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TOP STORIES

Laal Teen Ki Chhat
Famed Hindi writer Nirmal Verma had named his debut novel after the red-tin roof that was a symbolic of the Shimla when it was summer capital of the Raj. Now it is a concrete jungle but the Municipal Corporation is trying to restore the lost glory with orders
to paint roofs of building red or green by June 30, reports
Pratibha Chauhan
Having been reduced to a concrete jungle, efforts are being made to restore the lost glory of the erstwhile summer capital of the British, as all buildings in the town will hopefully have the roofs painted either post office red or green by the end of this month.

Baddi Blues
The haphazard construction mushrooming at Baddi is virtually converting the village-turned-town into a big slum, reports
Bipin Bhardwaj
In the absence of any master plan for the development of Baddi— the upcoming industrial hub of Himachal Pradesh—construction activities have been going on at a large scale, disturbing the natural environment.

Haphazard construction at Baddi disturbs its natural environment

GROWTH PROBLEM: Haphazard construction at Baddi disturbs its natural environment.






EARLIER STORIES



Destination hillside                           
To conserve the fragile hill environment, the focus has been shifted from mass tourism to class tourism. Here is an eco friendly resort that has taken the lead in this direction, reports Rakesh Lohumi from Shimla
Embedded imposingly on the verdant hill slopes, the newly developed ‘Destination’ tourist resort stands out as a fine specimen of environment-friendly tourism.

Fighting nature on the highlands
Kulwinder Sandhu
The Border Roads Organisation is a premier civil-cum-mechanical engineering institution set up for specific deployment under the Ministry of Defence but placed under the Union Ministry of Highways for general administration to manage the road network in the border areas.


Chug-Chug on the Kalka-Shimla track
The rail track to Shimla is one of the only original remnants of the Raj left in Himachal, says H. Kishie Singh
Sri Ganganagar 480C. Jaipur 460C. Delhi is 440C. Our very own City Beautiful is 420C. Is it any wonder that our thoughts turn to Shimla, which is a balmy 260C. To get to Shimla we have to perforce get to Kalka at the foot of the hills. Kalka to Shimla of course one can drive and it is an easy drive.


Rare rail photographs of bygone Himachal
BLACK & WHITE: Rare rail photographs of bygone Himachal


Brahmganga: an amazing Trek

Kuldip Dhiman
Crystal clear waters, cool breeze, mountains, and deodars — it is the Brahmganga! To many a visitor, Manikaran means hot springs, the Parvati river, Raghunath Temple, Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara, narrow bazaars, sadhus, Indian and foreign tourists.


CHILLOUT ZONE: The cool waters of the Brahmganga invite you to a day out in the hills. — Photo by the writer

The cool waters of the Brahmganga invite you to a day out in the hills

Long road to school
Forty-eight years down the line and villagers living in the cluster of villages in Una are still deprived of education facilities, reports Kiran Deep
Forty-eight years ago, 60-year-old Raunku Devi of Paroian village studied till class V. She wanted to continue her studies but there was only one primary school in her village those days. That her parents were another hurdle in her ambition, is a different story.

Braving all odds
Ambika Sharma
Having lost his ability to speak and hear at a tender age of three, Pranav Sharma did not let his disability dampen his growth in life. It was his firm grit and determination to do his best that has earned him a berth in the 2007 China Special Olympics where he represents the nation in badminton.

SPECIAL OLYMPIAN: Pranav Sharma at a warm reception for having done Solan proud

Pranav Sharma at a warm reception for having done Solan proud

Ajay Sethi does Himachal Pradesh proud...
It was a proud moment for Himachal Pradesh and for Ajay Sethi, who was born in HP in Hamirpur District, when Dubai’s crème de la crème and Bollywood   & Hollywood stars boogied the night away at the IIFA Post Award party, hosted by Ajay and his wife Deepna Sethi.

Kangni land controversy
Kuldeep Chauhan
The members of the Kangni Bachao Sanghash Samiti and the Rajiv Gandhi Ecotourism and Educational Society, Mandi are on collision course over the lease of 11.75 bighas of Kangni demarcated protected forest land.

HIllside view
In the grip of admission fever !
by Vepa Rao
Some sad facts come to light, even as we are now in the middle of ‘admission fever’, which is as intense as examination fever. We have seen over the years that the very act of joining some course—doesn’t matter what—makes our young ones feel socially “secure”.

SHIMLA Diary
Very Important Problem
Rakesh Lohumi
Unauthorised use of red light on vehicle spoiled the holiday of former Uttar Pradesh who landed up at police station for violating traffic rules. The VIP guest, Mr Ashok Yadav, along with his entourage drove into the city in two vehicles flaunting their VIP status in the shape of red lights.

Citizen First
Woes of Solanites
Solan was a calm, serene town surrounded by lush green trees, which have now fallen to illicit felling. As of today, water shortage is sky-high in Solan. The wise men grease the palm of the key man and water flows in their taps.






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Laal Teen Ki Chhat

Famed Hindi writer Nirmal Verma had named his debut novel after the red-tin roof that was a symbolic of the Shimla when it was summer capital of the Raj. Now it is a concrete jungle but the Municipal Corporation is trying to restore the lost glory with orders to paint roofs of building red or green by June 30, reports Pratibha Chauhan

Houses in Shimla getting a fresh coat of paint
COLOUR ME RED: Houses in Shimla getting a fresh coat of paint. — Photo by Anil Dayal

Having been reduced to a concrete jungle, efforts are being made to restore the lost glory of the erstwhile summer capital of the British, as all buildings in the town will hopefully have the roofs painted either post office red or green by the end of this month.

Even though the Municipal Corporation bye-laws and Heritage Rules had provision that each and every building, private or government in the town would have to paint their roofs red or green, it is only a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Mrs Trisha Sharma that made things move. With the High Court setting the deadline of June 30, for having all the roofs painted red or green, colouring work is in full swing all over the town.

