SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
H I M A C H A L   P R A D E S H

Three Himachal ministers dropped
Shimla, July 5
The long-drawn exercise to downsize the Himachal Cabinet ended today with the Congress high command giving its approval for the removal of three ministers, all of them from Kangra, the biggest and politically most important district in the state. The Cabinet strength in the state can be 12 at the most.

Nathpa-Jhakri project shut down
Shimla, July 5
The 1500 mw Nathpa- Jhakri was shut down this evening following a sudden rise in the discharge and silt content of the Sutlej river.  

Warning along Sutlej at several places
Shimla, July 5
A warning has been sounded at several places along the Sutlej following heavy rains along the Indo-Tibetan border in the tribal districts of Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur today.

Nadda flays govt policy on health
Solan, July 5
While alleging that the present government was unduly meddling in the Health and Education Departments, the former Health Minister, Mr J.P. Nadda, said that instead of pursuing their welfare with a social cause, the Congress government was politicking them.

Four-cornered contest for the lone Himachal SGPC seat
Chandigarh, July 5
Spread over several thousand square kilometers of hilly terrain, the lone SGPC seat in Himachal will witness a four-cornered contest. Interestingly, there are a little more than 15,500 voters in eight districts — Shimla, Solan, Kangra, Hamirpur, Una, Chamba, Kulu and Sirmaur — of the state which have to elect their sole representative in the apex body of the Sikhs controlling historic gurdwaras in northern India.

Confusion over plying of govt vehicles
Shimla, July 5
Confusion prevailed over the ban on plying of government vehicles on Mondays as the notification in this regard was withheld in view of the impending Cabinet reshuffle.

Official cars not used
Hamirpur, July 5
Taking a note of a government order that no official vehicle will ply on the first Monday of every month, many district officials reached their offices in their private vehicles or came on foot this morning.





In video: Wonder kid develops therapy to cure cancer in Dharamshala.
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YOUR TOWN
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EARLIER STORIES
 

Residents demand 20 pc Pandoh water
Mandi, July 5
The Citizens’ Council Mandi (CCM) has launched a campaign against the Beas Sutlej Link (BSL) project being run by the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), demanding 12 per cent free power and the release of 20 per cent water from the Pandoh reservoir into the Beas, that flows through Mandi.

The Dalai LamaDalai Lama’s birthday today 
Dharamsala, July 5
The mood is upbeat in McLeodganj as locals, foreigners and the Tibetan government-in-exile get ready for the Dalai Lama’s 69th birthday tomorrow. Besides looking forward to a cultural programme at the main temple tomorrow morning, some also expect significant political comments in the statement to be issued by Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche on issues like the controversial white paper released by China.

Copper mine rediscovered in Chamba
CHAMBA:
The rediscovery of a copper mine at Hul (now called Sillaghrat), 20 km from here, once again came to light when a geologist, Mr Aneil K.Bhalla, of New Delhi recently mounted an expedition. The exact location of the mine was found near Banjah village in Sillaghrat (Chamba district).

SFI activists protest in front of the Vice-Chancellor’s office at Himachal Pradesh University
SFI activists protest in front of the Vice-Chancellor’s office at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, on Monday. — Photo by Anil Dayal

Indiscriminate mining despite HC orders
SOLAN:
Even as the Himachal Pradesh High Court has issued strict orders to the district administrations to check illegal mining activity in their respective areas, little appears to have been done here in this connection. Hundreds of tractor-trailers registered for agriculture use not only continue to transport quarry material from river beds of the Doon and Nalagarh areas, JCB machine are also being used surreptitiously at night.

Solid medical waste poses health risk
Mandi, July 5
The hazardous solid medical waste that includes the infected disposable syringes, intravenous fluid bottles and needles are ending up in the hands of “kabaris” who send them for recycling, posing a high risk of AIDS/HIV and other deadly infections and diseases.

Plan to boost saffron cultivation in Sangla 
Sangla (Kinnaur), July 5
Despite people in the Sangla valley of Kinnaur not taking to saffron cultivation in a big way, the Mountain Agriculture Regional Centre here has decided to approach the Spices Board of India to popularise the high-value crop brought here from Srinagar almost 20 years ago.

