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TOP STORIES

Eco-tourism in vogue
Nature camps and treks are no longer a mere seasonal activity and permanent eco-tourism resorts catering to high-end clientele are on the rise, says Rakesh Lohumi
Eco-tourism is picking up in Himachal Pradesh in a big way. This is an offshoot of the tourism boom in the state in the wake of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir.

NATURE RETREAT: Tourists from the plains get a real feel of the mountains in a luxury tent at Camp Potters Hill near Shimla. — Photo by Anil Dayal

Bhakra tourism unexploited
As the mercury is on the rise, a large number of tourists are rushing to see one of the highest gravity dam in the world, Bhakra Dam, situated in Bhakra village of Naina Devi Sub-Tehsil in Bilaspur district. The strength of the tourists is much more on the weekends and increases to about 10 thousand during summers.



EARLIER STORIES



citizens’ grievances
If you have a grievance about the functioning of a public organisation in Himachal Pradesh, you are welcome to write to us and we will publish it in Himachal Plus, a weekly colour pullout published every Wednesday.

For the love of Dharamsala
His love for the picturesque Dharamsala often leaves him with a heavy heart, wondering if the town is on the brink of turning into a slum on a slope, just like lower Shimla and large areas of Darjeeling.





ARTIST’S VIEW: Prabal Pramanik touches his sketch.
Prabal Pramanik touches his sketch.

Dam or doom?
The construction of the 800 MW Kol dam project on the Sutlej river, executed by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), has spelt a doom for the production of the fish in the Bhakhra Bandh, state’s major fishing pond. The drastic drop in fish production has hit the livelihood of over 1850 fishermen.

True tale of a chain-smoker
No smoker argues that the cigarette is good for health. He meekly tells you the “very few cigarettes” he burns, and explains how careful he is — not smoking on an empty stomach, not smoking at home, avoiding cheap brands, burning only half the stick and stubbing out the rest … In essence, he is apologetic but not ready to give up. The campaigns of the kind we have seen on the recent “No-tobacco Day “ (May 31 ) have a limited role. They merely puff up the smokers’ guilt ballon, hoping it would burst.





SMOKE SLAVE: Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. — Photo by Anil Dayal
Cigarette smoking is injurious to health

Empowering women in family planning
To help women play an active role in planning their families, the district Health Department has launched a special drive to popularise female contraceptives in the form of intra-uterine devices (IUDs) such as copper-T.

Bird-flu panic persists
Scare of bird flu has spelt doom for the poultry farmers in the state. The demand for poultry products has not picked as flue still haunts tourists and local consumers in the region, sending the poultry units out of business for the last four months. The farmers have yet to recover from the huge losses as the central government’s announcement to wave off interest on loan and other incentives have turned out to be eyewash for them so far.

Housing shortage in Baddi
The upcoming industrial hub of the state, Baddi, has been facing a serious housing problem for workforce of scores of industrial units for the last over one-and-a-half years. With the development on a massive scale and skyrocketing prices of property, normal life has gone beyond the track.

An aerial view of a part of the upcoming industrial township, Baddi, in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. — Tribune photo: Parvesh Chauhan.

An aerial view of a part of the upcoming industrial township, Baddi, in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh.
Manali in a mess
Manali is in a mess which is becoming worse every year. Hordes of tourists, health magicians from Rajsthan, sex workers, migrant traders from Chandni Chowk and pheriwalas from Jammu and Kashmir and migrant labourers and beggars from the plains and over 10,000 tourist vehicle- all pushing the carrying capacity of the town to unrepairable limits.

Filming with love
He loves to capture lofty peaks and walk miles to enjoy breathtaking landscapes, verdant forests and spectacular lakes.

Manali musings by Vajpayee
The cool and quaint environs of the hills are not only ideal for meditation but also provide perfect natural settings for soul searching as former Prime Minster, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee found it during his weeklong retreat at Manali.



SHOW SLIDES: Beauty queens at Summer Festival. — Photo by Anil Dayal
SHOW SLIDES: Beauty queens at Summer Festival.

Guardians of the nation
Snowfall on the rugged terrains of Himalayas may well be a holiday time for those living in the big cities, but for the jawans of the para-military forces/ army who stand like a wall to guard the nation on huge mountain ranges, it’s a constant battle for survival under hostile weather conditions, coupled with isolation.


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Eco-tourism in vogue

Nature camps and treks are no longer a mere seasonal activity and permanent eco-tourism resorts catering to high-end clientele are on the rise, says Rakesh Lohumi

Eco-tourism is picking up in Himachal Pradesh in a big way. This is an offshoot of the tourism boom in the state in the wake of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir. While the boom had been welcome, it has led to a haphazard growth of hill stations in the state which are now beset with all sorts of problems like water scarcity, traffic congestion and lack of adequate infrastructural support. They no longer offer the serene environment that provided the holidaymakers the much-needed break from the heat and dust of the plains. Busy executives from the corporate sector in particular find holidaying in solitude of hills invigorating and refreshing. This is one of the main reasons for tourists opting for calm and serene environs of camp resorts.

