At stake is faith
S.R. Pundir

— Photo by S. Chandan
— Photo by S. Chandan

Sirmour, July 29
Threat is looming large over the existence of Renuka Lake, the biggest natural lake in Himachal Pradesh, as the water body is being constantly used as a dumping ground by road construction agencies. The lake is being heavily damaged by debris coming from surrounding hills where two roads are being constructed.

Besides, tourists are also contributing towards the degradation of the lake by throwing waste material in it.

Hindus worship this lake as “sakshat swaroop” of Bhagwati Renuka. Every year on the occasion of “Devprobodhini Ekadashi”, a weeklong traditional fair is organised here during which over 15 lakh devotees visit the area and take a holy dip in the lake. It is the biggest cultural and religious event of the state and the government has also declared it a state-level event.

  • The lake is being heavily damaged by debris coming from surrounding hills where two roads are being constructed
  • Thousands of tons of debris and silt have entered the lake, which has even led to the closure of the “parikrama” of the lake for tourists
  • Objections have been raised on the construction of the Renuka dam adjacent to the lake
  • The proposal to construct three tunnels on the Giri bed close to the lake, which requires heavy blasting within the radius of 300m, has invited criticism
  • Tourists are also contributing towards the degradation of the lake by throwing waste material in it

Heavy silt from both sides of the lake has played havoc on the water body. Thousands of tons of debris and silt have entered the lake that even led to the closure of the “parikrama” of the lake for the tourists for the past many weeks.

On one side, there is a road for Dhar village while on the other there are two roads for Koti Dhaman village and approach road for Jamdagni Tibba, which is being constructed.

Most of the debris from these roads is being dumped in Panji Ka Khala and other small nullahas that merge with the lake.

Due to heavy silting, the lake has already lost one-fourth of its area that has been converted into barren land. No effort has been taken in the past 30 years to remove the debris from the area and convert it into the original position.

Further, unplanned and unscientific development activities have put a big question mark on the existence of the lake in the near future.

Several NGOs and devotees have already expressed concern over the protection of the lake and have written to the government for taking necessary action. Renuka Lake has also been declared wetland by the union government.

The Himachal Pradesh High Court, after being approached by the residents, has come forward to save the ecology of the area by ordering to stop all non-forest activities in the region.

The Renuka Dam Jan Sangharsh Samiti has also raised objections on the construction of Renuka dam adjacent to the lake, which they say would endanger the lake. Their stand has received overwhelming support from religious gurus of Renuka and the people of the area.

In a representation to Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal, the head of the Brahamchari Ashram, Renuka, Mahant Daya Nand Bharti, and the presidents of six gram panchyats of the area have appealed him not to allow the construction of the dam at the present site.

They say three tunnels are proposed to be constructed on the Giri bed close to the lake, which would pose a serious threat to this major religious place thereby putting the biggest natural lake at the risk of vanishing.

According to them, due to geological disturbances caused by the proposed heavy blasting within the radius of less than 300 m of the lake, the water body would disappear.

For the past 30 years, people and sages of Renuka have been fighting to save the lake and the sanctity of the religious place. Thousands of residents of 12 panchyats, six NGOs and environmentalists of the area under the banner of the Renuka Tirtha Bachao Samiti have launched an agitation to pursue the government to step in to stop disgracing the religious sanctity and the environment of the area and stop the promotion of concrete culture.



A road to nowhere
Ambika Sharma

Solan, July 29
With the Haryana government showing little inclination to improve the condition of the road that connects the industrial hub of Baddi to Haryana, the investors are left at the mercy of the union government.

Aggrieved at the deteriorating condition of the Pinjore-Baddi road and specifically the portion lying between Nanakpur and Balad Bridge in Baddi, a delegation of the BBN Industries Association, led by their president Rajender Guleria, had a meeting with the superintending engineer, department of road transport and highways, government of India and with the chief engineer, Haryana national highways, recently to apprise them of the miserable plight of the road.

Virtually lacking any maintenance, the road has made commuting a nightmare. Photographs and video shoots of bad patches of the road were also shown to officials to draw home the point by the association. This opinion is fast developing in the minds of the people that as a vindictive action for the industrial influx to Himachal Pradesh, the Haryana government is reluctant in carrying out even the cursory repair work on this stretch of the road.

Unmindful of the inconvenience caused to the commuters who travel between Chandigarh and Baddi, the Haryana government has ensured that maximum pinch is felt by the investors. So dismal is the condition of the road that it can barely handle the traffic influx during busy hours, although travelling even during the lean hours is as gruesome, rue investors.

“The road fraught with potholes has made travelling overtly bumpy and one is compelled to believe that they are traveling amidst potholes with the smooth road patch being negligent on this stretch” rued Guleria. Though the chief engineer of Haryana national highways Ramesh Minocha did inspect this road on July 11 and met the representatives of the BBN Industries Association, little appears to be done till today to improve the roads.