Nine houses gutted 
Chamba, July 5
Nine houses in an interior village of Jhajjakothi in Churah subdivision of Chamba district were burnt when a fire broke out suddenly last night. However, there was no report of loss of life and livestock.

Promote local talent, say residents
Chamba, July 5
The Chamba Welfare Association is up in arms against the practice of appointing middlemen for hiring artistes for the week-long Minjar fair. The association has suggested that only one nite of a playback singer should be organised.

SDM to probe woman’s death
Hamirpur, July 5
Hamirpur Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar today deputed SDM B.R. Kaundel to hold an inquiry into the death of Pushpa Devi (22), who died during a sterilisation operation at Tounidevi two days ago.

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Three Himachal ministers dropped
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 5
The long-drawn exercise to downsize the Himachal Cabinet ended today with the Congress high command giving its approval for the removal of three ministers, all of them from Kangra, the biggest and politically most important district in the state. The Cabinet strength in the state can be 12 at the most.

The ousting of Ms Chandresh Kumari, Health Minister, Maj Vijay Mankotia, Tourism Minister, and Mr B.B.Butail, Revenue Minister, will accentuate the caste and regional imbalances. Kangra district, which accounts for 16 of the 68 assembly seats in the state, will have only two representatives in the ministry. In contrast, Shimla district, with just eight assembly seats, has three persons in the Cabinet —Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, and Ms Vidya Stokes, Pradesh Congress committee chief.

Mandi, second biggest district after Kangra, with 10 assembly seats, also has two ministers. Chamba, which has just five seats, has two ministers. At the same time, Solan, Sirmour and Hamirpur districts, each having five seats, are unrepresented in the Council of Ministers.

Not only that, caste equations have also been upset. Kangra district has no representative from the dominant Rajput community or Other Backward Classes. While Mr G.S.Bali, Transport Minister, is a Brahmin, Mr Sat Mahajan, Rural Development Minister, belongs to the business community.

Factional loyalty, pulls and pressures have worked. Chamba and Shimla remained unaffected as the ministers who were on the firing line had a strong backing. While Ms Asha Kumari and Mr Harsh Mahajan, two Cabinet Ministers from Chamba, managed to stay because of their moorings in the high command, unflinching loyalty to Mr Virbhadra Singh paid dividends to Mr Singhi Ram, Civil Supplies Minister, in Shimla district.

Party sources say that although the list of ministers to be dropped has been approved by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Mr Virbhadra Singh is still camping in Delhi . As such, the possibility of some changes could not ruled out.

The sources say a few chief parliamentary secretaries and parliamentary secretaries are likely to be inducted to restore balance and accommodate the aspirants for ministerial berths. The names of Mr Harsh Wardhan, Mr Harbhajan Singh and Ms Anita Verma are being mentioned for the posts of Chief Parliamentary Secretary. However, for the post of Parliamentary Secretary, more than five names, mostly of young legislators, are doing the rounds in the Congress circles. 

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Nathpa-Jhakri project shut down
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 5
The 1500 mw Nathpa- Jhakri was shut down this evening following a sudden rise in the discharge and silt content of the Sutlej river.
According to reports received here, the water level rose suddenly at the Nathpa dam and the river turned slushy, forcing the authorities to stop generation to save the electromechanical machinery from damage.

Sources in the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam said the silt content shot up from about 4500 ppm (parts per million) to over 11,000 ppm. The project had to be shut down as a silt level beyond 5000 ppm causes damage to the moving parts of the generating unit.

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Warning along Sutlej at several places

Shimla, July 5
A warning has been sounded at several places along the Sutlej following heavy rains along the Indo-Tibetan border in the tribal districts of Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur today.

Kinnaur Deputy Commissioner Munish Garg, said following the rains in the morning there was a rise in the water levels of the Sutlej and Parshu rivulet, a tributary of the Sutlej. There was a rise of two feet in the Sutlej while the Parshu river recorded a rise of four to five feet, he said.

