Wednesday, June 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



What causes forest fires

Forest fires are an annual feature during summer. This year’s heat-wave has led to a continuous fire in and around Kasauli forests. It started with a major outbreak of a fire recently in the uphill Parwanoo forests, spreading towards the Kasauli air force station endangering its facilities which were saved with massive joint efforts of the Army and the Air Force. Subsequently, the fire spread to the Upper Mall in the hills around CRI extending further to the ridges behind St Mary’s School and the local military hospital.

Two days later it broke out near the Rose Comon hotel of the HP Government and a day thereafter on the downhill side of the Kasauli-Jangesu road covering a 2-km corridor. The loss of forest wealth and the damage to soil and the environment could have been tremendous if the Army people with Air Force and cantonment fire tenders had not fought the fire relentlessly day and night.

Therefore, it is essential that the efforts of the Army personnel are appreciated appropriately. By the way, where are the Home Guards and the civil defence personnel of the Himachal Government?

As to the cause of the fire, these forests are full of pine trees. The dry pine needles, which possess a high content of oil/chemical, are highly inflammable, acting as massive ready fodder for igniting the fire even with a little “help” of lighted cigarette butts thrown carelessly by the smokers or mischievous elements. 

The Himachal Government, besides deploying its agencies for aggressive preventive measures, should devise methods to utilise the dry pine needles for revenue generation. The burnt-out residue of these “leaves” acts as a highly potent manure. The possibility of utilising these dry needles, which are available in plenty (and are highly inflammable), as fuel for small-scale thermal power generation by organising their collection and removal on a contractual basis could also be examined.



Two sides of Iqbal

Apropos of Khushwant Singh’s “Belittling Allama Iqbal”, there is no doubt that the poet wrote some beautiful poems, which reflected his patriotic fervour and belief in communal harmony. He described Guru Nanak as “Mard-e-Kaamil” (Perfect Man), Shri Rama as Imaam-e-Hind (Religious leader of India) and Swami Ram Tirath as “Gauhar-e-Nayaab” (Unprocurable pearl).

However, he drew inspiration mainly from the Quran and Muslim literature, and ardently wanted the ascendancy of Islam. Therefore, Islam and Muslim frequently figured in his verses.

He propounded a clear concept of two-nation theory and wanted a separate state for Muslims. In supersession of Taraana-e-Hindi (“Saarey jahaan sey achchha Hindostan hamaara”) he wrote Taraana-e-Milli, saying “Cheen-o-Arab hamaara Hindostan hamaara/Muslim hain ham watan hai saara jahan hamaara.”

Despite all this, there is no doubt that Iqbal was the greatest philosopher-poet of Urdu after Ghalib. He had a wonderful knack of selecting well-turned and beautiful phrases and similes to embellish his verses. There is hardly any extravagant verbal padding in them.



Legalistic view

Mr Harcharan Bains seems to have done his homework as far as the riparian principle is concerned (The Tribune June 9). But his approach is too legalistic. Is this the correct way to settle disputes among units within a country? What do states that do not have major rivers flowing through their territories do? Are they to be condemned to a state of permanent drought? Should not different provinces be treated as members of one family and given a share of the nation’s resources according to their needs?

If a strictly legalistic view is taken, then Haryana, which controls much of Punjab’s access to the rest of the country, could also come up with some punitive hurdles. And if the riparian principle is to be applied strictly, then why not do so between the districts of a state too. Why should the Doaba area share river waters with Patiala or Bathinda or Sangrur? The Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej do not touch these districts anywhere. Why should they get water from these rivers?

A narrow interpretation of this principle can lead us to very absurd situations. Punjab, which has been blessed with three great rivers, must try and look at the issue from Haryana’s point of view. The state has none. Big brother needs to show a little maturity. Parroting legalistic arguments repeatedly sounds petty.


A poll problem

The results in the tribal constituencies of Bharmour, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti of Himachal Pradesh, which went to the polls on June 8, are on expected lines. The desire of the residents of the areas to go along with the ruling party is perfectly understandable.

However, this raises a pertinent point. If, for one reason or the other, it is not possible to accomplish the electoral exercise in the entire state in one go, should not the elections in the tribal constituencies be held before the general election so that the voting pattern in these constituencies is not coloured/influenced one way or the other?

TARA CHAND, Ambota (Una)

Design anomalies

The Golden Temple, standing in the middle of the blue waters of the sacred sarovar, which in turn is surrounded by the architectural splendour of white marbled Parikrama, is one of the priceless treasures of mankind. The two ancient towers (burj), very aesthetically renovated, add to the visual delight.

However, watching the daily telecast of Gurbani from Harmandar Sahib, one can’t miss a few glaring architectural anomalies. These are the langar building, the gate by the side of Sri Akal Takht and Ramgarhia Bunga which for unknown reasons have been left brick-lined/coloured, thus clashing with the overall visual harmony of the complex.

Similarly, a very awkward looking funnel-shaped water tank next to the two towers also does not go well with the skyline. May some reader throw some light on reasons for keeping these structures brick-lined. It is suggested that except for Ramgarhia Bunga, which should be retained as such for historical reasons, other buildings and structures should merge with the overall aesthetic environment by making the necessary alterations in the colour scheme and design.

Brig H.S. SANDHU (retd), Panchkula


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