Minocha has, however, assured the association that 20 to 25 labourers of his department would be pressed into temporarily filling up the potholes and when the weather cleared these potholes will be filled up with bitumen coated concrete so as to make this road traffic-worthy. He also informed that the proposal for widening of this road had already been approved and the work from entry point of Pinjore to 2.2 km had been allotted and was progressing.

The chairman infrastructure committee and senior vice-president of the BBNIA, Vijay Arora, says the association has requested the superintending engineer, department of road transport and highways, government of India, to prepare a proposal for widening and strengthening of road from point 2.20 km (Lohgarh) to 11.20 km (Nanakpur). 

Guleria also requested the chief engineer to ensure proper upkeep of this road even during the widening work was in progress. He also impressed upon the need of four-laning of the national highway from Pinjore to Nalagarh as the existing road was unable to withstand the increasing vehicular traffic.

Though some work has begin now and even the union ministry has directed the Haryana PWD to do the needful, it is interesting to note that work starts only when things come to such a pass and voice has to be raised at the highest level, opines another investor.

What has, however, come as a rude shock is the abject lack of concern for the residents who irrespective of state boundaries are citizens of the same nation but have been forced to face inconvenience due to sheer politics.



Kangra paintings to showcase Sikh Gurus
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, July 29
For the first time, various stages of the life of the 10 Sikh Gurus has been depicted in Kangra style of paintings. Om Prakash Tak, the only artist preserving the traditional art, has created miniature paintings of the Gurus.

Tak said he had spent about 30 years researching the Sikh Gurus. “Since it was a sensitive matter associated with feeling of the Sikh masses, I wanted to be very sure about every aspect of the creations. For that I visited many places associated with the life of the Gurus and read Punjabi literature. The environment created in the paintings is similar to the one that existed during the time of the Gurus,” he said.

Tak added that he has used 19 natural colours, typically associated with Kangra form of art, to create the paintings. “They are created from stones and plants found in Kangra valley. It takes about a year to create the required colours as they can be generated only from natural sources existing at particular time of the year. Besides the natural colours, gold has also been used. It gives the required shine to the paintings.” Another unique feature of this art is the use of natural poison, which protects the painting from decay, and natural paper created from the bio-waste of pine trees.

When asked on how he got the idea of depicting Sikh Gurus, he said the history of Sikhs is closely associated with the merged areas of Himachal, including Kangra and Una. “Since no work was done in Kangra art on Sikh Gurus earlier, I took up the onus. I also met the SGPC officials who encouraged me to carry on with the work. I hope my creations would now be accepted by the masses.”

Tak is a lone crusader who is preserving the Kangra form of art. He has many awards to his credit, including the National Tulsi Award for lifetime achievement. Tak said he was working on creating painting on Banda Bahadur and other Sikh martyrs.



shimla diary
Waking up to climate change
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 29
Climate change is the much debated topic across the world in recent times and belatedly though the ecologically fragile hill state is also waking up to the problem. While the state has decided to come out with its own climate change policy in line with the eight-point national action plan released by the Prime Minister’s office, various government agencies and non-government organisations are busy organising programmes to create awareness about the issues among various section of people.

Early this week, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) organised a workshop in collaboration with the state council of science and technology for schoolteachers. The main focus of the programme was climate change and biodiversity conservation. Experts from the WWF, state forest department and the council for science and technology apprised the participants of the disastrous consequences of the ongoing climate change which would be far more serious for an ecologically sensitive Himalayan state like Himachal Pradesh.

The emerging problems like receding glaciers and snowline, inadequate snow, irregular precipitation, increasing instances of flash floods and shifting vegetation were linked to the ongoing climate change to underline the need for taking up immediate corrective measures. State director of WWF India Vandana Thapliyal said the objective of the workshop, which was a part of the national environment awareness programme, was to give a message across to the children and it was for this reason that teachers were involved in the programme. The ultimate aim was to involve maximum children in environment-related activities through the eco clubs set up in schools.

Plantation drive

The “vanmahotsav” being organised on August 3 will be perhaps the biggest endeavour of any department in the state to ensure public participation. Almost entire state will be involved in the event under which a medicinal plant is to be planted by each family.

The department has carried out a detailed exercise to make 13,32,646 saplings of medicinal plants available for planting to as many families across the state. As many as 4,509 distribution centres, including 201 in the urban areas, had been set up to cover the 11,542 villages and all towns of the state. Thus, each centre will on average have about 300 saplings to distribute.

Rising law and order problem

The peaceful hill state is not known for law and order problems but the situation is changing. The industrial boom is also leading to increasing industrial unrest and it is not confined to the border areas like Baddi and Barotiwala. The workers agitations are turning violent and firearms are being used which is quite unusual. Early this month, Super Max industry in the nearby Shoghi has seen the worst violence. It has been in turmoil ever since a worker was killed by a shot fired by a private security guard of the company.

Early this week, there was a firing incident at Sawara Kuddu project in Rohru. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident but it became quite evident that the target was the manager of the private company engaged in construction of headrace tunnel. He had earned the wrath of the workers after some of them were sacked. The state police does not have the manpower and wherewithal to deal with increasing instances of violence. It is an area that needs urgent attention.