Mr Garg said the information of heavy rains was received by his office from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) post at Samdhu in adjoining Lahaul and Spiti and on the Indo-Tibetan border. He said subsequently a warning was sent out to Rampur sub-divisional authorities of Shimla district.

The DC said it could not be confirmed whether the rise in the water of the Sutlej was due to a cloud-burst or heavy monsoon rains along the Indo-Tibetan border. He said by the evening, the water level in the Sutlej had receded to a certain extent. Meanwhile, a report from Bilaspur said an alert had been sounded in entire Bilaspur district directing that those living on the banks of the Gobindsagar reservoir, including labour camps, should shift to safer places due to the rise in the water level of the Sutlej.— UNI

The staff in all police stations and police posts in Bilaspur district had been alerted to deal with any eventuality arising due to a rise in the water in the Gobindsagar. 

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Nadda flays govt policy on health
Our Correspondent

Solan, July 5
While alleging that the present government was unduly meddling in the Health and Education Departments, the former Health Minister, Mr J.P. Nadda, said that instead of pursuing their welfare with a social cause, the Congress government was politicking them. He said instead of equipping the hospitals with the basic infrastructure, the present government was only indulging in false talk while nothing was translated to reality.

Addressing media persons here today, he said that the prime necessity of a 100-bed trauma unit for this accident prone area which was being pursued by his government, had run into rough weather and the Health Minister, Mrs Chandresh Kumari, had no clue that such a proposal was being pursued with the Government of India. While blaming the government for making little progress in upgrading the facilities at the hospital, he said a major part of Rs 1.10 crore sanctioned during his tenure had remained unspent.

Flaying the government, he said instead of scrapping the user charges the government had hiked them which only showed their dishonesty towards the masses. Taking exception to the renaming of the Rogi Kalyan Samiti to Hospital Welfare Society, he said while this served no purpose, the people had no clue where the funds were used. 

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Four-cornered contest for the lone Himachal SGPC seat
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
Spread over several thousand square kilometers of hilly terrain, the lone SGPC seat in Himachal will witness a four-cornered contest.
Interestingly, there are a little more than 15,500 voters in eight districts — Shimla, Solan, Kangra, Hamirpur, Una, Chamba, Kulu and Sirmaur — of the state which have to elect their sole representative in the apex body of the Sikhs controlling historic gurdwaras in northern India.

Though Sikhs of Himachal Pradesh have been demanding for a long time that the number of seats should be doubled as managing such a big constituency, both administratively as well as by contestants, was difficult, no decision could be taken as the new All-India Gurdwara Bill has been pending for approval.

The Sikhs of Himachal want that Shimla, Solan and Kulu should constitute one constituency while the remaining districts be included in the second constituency, says Mr Paramjit Singh Chanana, president of the Himachal Pradesh State Shiromani Akali Dal.

While Shiromani Akali Dal has put up Mr Daljit Singh Bhinder of Nalagarh as its nominee, others in the fray are Master Jagir Singh (Panthic Party of Mr Ravi Inder Singh), Mr Satnam Singh - both from Una - and Mr Malkiat Singh (Kulu).

Una has the largest population of Sikh voters (8,200) where Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi, a leader of Panthic Party, wields lot of influence. In fact, Mr Satnam Singh, who is the sitting member, also belongs to Una.

Kulu has only 400 votes. Similarly, Hamirpur and Chamba also have small number of Sikh voters. After Una, Nalagarh-Solan is the second major centre which has about 5,000 voters. Mr Daljit Singh Bhinder enjoys the support of the local MLA, Mr Hari Narian Singh Saini, who owes his allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party and was the lone Sikh minister in the previous BJP Government in the state.

In Himachal, since the Sikh population is mainly concentrated in Una and Solan districts, the fight appears to be triangular with Mr Satnam Singh defending his seat against Mr Daljit Singh Bhinder as well as Master Jagir Singh.

