We all know that the life of people living on mountains is not easy. Basic facilities like schools, colleges, electricity, communication and market reach very late to them. For any government, it is necessary to know whether their programmes and initiatives reaching to masses or not.
To study the lives of people on hills and to know them better, four students of Hemwati Nandan Bahugana Garhwal University after they were summoned by social activist Hemwati Bahugana and decided to set out 1,110 km foot journey on May 25, 1974 from hamlet of Ashkot falling on Nepal border and concluded in the village of Arakot which touches Himachal Pradesh. In the 45 day journey of Shekhar Pathak, Shamsher Singh Bisht, Kunwar Prasun and Pratap Shikhar, who were in their early 20s then, they slept and ate with villagers, walked for eight hours every day and used to discuss and try to understand their daily struggle.
Since then, Shekhar Pathak carries out such foot journey in every decade on May 25. During trek participants are allowed to join or left anytime, and they are not allowed to carry any money. They have to live with locals and talk to them to understand the conditions they are living in. May 25 is intentionally chosen as the beginning date of the expedition as it was the birth anniversary of the patriot Sridev Suman, who protested against the autocratic rule of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal and died in jail after fast of 84 days in 1944.
It is a Non- profit organization working to create awareness among common people, scientists and researchers about the fragile Himalayas and unite them to save the Himalayas. For this purpose, they organize trek in remote areas of Uttarakhand. Other than that they organize seminars, events, expeditions and publish books and journals. Their journal, PAHAR covers the issue of Uttarakhand related to geography, history, politics, ecology and culture. Their ideals and values are rooted in social movements, especially Chipko movement. Some of their major programmes of PAHAR were the Askot-Arakot Abhiyan, Nandi Kund March 1985, Study Trek along Kali, Kuti, Dhauli reverse in 1986, and along the Gori Ganga river in 1987, CHIPKO Indus Expedition and CHIPKO Arunachal Brahmaputra Expedition with D.G.S.M respectively in 1988 and 1992. By so far they have studied about more than 1000 villages of Central Himalaya.
In their 5th Askot Arakot Abhiyan, they began their journey at Pangu, Dharchula in Pithoragarh and conclude at Arakot village of Uttarkashi. They covered areas of Tawaghat, Dhaauli East, Khela, Palpala, Syankuri, Elagad, Tapovan Dharchula and Kalika in their expedition. They began this abhiyan with the motto of ‘Know your village, know your people’ and travel through ‘350 villages, 16 alpine pastures, 20 Kharaks (high altitude grazing fields), 15 zones and 3 valleys prone to earthquakes and landslides, 8 regions that launched Chipko movement, 15 Chattees (ancient pilgrimage camping sites), 5 Himalayan pilgrimage routes, 5 tribal zones and 3 regions of Indo-Tibetan trade activities, located at altitude varying from 200m-3,500 m above the sea level’. They also conducted a study on 35 rivers of Uttarakhand.
This great initiative by PAHAR is getting support by many other NGOs such as ‘Dasoli Gram Swaraj Mandal’, HESCO, HARC, ‘Dalyo Ka Dagdya’, ‘Pragtisheel Mahila Manch’ and ‘Uttarakhand Jan Jagrati Sansthan’.
Official Website of Askot Arakot Abhiyan: http://pahar.org/askot-arakot-abhiyan-2014-schedule/
Official Facebook page of Askot Arakot Abhiyan: https://www.facebook.com/askotarakot.abhiyan