Jeevan Lal is the hero of the story. His hamlet in remoteKanda, (now Uttaranchal),86 km from Almora, is an ideal tourist spot. Kanda has about 30 villages and a population of over 15,000 people. But unlike other Hill station, Kanda has shown the way for a new concept of voluntary tourism.
Tourists not only stay in the 5 rooms Jeevan’s Paying Guest, but also use their skills to bring about a difference. For example Rajan Singh who has an architecture back ground , has helped design Earth Quake proof house for those living in the high seismic zone of Kanda.
The project also helps generate employment in an area where there are very few employment schemes.Different from the other forms of tourism ,this pro-poor voluntary tourism helps in offsetting the “Domino Effect” that has destroyed many hill stations.
Foreigners who flock Kanda in large numbers , make their stay meaningful . They begin their day with a shramdaan ,leading to a cleaner environment . They involve themselves in different chores. They go trekking , chase butterflies but also give lesson in working English to the poor Dalit and backward people. And in the evening ,they enjoy a sumptuous Kumauni meal with Jeevan’s family. Many houses here are even repaired by the volunteers. Jeevan’s story would have remained unknown beyond these picturesque valleys, but for Prof.Dr.Tajvir Singh – head of the Centre for Tourism Research and Development in Lucknow and an authority on Himalayas.
In his research journal, Dr . Singh and his assistant Shalini Singh took up this pilot project and spent a week in Kanda. The research paper they prepared , after there stay in Kanda, war presented at a conference in Makau at the institute for Tourism Studies.” The world received the news with joy”. saidShalini ,back from the conference.
Prof Singh said this experiment would introduce ‘social tourism’ on the hills “ inundated by holders of visitors from the plains unmindful of the damage they have done to the place”. ROSE ( Rural organisation for Social Elevation ), Jeevan’s organisation with headquarters in Sunargaon , has a bio- gas plant, a cattle shed, green house and a bee- keeping unit.
During their stay ,volunteers engage themselves in organic farming, paper making, preparing greeting cards from recycled papers and dried flowers, and even cooking Indian food using biogas or solar cooker.