Of the historic gurdwaras in Himachal Pradesh, Paonta Sahib is the most important one. Then there are gurdwaras in Nahan, Chamba, Kulu, Hamirpur and Shimla also. Paonta Sahib also has a big population of Sikhs but not many are registered as voters for gurdwara elections.

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Confusion over plying of govt vehicles
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 5
Confusion prevailed over the ban on plying of government vehicles on Mondays as the notification in this regard was withheld in view of the impending Cabinet reshuffle.

Though a majority of the government vehicles were off road, the few who were aware of the fact that the notification had been withheld chose to use government vehicle. As part of the austerity drive, the state government had decided to ban use of all government vehicles from the first Monday falling after the assembly session was over, which happens to be today.

Chief Secretary, Kanwar Shamsher Singh said since Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was away to Delhi, the file was yet to be signed by him. “Once the file is cleared by him, the ban is likely to come into effect from next Monday,” he said.

However, senior officials confirmed that the notification had been withheld as it was being expected that the much-awaited reshuffle in view of the downsizing of the Cabinet would take place today. “Since a majority of the ministers camping in Delhi will be returning today by their official vehicles, it would have become quite awkward for them if the notification had been issued,” confirmed another senior official.

The state government is expecting to save about Rs 3 crore annually with the ban coming into effect. Only those vehicles required for emergency services and maintaining of law and order have been exempted from this ban.

Though a majority of the departments like the Information and Public Relations, Forest and Industries chose not to ply their vehicles, vehicles of some of the senior police officials could be seen plying.

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Official cars not used
Our Correspondent

Hamirpur, July 5
Taking a note of a government order that no official vehicle will ply on the first Monday of every month, many district officials reached their offices in their private vehicles or came on foot this morning.

The first to reach office was DPRO, Gurmeet Bedi. The second to reach office was ADM, K.D. Lakhanpal.

SP P.L.Thakur reached the office in a private Maruti Gypsy. DC Devesh Kumar came in his official car. He said the order would be enforced from July 12. 

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Residents demand 20 pc Pandoh water
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Mandi, July 5
The Citizens’ Council Mandi (CCM) has launched a campaign against the Beas Sutlej Link (BSL) project being run by the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), demanding 12 per cent free power and the release of 20 per cent water from the Pandoh reservoir into the Beas, that flows through Mandi.

Talking to The Tribune on the sidelines of the signature campaign to be submitted to the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court this week to get its due share and redemption from ecological miseries from the 900-MW BSL project, Mr P.C. Bisht, president of the CCM said the town had got nothing but silt and pollution from the BSL project since it was commissioned in 1977.

As you travel from Pandoh, the dam site of the BSL project, you see mounds of silt on the embankments of the Beas downstream to Mandi town, revealed the CCM, which has over 15,000 members.

The dam had stopped water in the river downstream, that had destroyed the aquatic life soon after the BSL project was commissioned in 1977, said Mr R.C. Vaidya, vice-president of the CCM.

Even the bathing ghats had become junkyards for the silt and rubbish dumped into the river from the town.

From Pandoh to Mandi town along the Beas and from dredgers site of the BSL tunnel along the Suketi khud, tributary of the Beas that joins it at Mandi, mounds silt litter the river banks. The river and the khud are dirty brown, discharging nothing but silt of the dredgers, rued the residents.

Because of the silt and water-starved riverbanks, the residents complained that the BSL project had destroyed the ecology of the town. “People used to sit along the river to enjoy the cooling effect of the Beas. Now they face starvation death along the river. The town’s temperature has been affected”, observed Mr Vaidya.

The CCM informed that the BBMB was earning Rs 1,900 crore as revenue from the project, but neither Mandi nor the state got anything from it despite the project being located in the state.

“The state should get 12 per cent free power and 20 per cent of the water of the Beas should be released into the river to revive the town’s ecology. The BBMB should create ‘weir’ to maintain water level at the Pandoh dam”, the CCM demanded.

BBMB officials said the Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board had filed a case against the BBMB and it was pending in the Himachal Pradesh High Court. “As per the court order, the silt is being ejected only during the rainy season. The National Environment Engineering Agency, an NGO, has studied the silt problem and five per cent of the water is being released to the river”, said Mr V.P. Jain, Chief Engineer of the BSL.