Eco-tourism is thus the way out. The nature camps that have come up over the past few years vouch for this trend. Until recently the mountaineering institute and some private operators have been organising camps and trekking expeditions during summer for adventure-loving youth. However, it is no more a seasonal activity. Enterprising Himachalis are now setting up permanent eco-tourism resorts, which cater to high-end clientele. These camps provide the luxury of a modern hotel in tented accommodation amidst thick forests.

Over the past couple of years about half-a-dozen camps have come up around the ‘Queen of the Hills’. It all started with the Camp Potters Hill, the first such luxury resort that came up four years ago. Tucked away in the heart of the sprawling Summer Hill Van Vihar the resort has been developed tastefully without disturbing the natural aesthetics. The thatched roof luxury cottages and deluxe tents blend well with the surroundings.

It offers a combination of eco-tourism, adventure and leisure camping. The exhilarating scent of pines sweeps the camp with every whiff of wind. The thickly wooded Van Vihar, which is spread over 100 hectare, has numerous forest trails passing through luxuriant oaks, rhododendrons and the majestic deodars. Only the chirping of the birds breaches the silence of this forest.

“The visitors from plains are pleasantly surprised to see a virgin forest with the delicate ecosystem intact so close to Shimla. They find their stay in the camp exciting but also a learning experience. The wealth of flora and fauna which the Van Vihar treasures is not easy to find”, says Vibha Butail, who manages the resort. One can indulge in many unique activities like rock climbing and rappelling, commando rope walk and valley crossing, day and night treks with a guide which one may not get to do at home or anywhere else and that makes the stay most interesting.

Recently a similar eco-tourism resort has come u near Shoghi about 3 km off the busy Shimla-Kalka national highway. The Parkwood Resort has been drawing attracting tourists from various parts of the country. “The well-furnished cottages are mostly booked by families who like to spend some days in quietude,” says Rakesh Ahuja, owner of the resort.

Camp resorts have also come up near Mashobra, Kufri, Koti, Naldehra and Narkanda. The tents are sparsely located in thick forests. Of late the government has also come out with a eco-tourism policy to help exploit the tourism potential of various wild life and nature parks, sanctuaries and forest rest houses located in the interior in thickly wooded areas. Societies have been formed to manage nature parks so that some revenue could be generated for the proper upkeep of parks.

An added advantage of eco–tourism resorts is that one does not have to raise huge concrete structures, which cuts down the capital investment drastically. The most important feature is that it helps in preserving the fragile hill environment that was the main casualty in popular hill stations. 

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Bhakra tourism unexploited
Kiran Deep

As the mercury is on the rise, a large number of tourists are rushing to see one of the highest gravity dam in the world, Bhakra Dam, situated in Bhakra village of Naina Devi Sub-Tehsil in Bilaspur district. The strength of the tourists is much more on the weekends and increases to about 10 thousand during summers. According to the records, as many as 3 lakh tourists including foreign nationals visit Bhakra Dam every year. Besides the Dam, there is a museum where records of the development of the dam, right from the excavation period, are displayed in the form of photographs to attract the visitors.

Bhakra Dam is 225.55m (740feet) high and the concrete used for constructing the Dam is sufficient to build 8 feet wide road around the earth equator. The Govind Sagar lake, which is created by the dam, is 168.35 square kilometers in area with a gross storage of 7.8 million acre feet.

Water gets stored in the lake with the melting of snow and rainfall in its catchments area. Bhakra Dam supplies water and power to the northern India throughout the year as per water availability.

But the problem is that the Himachal Tourism Department has not exploited the tourist potential of the place. The tourists never stay in the nearby places due to the absence of a complex and other facilities in Bilaspur. The tourists after visiting the dam return to their respective destinations.

Due to security reasons, only a few visitors get a special permit to witness the overall functioning of the dam from inside. Most of the visitors get to see the Dam only from the outside after getting a permit from Bhakra Beas Management Public Relation Office, situated in Nangal town (Punjab).

Here is a chance by which the tourism department could attract tourists by providing best facilities. A number of places along the Govind Sagar lake in the nearby villages could be developed where besides the boating facilities, eatable shops and some places to stay could be provided.

If the spot along the bank lake could be developed, it would help the people, who have been living in the nearby villages, to get some sources of income. As most of the villagers do not have any job, they run roadside shops or work as daily wagers.

A number of boats run by the people at a place about 5 km from the dam carry locals to the villages situated on the other side of the lake and also pilgrims to Baba Balak Nath temple. But these boats lack safety because of the absence of safety jackets.

