus Pushkin, became a bit restricted, however, Pushkin, moved over as the Project Director of a Horticulture project sanctioned under the National Horticulture Mission. His transfer to the Central Himalayan Environment Association ( CHEA ) was an arrangement between the UP Academy and CHEA, which was beneficial in the interest of the state and the Horticulture Mission. CHEA, indeed, did gain in the process, more by way of being a recipient of a development functionary, in Dr Pushkin Phartyal.

From July 2003 till he breathed his last, nearly 13 years of ceaseless and growing years during which Pushkin took the organization to its current state of good health, it has been a story of a development functionary who worked tirelessly, innovatively and taking along a civil society organisation to a level, where it would become a platform for a pan-Himalayan development forum, namely the Integrated Mountain Initiative ( IMI ). This writer has had the privilege of being asked to steer the under-reform NGO, soon after he was to complete his second innings, as the Chief Information Commissioner in October 2010. With Dr Pushkin as the Executive Director and this writer as the Chairperson of CHEA, it was their joint privilege to organize the first ever Sustainable Mountain Development Summit, in May 2011. If the venue was the Uttarakhand Academy of Administration, Naini Tal, it could not come as a surprise to anyone, as almost everyone knew that such a Summit could take place only at this venue, almost the birth-place of the Indian Mountain Initiative ( now a registered civil society organisation ). Dr Pushkin Phartiyal was an obvious founder of the first Council of the IMI and thus a major contributor to the foundation of this promising Indian Initiative.

Pushkin, who had taken up CHEA, at a point of time when there was no long-term road map for its development left it with a magnificent Office, in Malli Tal, a far sounder financial -health, a range of development projects that covered aspects like capacity building, community forestry, Swajal, JFM, Surveys of Mountain Towns, Community Based Tourism Master Plans, and various gender-centric development initiatives. During his stewardship CHEA has reached out to accessing resources for various mountain development related themes and worked closely with LEAD, ICIMOD, SRTT, SDTT and so on, besides various development programmes of the state government. Lately, Climate Change and Adaptation programmes and engagement with trans-boundary projects involving mountain countries had come under the fold of CHEA. This writer during his four year term as Chairman of a reformed CHEA, worked in close contact of Pushkin and got to know him from closer quarters.

For this writer Pushkin epitomized what all could be achieved by any youth of Uttarakhand, who has had not an educational background of a so called convent-nurtured educational opportunity and opportunities that normally are likely to fall to a young man of say average qualification. Through extremely hard work, exemplary dedication, courage and diligence any one can overcome hurdles that confront a common hill-youth. That his own capacity building efforts saw him completing training programmes conducted by Thames Valley University, UK, in some professional capsules practiced at Training Institutions of this country,  LEAD India Cohort 9 ) an off shoot of Roeckfeller Foundation, New York, and scores of courses that took him to Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Germany., repeatedly to Nepal and United Kingdom, speaks volumes for his unquenching thrust for knowledge and practical experience. He naturally was travelling extensively and managing his time to its maximum stretch, there is no two opinions about it.

Before leaving for Cambridge, for yet another course, where his brain-tumor got diagnosed and which he was forced to abandon half-way, Pushkin had asked this writer if he would like him to look for some material either at the School of African and Oriental Studies or the India Office Library. During his last visit to United Kingdom Pushkin had miraculously fished out a picture-folder that captured the entire life of the London Mission Society work in colonial Uttarakhand days, in Kumaon. This chance discovery of Rev Uttam Singh Rawat, a native Christian Missionary in British Kumaon, this writer entirely owes to his friendship with late Dr Pushkin. Indeed, it goes much deeper than that as the cover illustration of this writers magnum opus, the Founders of Modern Administration in Uttarakhand ( 1815-1884 ) has also been courtesy Pushkin’s help, his forays in India Office, in London. All these courtesies stand duly acknowledged in each of these publications. This writer considers it his personal privilege that he was able to share a few last moment of his younger friend, while he awaited his final leg of chemo-treatment, at the Ram Manohar Lohia Institute. In his brief chat, just two days ahead of his most illustrious career in the service of his mother-land, Pushkin betrayed no trace of his imminent end of the innings and hoped to work together again with this writer. Certainly, this writer did not expect any other wish from him, who must have been under the severest stress after his recent brain-surgery, at New Delhi. This writer’s last email and sms to Dr Binita, his bereaved wife, remains un-answered, as it conveyed what other technical assistance was needed to ensure that his precious life continues to survive this latest obstacle on his path, which if anything, certainly was not what one often expects in any average life. Cut short, Pushkin was able to pack in 48 years which an average person often is unable to deliver in 100 years of a productive life ! Pushking was ‘ Work-alcoholic Personified’. Uttarakhand can do with a thousands of his genre. Long live, Pushkin and his kinds.

* R.S. Tolia pays his last homage to two sons-of-the-soil who would be remembered by scores of admirers for many-many years to come for their yeo-man services to Uttarakhand and the mountains of India.

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