I do not generally use superlatives but Bharat Darshan, the 55 day long winter study tour that we just finished (to be exact, it started on December 22nd 2012 and completed on Feb 14th 2013), is one of the most fascinating traveling experiences that worth a lifetime to cherish.
Traveling has been and always is a fascinating experience.
A tour of such a grand scale never could be planned individually, if any one want to do it on their own, let alone visiting some of the government specific institutions and attachments that are not allowed for the general public. And thanks to the academy and its training curriculum, probably the most awaited of all the modules in the training, this Winter Study Tour had reached our expectations in many respects.
The trip is designed (though this design, and the included routes and trains are as old as the academy itself, I guess!) to have a first hand idea of the working and the day to day administration of most of the government and other installments that make this country, Bharat.
The first ‘attachment’, as we call it in the civil services parlance, is with the Army, and for our group, its the Infantry Division, Akhnoor, J n K. What an experience it was. We felt the quiteness and the spinal adrenalin ride of standing on this side of the Line of Control. Next, it was showtime. We saw one of the most spectacular demonstrations of war time tank manevours, with how the tank troops approach and aim the enemy and neutralize it. The very sight of huge tanks coming in our direction, at such good speeds that we never expected them to have, it was a mix of sesnes of fear and excitement. We were also taken for a ‘ride’ on the T-72 , the very feeling of being on top of a battle tank gives a sense of fighting spirit running through the veins.. More than all these, we witnessed the life of the jawan on the border. On another instance, It is heartening to see their technical skills and the spirits. It is the team (Madras Sappers) which actually worked on the field in disabling some of the Explosives ! I can still feel the pride in the hand shake with the head of this department, when I said to him, that it’s a privilege to have met him !
On similar lines, we had Navy and Air Force attachments as well, covering all these at different places (Visakhapatnam and Pathankot).
We followed a route via Akhnoor-Dharmashala-Pathankot-Chandigarh-Delhi-Allahabad for an attachment with the administration of Allahabad that is gearing up for Kumbh Mela. It was indeed magnificient to see such large scale preps for it, yet was saddened to know later that more than 40 people died in a stampede at the Railway Station. They took all care for the temporary setup made near the ganges, which even we could endorse, yet they gave a blind eye to the railways, its a coordination problem infact, I presume.
Next two states gave me the most unexpected experiences. I had a totally different perception (read, bad!) about these states, so may be the case with most of you reading this, but they have proved me diaganolly opposite. Chattisgarh and Odisha.
Chattisgarh is a superbly administered state. Some of the best innovations were implemented with first hand results in this state. Core PDS is an inspiration Naya Raipur City Planning is state of the art and world-class, so were the people behind all these great nation building works. The Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare Training Institute, Kanker is doing phenomenal job in training some of the most unsuited (visualize a tummy popping out careless constable) ground level police into efficient and fit counter insurgency strategy and ambi-skilled fighters. Service with a gun ! Still suprising, the state has some very good tourist spots, Tirthgarh and Chitrakoot, both being waterfalls. This place is a definite nayagara of India, got lots of tourism potential and is decently being exploited given the maoist and other issues in the region. Chitrakoot has impressed almost everyone in the batch, we enjoyed in our own ways. It would be awesome to visit these places in the monsoon season when the water is to its max. Jagdalpur, the headquarters for Bastar and nearby regions is the town to watch. If the Left wing extremism could reduce little, these places would see true development.
So is Odisha. A completely administered state, with Z.E.R.O political interferene at the distrct and the divisional levels, as was detailed by one of the District Collectors. Puri provided a scintillating experience, never been to this ‘east coast tourist circuit route’ before. Konark and Bhuvaneshwar was simply extraordinary with their temple architectures ! No surprise the Konark Sun Temple is a UNESCO world heritage site. Beaches were beautiful and really relaxing, at Konark, Puri, Gopalpur-on-sea and Chandipur, can’t really choose the best of these. While Konark is super fun, Puri has a great beach for get togethers and night walks. Gopalpur is a world class beach, the first English Resort in the state (few hundred years back!) and Chandipur is unique in itself, with water retreating 5 km back, we could walk ‘into the sea’, for around 2 km. Chilika Lake was exotic, incidentally I got my cadre confirmed as Odisha on the shoes of this large lake. Coincidence, or may be, providence. But a lot needs to be done in this state. It has got huge tourism potential, not tapped to its maximum. The tribals are to be mainstreamed, the industries, IT and beyond have just started picking up, they need all the support that we could possibly provide.
We also covered Kolkata and Dhanbad for few more attachments which proved worthy, though at times we felt we had too much of the trip already. Andamans was a great relief though, a must visit for all those who are looking for beach tours.
There are things which didn’t go the way we (I) wanted in the trip, obviously it caused some sort of discomfort through out, but its over and out now, all I want to do now is to cherish the beauty of the country, the 14 states I traveled and the learnings of the places I visited. At the same time, the trip and its routes could be definitely improved, more attachments can be included while some can be reduced in their scheduled allotments, making it a more perfect experience.
All through the travel, I tried to retrospect all of my actions, whether we are spending too much (the ‘public’ money), whether there were any instances or mistakes that caused us to be found as unbecoming of an officer, whether I could carry on with patience huge endeavors and whether I could learn from the vast lands of this country.
I saw Bharat. I saw it.