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TOP STORIES

Sweet lavender
Cultivation of lavender has proved profitable for many farmers in Chamba, reports Vibhor Mohan
The secret behind the sweet aroma of most perfumes and talc is now helping scores of farmers in Chamba district to see their income spiral. The cultivation of lavender (lavendula officinalis), introduced in July 2000 by setting up a farm station in Salooni, has now spread to other parts of the district as well.


EARLIER STORIES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

 


Road report
Road accidents have proved to be major killer in the hill state with an average of 780 persons dying every year in various mishaps, reports Rakesh Lohumi from Shimla
The ever-increasing rate of accidents has made road safety a matter of prime concern in the hill state, which has seen a phenomenal rise in the number over vehicles over the past decade. The latest bus mishap at Ghanhatti, which claimed 19 lives, has once again underlined the need to take effective measures to make road travel safer. The gravity of the problem could be judged from the fact that road mishaps claim more lives than crime in the largely peaceful state. The crime figures for the 1993-2005 decade indicate that on average 124 murders are committed every year but five to six times more people are killed in road accidents. The number of accidents has almost doubled over the past 10 years from 1390 in 1993 to 2714 in 2005. On average about 780 persons die in road accidents every year in the state. The highest death toll 836 human lives was recorded in 2004.

Photo: Anil Dayal
Photo by Anil Dayal

Save the donkey, savour its milk!
The milk of this much-maligned animal is said to be good for health. A story from Madurai published in this newspaper last year quoted a popular saying: “Even a crying baby giggles after drinking donkey’s milk”. It cites another belief in Tamil Nadu that drinking donkey’s milk regularly toughens you for hard physical work, like carrying heavy loads. About 10 families were reportedly selling this “rare, seasonal milk” near Madurai at a whopping Rs. 600 per litre!

Nostalgic reunion
It was a walk down the memory lane for old students of Sacred Heart Tara Hall School in Shimla as they got together for the first-ever reunion, aptly named ‘Nostalgia’ last week.



HEART OF HEARTS: A view of Sacred Heart Tara Hall School in Shimla. — Photo by Anil Dayal 
A view of Sacred Heart Tara Hall School in Shimla.

Rajendra Nath Khanna The last ‘Englishman’
The death, early last month, of Rajendra Nath Khanna, almost an institution by himself in this hill station, was an end to an era. It was like saying goodbye to the old-world charm of the Raj. Khanna was, in the words of his friend and class fellow Indrajit Gupta, the former Home Minister, the “last Englishman of Shimla”. Both of them had grown up together and kept up until the last.

Rajendra Nath Khanna

Saving the heritage of Dalhousie
The draft report on ‘Heritage of Dalhousie Town’ recently released by the Himachal Pradesh Government through a notification has emphasised that the glorious heritage of Dalhousie should be preserved at all cost. The entire hill town is to be viewed as a single entity, in the context of development, in order to ensure proper growth and conservation of the heritage areas of the wooded hill town known as sanatorium.

Town history

Sorrowful saga of a freedom fighter
As a schoolboy he took the vow to free his motherland from the clutches of the British and he stood by it in spite of facing many trials and tribulations.  Ashok Raina tells the sad story of this freedom fighter from Kangra

Tunnel trouble
Are the tunnels safe for the tremors in the seismic zone IV and IV in Mandi-Kulu district? Have the tunnels dried up the water sources in the surrounding villages?

No road leads to Baddi
Coming up rapidly in the foothills of lower Shivalik Hills, the industrial hub in Baddi has been lacking an un-interrupted corridor for transportation of raw material and finished goods for the past couple of years. Courtesy the Punjab Government, for turning a deaf ear towards the Central Government directions for constructing a pucca road, linking this upcoming industrial town of its counterpart Himachal Pradesh with Chandigarh.

The killer stretch
For over two decades, 14 km link road, popularly known as Kacheri Road, from Santoshgarh to Una district headquarters passing through several villages situated on borders areas is in pathetic conditions. Despite the fact the road is a major link for traffic, both local and heavy vehicles carrying goods from industrial units, nothing has been done for widening and carpeting of the road. A visit to villages situated on the border areas of Una revealed the sorry state of the road that passes through 20 villages.

NGO breathes life into TB patients
The Solan TB Treatment Society has engaged an NGO to strengthen its grass root campaign to curb Tuberculosis. This would be conducted under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP). A Solan-based NGO, The Old Age Help Line Society, has been entrusted the responsibility to provide door-to-door medical services to TB patients in the remote areas of Solan.