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citizens’ grievances

If you have a grievance about the functioning of a public organisation in Himachal Pradesh, you are welcome to write to us and we will publish it in Himachal Plus, a weekly colour pullout published every Wednesday.

Grievances like the inordinate delay in getting a water or power connection or a provident fund payment or getting a passport or overcharging of interest by a bank or the failure to service a machine during its warranty period etc. will be published in the Citizens’ Grievances column of Himachal Plus.

Every effort will also be made to publish the response of the organisation concerned. However, grievances, which are purely personal like a landlord’s complaint against a tenant, will not be entertained. Grievances — in about 150 words, preferably typewritten — should be sent to the Editor, Himachal Plus, The Tribune, Chandigarh - 160030. They can also be e-mailed at himachalplus@
tribunemail.com

— Editor-in-Chief The Tribune

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For the love of Dharamsala
Vibhor Mohan

His love for the picturesque Dharamsala often leaves him with a heavy heart, wondering if the town is on the brink of turning into a slum on a slope, just like lower Shimla and large areas of Darjeeling.

So instead of merely describing the scenic environs of the area in his book titled ‘An artist’s view of Dharamsala and beyond’ — which was released at the Government Museum this week— Prabal Pramanik decided to underlined the need for immediate steps to check the ‘forced urbanization of the pristine hill area.’

The book is a mini encyclopedia on Dharamsala and McLeodganj and features some rare black and white pictures of the area when snow used to cover every inch of the hill station in the early 90s. The artist has also traced the history of Dharamsala and to highlight the sudden commercialization in the area.

Overcoming resistance from local rajas, the British gained firm control over the territory and Kangra Fort was occupied. A site was needed to accommodate a regiment of soldiers as Kangra Forst was fully occupied. On the slope of Dhauladhar, a place was chosen at the spot where stood an old Dharamsal (a Hindu sanctuary). From this name, according to British records, the name Dharamsala was derived The cantonment was first occupied as a station in 1849, reads the book.

It is quite possible that for the sake of security and climate and to reduce the importance of Kangra town, the British changed the district headquarters from Kangra to Dharamsala.

Kotwali Bazar was named after the old Kotwali situated here at the place where the Dhauladhar Hotel stands. The Depot Bazar is named after the depot of a Gurkha Regiment once located here. The road to McLeodganj bazaar passes Forsythganj, the cantonment area and the church. McLeodganj was named after Sir D.McLeod, a former lieutenant Governor of the province.

The history of McLeodganj cannot be complete without a mention of the Dalai Lama. The book carries a picture of the first arrival of the Dalai Lama to the place. His stay here led to building of Tibetan monasteries and Tibetan refugee settlements and a new era of cultural exchange began.

“The way things are today, commercialization has made ‘spritualism’ a money-spinning merchandise in this area and visitors from abroad are often seen shopping around for Yoga and Meditation here,” says Pramanik. The sewerage system and the water supply cannot cope with the sudden influx of population and this problem is bound to increase.

The serious negative effect of the forced urbanisation of a pristine hill area, on local flora and fauna, cannot be perceived by the casual tourist or the careless administration right now, but would surely be felt by posterity, he adds.

Along with the book, Pramanik has also come up with a documentary on Dharamsala and some adjoining areas, which is available on CD.

“The paintings that I make are visual records, captivating the mood of the place and delight me greatly. I have drawm many pictures of Dharamsala during my numerous visits here. I did necessary research work on the area and also taped some of the interviews,” he says.

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Dam or doom?
Kuldeep Chauhan

The construction of the 800 MW Kol dam project on the Sutlej river, executed by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), has spelt a doom for the production of the fish in the Bhakhra Bandh, state’s major fishing pond. The drastic drop in fish production has hit the livelihood of over 1850 fishermen.

The fisheries officials and fishermen blame the drastic drop in fish production on the construction work. “The construction work has cut the fish production in the Bhakhra dam by more 50 per cent since 2001-2002, the year when the Kol dam work began upstream on the Satluj,” they claim.

The production was 1200 tonne in 2001-2002. “This year it is just 656 tonne,” say top officials.

“A fisherman used to catch around 30 kg of fish daily, but now he can not pocket more 10-15 kg,” rues Mangal Singh, a fisherman.

Though the Fisheries Department has taken up the matter with the NTPC for compensation of Rs 2 crore in few years ago, but the NTPC has yet to fulfill its promise. Due to the construction work, silt and muck has silted up the fish nesting areas, impede the breading of microorganism that produces food for the fish, say the officials.

The Kol dam project has stopped the moment of the fish upstream from the construction site, restricting them in the reservoir itsel, claim fisheries officials.

The Director, Fisheries, Dr B.D. Sharma, says the production has decreased drastically in the dam since 2001 onwards when the Kol dam work began, hitting the fishermen. “We have taken up the matter with the NTPC
demanding Rs 2.25 crore for the upgrading the fish production in the dam, but there is no response from them so far”, he added.