Old-timers who have seen the ‘Queen of Hills’ degrading from a quaint little hill station to a concrete jungle, lament the shanty look that it has acquired over the years. “One might be thrilled to see the twinkling town in the night but in the day time the monstrous concrete eyesores and the depleting deodars makes one weep,” is how an old timer echoed his sentiments about the town. Large number of houses in the town, majority in the Lower Bazar, Middle Bazar and the Mall have rusted old tin roofs, which have not been painted for several years. “The main reason for the filing of the petition was to see the old glory of the town being restored simply by way of implementation of the bye-laws, which only existed on paper,” says Mr Rajiv Sharma, Senior Counsel, who is arguing the matter in the court. After seeking extension of time for getting the roofs painted, the Municipal Corporation has been given time till June, 30 to ensure that all buildings have red or green roofs. Even though it was not an official dictate but all the old British time buildings were painted red by the colonizers, who ensured that the hill station chosen by them as their summer capital looked aesthetic and beautiful.

“The option of red and green has been given as red looks nice and bright while green is to compensate for the lost greenery, with the forest in and around the town shrinking,” explains Mr Sharma. He says the MC Building by-laws even have the provision that the exterior of all the houses would have to be painted every three years, which is certainly not happening. In his PIL, he had sought inclusion of some more buildings in the list of heritage structures and fixing a plaque on each on of them about its historical importance, architecture and salient features.

Responding to the court directives in this regard, the government had made some addition to the list of heritage buildings and has started putting up plaques at these structures.

The only problem that might be faced in having all the roofs freshly painted is the disputed properties where the matter is being fought legally between the owner and tenant.

“Whosoever shows that he has the ownership of a building will have to take on the responsibility of having the roof painted,” says Mr Sharma, as a matter of fact. He feels there should be no problem about this issue as the owner will have to get the roof painted. The government is considering making colouring of the roof mandatory at other popular hill stations like Manali, Dalhousie and Dharamshala, which too have several old British time century old buildings. “If we can make the town look beautiful by painting the roofs red or green there is no reason why we should not extend this provision to other towns,” says Mr G.S. Bali, Tourism minister. He says if wish to make Himachal an international tourist destination in the true sense then we will have to take steps to preserve our rich culture and heritage. Environmentalists and heritage lovers feel that colouring the roof in red or green will definitely make the town look more beautiful as even the old and dilapidated buildings will not stand out so prominently. They feel that government should take some more steps to ensure that the ‘Queen of Hills’ retains its old world charm and colonial flavour, which attracts tourists to the town.
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Baddi Blues

The haphazard construction mushrooming at Baddi is virtually converting the village-turned-town into a big slum, reports Bipin Bhardwaj

In the absence of any master plan for the development of Baddi— the upcoming industrial hub of Himachal Pradesh—construction activities have been going on at a large scale, disturbing the natural environment.

The haphazard construction of industrial units, dwellings and housing societies in this fast developing Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial belt is going to cause numerous problems in the near future, to the residents as well as to the industrialists who have invested in crores here.

Though the state government claims that the investment of Rs 18,000 crore has been approved in the state till date, yet lack of the master plan for a phase-wise development of this industrial town has exposed the state government’s shortsightedness. Not preparing a master plan to avoid the haphazard construction has also brought the functioning of the Town and Country Planning Department of the state under scanner.

Sources disclosed that initially, only two industrial units – Mohan Meakins Limited and Nahan Foundries were set up in the Solan district. But with the passage of time, a large number of industrial units were set up in Solan, Parwanoo, Barotiwala, Baddi and Nalagarh.

Baddi’s emerged as the biggest industrial area of Himachal Pradesh due to uninterrupted transportation and deportation of raw material and finished goods from the Railway Stations at Kalka and Chandigarh. Moreover, the Chandigarh Airport also proved helpful for the industrialists in airlifting the goods.

Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industries, Himachal Pradesh State Council, Rajender Guleria, claimed that in the absence of the master plan, Baddi has been mushrooming, not developing in a planned manner. He claimed that the development of the area as per a master plan would not only prolong the life span of Baddi but also benefit the industrialists and local residents in a big way.

A survey by The Tribune team revealed that the haphazard construction was going on at the war footing level in Jharmajri, Thana, and at various other places. The industrial units were coming up leaving hardly any space for vehicular movements. There was hardly any provision of parks, wide roads, schools, hospitals, community centers, recreation centers and other basic civic amenities.

Sharing common boundary walls with the industrial units, housing societies were coming up at a large scale in Baddi. The residents of these multi-storied buildings of the housing societies are going to face various respiratory and skin diseases from the smoke being emitted from the industrial units after completion.

The owners of various land holdings sold their land to entrepreneurs who could not get land from the Himachal Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (HPSIDC). The entrepreneurs set up their units after getting the land use changed from the state government, leaving no land for roads and parks besides keeping any distance from neighbours. The entrepreneurs did not even bother to care for the residential areas.

Himachal Industries Minister, Kuldeep Kumar admitted that no master plan has been formed for the overall development of Baddi. However, he claimed that industrial units that have been allotted land by the HPSID were coming up in a planned manner.

Principal Secretary (Housing), Himachal Government, P.C .Kapoor, opined that the state government should have formed a master plan, in advance, for the development of Baddi. Since the haphazard construction has come up at a large scale, now further construction should allowed strictly as per a master plan, he said.
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Destination hillside

To conserve the fragile hill environment, the focus has been shifted from mass tourism to class tourism. Here is an eco friendly resort that has taken the lead in this direction, reports Rakesh Lohumi from Shimla

Embedded imposingly on the verdant hill slopes, the newly developed ‘Destination’ tourist resort stands out as a fine specimen of environment-friendly tourism. Blending perfectly with the hill-scape, the picturesque retreat on the Shimla-Kalka national highway, near here, is truly different from most hill resorts.