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Sweet lavender
Cultivation of lavender has proved profitable for many farmers in Chamba, reports Vibhor Mohan

The secret behind the sweet aroma of most perfumes and talc is now helping scores of farmers in Chamba district to see their income spiral. The cultivation of lavender (lavendula officinalis), introduced in July 2000 by setting up a farm station in Salooni, has now spread to other parts of the district as well.

Its maintenance-free features, 95 per cent survival and high demand in the market promises a steady income. The hardy perennial plant has a productive life span of nearly 30 years and the fields need rejuvenation only after a period of 10 years. Not just butterflies, the aromatic plant attracts money too.

Every year, June 5 is celebrated as Chamba Lavender Day. The farm station was set up by the Institute for Himalyan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, in collaboration with the CSK Agricultural University, following an agreement to promote the cultivation and processing of medicinal and aromatic plants in Chamba on complimentary basis.

The most desirable characteristic of lavender is that it is not a very disease-prone plant and does not attract any insects or pests that could destroy the flowers. Stray animals also do not graze on these plants.

Despite most of the villages, where the plantation of lavender is being taken up, are surrounded by forests, which are the natural habitat of wild animals, lavender farms still remain safe.

Mr P.S.Ahuja, Director, IHBT, says lavender is easy to grow, does not need extensive care, needs very little irrigation in addition to the natural rainfall. Moreover, it demands no chemical fertilizers or pesticides as it is fertilized by the farmyard manures, which the village farmers have in abundance.

The institute has developed quality planting material and a nursery of lavender. Agro-technology and processing technology has been developed. Akash, a variety of Lavander, has also been released by the institute. Farmers of the region are adopting the crop with great interest. Distillation units have been established at Slaooni, Chamba and high quality oil, (acceptable by International standards) are being produced form the region for the first time, he adds.

Lavender can be grown only in the Himalyan region, wherever it snows, as it requires water only when first planted. Therefore, its plantation is profitable in parts of Chamba and higher reaches of Mandi and Kullu. It is also known to be a heavy attracter of bees, which helps in pollination, he says.

Another important demonstration by the Salooni farm station was that the lavender could be grown on sloppy fields, which have not been terraced and are used as grassland. “If a 2 by 2 by 2 feet pit is made at the distance of two feet from plant to plant and from row to row, lavender can be easily grown in such fields. Therefore, even if no land is available or the available terraced land is being used for growing other commercial crops like vegetables, lavender can still be cultivated in such unproductive lands by the marginal farmers,” reads the status report on lavender by the varsity.

The farm station also provides the facility of processing of lavender flowers. The general odour of the essential oil distilled by steam distillation, lavender plantation can be described as sweet, fruity, hay-like, herbal, floral and slightly weedy. As part of the agreement, an ‘essential oil distilling unit’ costing Rs 5 lakh was donated by IHBT to the farm station

Till now, the farm station has grown over 10,000 plantations as base nursery for production and supply of rooted plants and cuttings to farmers of the area. It also organises farmers’ training camps on lavender and other aromatic crops.

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Road report

Road accidents have proved to be major killer in the hill state with an average of 780 persons dying every year in various mishaps, reports Rakesh Lohumi from Shimla 

The ever-increasing rate of accidents has made road safety a matter of prime concern in the hill state, which has seen a phenomenal rise in the number over vehicles over the past decade. The latest bus mishap at Ghanhatti, which claimed 19 lives, has once again underlined the need to take effective measures to make road travel safer.

The gravity of the problem could be judged from the fact that road mishaps claim more lives than crime in the largely peaceful state. The crime figures for the 1993-2005 decade indicate that on average 124 murders are committed every year but five to six times more people are killed in road accidents. The number of accidents has almost doubled over the past 10 years from 1390 in 1993 to 2714 in 2005. On average about 780 persons die in road accidents every year in the state. The highest death toll 836 human lives was recorded in 2004.

Single & Serpentine

The serpentine roads passing through precipitous hill slopes are prone to accidents. The increase in the number of vehicles and the vast expansion of the road network into the interiors has much to do with the increase in the accident rate. More so, because most of the roads are single lane. Deficient geometry and lack of proper maintenance makes things worse. The total number of vehicles has crossed 3.20 lakh mark, including 1.50 lakh two-wheelers, 48,000 light and heavy commercial vehicles, 4300 buses, 15,000 taxis and about 35,000 private cars. The inflow tourist-vehicles add to the chaos on the narrow hill roads, which do not have the capacity to carry such large volume of traffic. There has been five-fold increase in number of vehicles since 1991. As per projections the volume of traffic will double over the next five years.