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Dalai Lama’s birthday today 
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, July 5
The mood is upbeat in McLeodganj as locals, foreigners and the Tibetan government-in-exile get ready for the Dalai Lama’s 69th birthday tomorrow. Besides looking forward to a cultural programme at the main temple tomorrow morning, some also expect significant political comments in the statement to be issued by Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche on issues like the controversial white paper released by China.

“In fact, there would be two statements read out at the ceremony — one by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Kashag (Tibetan Cabinet) and one by Mr Pema Jungney, chairman of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies. Besides focusing on the Dalai Lama, these might have political overtones as well,” says Tenzin Lekshay, officiating press co-ordinator, Department of Information and International Relations.

“The life and mission of the Dalai Lama would be highlighted in the ceremony. But some political statement regarding China is not ruled out,” said another official.

Although the Dalai Lama will not attend the function, almost the entire government-in-exile, besides general public, would be present at the main temple. It has been declared an official holiday tomorrow.

The function, which would start around 9 am, would go on till noon. In the evening, the Central Tibetan Administration will hold a dinner where special invitees would be present. The Dalai Lama is expected to spend the day in his palace and a small closed-door ceremony is likely to be held there in the presence of relatives and friends.

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Copper mine rediscovered in Chamba
Balkrishan Prashar

CHAMBA: The rediscovery of a copper mine at Hul (now called Sillaghrat), 20 km from here, once again came to light when a geologist, Mr Aneil K.Bhalla, of New Delhi recently mounted an expedition. The exact location of the mine was found near Banjah village in Sillaghrat (Chamba district).

Bringing this to the notice of Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh through a letter, Mr Bhalla referred to the Gazetteer of Chamba State, Part-A (1904) that during the reign of Raja Pratap Singh Verma (1559-86 A.D.), the Lakshmi-Narayan temple was in need of repairs but there was no money in the Chamba state treasury for this purpose.

The King called a meeting of his officials which recommended the imposition of a tax. But this was not acceptable to the generous and considerate King. Next morning a man from the Hul area visited the darbar with a piece of copper. He said that a copper mine had been discovered near his village. The King at once issued orders for extracting copper from the mine the proceeds from which were enough to repair all temples. There are tell-tale signs of extraction of copper from this mine which was in operation till the early 19th century. Even royal currency or coins were made of copper.

Mr Bhalla entered the shaft of the mine near Banjah village in Sillaghrat and came to the conclusion that the copper mine had been exploited only up to 150 to 200 metres.

In his letter to the Chief Minister, Mr Bhalla believed that the area could yield a rich haul of copper if properly explored, thereby contributing significantly towards the economic development of this backward area. Mr Bhalla offered all assistance to the state in this connection.

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Indiscriminate mining despite HC orders
Ambika Sharma

SOLAN: Even as the Himachal Pradesh High Court has issued strict orders to the district administrations to check illegal mining activity in their respective areas, little appears to have been done here in this connection. Hundreds of tractor-trailers registered for agriculture use not only continue to transport quarry material from river beds of the Doon and Nalagarh areas, JCB machine are also being used surreptitiously at night.

Expressing concern at large-scale mining in the region, Mr Gyanendra Bhardwaj, president of voluntary organisation Him Parivesh, said not much heed been paid to the recent High Court directions on the issue. A large number of tractor-trailers continue to transport stone, gravel and sand to neighbouring Punjab from the Gullerwala river in the Changer and Nalagarh areas and the Kalakund river. So huge is the quantum of quarrying that crucial structures like the Kashmirpur bridge have become shallow at their foundation sites. Even the use of prohibited JCB machines continues with impunity at night at the Sarsa river’s Mallpur and Dasomajra points, alleges Mr Bhardwaj. These machines are used in running water to escape detection.