The entire premises have been tastefully developed like a garden and every structure on the sprawling 68 bighas of green has a touch of hill architecture. The springy turf on the numerous small and big lawns, the attractively laid out flower beds with all kind of plants, perennial, seasonal and annuals, reflect the painstaking effort of the gardeners. The pure pine-scented air adds to the ambience. Unlike most other resorts there are no massive concrete structures and the rooms, restaurant. Conference halls and other facilities have been built in small blocks on terraced hill slopes. Only a fraction of area has been covered. The complex has been built next to the national highway but it is scarcely visible.

There is a conscious effort to ensure that the natural aesthetics of the hills is not spoiled while developing the complex. The rainwater harvesting system, which covers the entire complex, is the biggest so far in the state with a storage capacity of 12 lakh litres. The resort has a sewerage treatment plant and also a water purification plant. The wastewater is treated, purified and recycled for irrigating the gardens and the solid waste generated is vermi-composted to produce manure. Thus, the huge complex virtually generates no waste. The management is so concerned about the environment that it has completely banned bonfires in the premises.

“The whole idea of building the resort is to provide a soothing natural environment, far way from the din of crowded urban jungles, where holiday-makers could find relaxation and fun,” says Ms Manju Seth, the executive director of the Holiday-on-Hills Resort Limited, the company which has developed the complex. A club select division with seven-star facilities is ready and spa will be added soon. The aim is to make it an international destination. The resort is being managed as per North American Standards.

In the final phase the plans to bring the service apartments concept to the hill state. It plans to build 25 luxurious apartments to enable high-end holidaymakers to spend long periods in the hill resort. The apartments will be equipped with all the all the modern household gadgets and amenities and the tourists will have the option to avail the catering, laundering and housekeeping services of the hotel or manage on their own.

The main clientele is from the corporate business houses, though prominent politicians and celebrities have also been frequenting it. The VVIP guests include gazal maestro Gulam Ali and Union Railway Minister Lalu Yadav.

The tariff for the rooms built in the first phase has been priced moderately with tariffs ranging from Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000. However, with a seven star club select division in place, the tariff of the second phase rooms will range from Rs 8,000 to Rs 30,000.

The conventional mass tourism has already taken a heavy toll of the fragile hill environment and it was time that focus is shifted to class tourism. The ‘Destination’ has taken the lead in this direction and if others follow suit the tourism industry will be put on environmentally sound footing in the hill state.
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Fighting nature on the highlands
Kulwinder Sandhu

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is a premier civil-cum-mechanical engineering institution set up for specific deployment under the Ministry of Defence but placed under the Union Ministry of Highways for general administration to manage the road network in the border areas.

Civil engineers from Corps of Engineers of the Army are taken on deputation in the BRO but its strength mainly lies in those engineers that are recruited directly and exclusively for the organisation.

The manpower of BRO recruited directly is called General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF). No matter, the troops of GREF like soldiers of other armed forces are governed by the Army Act- 1950 but the method of the recruitment and the terms of salary, pension, leave, retirement benefits etc. are totally different from that of the Army.

The necessity of raising the BRO was felt by the strategic planners after the clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces in Jammu and Kashmir in 1948, just a year after Independence. It was realised that the mighty mountain ranges of Himalayas were no longer effective as a natural protective wall from attacks of foreign countries.

The possibility of an aggression from the imperialistic regime of China was imminent at a time when the country was at the initial phase of stabilizing its power soon after Independence. Positioning of troops in the remote areas of Himalayas had thus become essential. However, there were no means of communication for their deployment, maintenance and survival in the mountainous tract.

Thus, the setting up of a network of new roads was vital in the so far inaccessible highlands of the Himalayas. The civil engineering manpower of the respective state governments at that time was not strong enough to handle such massive tasks.

Keeping in view all the parameters of an urgent requirement of a separate organisation to create a new network of roads on the highlands, Parliament decided to raise the border roads organisation/general engineering reserve force under the control of the Engineer-in-Chief of the Corps of Engineers. Finally, this organization was formally raised on May 7, 1960.

Initially, only two projects were taken up, one at Srinagar (West) and the other at Tezpur (East). By this time, the organisation was intended to be only a temporary outfit but as the time passed the requirement of roads in the difficult terrains of the Himalayas increased after the 1962 and 1965 wars.

Since, the new organisation delivered satisfactorily, its expansion was felt necessary. Over a period of time news tasks were handed over to the organization and as on date the BRO has 14 projects, each commanded by a Brigadier of Engineers or a GREF Chief Engineer of a rank equivalent to a Brigadier.

As per the details available, the organisation has under its control the charge of maintaining over 40,000 km of hill and plain roads in the border areas, besides, having assigned works in foreign countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal.

The maintenance and construction of most of the roads assigned to the engineers of BRO/GREF are in the remote Himalayan heights- from the Saichen Glacier in the west to the mountain ranges of Mizoram in the east.

Strategic policy makers of the nation feel that BRO/GREF is one of the biggest assets of not only the armed forces but also the nation as a whole because the people living in the remote border areas are more benefited from the roads maintained and constructed by this organization. Undoubtedly, it has helped a lot in strengthening communication network in the remote border areas of the Himalayas.

In the case of Himachal Pradesh, the special project of maintaining the existing roads and construction of new roads being carried out by the BRO/GREF has been named as Deepak. It also came into existence in May, 1962.

This project looks after some of the most sensitive roads like Hindustan-Tibet road from Wangtu to Shipikila, Manali-Serchu road and Dhami-Basantpur-Kingal road. The project has under its supervision few roads and strategic canals in Punjab, Haryana and Uttranchal also.

One of the major works carried out by the army engineers under the project Deepak which had been added to the pages of history was the restoration of the flow of river Sutlej that was blocked near Wangtoo and further the restoration of road network after the natural disaster of a cloud burst in district Kinnaur on the night of August 17, 1997.