More accidents take place during rainy season as landslides, fog and slippery conditions alongwith indifferent maintenance of roads increase the risk. The cost of maintenance of roads in the hills is very high and the state does not have the requisite funds required for the purpose. In recent years the emphasis has been on construction of new roads and not much attention is being paid to the maintenance of existing ones. The present government has indeed realised the need to improve and upgrade the road network and come out with a crash programme under which, over Rs 2,000 crore will be spent over the next two years for the purpose.

Human error

Further, in the absence of training facilities the drivers lack adequate skills to safely ply vehicles on the narrow winding hill roads. It is hardly surprising that human failure is one of the main factors responsible for accidents. The drivers of the private buses are poorly paid and over-worked. Some private operators have also fixed minimum returns on various routes and any amount in access carries an incentive for the crew. The result is that the crew indulges in overloading which increases the risk of mishap. At times the crews squeeze in an additional trip on short routes to make money on the sly but in the process they endanger the lives of passengers by over-speeding. A small percentage of mishaps also take place due to mechanical failure.

Road to safety

The Transport Department does not have adequate staff to effectively check such malpractices. The police have been carrying out routine checking to curb rash and negligent driving and other traffic offences but it cannot do much regarding deviations from assigned route, overloading and deployment of untrained drivers.

There is an urgent need to introduce driving training courses and these should be made mandatory for appointment as driver in public vehicles. Besides, reasonable minimum wages should be fixed for drivers and conductors to ensure that they were not exploited by private bus and truck operators at the cost of innocent human lives.

The government had notified maximum speed limits for various roads in 2003 but barring the two tribal districts, the Public Works Department has not put signs indicating the speed limits along the roads.

Of late the police has taken some steps to arrest the increasing rate of road accidents. To check drunken driving and over-speeding on the national highways, three patrol vans have been deployed. They are equipped with speed radars and alco-sensors (device for detection of alcohol consumption). In the next phase all seven national highways will be covered. It has decided to deploy 20 motorcycle patrols on the main highways to check the infringements of the motor vehicles act and educate the motorists about the do’s and don’ts. It has also decided to launch a campaign to educate the people in good driving habits, particularly on the hill roads.

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HIllside view
Save the donkey, savour its milk!
by Vepa Rao

The milk of this much-maligned animal is said to be good for health. A story from Madurai published in this newspaper last year quoted a popular saying: “Even a crying baby giggles after drinking donkey’s milk”. It cites another belief in Tamil Nadu that drinking donkey’s milk regularly toughens you for hard physical work, like carrying heavy loads. About 10 families were reportedly selling this “rare, seasonal milk” near Madurai at a whopping Rs. 600 per litre!

This sure-footed animal is used in the hills only for carrying farm produce and construction material on the narrow winding tracks. Census figures of 2003 mentioned only 8,859 donkeys in our state. Kinnaur accounted for 2,548 — Lahaul and Spiti owned 2290. Being smaller than other animals, it negotiates the difficult terrain in those high- mountains with ease and smartness. While Kangra district had 446, Una had the least number of donkeys —91.

Dr Anupam Mittal, a brilliant veterinarian in Shimla tells me that unlike the mules, donkeys are breedable, cost less (between four to eight thousand), and also eat less—daily 3 to 4 kg of concentrate, 3 to 4 kg of hay, and graze in the fields. The smaller ones can make do with one kg of channa and wheat bran and still carry your loads! A healthy donkey is expected to yield at least one litre of milk daily—the money can light many candles in a poor home.

Instead of dismissing the donkey with a smirk, we should seriously focus on the virtues of its milk. According to the legend in many countries, famous and beautiful queens and princesses were fond of bathing in donkeys’ milk. Imagine the span of our ancient wisdom (based on observation and experience) linking beauty with such a despised and ugly looking beast! More recently, the owner of a French fashion stores reportedly spent half his income on the welfare of donkeys and also set up a sanctuary for them.

Surely there must be something great about the donkey’s milk. The sophisticates are hung up on saving the tiger and other endangered but glamorous species, including colourful eye-pleasing birds. Perhaps some adventure, some romance, in all this. No body talks of saving the pig, the jackal and the common crow. Class consciousness of a kind?

Why go blindly by the “bad press” given to the donkey through the ages? We know literary references are no gospel truths. Let scientists examine the milk and confirm its virtues. Probably then big funding will inspire a “save the donkey” campaign!