The NTPC, Kol Dam’s General Manager Mr K.K. Sharma says that the proposal was under consideration of the company.

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HIllside view
True tale of a chain-smoker
by Vepa Rao

No smoker argues that the cigarette is good for health. He meekly tells you the “very few cigarettes” he burns, and explains how careful he is — not smoking on an empty stomach, not smoking at home, avoiding cheap brands, burning only half the stick and stubbing out the rest … In essence, he is apologetic but not ready to give up.

The campaigns of the kind we have seen on the recent “No-tobacco Day “ (May 31 ) have a limited role. They merely puff up the smokers’ guilt ballon, hoping it would burst.

Here is a real story that may inspire you better. Valli Saab smoked around 60 king-size cigarettes a day, and even “scored a century” on the rare days he drank. His hand groped for the packet at night when his sleep was broken and also before he opened his eyes in the morning. His fingers always held a burning cigarette except when he brushed his teeth, bathed, ate or slept. His clothe, books, everything reeked of tobacco odour.

He was paranoid about running out of stock and kept at home cartons of his favourite brand. He was particular about the quality— so, bought the cigarettes only from big shops after checking the date of manufacturing. Oh yes, he kept a few lighters, and also matchboxes… just in case!

Valli Saab, a journalist, smoked incessantly for 13 years. He invented a reason too. He wanted a woman to reciprocate his love by forcing him to give up smoking — “pyaar ki kasam”(swearing by love). The romantic angle complicated it; because there was no way she could fight her family to team up with him. She refused and told him to give up smoking of his own. “I won’t, as long as I live”, he proclaimed in the filmy style, and increased the intake. She went about her own life, coolly, wisely.

In his 13th year of smoking, this unmarried loner found his health packing up. Strained lungs, hyper acidity, insomnia, headaches, heavy history of cardiac problems in the family…He could hardly climb the stairs to his first floor office without panting.

Valli Saab quit smoking thrice but returned to the sticks within months. Each time, it was his smoking “friends” who goaded him back to the wretched stick.

Statistical claims that nearly 2,000 people died daily in India due to tobacco related diseases did not help. You see accidents but don’t stop travelling. If you are told 80 per cent smokers become prone to cancer, you will count yourself in the remaining 20. You always feel special— that’s part of the survival instinct driving the evolutionary process. Several other facts too didn’t matter — like each cigarette taking away five minutes of your life.

This man, so proud of his sense of freedom, was upset about his slavery to the cigarette. He wrote this verse in sheer anguish:

The sooty lungs are hot as lanterns—

a breath of freedom more than matters.

The aching lips and restive fingers

Let them learn to live with hungers.

The pain in love of smoky memories

(like pests in small, wayside dairies)

let me pluck, pluck and throw—

good-bye cigarette, now you go!

 To a loner’s hum in a quaking cart

beating time, you heard my heart.

To help me mend it, bow and go

my old friend, smile, smile, and go…

 One day, Valli Saab started working on his mind systematically with personal details. He calculated that he had spent roughly Rs. two lakhs (with compounded interest) so far on smoking! Those days, twenty-five years ago, he could have bought a flat in Delhi with this whopping sum. He started carrying a paper, making such calculations every now and then— the matchboxes, lighters, doctor’s fees, medicines… all related costs.

He also made notes daily on how fit he was 13 years ago, and the graphic details of his health now. He was about 40 years then, and started noting down the requirements— if he were to live another 20 or 30 years.

The Saab also recalled daily, the events and incidents (galore!) in his life showing his total freedom and unbending ways at home and office. He would also recall graphically how he craved desperately to light a new cigarette each time he had stubbed out the old one; the mildly shaking fingers dipping into the packet, the impatient lighting, relief at the first long puff at the new stick. He would watch in the mirror his own facial contortions, the red tinge in the strained eyes, the pig-like pouting of lips as the smoke curled out…

And, of course, a daily prayer— oh, God, free me from this slavery to the cigarette.

Valli Saab was in no hurry. He went on working on his mind for six months. He felt that he failed thrice previously because he had acted “before” firming up the mind completely.

On this day in June nearly 20 years ago, he gave away his packet of cigarettes to a colleague casually before boarding a bus to Shimla. “I shall never touch this useless thing again”, he stated in an ordinary tone. No dramatics, no bitternes.

The first month was difficult, predictably. He ignored all that nonsense about “typical” withdrawal symptoms and just didn’t care. The cigarette died out of his life quietly and he didn’t let it become an issue. It just ceased to exist. As simple as that.

He is around—healthier, fitter, climbing hills, no cardiac-related medicine so far. “It all looks like a dream now”, he laughs, “so stupid, so clownish”. He doesn’t think you need a strong will power to quit smoking. “Work on yourself slowly, methodically, depending on your specific circumstances. It’s a challenge to your intelligence and creativity. General advice is useless. Try my method. If I could give up the habit, anyone in the world can.”

