In a subtle realignment of our priorities all of us have been working and talking informally for some time across the state about creating an infrastructure through which like minded people and organizations with common cause can work together in meaningful consortiums that enable each to build organically and symbiotically on the efforts of the others, access far greater resources than a single organization might manage and as the old adage goes, ‘with one switch, turn on a 1000 light bulbs.’ The catalyst for this transformation as a “Himalayan Desk” which could reach throughout the development sector to organizations big and small and, with them, build up the institution and network structure is envisioned. The effort to sustain this lofty, but also essential goal, has now reached an important turning point where it needs to be formalized and allowed to grow in a more deliberate and concerted way.

Many organizations grew from grassroots effort to large, wide-reaching and effective NGOs in the Himalayan region. They achieved this because they never considered a large grant or well funded project the benchmark of success, but rather always sought ways in which to use those resources to make their work challenge the way things are done, inspire a shared vision of better possibilities and mobilize the means to affect needed change. All this to more effectively and more tangibly bring improvement in the lives of people.

Even as our work at the grassroots continues we have to set our eyes on new targets, and try to answer the question of why with huge funds flowing to the NGO sector in India alone, is there not more of a visible impact on the ground? The answer seems to lie in the functioning of the NGO sector where, despite the huge influx of funds, the work tends to be fragmented, uncoordinated and scrambling after the same resources. What should emerge is an organic, concerted, deliberate endeavor to consolidate efforts across the region and through the major issues and themes in a way that increases the capacity of not just the NGOs on the ground but of all the international donors, government agencies, private enterprise and even individuals that interact with them.


A woman looks on at Bhagirathi river, after her home has been washed off in a flash flood

While it is an important first step to ask questions such as “why, given the amount of investment being poured into these causes, is there not a more tangible difference visible on the ground? it is not enough to stop there. Nor is it sufficient, or even tenable, to continue working in the fragmented manner of the past. In a time of unsurpassed resources, technological, financial and human, it is necessary to reinvent how development work is done. It will take all these resources in concert with a regional, specific knowledge of the issue to make the links, build the infrastructure and create the institution that would facilitate activities in this brave new world. But we must start building it now to meet the challenges and opportunities in the fairly new state of Uttarakhand.

Over the past few decades and originally born out of the alchemy of activist fire and social concern, some of us look to be, above all, a force of change that is led by the community. With mantras of “Moving Mountains up the Global Agenda” and “Jal Jungle aur Jameen” etc we have pressed forward in our efforts to evolve the way “development” work is done at every level, be it by encouraging self reliance and at all times urging communities to take the responsibilities for their lives into their own hands or nudging NGOs and donors out of the complacency of believing that large budgets and grand projects alone will solve the many, complex problems of a new state. At the same time, through our work on the ground, we have created a new generation of leaders with a profound, holistic understanding of the region’s issues, who now run organizations of their own or hold positions in the government, World Bank, international donor agencies, and others. Several have become Ford Fellows and have pursued higher studies in Ivy League Universities of the world. The potential of their learning is now deployed in these mountains of Uttarakhand.

This grassroots credibility and experience must merge with a far broader vision that looks beyond the immediate needs of the programs to the greater imperatives of converting these efforts into broad-based trends that would sustain their own momentum against the stark reality of a world in which children and youth are the majority population; 70% of the worlds conflicts are taking place in mountainous areas; and where women, despite shouldering the majority of societies burdens are still to be recognized for it. In these archipelagos that are the mountains, traditional forms of infrastructure, communication and development often don’t work and one must look to the cutting edge of technology, through wireless communication and remote knowledge systems, to overcome these barriers.

What is needed now is an aggregating force that can lift the development sector to a new level and extract it from what appears to be a midlife crisis of sorts. The re-orientation of the Indian economy from a static situation to, in current jargon, a “market friendly” one, involves a substantial reduction in the role of the state in regulating the economy through direct controls. The role of government is changing and the emergence of a market economy has also made it an imperative for the social sector to redefine their role to fulfill the “said” objectives of sustainability, effective use of resource etc.

Public concern of a declining confidence in political leadership, the globalization of the economy, free trade, increased competitiveness in the open market, all point in the direction of viable alternatives. In India, the roles of the NGOs are receiving greater focus to provide this alternative in many ways.