The blockade of flow of the river had resulted into the formation of a lake nearly 6.5 km long and 600 to 800 metres wide. Some 5 km length of the road was either submerged in the lake so formed or completely washed away. The tribal district of Kinnaur was completely cut off. The BRO engineers worked round-the-clock in three shifts and cut the new road in just about two-and-a-half months.

There are number of other occasions also prior and after this big achievement of 1997 that the BRO/GREF has worked day-and-night to restore the paralysed road networks during the times of floods and other natural calamities. The havoc played by the flash floods in Sutlej during 2000 and 2005 had also tested the abilities and dedication of these Armymen who brilliantly carried out the assigned tasks as per the expectations of their superior bosses and also the local tribal people.

Colonel M.L. Kom, Commanding Officer of the 68 RCC of GREF, posted here maintains, “The cooperation of local people in carrying out our tasks in very much essential without which it’s not possible to achieve any target in time. We have over the times by working hard in the difficult terrains had build a mutual trust between the Army and the local tribesmen that add to our strength.”
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Chug-Chug on the Kalka-Shimla track

The rail track to Shimla is one of the only original remnants of the Raj left in Himachal, says H. Kishie Singh

Sri Ganganagar 480C. Jaipur 460C. Delhi is 440C. Our very own City Beautiful is 420C. Is it any wonder that our thoughts turn to Shimla, which is a balmy 260C.

To get to Shimla we have to perforce get to Kalka at the foot of the hills. Kalka to Shimla of course one can drive and it is an easy drive. But for the romantic there is the Kalka-Shimla Railway –KSR.

This is possibly one of the only original remnants of the Raj left in Himachal. The rest of the Raj has been systemically and irrevocably destroyed by Himachal.

This railway line is in the Guinness Book of records as one of the greatest engineering feats. What makes it so unique is that starting from Kalka at 2000 feet above sea level it takes you to Shimla at 7000 feet and all this through the Shivalik Hills and the Himalaya mountains. In the 95 kilometre journey it goes through 103 tunnels, crosses 850 bridges, some of which are three, four or five tiered. There are over 900 curves and turns.

The longest straight is in a tunnel, the Barog Tunnel is 3.652 feet long. Other tunnels are U. shaped, the bridges are S-shaped. At times the line doubles back four times to climb one slope. Today the Kalka-Shimla Railway (KSR) is taken for granted but when it was being conceived, people laughed at the idea. The British had an Empire and it was the same indominatable spirit which drove this adventure to success.

The idea originated in 1847 but it was not till Lord Dalhousie was appointed Governor General of India that the idea started to become a reality. Lord Dalhousie had faith in what the railways could achieve for the Raj. The project received the green light.

H.S. Harrigton was the engineer who spear headed the construction of the Kalka-Shimla Railway which was to become a part of the North West Railway, N.W.R. The most important decision was that it would be a narrow gauge line i.e. the tracks would be 2’ 6” apart. Work started in 1889. It involved cutting the path, tunneling and building bridges. It was not possible to build bridges in the traditional way as the space was limited, and the bridges had to be curved. An ingenious method was devised. The bridges were built in tiers to keep the gradient plus go around corners. The gradient is 33.33, which means it climbs one inch in thirty three feet. It is the steepest that a railway can climb. Keep in mind that steel wheels are in contact with steel rails. A gradient steeper than this and the wheels will loose cohesion and start to slide back down hill.

There was yet another problem that the engineers faced, while tunneling. Once 20-30 metres into the tunnel it was pitch dark and the labour could not see their hand in front of their face. This problem was solved in an ingenous way. A mirror was placed at the mouth of the tunnel and sun light was reflected into the pitch blackness of the tunnel. This method is still in use today to effect repairs.

To accommodate the train around the tight corners, the track was laid at a 2’6” width. This came to be known as narrow gauge. The metre gauge was already in use as was the standard gauge which was 4’6”.

Later on the British introduced the broad gauge, 5’6”. There was only one reason for the introduction of broad gauge. The wider body of the carriage allowed horses to the carried. They could be stood sideways and packed in like sardines. The British made abundant use of the railways to transport military ordnance.

Another narrow gauge rail built by the British was from Peshawar to Landi Kotal on the Khyber Pass just, eight kilometres from the Afgan border was to serve just one purpose, move men and munitions for the invasion of Afganistan.

However, where as the K.S.R was commissioned in 1903, the Kabul River Railway was not operative till 1925.

Engineer Harrington was an engineer and technician. However, to resolve some issues which be termed local, he had help from Jamadar Bhalku. Bhalku had a flowering beard and long hair. Bhalku was a diviner and worked with the aid of a wooden stick. When Harrington was discouraged at the progress of the operation, Bhalku guided the Englishman to success. Harrington saw some supernatural powers in Jamadar Bhalku whose inspiration was the reason for the accomplishment of this historic engineering feat.

There is another rather emotional story about the Barog Tunnel. Barog tunnel is the longest tunnel out of the 103 on the K.S.R track. It is also the longest straight. Needless to say it required great skill to bore through the mountain. A mistake was made and the alignment was wrong. Engineers drilling and blasting from the opposite sides failed to meet at the center.

The engineer, Barog, after whom the tunnel and station is named blamed himself for the mistake. He was a sensitive Englishman who did things for King and Country.

He felt he had let his King and Country down and brought shame to the Raj. He went home, pulled out his revolver, shot his loyal and faithful dog and then shot himself.

One reason for the mistake could be that half way into the tunnel snakes emerged in huge numbers. Also a skeleton was unearthed. It was a man sitting in a mediating pose. All this was considered a bad omen and labour deviated from the original design. The labour stopped work and it was the Jamadar Bhalku who appeased the local goddess and got work going again.

