On India’s 56th Republic Day, Lata village continued the fast evolving tradition of hosting an annual women’s festival. Early in the morning, the president of the Mahila Mangal Dal of village Lata Mrs Shukri Devi hosted the tricolor at the Junior High School of Lata. Later in the forenoon, the women contingents from the adjoining villages started arriving at the program venue in spite of the freezing cold. Women representatives from the villages of Lata, Reni, Tolma, Juagwar and Phagti participated in the 2006 festival. The program was chaired by the Mahila Mangal Dal presidents of village Lata, Reni and Tolma, while Mrs Nandi Rana, the Gram Pradhan of village Reni moderated the program.
An important event of the 2006 festival was the establishment of the Nanda Devi Science & Technology Extension Center at village Lata. A set of science books and a five inch reflective telescope was formally handed to the villagers during the function. The center will be managed through Janadhaar, an NGO actively associated with the Nanda Devi Campaign.
Sharing the objectives of the center, Dr. Sunil Kainthola elaborated the science & technology extension process envisaged by the recently formed Uttarakhand State Council for Science & Technology, which involves establishment of S&T nodes at the grassroots level and weaving of an active network for promoting need based S&T initiatives. It was decided to organize a science fair in April 2006 by involving the students of the Niti Valley area and make it an annual event similar to the women’s festival.
Specific to women’s festival, Dr. Kainthola underlined the importance of taking leverage from this unique event for creating synergies focused at empowerment of the women at the grassroot level. Speaking on the occasion, Gram Pradhan of the Reni Village Nandi Rana emphasized the need for up scaling the festival by involving all the Mahila Mangal Dals of the Niti Valley. Appreciating the efforts of the Mahila Mangal Dal of Lata, Mrs Veena Devi from Tolma Village requested the Mahila Mangal Dal of Lata to organize pre-event meetings for the formation of inter-village organizing committees.
Dhan Singh Rana, Ex Gram Pradhan of Lata raised the issue of the impact of displacement through construction of hydro-electric projects in the Niti valley. Short-term benefits from the lucrative offers cannot outweigh the long-term implications of the displacement, and it is ultimately the women section of the society which suffers the most from such processes. Further, there is no scope of compensation for the common properties which are the essence of survival in the rural Himalayas.
Also present on the occasion were Mr. Darman Singh Rana, Principal, Junior High School, Lata and Dr. R. S. Rana from Village Reni. The program concluded with folk dances.