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Empowering women in family planning
Vibhor Mohan

To help women play an active role in planning their families, the district Health Department has launched a special drive to popularise female contraceptives in the form of intra-uterine devices (IUDs) such as copper-T.

Since the use of such female contraceptives has been associated with the fear of catching infections, instructions have been given to the female block medical officers not leave the job in the hands of the health workers and ensure that the women going for it don’t end up developing complications.

“Till now, the screening of the volunteer was not done as it was the health workers who used to insert copper-T at the Primary Health Centre and sub-centre level. But now qualified doctors have been directed to first do a thorough screening of women going in for the temporary family planning method,” says Dr Swantantar Mahajan, District Family Planning Officer, Kangra.

The rejection rate of these IUDs has been very high, primarily due to the spread of infection in the entire lower abdomen and back area soon after insertion of the device. But at a meeting of the block medical officers held recently, they were asked to screen out women who have any kind of infection.

“The doctors would first treat the infection and then proceed with the family planning measure. This was hardly done in the part, even in the Primary Health Centre where the female doctor is available,” says Dr Mahajan.

“It gives women the choice not to have a child even if the husband refuses to use a condom. The copper-T works even in cases where intercourse has occurred a couple of days before the insertion. Two types of copper-T are available, one that if effective for a period of five years and the other works for double this time. Fertility returns the very day the device is removed from the body,” he says.

But on the flip side, the IUDs offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like AIDS and cannot be projected as a total substitute to condoms.

Along with the promotion of copper-T and oral pills, the camps being organised as part of the special campaign are also focusing on improving the quality of family planning services, especially in rural areas.

Since copper-Ts are not available in the market, the Health Department is supplying these to private practitioners in the district as part of the family welfare programme.

Repeated pregnancies increase the risk of maternal and infant mortality. These risks increase with the increased number of pregnancies and the age of the mother. With the repeated, short interval pregnancies, the health of the mother becomes weak and cannot maintain her normal health and activities. Similarly the congenital anomalies are also associated with advancing maternal age, fetal death and premature births or abortion could be the result of weak and undernourished mother especially in the mother having more children, said Dr Mahajan.

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Bird-flu panic persists
Kuldeep Chauhan

Scare of bird flu has spelt doom for the poultry farmers in the state. The demand for poultry products has not picked as flue still haunts tourists and local consumers in the region, sending the poultry units out of business for the last four months. The farmers have yet to recover from the huge losses as the central government’s announcement to wave off interest on loan and other incentives have turned out to be eyewash for them so far.

The poultry farmers rued that they have suffered over 90 per cent losses due to the scare of bird flu for the last six months. Both layer and broiler units in the Mandi, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una and Kangra districts have either been shut down or face closure due to the scare of bird flue, though there was not even a single case in the north India.

“The government had announced that farmers would get waver on interest of loan and would get subsidised feed and other medicines, but these remained as an eye wash, said Mr. Jyoti Malhotra, a member, poultry farmers’ federation of India, who runs an egg layer unit at Swarghat in Bilaspur.

“The egg sale has dipped by 90 percent, an egg sold or Rs. 70 paise, which today has increased to Rs. 1.10 paise. But it takes over 18 weeks to start the production at the layer unit. There was a little demand in the market and farmers face bleak future,” he added.

The broiler units have been shut down in the state, including those at Barwala near Panchkula in Haryana, which at one time produced over 2 crore birds, revealed the poultry farmers. “It takes over 9 weeks to raise broilers. The units have been shut down and there is no local supply of broilers in the market”.

The government relief for poultry remained on paper only. “If farmers go to the bank and telling that the government has waved off interest on loan. Banks refused, saying they have yet to receive government’s instruction”, said a spokesman of the farmers.

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Housing shortage in Baddi
Bipin Bhardwaj

The upcoming industrial hub of the state, Baddi, has been facing a serious housing problem for workforce of scores of industrial units for the last over one-and-a-half years. With the development on a massive scale and skyrocketing prices of property, normal life has gone beyond the track.

Rented accommodation here has gone beyond the reach of industrial workers who have been getting salaries between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 per month. They have been spending a major part of their earnings on accommodation and food with meagre savings in the year-end. In such an era of high prices, life has become a hard nut to crack for thousands of workers who come to the Nalagarh-Baddi-Barotiwala-Parwanoo industrial belt from far-flung areas of the state to earning their bread and butter.

The glowering housing problem has started forcing the works to shift from this area to other industrial towns in the neighbouring states, thus putting a large number of entrepreneurs in a quandary over viability local workforce.

According to the HP State Industrial policy it is mandatory for every industrialist to employ 70 per cent workers from Himachal Pradesh.

An innovative housing scheme mooted by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Himachal Pradesh State Council, to enhance housing in the Nalagarh-Baddi-Barotiwala-Parwanoo belt has been run into rough weather. Though the scheme was discussed with top functionaries of the state government, including Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, the state government seems to have given a could shoulder to it.