Construction near Tara Devi also ran into trouble. Locals said that Goddess Tara would never allow the desecration of their holy soil. When the construction was half way into the tunnel, “hundred foot long snakes emerged!”. So says Edward Buck in his book “Shimla”: Past and Present”.

Not withstanding the locals, snakes, skeletons and goddesses, the first train steamed into Shimla on 9th November 1903. The Railway Station has a clock bearing the legend N.W.R. 1903.

There is also a weighting machine made by W&T. Avery of London and Brimingham. N.W.R. 1904. To weigh 10 CWT and 14 maunds is stamped on the machine.

The K.S.R. is one of the truest tributes to the Raj and in almost pristine condition. A ride on the toy train, as it is affectionately called, is a trip back in time.

It was said that the Railways were the blood stream of the Raj and affected nearly every one.

Today, it cannot be denied that Indian Rail is the life time of the nation. Employing almost 2 million people it is the worlds largest employer and transports the equivalent of Australia’s population every week!
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Brahmganga: an amazing Trek
Kuldip Dhiman

Crystal clear waters, cool breeze, mountains, and deodars — it is the Brahmganga!

To many a visitor, Manikaran means hot springs, the Parvati river, Raghunath Temple, Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara, narrow bazaars, sadhus, Indian and foreign tourists. But there is a lot more to Manikaran than these, provided you are prepared to walk a little.

Flowing between mountains and forests, the Brahmganga is a small river that joins the Parvati river just a mile ahead at Manikaran. There are no road signs to lead you to Brahmganga, all you have to do is to ask the shopkeepers near the bridge, and they will point you to the steep cement steps that lead you to a narrow passage. As you walk you cross a narrow wooden bridge from where you get an aerial view of Manikaran town. From here you could take pictures of the town as well as the Parvati. Just keep following the track, and in a few minutes you would find yourself facing the Brahmganga. In this season, the river is rather quiet, so you could sit on the boulders and submerge your feet in water. If you find the water not too cold, you could perhaps bathe in the river, but don’t do it for too long.

This is a nice place to have lunch, but if you didn’t have it packed, you could try the lone fruit-chaat stall. If you have a camera or a video camera, there are lot of photo opportunities here. As you relax, you can watch workers digging a tunnel high up in the mountains. Short treks could be made further up by following the river, but one must not venture too far.

Even in summer, you could easily spend half a day in this place, as the wind is quite cool.
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Long road to school

Forty-eight years down the line and villagers living in the cluster of villages in Una are still deprived of education facilities, reports Kiran Deep

Forty-eight years ago, 60-year-old Raunku Devi of Paroian village studied till class V. She wanted to continue her studies but there was only one primary school in her village those days. That her parents were another hurdle in her ambition, is a different story. Now she has four children — two daughters and two sons.

But history is repeating itself once again. Her one daughter has studied till fifth and second one has completed Middle. This time there is no question of parental disagreement but the fact that the village still has one primary school.

Like Raunku Devi there are others who are deprived of higher education because nothing has changed in the field of education over the years. Especially for girls living in villages like Paroian, Kosri Camp, Boru Chukhat, Sohnal and surrounding the border areas of Una.

More than 2,000 population live in these areas, situated on the other side of Govind Sagar, a region is virtually cut off from the rest of the areas. There is only one middle school in Paroian and the children have to travel about 8 km distance every day to reach the school. If they continue with their studies, they have to cover a distance of 16 km to travel to Raipur that has a high school and senior secondary school. There is not a single college within this radius too. As a result most of the villagers do not send their daughters for further studies after middle class.

The total strength of the middle school in Paroian is 102 that include 42 girls and 60 boys. Among the students, 23 belong to below poverty line. This year 35 students appeared for the middle exam and all girls cleared the examination.

The problems of the villagers are seldom heard as these are situated about 35 km from the district headquarters. They are deprived of not only higher education but also health care and other civic amenities. Most of the villagers are engaged in labour works and some running small roadside shops. Farming is not a very lucrative occupation as the land fertile land. First ever woman president of Pachanyat Mohindra Devi says she feels bad that due to the lack of proper education facility she could not complete middle school.

“We have made effort to get a Senior Secondary School but all in vain. We have also submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister for help,” she says.

“The villagers here are poor, can not afford to sent their daughters to distance areas for further education,” she added.

“I get up early in the morning, about 5 am, do some household work and then leave for school. It takes me an hour to cover 8 km to reach my school,” says 11-year-old Sonu, who studies in class VI in Boru Chukhat village. Sarwan Singh, who runs a shop in Paroian village, says he could not complete even middle school for the same reason.

They know that education is the key for the development. But bogged down by financial as well as infrastructure problems, they seem to have bowed down to the situation.
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Braving all odds
Ambika Sharma

Having lost his ability to speak and hear at a tender age of three, Pranav Sharma did not let his disability dampen his growth in life. It was his firm grit and determination to do his best that has earned him a berth in the 2007 China Special Olympics where he represents the nation in badminton.

The Special Olympics Bharat, which are organised by the National Special Olympics Association Bharat, has proved to be a boon for children facing various disabilities. Hailing from Solan in Himachal Pradesh, Pranav is the eldest of the two siblings. An opportunity to participate in the state-level Special Olympics Bharat came his way when Solan was chosen as the venue in 2005.

“It was at the insistence of a coach from Asia Pacific which made him chose badminton as an individual sport for the event. Having undergone a cornea replacement at the AIIMS, Delhi, Pranav faces problems in viewing the shuttle at specific angles. This has not deterred him to master the various tricks of the game. Though other games like table tennis, cricket and lawn tennis were also suggested but he finally singled out on badminton,” quipped his mother Renu Sharma. “This was the beginning of his sporting career and he went on to win the state- level championship. It was the hard work of just three days that made him through the tournament. This won him an opportunity to participate in the national level games,” exclaims his proud mother. 