Our social and political science researchers, ever eager to conduct vague studies and draw profound conclusions can also have a field day. Serve donkey’s milk to focus groups and compare their voting preferences for different political parties and candidates. Startling facts may come to light reversing its image… And perhaps even our own image!

A network of Himachalis

Networking is the modern mantra for going places. The Beharis, Gujaratis and Keralites have an inbuilt knack for setting up strong lobbies wherever they pitch their tents. The hotel industry in the USA is dominated by the Gujaratis. The Andhra lobby has a commanding presence in the Sillicon Valley. Kerala has a near monopoly over the nursing sector. Every other stenographer (later becoming PA’s to bosses and wielding enormous trust and power) in the then Calcutta, Bombay and Madras was a South Indian. Of course, the old-boy networks have been well known all over the world.

The Himachalis have a considerable presence in major cities like Chandigarh, Delhi and Mumbai —apart from several countries outside. Being modest and content, they haven’t built up influential lobbies despite several Himachali associations around. But in the last decade or so during my tours outside the state, I have heard many murmurs about the growing need for such a network. Especially, from scores of our boys and girls working in the print and electronic media there. Hence the birth of “Himvani” (originally set up as Voice of Himachal), the “think-tank “, a few months ago.

It has already evolved into a community blog ( www.himvani.com ) with 400 members, including NRI doctors, surgeons, IT engineers, stock brokers, and journalists who care for the development of their state: “ We are bound by a certain feeling, a wish, a longing… we feel a natural urge to be part of the evolving process taking place in the state”. The group wants to accelerate “unbiased development” and promote a democratic news set up by encouraging “grassroot journalism” in which common citizens will be both reporters and producers of goods and services.

The members help people to find jobs, discuss development issues and share their experiences on novel farming methods. They hope to promote initiatives in sectors like village tourism and E-governance. Recenly, Manish Gupta, a member in Dubai (who hails from Chandyal village in Mandi district) organised a training programme on organic farming in his village after Himvani put him in touch with Sehyog, a local NGO.

Surender Dhaleita, a Himachali journalist in Delhi says: “ We propose to set up information kiosks in villages and hand them over to local youth with suitable backgrounds for maintaining them. The kiosks will disseminate to farmers information on horticulture, floriculture and on getting good prices for crops, fruits, vegetables etc, in big mandis. It will be a solution-oriented service. Many members, including NRIs, have promised to donate computers.”

What are the hurdles? “Our people are contented, and hesitant about new ideas and entrepreneurship”, says Sanjay Versain (hails from Dharamshala) working with a major newspaper at Chandigarh. “Once our members start putting their hands into mud and become active at the grass-root level, we will become a think-tank for the government and also act as a pressure group for influencing policies and building up public opinion.”

But Varun Rattan Singh the founder of the group laments the lukewarm response from people within the state. “Many there consider this work more suitable to housewives and retired people! Young men and women should get down to brass tacks and work solidly for Himachal’s progress now— instead of waiting till they become old, infirm and cynical”. Any takers?

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Nostalgic reunion
Pratibha Chauhan

It was a walk down the memory lane for old students of Sacred Heart Tara Hall School in Shimla as they got together for the first-ever reunion, aptly named ‘Nostalgia’ last week.

Even though the management of the school has changed hands from Loreto Order to Sacred Heart in 1994 but the old buildings of Tara Hall and Belle Vue still remain the same. Students right from 1934 batch to the recent pass outs all got together to remember those treasured moments.

Even though it was mostly old students from Shimla and from the state who made it to the first reunion, yet it was a good beginning which in the coming years will hopefully succeed in attracting old students from all over the globe.

With names like media personality Komal, G.B. Singh and Priya Jhingan, the first lady officer to be recruited in Army Judicial Adjutant General (JAG), being Tara Hall products, the list of successful old students is endless.   

Deep dormant emotions were stirred as Mrs Kitchlu, a 1934-batch student, narrated her memories of school days. Then, there were also the two generations of mother and daughter, taking pride in having attended the same school. The old students narrated their school experiences and how the education and grooming at the school held them in good stead throughout life

Though the school started functioning from its present location in the year 1895 but initially it operated for three years from 1892 in the Townsend building, located enroute to the Jakhoo temple. 
Forging old friendships, the ex-students parted on the note to meet again, annually. And yes the school will shortly offer them an opportunity to keep in touch with each other as it intends launching a website portal, so that all old students across the globe can remain in
touch.

