Wednesday, September 12, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


Recharging watertable: nobody’s baby

Every other day some dignitary bemoans the falling of the watertable in Punjab and Haryana as this is posing a serious threat not only to the economical working of 14 lakh of such tubewells as formed the backbone of the Green Revolution, but also to the ecology of the region; the prolonged depleted watertable can induce the intrusion of brackish water from the adjoining high areas.

This crisis is obviously the result of the output of the ground water having exceeded its input. The only practical method of maintaining a balance between the two is through artificial recharging. The essential raw material needed for this is some surplus water and both states have penty of it which at present is being allowed to go waste via a network of drains. Till recently this water was considered to be unfit for being directly injected into the ground because of its silt contents but this hurdle has now been removed by Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiana by developing an innovative vertical filter capable of yielding round the clock silt-free water at a nominal cost.



So far neither of the states has shown any inclination for adopting this or any other method for solving its problem. That the two premier agricultural states of India are allowing their surplus water to go waste in this age of water shortage and that too when their own underground reservoirs are depleting at an alarming rate, is a sad commentary on our capacity to manage waters. Why is the media not playing its role in creating such public opinion as can help in averting a catastrophy to which these states are heading?

The least that these states should do is to set up an authority for restoring the original watertable by recharging; at present this vital task is nobody’s baby.

S. P. MALHOTRA, Panchkula

Farm varsities’ plight

The Tribune dated August 30 highlighted the sad fact that Himachal’s universities of agriculture and forestry had not been able to pay their employees for want of funds. Grants to the universities have been drastically reduced and the universities have been asked to mobilise their own resources.

That these universities cannot be financially self-sufficient is very well known to those who are prescribing these standards. The universities in India are run under full control of the state governments. Inputs like seeds and feeds have to be purchased at the rates and from the sources approved by the state, and the produce from the farms has to be sold at the rates prescribed by the government. The staff is recruited and posted as per the government’s directions and the scientists and labour working at the farms are governed by the same rules as are applicable to the bureaucrats and the babus doing desk work in the secretariat. Financial viability, under the present set-up, is impossible.

Academic excellence cannot coexist with financial stringency. The only way out of the impasse lies in merging the two universities and thus restore the status quo ante. The colleges of basic sciences and forestry can easily be closed down because even the state does not seem to require the services of forestry graduates. The staff should be readjusted and after these changes have been effected, the exact financial requirement should be determined and its availability to the university ensured.

But is anyone interested in undertaking the exercise and taking such decisions? Holding the financial strings in one’s own hand is perhaps the best way to ensure that one’s writ runs.

L. R. SHARMA, Solan


Shalamar, not Shalimar

The correct name of the pleasance, referred to as “Shalimar Gardens’ in the feature “Lahore: city of fading gardens” (Sept 5) is Shalamar. It consisted of two Turki words — “shala” (pleasure) and “mar” (place). Thus Shalamar meant a place of pleasure.

The troops of Ahmad Shah Abdali, who cut trees to get wood for cooking food etc, played havoc with this garden. Maharaja Ranjit Singh took keen interest in restoring it to its pristine glory. His Akhbaar-Navees Sohan Lal Suri, described it as envy of the Paradise.

The Sikh potentate, however, rejected the Turki origin of Shalamar. According to him, “shala” in Jhang dialect (perhaps derived from Insha-Allah and Maasha-Allah) meant God and “mar”, in Hindi, curse. Thus, Shalamar meant God’s curse. He considered it a wrong name for the beautiful garden and christened it “Shahla Bagh”. “Shahla”, in Arabic, means sweetheart with dark grey eyes with a shade of red betraying the signs of intoxication.

Mirza Mahdi, the biographer of the Persian invader, Nadir Shah, called the garden Shola-e-Maah (blaze of the moon).

The Shalamar Bagh, built by Jahangir in Kashmir, is still called by this name. It is not known how the “Bagh” constructed by his son, Shahjahan, near Lahore, with the same name, came to be known as Shalimar. Shalimar is apparently a corruption of Shalamar. “Shahla Bagh” and “Shola-e-Maah” are certainly misnomers.



Cotton and pests

This is with reference to the news item “Of American bollwarm and desi baba” (Aug 28). According to farm scientists, there are four methods to control the insect pest of cotton. They are cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical. No other method either the use of “magical water or dhoop” is in any way helpful in controlling this harmful insect. Farmers should follow the recommendations made by farm experts to overcome the American bollwarm. To make farmers aware of the methods of eradicating different pests of cotton, training camps are organised in the cotton belt by the Agriculture Department.


Is it felicitation?

I was present at the felicitation function of Dr H.K. Lall on August 28, 2001, at D.A.V. College, Chandigarh, organised by the Languages Department, Punjab. Dr Lall, by his selfless and involved teaching for the last 25 years, has become an institution in himself.

Nobody from the department cared to speak about the man they were there to honour. Nor was anybody from the vast number of his students and admirers present there invited to express his gratitude despite many requests to the compere.

I blanched when the compere pooh-poohed Dr Lall's request to say a few words. The compere declared that since the chief guest had already delivered his speech, Dr Lall's speech would have no meaning. No distinguished person from the department had the sensitivity to make amends. Honouring someone, sir, is not a favour, rather it is society's expression of gratitude.

The callousness of the department was at its nadir as the man to be honoured was not even talked about or listened to but rather relegated as a non-person.


Shortage of NSCs

The post office at Faridkot has been facing shortage of National Savings Certificates for the past six months. The postal authorities should provide NSCs of all denominations to all its branches.


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