Encouraged by the success and the insistence of the Chairman of the Special Olympics, Mr D. Keelor, I accompanied him to Korba in Chattisgarh for these games,” recollects his father Narinder Sharma, a journalist with an English daily. “He received training from a state champion, Yogesh. This enabled him to improve his skill further,” added Sharma. With an ill-maintained badminton court at the lone Thodo ground at Solan and virtually no facilities to bank upon, he is now looking forward to attend some conditioning camps before leaving for China for 2007 China Special Olympics. 

He plans to appear for the plus two examination and has already completed matriculation from Shoolini Public School.
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Ajay Sethi does Himachal Pradesh proud...

It was a proud moment for Himachal Pradesh and for Ajay Sethi, who was born in HP in Hamirpur District, when Dubai’s crème de la crème and Bollywood   & Hollywood stars boogied the night away at the IIFA Post Award party, hosted by Ajay and his wife Deepna Sethi. The IIFA awards were held at the Airport Expo and the post award party at the Grand Hyatt brought the IIFA event to a grand finale.

 At the young age of 21, Ajay Sethi went to Africa to make a name for himself and his State and country. Overcoming challenge after challenge, he made a mark for himself in the auto industry and relocated himself at Dubai in 1993.

There has been no looking back for Ajay Sethi and he has done Himachal Pradesh proud with his perseverance and dedication which has made him very successful in Dubai.

He established the   Channel 2 Group Corporation and launched the 729 television channel, the first hindi channel, in Dubai. Recently, Channel 2 Group launched Channel 2 Movies in Kenya, in association with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

 An indicator of his stature was the attendance at the IIFA post-award party. Seen there were   Mr. & Mrs. Yash K. Sinha (Indian Counsel General), Mr. C. M. Bhandari (Indian Ambassador), Mr. V. P. Singhania, Chairman, Raymond., Council General Of Kenya Mr. Prem D. Prinja with his wife Amla., Amitabh Bachhan, Mr. & Mrs. Mahesh Tourani, Reema & Seema Shetty, Anil & Poonam Kapoor, Shiney Ahuja, Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy, Vidya Balan , Javed Jaffery , Vaibhavi Merchant & Nagesh Kukunoor. Hollywood star Jean Claude Van Damme. Vinod Khanna, Manmohan Shetty, David Dhawan, Kabir Bedi

Ashok Amritraj, Mukesh Bhatt, Neha Oberoi, Rishi Kapoor, Rajiv Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Ramesh Sippy, Kiran Joneja etc.
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Kangni land controversy
Kuldeep Chauhan

The members of the Kangni Bachao Sanghash Samiti(KBSS) and the Rajiv Gandhi Ecotourism and Educational Society (RGEES), Mandi are on collision course over the lease of 11.75 bighas of Kangni demarcated protected forest (DPF)land. The land has been acquired by the society on lease to run a “residential coeducational English medium senior secondary school of international standards” in the town here.

What has given a new twist to whole controversy is the RGEES’s members are the local congressmen, while those opposing the proposed Rs. 2.30 crore school project have pro-BJP leanings. the BJP has demanded a probe into the matter.

The top managers of the society are trying hard to win over the anti-Kangni activists to its fold by organizing junkets for them. But the NGOs and KBSS insist that they would not bulge an inch till the government cancelled the lease given to the society for a song.

Even the Mandi Sadar Congress MLA and former telecom Mr Sukh Ram and the Excise and Taxation minister Mr Rangila Ram have learnt to have expressed their displeasure over the lease, although they have not publicly issued statement against the lease.

The senior lawyer and Former MMC President and senior congress leader Mr. Jankidas Dogra says that some members of the society are dragging Chief Minister Mr Virbhadra Singh’s name into controversy to get a political mileage for the society.

He has clarified that he has nothing to the society, he claimed. The President of Sangharsh Samiti Mr. Prem Patial and its convener Mr. Narender plead that the society wants to corner the land not for educational purpose, but for tourism purpose.

But the President, RGEES Mr. Vikas Kapur claims that the school will have a hostel facility for 500 students that will ensure national-international standards for local children. It will inculcate a spirit of ecotourism among students. The lease will be cancelled if society uses it for other purpose, he adds.

Mr. Kapur says that the lease has been cleared by the high-powered committee of the central environment and forestry ministry and society has paid Rs. 7.21 lakh as lease charges. The Kangni land has just 12 small trees and shrubs and lies near the Bridge on the Highway at the entry point of the town, he clarifies. Mr Vikas Kapur, Ms Vandana Thakur, daughter-in-law of the IPH minister Mr. Kaul Singh Thakur, Dr. Harish Behl,  a noted town surgeon, who works in private hospital, Mr.Bharat Kapur, Mr.Inder Sen Kapur, Mr Harish Bisht, a contractor and Mr Vijay Kapur are members of the society. President Mandi Municipal Council Mr. H R Vaidya says that the Kangni forest is town’s green lung. The government should have given some other land on lease to the society, why the DPF land, he questions.

The Conservator of Forest Mr. CS Singh says that the society has applied for a lease of over 19 bighas of land, but the government has sanctioned around 11.75 bighas of land. theere is no wildife sanctuary in the surroundings. the land has five trees and shrubs. the ministry of environment and forests has given the NOC fot the land whihc has been sanctioned by the government, he clarifies.
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HIllside view
In the grip of admission fever !
by Vepa Rao

Some sad facts come to light, even as we are now in the middle of ‘admission fever’, which is as intense as examination fever. We have seen over the years that the very act of joining some course—doesn’t matter what—makes our young ones feel socially “secure”. They need not stare vacantly or smile sheepishly when family friends invariably ask them —” beta, kya kar rahe ho!”

Similarly, elders at home feel some upward movement in the bachcha’s life. After all, he is educating himself, preparing to land a cozy job in a few years. Qualifications, they feel “kabhibhi kaam ayenge… waste thodi honge!”( will come in handy, won’t be a waste).