Adieu Vepa

It was after putting in 16 eventful years as a teacher that Mr Vepa Rao bid adieu to the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) on his retirement.
Credited for giving identity and virtual recognition to the department, it was under his guidance that students from this tiny hill state were able to make mark in the field of journalism. More so because a career in journalism didn’t really seem all that endearing to the youth from this state at that point of time and they really did not know how to go about with it. It wasn’t just students from his own department who sought his guidance in different spheres of life but all those who came in contact with him got something to learn from him.
  Having served at senior positions in the Hindustan Times, Statesman and The Tribune, Mr Vepa Rao had several friends in the media which greatly helped his students in making a niche for themselves.
  Having come to Shimla as a research scholar at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, he fell in love with the mountains and its innocent people, only to stay back here permanently. Even as the teaching assignment is over he intends returning to his first love, writing and mainstream journalism while staying in Shimla.

B’day bash

It was not just ministers, MLA’s and supporters who danced at Holly Lodge, residence of the Chief Minister, Mr Virbhdara Singh on his birthday on June 23 but ‘dutiful’ bureaucrats joining in on the beats of the dhol and nagaras did come as a surprise to many.

Be it politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats or for that matter even journalists, all made a beeline to wish the Chief Minister on his birthday. Being in the saddle it was not surprising to see people throng his residence to wish him but going by the attendance at a birthday bash, his better half, Mrs Pratibha Singh, MP gave him tough competition.

The MP and wife of the chief minister, had hordes of people wanting to wish her on her birthday which falls just before her husband’s as she also happens to be the MP from Mandi parliamentary constituency.

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The last ‘Englishman’
Rama Sharma

The death, early last month, of Rajendra Nath Khanna, almost an institution by himself in this hill station, was an end to an era. It was like saying goodbye to the old-world charm of the Raj. Khanna was, in the words of his friend and class fellow Indrajit Gupta, the former Home Minister, the “last Englishman of Shimla”. Both of them had grown up together and kept up until the last.

The longest-serving General Manager of Modella Woollen Mills, Bombay, was quintessentially a Simla (it had not become Shimla then) boy, born, brought up and nurtured during the days of the Raj. Born in Lahore on December 25, 1916, Khanna’s father, Rai Bahadur Hari Nath Khanna, was Deputy Secretary Government of India during the British Raj, and would move to Simla in the summers with the Viceroy’s offices.

In those days, a Deputy Secretary was required to maintain his own rickshaw with four liveried rickshaw pullers with an initialed uniform. Khanna was educated in the Mission High School, Lakkar Bazaar, Shimla or the Harcourt Butler School, of which there is no trace now.

He was selected by the headmaster of the school to present a bouquet to the Viceroy because he was smartly turned out. For the same reason, the young Khanna was asked to head the group of boys who were invited by the Viceroy for tea. There was no dress code or uniforms for schools, nor were there any restrictions on admission of Indians to the schools.

Whenever he recounted his experiences of the Raj, Khanna also busted many myths connected to the Raj. Unlike popular perception that natives were not allowed to walk on the Mall, Khanna often narrated how what mattered were the way one was attired and not the fact of being a native or a Britisher.

Friends fondly recount how Khanna, perfectly turned out in his three-piece suit and cravat or tie would walk the distance from his house in the Regal building to the Gaiety theatre or the ADC club every day even when he was well into his late 80s. The oldest civilian member of the predominantly Army Club, he moved to Delhi and then Nasik to be with his daughter, after a fall in which he broke his hipbone.

It was Shimla that he yearned for until the end and the well-attended condolence meeting was a proof of his popularity. Be it at the club or at a gathering of friends, he would often recount interesting tales of the days of the Raj when young Indians sported three-piece suits and sola hats during the daytime and felt hats in the evening. Also popular was the long achkan with a churidar or a bundgalla with a Lakhnavi cap and a khulla pyjama. The class was denoted by a polished stick with a moulded ivory or silver handle. Women looked charming in their full-sleeved blouses and sarees with covered heads.

As Khanna often stated, ironically in the days of “bondage”, there was more adherence to traditional attire and a genuine pride in Indian roots, unlike the mindless aping of the West these days.

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Saving the heritage of Dalhousie
Balkrishan Prashar

The draft report on ‘Heritage of Dalhousie Town’ recently released by the Himachal Pradesh Government through a notification has emphasised that the glorious heritage of Dalhousie should be preserved at all cost. The entire hill town is to be viewed as a single entity, in the context of development, in order to ensure proper growth and conservation of the heritage areas of the wooded hill town known as sanatorium.