The fact that all major rivers of the region, including the Balad, after traversing Haryana confluence with the Sarsa river in Himachal, their river beds are the prime sources of illegal stone pilfering. Not only are a number of stone-crushers located along the border but the tractor-trailers carrying quarry material from these river beds feed them. While demanding an immediate curb on this illicit trade, Him Parivesh has demanded strict action against the offenders as per the recent High Court directions.

Mining Officer B.D. Sharma said though officials were vigilant and had curbed the use of JCB machines during the day, its illicit use at night could not be ruled out. He said lack of staff and vehicle unavailability hindered speedy action.

Mr Virender Tomar, DSP, Nalagarh, said seven tractor-trailers carrying quarry material had been challaned a few days ago. Random campaigns carried out by them in coordination with Mining Department officials had helped in curbing this illicit activity to some extent. Not only were the offenders punished by imposing a fine of Rs 5,000 but a JCB from the Barotiwala area was also seized recently by a flying squad. 

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Solid medical waste poses health risk
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Mandi, July 5
The hazardous solid medical waste that includes the infected disposable syringes, intravenous fluid bottles and needles are ending up in the hands of “kabaris” who send them for recycling, posing a high risk of AIDS/HIV and other deadly infections and diseases.

This alleged ‘deadly business’ is going under the nose of the state health authorities, which have failed to segregate, treat and dispose of the hazardous solid medical waste as per the direction of the Supreme Court. Most hospitals have no shredder to destroy the tons of hazardous solid medical waste that they churn out daily in the state.

It has been learnt that the rag pickers collect the solid medical waste, including the infected syringes, needles and IVF bottles from the hospitals and then sell it at the rate of Rs 6- Rs 8 per kg to the “kabaris”. They, in turn, sell the stuff to different dealers in the cities in the plains for recycling”, it is alleged.

Not only this some of the discarded syringes, needles and the IVF bottles are recycled locally for reuse by the intravenous injectible drug abusers, “who cannot afford the stuff from the market”, the sources revealed. “This deadly business has been going on for quite some time”, the sources added.

Though there is no direct evidence of how these poisonous syringes, needles and infected IVF bottles are actually recycled, but it is alleged that this deadly ‘recycling business’ is booming.

Because the health authorities have no check on rag pickers and its hospital- based workers engaged in the solid waste disposal, the syringes, needles and bottles pose a big health hazard. “Most of state’s 11 zonal hospitals have neither shredder, nor the trained staff and the disposal sites and incinerators, revealed the sources.

Though the state health authorities claimed that the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital (IGMC), Shimla, and Dr Rajendra Medical College and Hospital, Tanda, have installed the shredders, but the State Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board, Shimla, have noted that there is no such thing in the state to crush medical waste before it is disposed of in the specially designed ‘deep burials’.

The sources in the zonal hospitals in Mandi, Kulu and Bilaspur have revealed that the hospitals waste is ending up in the hands of the rag pickers, who in order to make quick money allegedly sell the hazardous wastes further.

The Director, Health and Family Welfare Dr J. Pal Nadda when contacted said that the workers were being trained to collect, segregate and disposes of the waste. “We have provided the cutters to zonal hospitals to cut the solid medical wastes before it is disposed off. I have to get the status report from the Chief Medical Officer on this”, he added.

But the reality is different as most hospitals do not have cutters and the staff to do the job. “We are not aware of the any racket but we ensure that all medical waste is disposed of properly”, said Dr Devi Turi, Senior Medical Superintendent, Mandi zonal hospital.

Even the private hospitals that have come up across the state are dumping the hazardous medical waste in the municipal bins, violating the Supreme Court verdict saying that the medical waste should be destroyed in the shredders and the biomedical wastes should be disinfected before it is disposed of in the incinerator.

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Plan to boost saffron cultivation in Sangla 
Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Sangla (Kinnaur), July 5
Despite people in the Sangla valley of Kinnaur not taking to saffron cultivation in a big way, the Mountain Agriculture Regional Centre here has decided to approach the Spices Board of India to popularise the high-value crop brought here from Srinagar almost 20 years ago.

