(checked on 15-08-2012 for the Book and ok)
The hills of Anjaner, located nearly 40 km South West of Nashik. They are known to some because of the legend of Hanuman, who is supposed to have been born here. Except this knowledge, any further development from the point of view of tourism was non-existent. Only recently, the district plan of Nashik included some allocation for social afforestation and a road to the place and the idea of developing the spot as a tourist center started gathering momentum. A tourist center because, in recent times this activity is looked upon as a money spinner!
My mind went back to three experiences in the past, which also represent certain philosophies - certain set patterns of thinking. Once I visited Costa-Del-Sol, i.e. the coast of the Sun, which is a famous tourist spot, recently developed in Spain. This is a 50 km. long sunny beach adjoining the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. It has hotel complexes, bars, casino, call-girls, rented apartments, eating-joints, Essel-World-type amusement parks for children and what not. You could also add water sports. One Spanish scholar explained to me what tourism is : "You attract the attention of people through some ploy. Then earn money (in foreign exchange) by providing accommodation, food, casinos, parks, and the like. Your job is to see that his (tourist's) purse becomes light, and your earnings are good. We have this beautiful sunny patch of a sea-beach to offer to attract people. You may use Ajanta & Ellora. This may be a little rude shock to your typical Indian psyche, but that is the trend all over the world."
Later I heard Sunderlal Bahuguna explaining his opposition to the Tehri dam. He said, "Among other things, the Government is lured by the prospect of tourism development in both the Garhwals—Tehri and Kumaun. So my point is that very soon the mountain-peaks of the Himalayas will shine not because of the ice-capped peaks, but because of the bottles of beer and rum littered on those peaks of Himalayas."
Add this to the experience of Sinhagad fort. Nothing could be more sacrosanct to us Maharashtrians who are steeped in the pride of Shivaji and his warrior friends and followers. A road was therefore constructed to take the people right to the top of the fort. And lo and behold! now people drive to the top of the fort in comfort and luxury! Then they start on a drinking spree accompanied by loud music and thus enjoy the 'Nature' as well as the "Spirit of Adventure". Is it all a money spinner? Yes. Land costs around Singhagad have shot up with the prospects of hotels and resorts all along the road. Government also has a proposal of subsidizing five-star hotels along this trek. Once I questioned a senior officer- "why not encourage, support, or subsidize local small scale vendors!" He explained that the Budget was the constraint! In the sense that, for small-scale vendors & local entrepreneurs one can spend only a small budget, and then the performance appraisal of the concerned officer which is measured by the amount of money he spends will go haywire. To spend large amounts of money, we must subsidize larger parties and not the small-scale locales.
Fortunately, the committee for the development of the Anjaner—which consists of senior officers as well as the local organizations –has decided on a different line of thinking. The main hill having the Anjani Mata temple and the birthplace of Hanuman is at a height of 4350 feet—which is only 150 ft. less than the height of Mahabaleshwar. There will be four stages in the total climb. The first ends at the village site itself and will be motorable. A number of lakes and small temples are seen along this road. The second stage is also motorable and at the end of this patch a parking area along with some sports—especially adventurous ones like gliding etc. can be developed. The third stretch has to be climbed on foot from one side but a rope-way can also be developed from the other side. This ends on a huge plain land having a perennial lake with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountain cliffs as well as an excellent view of the sunrise and sunset. In the British era, the collector of Nashik used to have his summer residence at this place. The last stretch leading to the historic birthplace of Hanuman will also have to be climbed up on foot.
There are three-four guiding thoughts behind this effort. The foremost objective is to make the whole stretch a little easy to climb and thereby attract more pilgrims who come to the nearby Triambakeshwar Jyotirling, but not all have the courage, time or stamina to climb up the Anjaner. So make it easy! But not too easy. After all, Hanuman is a deity of strength—although also described as a highly intellectual person, a learned musician, a doer and devotee.
It is also sought to enlist the people’s contribution in terms of labour, or seva, to the achieve afforestation on the hill-top. This really depends on the ingenuity as well as sensitization of our forest officials—can they organize themselves in such a way that all the seva offered by the devotees will be used to the maximum? This would have been much simpler for a private organization to handle but not for a government department. The third guiding thought is from the point of view of the students and the young generation. The site should provide them a trek to test their stamina. Marathon races and courses on rock-climbing, trekking. Hang-gliding, rope-climbing etc should be continuously organized. Competitions should be held which should get them interested in flora & fauna and the geological structure of the place. This tourism-plan should demonstrate to them some water-conservation techniques. As one reaches the top, one gets a view of Nashik district and the surrounding Konkan. The students should be able to learn the geography of the district from this view provided from the top of the mountain. There is also scope for fine arts and artists like painters, sculptors, poets, and writers to draw inspiration from the mountains all around and from the innumerable legends of olden days!
A major scheme will also be necessary for water-conservation all over the mountain—followed by a scheme of greening the mountain. Today all the peaks are barren and no soil or grass cover over them. In fact, satellite pictures rate this patch as one of the barrenest in the whole of India. If all the meetings and deliberations on tourism development on Anjaner achieves only one objective – that of greening this mountain—a major success story will be created.
As for money-spinning, we must consciously develop and practice the concept of non-invasive tourism. Non-invasive to the present economic & social fabric as also to the nature. We need a scheme that does not suddenly inject a high level of economic activity through outside capital and push the villagers into the back-stage. Two-thirds of the village populations are tribal and have their own levels of under-development like illiteracy, poverty etc; but also a rich culture- that is rich with folks-arts and tribal-skills. Will that be made use of by organizing special shows or exhibitions of the tribal art and culture? Will there be economic gains for the villagers also? Similar questions for the resorts and the sports. All the activities should be merging with the natural surrounding and should not stand out like a scar –though outside capital will ensure that it will be a marble scar—No Less!
Divisional Commissioner Nashik.