Under the scheme, construction of over 12000 studio apartments for migratory workforce from Himachal Pradesh were planned on agricultural land in and around Baddi town. The housing schemes were supposed to be financed by banks and eventually be owned by the landowners, thus benefiting over 25,000 workmen.

Monthly installment payments would be paid by the users to bank till full repayment of loan against each dwelling unit during the lease period of 10 years, disclosed Mr Alok Sharma and Mr Ashok Tandon, former chairmen, CII HP State Council.

“If the scheme is implemented, a worker earning salary of Rs 3000 per month could get good accommodation for Rs 700-800 per month. This would not only help the workers (from Himachal Pradesh) in earning good money but also restrain them from shifting to surrounding townships. The industrial units would also get regular workers at their door steps as well,” Mr Rajender Guleria, chairman of CII, HP State Council.

“The construction of dwelling units under the scheme would also help in preventing mushrooming slum areas here as the migrant workforce will get cheaper accommodation in good hygienic condition here,” claimed Mr Guleria.

The members of the CII, HP State Council, and the members of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industrial Association took up the issue with the Principal Secretary (Housing), Himachal Government, Dr PC Kapoor, on Friday. Mr Kapoor was in the town to have an interaction with the members of the CII, HP State Council, the industrialists and the traders.

Besides this numerous other issues relating to the basic civic amenities comprising roads, hospitals, educational institutions and sewerage, were also taken up. The problems that have started casting their shadows in the areas were also discussed.

Dr Kapoor claimed that the 700 rooms (comprising 600 single rooms and 100 two rooms with common toilets) have been constructed for the industrial workers, as yet. The government has also planned to acquire about 2000 to 2,500 bighas of land besides constructing 400 rooms (one room with common toilet) to accommodate the workers, he disclosed.

He assured that after studying the scheme on housing in depth, the issue would be discussed with the Chief Minister and the cabinet for a conclusive end within a month’s time. Dr Kapoor also asked the CII, the HP State Council, and the members of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industrial Association, for chalking out alternative viable housing schemes for the industrial workers, if the scheme fails to click.

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Manali in a mess
Kuldeep Chauhan

Manali is in a mess which is becoming worse every year. Hordes of tourists, health magicians from Rajsthan, sex workers, migrant traders from Chandni Chowk and pheriwalas from Jammu and Kashmir and migrant labourers and beggars from the plains and over 10,000 tourist vehicle- all pushing the carrying capacity of the town to unrepairable limits.

The tourists are taking back bitter memories of the traffic jams and the potholed roads and local residents face traffic hazards daily as the bypass roads and the two bridge projects aimed to decongest this haphazardly developed hill station have yet to see the light of day. The residents say that everybody is taking something from Manali, but nobody is contributing to save the town from death and decay.

The biggest offenders are planners and the Manali Nagar Panchayat, which have contributed to the mushroom growth in this hill station for the past 26 years. The big multi-roomed haphazard concrete monsters—hotels—have rapped this tourist town beyond repair. Now, these monsters have spread their tentacles into its surroundings: Solang valley, Nasogi, Dungri, Kanihal, Old Manali, Vashisht, Prini, Aleo and other suburban villages.

The houses-cum-hotels are being built by the moneyed outsiders, including foreigners on a “build, operate and transfer” basis, revealed locals.

Manali popularised by our first Prime Minister, the late Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1960s, could have been a model hill station in the state, but today it is instead a monument of architectural chaos, trash, junk and a traffic hazard. The destiny of the town is decided not by locals, but by outsiders: over 80 per cent of hotel trade is being run not by their local owners, but by outsiders on a contract basis.

The local handlooms like Kulu shawls, other woollens and handicrafts have disappeared from the markets and retailers, most of whom are Kashmiris are selling the “powerloom fakes” procured from the Ludhiana’s hosieries. “The tourists are not getting the genuine Kulu-Kinnauri-Lahauli handlooms and handicrafts. The local artisans are not getting the prices and markets even in their own towns,” rued Mr Hira Lal, a local resident.

The Kashmiri traders have become an enigma here as they get the showrooms on huge rent, but the seasonal sale is not even enough to pay the rent.   Still they are running the show here for the past 15-20 years. “If I want to run a showroom, I cannot afford the rent as the Kashmiris pay more than double the rent. Their sources of income should be probed,” said Mr Jagdish Thakur, a local youth.

Manali has over 400 registered hotels, pushing its green canopy of deodars to brink. In the peripheries, the guesthouses are mushrooming under the nose of the district Tourism Department.

Israeli haunts

What worries residents and hoteliers is that the peripheries like Old Manali and Vashisht are degenerating into the skid row for the Israelis and hippies who come scouting for charas in Kulu valley.