About 10 years ago, a student was introduced to me proudly as the one who didn’t leave out any course in the university ( “koi course nahin chhoda hai, sir! “). And he did pranaam neta-style, as his cronies waited for me to utter some nice words! Most of these boys and girls hardly knew a thing about the courses or the nature of careers that await them. Except the mainline professions like medicine, engineering, management and civil services, the new upcoming courses in the country were less known in our state—they were also not trusted. Journalism, travel trade, IT, designing etc were relatively new here—the last options for candidates.

This is probably where our higher institutions failed to play a wider social role beyond classroom teaching, conducting exams and doling out degrees. Our people, especially in rural areas, needed to be enlightened about the changing world, modern professions and new opportunities. Even now so much needs to be done. But effective, inspired leadership is missing in our higher institutions of learning. Universities and colleges present us only excuses like shortage of funds and teachers’ reluctance to do voluntary work. They don’t see it as their own failure to provide effective, inspired leadership.

It is sad to see our boys and girls flitting from one department to another, aimlessly. They need professional advice about their individual aptitudes, personality development, planning abilities and social skills. And guidance even in basic areas like preparing their

CVs. Most parents, especially those in government sector, are not in a position to groom their children thoroughly for the nuances of corporate culture and the highly demanding job markets in the big cities outside Himachal.

Information on modern careers and individual counseling to students is the need of the hour. Every teaching department can hold a session each in the universities, make full-fledged presentation of their courses with all details related to the careers, job markets, pay patterns etc. This should be advertised well in advance to attract the public. The faculty could answer students’ and parents’ queries—the recorded proceedings could be sent to all educational institutions, district offices and panchayats. They can be accessed even in remote areas through computers.

Tell me, does this one-time exercise cost a fortune? Is it so cumbersome? Any excuse would be sheer nonsense.

Farewell to a flower-plant…

It is difficult to be both a gentleman and a good journalist these days. One reason is most ‘sources’ pass on big, hidden information to the media mainly out of selfish interests— to settle scores with rivals or promote their own interests. In the process, they may twist facts and tell lies — especially to the polite, soft-spoken journalists fondly called “bechara gentle type hai!”

But Vikas Panwar, who worked for Hindustan Times, somehow managed to remain both a thorough gentleman and a sound journalist. He had that precious gift of extracting information from reluctant sources through sheer charm and persuasion. He never threw his weight around. Very few know that his skills were honed at The Tribune in Chandigarh for a few months before he joined the profession at Shimla.

His paper took him to Chandigarh as a full-fledged staff correspondent barely ten days ago. He took two days leave and came to Shimla to collect his luggage, set up home in Chandigarh, and later shifted his charming wife and a year-old son there. No one knew that fate had kept a hungry eye on his life.

At Shimla Vikas was persuaded to attend a close friend’s marriage at Kullu. Months in advance he had told Archana, his genial chief, repeatedly that he could never miss that one wedding and that leave should be given “under any circumstances”. A group of friends piled into a vehicle. A few kilometres before reaching the famous Hanogi Mata ka mandir (built in the wake of regular accidents there), he shifted into another friend’s car. Minutes later, the vehicle skidded off the narrow winding road and fell on the banks of the roaring Beas. Head injuries put the light out of his life instantly. He was barely 32.

A large number of friends and admirers mourned the young professional’s death. The expressions of grief came spontaneously from fellow journalists all over the state. They wondered at the strange chain of events elbowing him towards that exit from life.

The fair, tall, handsome Panwar was a perfect picture for Sunday matrimonials. After a long courtship he married Anjana, a sensitive artist who later became a college lecturer. They had in common a natural, winsome smile and a warm heart. There are many tales of Panwar springing to help anyone in need (at times unasked) even at unearthly hours. It included ferrying colleagues in the profession to their homes after they have hit the bottle too hard at a late-night party! Caring for others, a virtue on the decline, was part of his natural disposition.

Panwar’s colleagues recall his jovial nature and light-hearted chatter that lit up dull, gloomy days in office. He was fond of dancing—at times, he would pose as a snake-charmer and inspire Gaurav, a cheerful colleague, to sway like a snake! His little son, when he grows up, will have only such tales and photographs of his loveable father.

Vikas Panwar was one of my favourite students in whose career I played a bit role. Watching his body draped in white sheets was like a maali watching his flower plant being packed off.

I am saying farewell to H.P. University as a Professor of Journalism in two days from now. I am also saying farewell to my flower plant in this my last article as a teacher. What an irony…
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SHIMLA Diary
Very Important Problem
Rakesh Lohumi

Unauthorised use of red light on vehicle spoiled the holiday of former Uttar Pradesh who landed up at police station for violating traffic rules.

The VIP guest, Mr Ashok Yadav, along with his entourage drove into the city in two vehicles flaunting their VIP status in the shape of red lights. Unaware of the restrictions on the movement of vehicles on the sealed roads of the city they kept moving even after the traffic policemen asked them to stop.

The vehicles were soon intercepted and the occupants, including Mr Yadav, soon found themselves in the police station. On questioning Mr Yadav disclosed his VIP identity but that did not help him evading police action. Not only the unauthorised red lights were removed from the vehicles, they were also challaned for plying on the restricted road without a valid permit.

Misuse of red lights and driving on sealed roads is common in the state capital where every third person is a VIP. However, the policemen turn a blind eye as taking action against them means inviting trouble. Not only the chairpersons of boards and corporations and other political appointees flaunt their VIP status but even employees leaders close to the government of the day enjoy the privilege.