The Himalayan Desk (HD) as an aggregating force could/may initially consider its role as (Hindi):

  • Creating a mandate, a platform, an atmosphere for innovation and experimentation.
  • Provide an opportunity for smaller, more dynamic organizations to operate in the larger arena.
  • Give organizations the space and freedom to spread their wings and not be bogged down with survival issues/activities.

  • Change the dynamics and economics of the development sector for the donor agencies as well as the NGOs on the ground. Interface with government, private sector and donor agencies on behalf of all its partners.

  • Bring national and international bodies and their projects closer to the intended recipients by creating a new level of management & communication infrastructure

  • Act as a Human Resource Development organization for the region.

  • Serve as a catalyst for constant innovation, better business practices and a conduit for new ideas.

  • Provide “single window” services of a communication centre that can consolidate efforts of a wide range of issues spread over a vast region and facilitate a two way flow of information.

  • At no point in time or juncture infringe upon the autonomy, individual character, image or independence of associated organizations.

Uttarakhand is in her infancy, a near blank slate, waiting for and encouraging committed people to nurture and guide her to live up to her regional status as the “Abode of the Gods”. Bringing this exciting prospect to a peer network that is committed to continuous learning, and by adding our stories to her foundations as also celebrating the power of social entrepreneurs, will ultimately inspire others in an ever expanding network for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.


Dehradun, UK. 22nd July, 2011

सिरिल के साक्षात्कार के हिन्दी कैपशन्स (अभी सिर्फ भाग चार) उपलब्ध है । उन्हें औन करें और पढने के लिये वीडियो को फुल स्क्रीन कर लें। यह कैपशन्स हम यहाँ भी सुविधाहेतु दे रहे हैं:

भाग चार:

इस लिये- साथ काम करना, हिमालयन डेस्क का एक दूसरा सपना, लालसा है- सरकारी तन्त्र, निजी उद्यम..और स्वैच्छिक सँस्थान – सब मिल कर इक टीम की तरह काम करेँ। इसके लिये उन्हेँ प्रेरित करना – यह भी हिमालयन डेस्क की एक ख्वाहिश है, एक सपना है।

मैने कहीं यह लिखा है – सर्व जन सुखाय, समाज के हित के लिये, हम सहज, प्राक्रितिक रूपेण (औरगेनिकली) काम करें, एक दूसरे की क्षमताओं को स्वीकारें, उसका उपयोग करें..उन पर कुछ नया बनाएं, समाज की बेहतरी के लिये..

हिमालयन डेस्क का एक और सपना है, कि उन संरचनाओं व शक्तियों का विलोप हो जो बीच में रोडा हैं, यानि “बिचौलिये”..सच तो यह है कि चाहे युरोपियन कमीशन हो या वर्ल्ड बैंक या युनाइटेड नेशन्स- सभी बडी द्वि पक्षीय संस्थाएं आज मजबूर हैं सरकार या एनजीओ के साथ काम करने को..

मैं उस दिन का सपना देख रहा हूँ जब ये बडी द्वि पक्षीय संस्थाएं इन बिचौलिओं को हटा कर सीधे समुदाय के साथ काम करेंगी..अत: जब हम मानव संसाधन पर काम करें तो  सुनिश्चित करें कि पंचायतें इतनी सक्षम बनें कि वे सीधे बात करें, समझौते करेँ युरोपियन कमीशन, वर्ल्ड बैंक, आदि से-पानी जलागम आदि आदि मुद्दों पर । इस तरह उन तमाम अनावश्यक खर्चों से छुटकारा मिलेगा जो आज बिचौलियो को देने पडते है काम कराने के लिये..यह एक सुन्दर पहल होगी हिमालयन डेस्क की ।

और सबसे बडी बात होगी स्वयंसेवी क्षेत्र में एक बेहतर आत्मा का संचार कर पाना ..सहयोग व साथ मिल कर काम करने की भावना..वकालत (एडवोकेसी) उस सोच को बदलने की जिसके तहत विकास को प्रोजेक्ट मे बंाध दिया जाता है। अाशा करता हूँ कि हिमालयन डेस्क लोगो को एक आँदोलन के रूप मे काम करना सिखा पाएगी..(न कि महज प्रोजेक्ट मोड में) एक बदलाव के लिये काम करना (धन्यवाद- भाग चार समाप्त)

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