They are low-paying, seek cheap accommodation and stay in the guesthouses and private houses as paying guests for months. They have invented a novel to stay in the valley.

When his/ her tourist visa expires, they exit for a night in Nepal and come back to India renewing their visas for another six months, revealed police.

Traffic congestion

The major traffic trouble points in the town are the two bailey bridges- one on the Beas river and another on the Manali-Aleo-Prini junction – which have not been upgraded since decades, although the traffic has shot up by 1000 times in this tourist town since the 1980s, complained residents.

The Rs 4 crore-9 km long Club House-Palchan link road being constructed under the Prime Minister Sarak Yojna to ease the traffic congestion on the narrow Beas bridge Palchan on the main highway towards Rohtang pass face shortage of funds.

The link road will benefit Goshal, Shanag and Burwa villages and affords a better view of the upper Manali valley for the tourists visiting Rohtang.

Similarly, the 2-km long Rs 4-crore  Manali bypass that would divert the traffic from The Mall and Rs. 22 lakh 300 metres long link from bus stand to the Beas bridge in town are hanging fire for over the years as these await both clearance and funds. The bypass involves cutting down of the 30 trees along the Beas in the green park area, said the PWD engineers.

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Filming with love
Vishal Gulati

Manmohan Singh. Photo: Manoj Mahajan
Manmohan Singh. Photo: Manoj Mahajan 

He loves to capture lofty peaks and walk miles to enjoy breathtaking landscapes, verdant forests and spectacular lakes.

Journalist-cum-filmmaker Manmohan Singh has tracked various passes and peaks in Sirmaur, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti, Chamba, Kulu and Mandi districts.

Shrinking lakes, declining flora and fauna and increasing air and water pollution are worrying him a lot. He believes documentaries are an effective medium to sensitise the common man about the deteriorating nature.

His first 20-minute English documentary “The Wailing Glaciers” reveals the deteriorating condition of glaciers in Western Himalayas.

He says glaciers are receding at a speed of 20 to 50 metres per year. The glaciers are the main source of water for rivers and lakes.

“Global warming, high rate of pollution, deforestation, construction of roads and forest fires are the main culprits behind this,” he believes.

The documentary tells that there were more than 15,000 glaciers in the Himalayas, containing about 12,000 cubic km of water. Now, there are around 7,000 glaciers in the Himalayas, out of which 3,252 are in Nepal, 2,550 in Himachal Pradesh and 667 in Bhutan.

Himachal Pradesh alone holds ice reserves of 387 cubic km, which is equivalent to 18 per cent of India’s total utilisation of water resources.

The Sutlej basin has the largest number of 945 glaciers followed by the Chenab and the Beas.

According to studies conducted by the International Commission of Snow and Ice, glaciers in the Himalayas are receding much faster than in any other part of the world. The commission estimates that if the trend continues, by the year 2035 all glaciers will vanish, thereby affecting more than 500 million persons.

The documentary, that was screened at Vatavarn — 2005 in New Delhi and was nominated for the Seagate Technical Awards — 2005 in Mumbai, showcases the decline of the Beas Khund glacier in Manali.

Apart from human interference, changing weather is making deep crevices in the Beas Khund glacier. Brown patches of moraines make the glacier look more like a stretch of rubble than a river of ice. The moraines cause heavy weathering of the glacier and speed up its shrinkage.

To capture these pictures, Manmohan Singh walks miles with his EZ-35 Panasonic camera. Most of the time, his wife, Renuka Mohan, who is a lecturer in English in Himachal Pradesh, accompanies him. The documentary was edited by J.S. Cheema.

“I am always on the move for a good shot. It is different from shooting glamour, where on sits and clicks the photos,” says the trekker.

His second 17-minute documentary, “Devbhoomi”, was on fairs, festivals and rituals. It was televised on DD Chandigarh.

He has also made films on tourist spots, fairs and festivals and tribal culture and rituals for DD Punjabi and DD Chandigarh.

“To be a documentary filmmaker one needs to be aware of trekking routes, local dialect and local life. There is always an element of danger in filming,” says the filmmaker.

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SHIMLA Diary
Manali musings by Vajpayee
Rakesh Lohumi

The cool and quaint environs of the hills are not only ideal for meditation but also provide perfect natural settings for soul searching as former Prime Minster, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee found it during his weeklong retreat at Manali.

The poet Vajpayee rediscovered the politician within prompting him to make amends and speak is heart out on two sensitive issues, which he abdicated during his tenure as Prime Minster. The benefit of reservation should be given on the ground of economic backwardness and that too only once, he observed. Ironically, it was his government, which undid the Supreme Court verdict in this regard by amending the constitution to extend the benefit to promotions too. The fresh turmoil in the wake of the move to provide reservation to other backward classes in educational institutions, it seems, has made the former prime minister look back and evaluate his own actions.

