- Why it was in News?
- Problem of Integration of mountain regions
- Legacy of the colonial era
- Resources as commodities
Demand for Green Bonus
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Why it was in News?
- Recently, 11 Himalayan States of India met in Dehradun demanding a green bonus (a payment for environmental services they provide to the nation.)
- Government said that the Himalayan States, stretching from Jammu and Kashmir to Tripura paid a developmental price for maintaining forests, rivers, and other environmental goods which helped the rest of the country.
- However, above demand was buried by the abrogation of J&K’s special status under Article 370.
Problem of Integration of mountain regions
- The problem of integrating the northern mountains to the national mainstream is not specific to India.
- The entire mountain zone stretching from Balochistan, through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, J&K, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, it is easy to see that each of these regions has had problems when it comes to integration of the hilly regions with the nation states that are located in the plains.
- Moreover, China is also struggling to integrate its mountain homelands with its national mainstream.
- Scholars such James C. Scott argued about ‘Zomia’ as the mountain zone of South-East Asia which deliberately kept itself independent of the plains.
- Scholars in India too, such as D.N. Majumdar and Ramachandra Guha, have written about how structurally different are the Himalayan regions from the Indian mainstream in terms of their social and economic structure.
Legacy of the colonial era
- For most regions in the Himalayas, during the Pax Britannica, a nation (Britain) was able to reach so deep into the Himalayas and control them in a way which was historically unprecedented.
- Pax Britannica was the period of relative peace between the Great Powers during which the British Empire became the global power.
- In brief, the Himalayas successfully provided a barrier to Russian colonial expansion but were unsuccessful in providing a trade route into China.
- By the end of the 19th century, to keep the mountains socially peaceful, development of Himalayas as hill station and the war-like strategies towards the northern tribesmen were the creations of British policy.
- The postcolonial countries have not been able to break out of difficult relation with their mountain regions.
- Even the national images of such countries have been framed on the social, political and economic conditions of the communities based in the riverine plains. For example, India is known from the village or town of the Ganga plains, or along the Narmada or Krishna and Cauvery rivers.
- On the other hand, the norms of what an Indian village is, make no reference to the conditions of the mountain regions.
- This exclusion of mountain region has practical adverse consequences as policies, devised with the ‘national norm’ in mind, almost always excludes hilly regions.
Resources as commodities
- In India, the massive expansion of the national economy over the past three decades now allows for commodification of mountain resources (forests, water, labour, tourism, horticulture and even agriculture) in ways that are unprecedented.
- It has led to the emergence of a new middle class with national aspirations that neglects the geographical conditions of the Himalayas to trade and integrate with the rest of India.
- History tells us that almost all Asian countries have found such a coming together (of plain areas and Hill areas) very difficult, if not impossible.
- With India’s rapidly shrinking economic base, India is unlikely to be able to find a way to meet the special demands of the Himalayan people.