Mankotia on the silent mode

All is quite on the Congress front. The guns of Maj Vijay Singh Mankotia, a former minister, who relentlessly targeted Mr Virbhadra Singh, the Chief Minister, over the past one year, have suddenly fallen silent. The soldier–turned-politician had not only attacked the Chief Minister but also trained his guns on his private secretary. While the Chief Minister threatened to take legal action against his bete noire for levelling wild allegations, the ministers came out in his support and urged the party high command to take disciplinary action against Maj Mankotia. However, what appeared to be a “fight to finish” is now heading for a tame draw.

Party sources reveal that the peace has been enforced by none other than Ms Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President, who intervened after Mr Virbhadra Singh took up the matter with her. Ms Viplove Thakur, the PCC chief, had also sent a report to the high command on the entire episode. Maj Mankotia has been spared the disciplinary action but at the same time he has been asked to exercise restraint. For a change Maj Mankotia seems to be following the directive of Ms Gandhi. However, the maverick, as Mr Virbhadra Singh describes Maj Mankotia, could show his true colours anytime.

Ambassadors of goodwill

The National Cadet Corps (NCC) has been playing an important role in strengthening national unity by involving young boys and girls from across the country in various activities. It has been organising national integration camps at different places on a regular basis. This summer a camp is being held at Kufri, near here, from June 19 to 30 in which 640 cadets from all over the country are participating.

The aim of the camp is to foster friendship among youth coming from different states and acquaint them with varied cultural spectrum of the country. A host of activities like debates, group discussions, lectures and quiz contests are organised during the camp to create awareness among the participants about national integration.

“Despite inclement weather with frequent spells of rains which brought down the mercury sharply. The participants are in high spirits and taking part in all the activities with great enthusiasm and vigour, says Mr Arun Kainthla, the camp commandant. Sharing experiences and living and doing things together helps the youth in understanding each other and they become ambassadors of goodwill and national unity in their respective states, he adds while explaining the reasons behind the success of such camps.
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Citizen First
Woes of Solanites

Solan was a calm, serene town surrounded by lush green trees, which have now fallen to illicit felling. As of today, water shortage is sky-high in Solan. The wise men grease the palm of the key man and water flows in their taps. Also there is another problem, if you need a newspaper, you have to go to newspaper vendor’s shop at the bus-stand. And the cost becomes Rs 3 instead of Rs 2, the original cost. All this denies a citizen the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution.

S. S. Jain
Chandigarh

Justice delayed

Both state government and the High Court need to do much to reduce the number of cases pending in revenue and judicial courts. The reason for this is less number of judges. But, the callousness on the part of the revenue officers and judges presiding like machines and not dedicated human is also another cause of concern. Unscrupulous advocates get unnecessary adjournments to prolong the cases and the presiding officers/judges accept them tamely. The Financial Commissioner and Chief Justice could help by making presiding officers accountable for reducing the pending cases by obtaining monthly progress on number of pending cases.

R. N. Dikshit
Palampur

Another story of neglect

Attention needs to be paid towards the pitiable plight of the historical Ranital tank and garden, situated in the heart of the town a place of attraction for ‘locals’ as well as ‘tourists’. This tank especially has been completely neglected for years together, since it was built by the erstwhile rulers of the state, handed over to the Municipal Committee later for its maintenance and uplift but as time has passed, both the park and garden are in pitiable condition, especially the tank which is about 100 mt in length and 50 mt in width and about 5 mt in depth. This is full of mud, garbage, silt, broken pitchers, etc, and has never been cleared and cleaned up since its inception about a hundred years back.

Lakhs of rupees are needed for the repairs for which the case may be sent to the Department of Arts, Language and Culture for onwards submission of case of the ‘Grant desired of not less than sixty to seventy lakhs’ to the Central Government for the maintenance and uplift of this heritage place for its beautification and complete renovation.

Dr. Suresh Joshi
Nahan

Ultra modern bus stand

An ultra modern bus stand was inaugurated at Jwalamukhi. It was the need of the hour owing to unprecedented increase in vehicular number. The complex is having a façade in Gothic style but is lacking the basic amenities. The electricity fitting is unequivocal. Swaying and swaggering loose wires are mostly seen hanging in the air. There is no proper seating arrangement as the benches are not fixed and the shopkeepers are found dragging as per their requirements. The Nagar Panchayat should do something to solve these problems.

Ravi Datta
Dehra (Kangra)

Postal Facility

The head post office at Dharamsala is one of the busiest post offices of Himachal Pradesh these days. Reason being that the Superintendent post offices of the area has shut down a popular post office located at the ‘Kachehri Adda’ in Civil Lines, ostensibly on the alibi that owner of the building of this sub-post office, got it vacated. This post office was the nerve centre of Lower Dharamsala and was serving the clientele of Civil Lines, Depot Bazaar, Housing Board Colony, Cheelgadi and Lower Shamnagar for decades. Consequently, the people have to contend with long queues at the head post office. It is unfortunate that while the Government of India is extending such infrastructure facilities in remote areas of this country, the postal department has taken this retrograde step against public interest. The authorities are requested to address the grievances immediately by reopening this sub-post office by renting a suitable building in Civil Lines.

Dharam Pal Sharma
Dharamshala

Upcoming town

Mehre -Barsar is an upcoming town in Hamirpur district. The population of this place is increasing in geometrical progression. Situated on the Una-Aghar-Mandi Road, the ever-increasing vehicular traffic dangerously squeezes through the old narrow bazaar. Ever increasing number of taxis and private vehicles parked haphazardly make the situation worst. There are no public urinals, much less lavatories, any where in this village, fast turning into a disorganised town. The women commuters are worst affected. Also, there is shortage of drinking water. While the law- abiding citizens do not get water even for drinking, the smart ones use the supply for kitchen gardening. Further, the pipes punctured haphazardly and illegally become contaminated and so a health hazard. The officials concerned invariably ignore to comply with our grievances. Hope the administrators above the ground officials take a note of the above points and bring about essential improvement!

K.L. Noatay
Shimla
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