In the depth of his heart he also found that abrogation of article 370 which provided special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir was an issue of prime importance. The issue was conveniently put on the backburner by the BJP to gain support of its secular allies while in power. His musings are in line with the on going change in the BJP, which is now trying to regain the lost ground by reverting to ideology.

Land grab cop

The non-bailable warrant issued by a Patiala court in an alleged case of land grab could not have come at a worst time for the controversial cop, Mr B.S.Thind, who has been eyeing the post of Director General of Himachal Police. Mr Ajit Narayan, the present incumbent is retiring on July 31. Mr Thind is third in seniority after Mr Ashwini Kumar, a 1973 batch officer who is currently on deputation with the CBI, and Mr G.S.Gill (1974 batch), additional director general of police, enforcement.

A 1974 batch officer, Mr Thind has been a close confidante of the Chief Minister ,Mr Virbhadra Singh. He was a serious contender for the top post when Mr A.K.Puri retired in Feb 2005. However, respecting seniority the Chief Minister elevated Mr Narayan, to the post. Mr Virbhadra Singh has once again asserted that he would go by seniority.

For the past quite sometime an unseemly tussle has been on in the top brass of the police as a result of which the ex-cadre post of director general of police has not been filled for the past three years.

Miss Shimla

The Miss Shimla beauty pageant was revived three years ago for a second and made a part of the Shimla Summer Festival. However, it has been a pale shadow of the gala event “Shimla Queen” had been in its earlier incarnation. The decision of the organizers to allow girls from all over the country to participate in the contest from this year has not helped in raising the bar. There was hardly any participation form outside the state. In fact, it became a highly localised affair with two local girls winning the first two positions and a Hamirpur girl bagging the third place. Rubina was crowned Miss Shimla-2006, Suchika was the first runner up and Rini the second runner up.

The British first started the Shimla Queen contest in the early 1930’s. It remained an event of the elite class for long. Even after Independence it was a coveted title which enabled many girls like Poonam Dhillon, Sonu Walia, Priya Rajvansh, Sadhna, and Kalpana Kartik to make it to Bollywood. It virtually acquired the status of “unofficial” Miss India contest. The pageant lost its importance after the launching of Femina Miss India contest and was discontinued in 1980’s. An attempt was made a private hotel group to revive it in 1999 but it gave up after holding two events.

The ban imposed by the Supreme Court on use of loudspeakers also marred the Summer Festival this year. In the past musical nites continued till wee hours of the day when renowned singers like Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey and Mehendi Hasan regaled packed houses. However, with the ban in place the programmes had to be stopped sharp at midnight sharp. To make things worse the organizers packed four ghazal singers in one nite. The result was that Mr Ghulam Ali, the famous artist from Pakistan , got less than an hour during which he also had a “jugalbandi” with Talat Aziz.

Army feat

The daredevils of the army performed breathtaking feats on motorbikes during the “know your army” display organised by the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) early this week. Army dogs from the Remount and Veterinary Corps put up a splendid performance demonstrating obedience drills, show jumping and their skills in saving lives during natural calamities and detecting mines and explosives. However, it was the motorbike display by “Tornadoes” from the Corps of Military Police Centre that stole the show.

A battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles displayed the armour of infantry, which included assault rifles, machine guns, mortars, missile launchers, sniper rifles and recoilless guns.

The army band held the public spell bound and pilots from the aviation squadron displayed their skills in flying helicopters.

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Guardians of the nation
Kulwinder Sandhu

Snowfall on the rugged terrains of Himalayas may well be a holiday time for those living in the big cities, but for the jawans of the para-military forces/ army who stand like a wall to guard the nation on huge mountain ranges, it’s a constant battle for survival under hostile weather conditions, coupled with isolation.

Most of the Indian forward posts in the area do not have access through roads. The jawans have to trek for kilometers, pass through worst conditions and fight the nature to reach their posts or come back to their base camps. Isolation from rest of the nation on these forward posts for these guardians of the nation is to the extent that sometimes they do not see the faces of civilians for days. Except for the barren mountain peaks and the sky that is sometimes clear and at other times cloudy, nothing comes in front of their eyes.

Biting cold amid chilly winds, low oxygen level, knee-deep snowfall, landslides and avalanches are common experiences that every soldier faces on high altitudes. But, the spirit of nationalism and service to the nation keeps them going on with the commitment they made with their profession.

The only charm or entertainment in their life that is otherwise locked inside the barracks is mutual chatting while having a couple of pegs of Rum or Whiskey at the time of dinner, which they get as a permanent diet in the ration.

In this little available time, they also talk about everything from sheer guess works of what might be going on in their family back home to making comments on their bosses who have thrown them on the no-man’s land.

Winters mean a really tough time for them. Most of the water resources available with them remain frozen throughout the day. Keeping some quantity of water for drinking and bathing purposes in liquid form is a permanent job for any one of their associates.

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