Attempts to grow saffron, which is cultivated in India on a commercial scale only in Pampore, near Srinagar, were started almost 20 years ago in this valley. Despite being a high-value crop, farmers here have not taken to its cultivation on a commercial scale in view of the high investment and weather sensitivity of the crop.

“In the past there has also been a problem of insufficient propagation material, as we have saffron cultivation only on a 2 bigha patch, which is not enough to meet the requirement of the locals keen on cultivating the crop,” says Mr K.S. Thakur, Associate Director, Mountain Agriculture Research Extension Centre of Palampur Agriculture University.

“Though the climatic conditions here are ideal for saffron cultivation, people are growing it only on small patches for personal consumption, as the plant is very sensitive to climatic changes,” says Ashok Kumar of Kamru village. Also, because of the high investment required and the plant demanding a lot of care, people prefer to grow apple, peas or even kala zira.

The few villages in the Sangla valley in which people have grown saffron in small patches are Kuppa, Badseri, Raksham, Azad Kashmir and Sangla.

Mr Thakur says the centre now wants to lay more emphasis on extension and development rather than research. Apart from approaching the Spices Board of India, funds will also be sought from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research.

The saffron grown here is of high quality. The only problem at times is that of low temperatures in October. “Flowering in a saffron plant takes place only if the temperature is at least 15 degrees by the end of September and early October; here at times the mercury dips further,” explains Mr Thakur.

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Nine houses gutted 
Our Correspondent

Chamba, July 5
Nine houses in an interior village of Jhajjakothi in Churah subdivision of Chamba district were burnt when a fire broke out suddenly last night. However, there was no report of loss of life and livestock.

According to Mr T.K. Chona, District Fire Station Officer, Chamba, on receiving the information about the fire, fire engines reached the site and saved the nearby houses from spreading the fire.

Meanwhile, the Tehsildar of Churah, Mr Dharam Pal, said on the phone that nine families were rendered houseless and a loss caused due to fire had been assessed to more than Rs 20 lakh.

The Tehsildar said that an immediate relief of Rs 1,000 each to the fire victims was distributed on the spot, besides blankets and ration had also been provided to the affected families. He said that all-out efforts were being made to rehabilitate these families. A case had been registered by the police to ascertain the cause of fire, the Tehsildar added.

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Promote local talent, say residents

Chamba, July 5
The Chamba Welfare Association is up in arms against the practice of appointing middlemen for hiring artistes for the week-long Minjar fair. The association has suggested that only one nite of a playback singer should be organised.

The association has warned the International Minjar Fair Celebration Committee not to spend lavishly on Bollywood stars, artistes and singers for night shows during the Minjar fair. While such artistes are paid lakhs, artistes from Himachal Pradesh are paid meagre amounts.

The association has opined that folk dance troupes from Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir should be invited. The North Zone Cultural Centre should be requested to sponsor ghazal, classical or quawwali singers and cultural troupes of the Government of India’s Dance and Drama Division should be invited, it has suggested.

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SDM to probe woman’s death
Our Correspondent

Hamirpur, July 5
Hamirpur Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar today deputed SDM B.R. Kaundel to hold an inquiry into the death of Pushpa Devi (22), who died during a sterilisation operation at Tounidevi two days ago.

He directed the SDM to complete his inquiry quickly so that a detailed report was sent to state government on this issue.

Pushpa dies before she could be operated upon by a team of medical officers at a family planning camp at Tounidevi on Saturday last.

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3 killed, 15 hurt in HP bus mishap

Shimla, July 5
Three persons were killed and 15 injured when a bus carrying them fell into a gorge on the Shimla-Chail road, 30 km from here, the police said today.

The bus carrying 25 persons was on the way to Koti-Neem from here when it met with an accident near Kanog last night, they said. The dead have been identified as Dharam Singh, Kaushalya Devi and Bhim Lal. —PTI 

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Displaced workers stage march
Tribune News Service

Mandi, July 5
Supported by CITU, 17 workers displaced by the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, Dhaban, in the district staged a protest march in the town and submitted a memorandum of their demands to the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Ali Raza Rizvi, here today.

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