Bapu’s Shimla visits
by Shriniwas Joshi


When Gandhi came to stay at Chadwick, he spent ‘half a day’ searching anxiously for a small pencil he used to write notes and letters, which were not dictated to one of his secretaries. “I am very conservative in my feelings.” He desperately needed that “small bit of pencil which had been with me for a long time. I could not reconcile myself to its loss.” From Gandhi’s Passion.

The greatest Indian man to tread on this earth, the Man of the Millennium, is Mahatma Gandhi. He visited Shimla 10 times before India attained independence and never after though like phoenix he came alive in the trial of Nathuram Godse, which was finally decided on June 21, 1949 at Peterhoff that housed the Punjab High Court then.

Any City-Council would be proud of having the entire history of visits of such a man who threw out the Empire, in which sun was never said to have set, simply by boiling seawater in cauldrons at Dandi (Gujarat), a coastal village on the Arabian Sea. The Municipal Corporation here has even its records on Gandhi wanting.

The corporation does not have the date of erecting the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the Ridge and knows not who its sculptor was. An old stock book entry shows purchase of a bronze-statue on September 12, 1956, for a sum of Rs 11,250 and that is accepted as a hint that it was erected on October 2, 1956.

The two marble plaques mounted on the wall by the side of the statue display the years of the visits of Mahatma Gandhi.

These have the year 1939 missing when the Mahatma had paid two visits to Shimla. He had come in the month of September that year on the 4th and 26th and the purpose was to meet the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow. His stay during these two short visits was with Rajkumari Amrit Kaur at Manorville in Summer Hill.

Mahatma Gandhi and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur had developed a good understanding between themselves by 1935 and since then Manorville remained his board and lodge house for his two visits in 1939; four in 1940 and one in 1945. An interesting note from Peter Coats, ADC to the Viceroy Lord Wavell before the opening of ‘The Simla Conference’ of June 1945 reads, “I am here alone with a hundred minions brushing and dusting and refurbishing in preparation for the conference. Among endless other things, I have to arrange a house for Gandhi, one for Nehru (they won’t share) and a garage for Gandhi’s goats. After all this, I only hope that he comes.” A week later, Coats writes again, “(Gandhi’s) clothes, or what there are of them, are surprising. He is not, after all, living in the house that I prepared for him but is staying with a Congress cousin of Brinda’s, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur.” It was Mahatma’s longest stay in Shimla from June 26 to July 17 and he had left the town when the Viceroy announced the failure of ‘The Simla Conference’, which Jinnah had said was more of a snare than a conference.

Bapu’s first visit here was in 1921 when he had stayed at Shanti Kuti in Chakkar. This house then belonged to Sadhu Ashram, Hoshiarpur. Owned by an individual, it stands in an inferior shape today. His second and the third visits were in 1931 when he stayed at Firgrove in Jakhu near Rook Nest, popularly known as ‘machhi wali kothi’. Firgrove belonged to Rai Bahadur Mohan Lal and though rented out to tenants is presently with that family. He probably stayed at Carton Grove, which is adjacent to Cleave Land in Vidhan Sabha - Annandale Road in his third visit for three days in August 1931. The property is owned by Dr Deepak Sud, an academician in the University, who has rejuvenated it after a fire mishap. During his last visit of two weeks in 1946 that ended on the 14th of May, he stayed with his entourage at a government designated official residence ‘Chadwick’ in Summer Hill that belonged to Raja Raghubir Singh of Kapurthala. Stanley Wolpert in his book ‘Gandhi’s Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi’ confirms it. Thus, MG was forced to come to Shimla time and again though he considered it as ‘Anglo-India’s official playground on-high for all who sought escape from India’s crowded misery’.



Providing succour to the poor
Balkrishan Prashar

Chamba, July 29
The Yog Manav Vikas Trust, an NGO, with its headquarters at Banikhet, 6 km from Dalhousie, is committed to its mission of providing succour to the downtrodden and suffering humanity for the past seven years.

Established in 2001 as a social charitable non-profit organisation, the trust is a brainchild of an engineer who has been serving in Chamba district for a long period. Shushil Kumar Dodeja, who is at present director (projects), National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, and his wife Kiran Dodeja had the opportunity to have insight into the sufferings of rural people living in remote areas of the district.

Among the various initiatives of the trust is Yog Manav Vocational Training Institute, which was established in 2002, and recognised by the National Institute of Open Schooling. It is one of the institutes accredited for large number of courses in the northern region. The trust has since sponsored 2,000 rural youths for training towards sustainable employment-led growth.

In 2003, the trust set up an orphanage, Bal Ashray, at Bhalei. So far, 30 children have been admitted to the orphanage.

The trust under its “shiksha sahayta abhiyan” has been providing education support materials, including uniforms, shoes, books and copies along with scholarships, to needy and brilliant children.

The exercise of conducting annual health checkup for schoolchildren of 30 villages covering over 1,500 students has also been initiated by the trust.



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