Of Summertime, Sunshine and Forests that Catch Fire

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Of Summertime, Sunshine and Forests that Catch Fire

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s the Governor’s cavalcade entered Raj Bhawan in Nainital on the morning of April 27, a dark cloud appeared from behind a clump of tall Deodar trees to the west. It grew quickly and hung ominously over the heritage structure nestled among acres of landscaped golf links. I stood on the expansive lawn and wondered how the cloud had been conjured up so suddenly on a clear morning. As I looked on, I realised that the apparition was an unusual grayish-brown. This was no cloud; it was smoke from a forest fire on the hill beyond.

The Raj Bhawan is the summer residence of the Governor of Uttarakhand, but since the state is under President’s rule, the Governor has been bound to the capital city of Dehradun. At the end of April, he made a short trip to Nainital to inaugurate a seminar on disaster management and training organised by the North-Eastern Railway. Nearly the entire district administration was on hand to receive him (I counted about 20 cars.) This smoke cloud hanging over the residence of the de facto ruler of the hill state with the complete state machinery in attendance was in a way an honest, if unfortunate, comment on the situation. Nature was furious and governance was rendered helpless.

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