Development gains elude Kumaon’s holy place

PITHORAGARH:Bageshwar district was carved out of Almora district by former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on September 15, 1997.

Development gains elude Kumaon’s holy place

A panaromic view of Bageshwar town with the Saryu and the Gomati flowing through. The town is beset with many problems that manifest government indifference. Photo courtesy: Keshav Bhatt


BD Kasniyal

Pithoragarh, May 15

Bageshwar district was carved out of Almora district by former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on September 15, 1997. However, even after more than 18 years, it is still waiting for proper infrastructure that is usually available in a district headquarters. 

Bageshwar, a religious place of the Kumaon region since ancient times, has no district hospital or a base hospital for people who come here from far-off Kapkot and Bharari. “The issue of offices for development officers has been solved with the construction of the Vikas Bhavan. However, the district still needs a labour office and a roadways depot,” says Ghanshyam Joshi, a journalist based at Bageshwar.

The district, which had over 517 villages in 1880 when Atkinson wrote his gazetteer, today has 425 villages and 1,400 hamlets. All hamlets are still not linked with roads though some have been linked recently under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. “Inadequate road and other infrastructure facilities are one of the main problems of Bageshwar district that hampers transportation of produce from villages to markets,” says BD Pandey, a resident of Bageshwar.

Bageshwar town is facing numerous problems. It has no sewerage and solid waste management facility due to which sewage and garbage are being dumped into the Saryu, which is considered a holy river in Kumaon. Geeta Rawal, chairperson of the Nagar Palika Parishad, Bageshwar, says lack of sufficient parking spaces in the town is another big problem. “We have sent a proposal of a sewerage and parking lots to the higher authorities but have not received any funds for the purpose,” she says.

Shortage of water for drinking and other purposes for pilgrims and tourists is another problem. Tourists prefer to stay at Kausani or Munsiyari instead of Bageshwar town. “We need a well-equipped tourist information centre in the district headquarters so that adventure lovers going for trekking to the Pindari glacier are not misled by fraudsters,” says Suresh Joshi, a shopkeeper on the Kapkot road. There is need to construct a bridge on the Pinder river considering tourists going to remote places such as the Pindari and Sundardhunga glaciers. There is also need to develop tracks to these two places on the lines of Munsiyari tracks.

The district was once rich in agriculture and animal husbandry. Besides growing crops, people were mainly engaged in sheep rearing. However, agriculture and sheep rearing in Bageshwar have suffered as villagers, who are increasingly joining armed forces, after retirement are settling down in Bageshwar town instead of their native villages. This has put pressure on the existing infrastructure facilities available in the town. The shortage of water and electricity, besides parking has worsened in the town. As licensed mining of soft stones is going on in the villages, the earlier infrastructure suitable for agriculture needs to be upgraded accordingly. A better road network is required for transporting mined material from villages. Villagers earn money by allowing mining in their fields.

Bagnath temple that gave the town its name needs maintenance

The 7th century Bagnath or Byaghreswar temple, from which the name of Bageshwar town has been derived, is a neglected place. Bageshwar is also known as Kashi of Uttarakhand as the town was a religious place of Kumaon and Garhwal. According to locals, the temple premises has been encroached upon. “The beautification of the temple and the gardening and plantation around it have been pending for the last 50 years due to encroachment,” says Ghanshyam Joshi, a local journalist.

Joshi says there is need to construct dharamshalas in and around the temple for pilgrims who come to pay obeisance at the temple. The district administration’s inability to remove encroachment from the temple premises has diminished the glory of the ancient worship place of Kumauni people. “The ancient manuscript installed in the temple that had gone missing in the last decades of the 19th century could not be traced. The temple premises was encroached upon, making Bageshwar town lose its old identity. It is necessary to maintain the temple and its ancient link with the town as it represents the religious fervour of Kumaunis since ages,” says BD Pandey a local resident.

Pandey adds the banks of the Saryu, which could once accommodate over 20,000 devotees during the Uttarayani Mela, have now shrinked due to illegal mining in the town. “The Saryu banks and the high religious value of the Bagnath temple are the main heritage of Bageshwar town. If  these are not maintained, the town will not only lose its  identity but also the status of a leading religious and cultural place of Kumaon,” says Pandey.

Geeta Rawal, chairperson of the Bageshwar Nagar Palika Parishad, says the town is also suffering in the absence of any solid waste management or garbage disposal facility in nearby villages. There are also no pucca toilets in the villages. As a result, the household waste from these villages is dumped into the Saryu and it flows to Bageshwar town, spreading stench and pollution. “The Saryu, which is our lifeline, is being polluted in the absence of a sewerage in the town. Besides, in the absence of solid waste management and waste disposal facilities in the town, garbage is being dumped into the Saryu,” says Geeta.

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