Founded in 1850 A.D. and located on the western end of the mighty Dhauladhars at an altitude of 2378 metres, Dalhousie has a name due to its unique architecture and beautiful British style bungalows that dot the townscape. If the heritage is lost in the wake of development, town would suffer tremendously both economically and 
environmentally.

Old structures

According to a draft report on the ‘Heritage of Dalhousie Town’ drawn up by the H. P. Town and Country Planning Department the owners of the monuments, buildings, and bungalows be provided incentives to ensure preservation of these ancient structures. Heritage cess on tourists coming to the town and funds thus generated may be used effectively for value addition to the town heritage. Making heritage conservation as people’s movement is the foremost necessity.

In the light of prosperous and proud past of Dalhousie being a British town on one hand and need for preservation of heritage on the other, regulatory control for heritage monuments of Dalhousie are devised for several monuments such as Sardar Ajit Singh Samadhi, Kynance Building, Subhas Bouli, Norwood Paramdham, Bara Pathar, Khyber House, St. John’s Church at Gandhi Chowk, Radha Swami Satsang Bhawan, Dakshina Murti Ashram, Shivkul in Moti-Tibba and St. Francis Church, Cemetery, Sacred Heart High School, Laxmi Narayan temple in Dalhousie Khas.

Heritage zone

The official report has laid down provisions for the ‘restricted development’ means only residential construction with two storeys and one parking floor shall be allowed in the heritage zone, which has been defined as ‘Restrict Area’ in the approved development plan of Dalhousie. The heritage of Dalhousie has been divided into two categories – natural heritage and built heritage. Natural heritage comprises socio-cultural spaces and parks, area on hillside of the Mall in Bakrota starting from Dhoop Ghari to the IPH tanks on Khajjiar road, G.P.O. and Subhas Chowk and its surrounding areas, the open green patches slopes, woodlands in heritage zone and outside heritage zone but within planning area limits. Sightseeing points near Sun Villa on Satdhara road and near Vikas Guest House on Potreyn road and site seeing points and rains shelters along the ‘thandi sarak’, the report recommends.

All the heritage buildings, monuments, spaces identified and mentioned in the report falling in proposed heritage zone and outside heritage zone within planning area boundary (municipal council boundary) fall in the category of built heritage. The report has prescribed regulations for natural heritage and heritage buildings, complexes and heritage zone..

The report on heritage of Dalhousie town has attributed the causes for neglect of heritage monuments in the past to the ignorance and lack of understanding the values of historical monuments and the buildings of olden times . As Dalhousie is easily accessible from the plains, the problem of conversion of structures of the British style and architecture into multistory, commercial flats, hotels and guest houses has posed a threat to the valuable heritage, besides scarcity of developable land and pressure of forces of consumerism.

Carelessness and inactive role of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), lack or coordination and interaction between local body, town planning, district administration and the INTACH are also the reasons responsible for the degradation of the hill town’s invaluable assets.

Grave neglect

The significant move of state government to preserve heritage of Dalhousie town is one of the paramount remedial measures for its conservation and saving the scenic town from further commercialization, in addition to the stringent byelaws of the Town and Country Planning Act and the regulations stipulated in the approved development plan for Dalhousie.

Town history

Dalhousie, conceived as a health resort, was set up in 1850 when the British rulers acquired five hills from the Raja of Chamba State for developing the area as sanatorium. The project of development of sanatorium was started in 1851 A. D. on a spot where the Dainkund Ridge breaks into spurs and Kathlag was identified for the construction of Convalescent Depot.

New name

In the year 1853, the British rulers from the Raja of Chamba acquired the five hills namely – Kathlag, Potreyn, Moti-Tibba, Bakrota and Bhangora. Since the estate was founded in the time of Lord Dalhousie, Sir Donald McLeod named the sanatorium “Dalhousie”. In the year 1856, ore land was acquired in Baloon and Bakka hills for the construction of barracks of the Convalescent Depot and as Cantonment respectively. With the expansion of the estate, which started during the British regime, the whole area has come to be known as Dalhousie.

After acquisition in 1850’s Dalhousie was made a part of then Kangra District of Punjab State. Later on, it was transferred to Gurdaspur District in August 1861.

Only after re-organization of States in 1966, Dalhousie became a part of Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh on November 1, 1966.

Pines & oaks

Dalhousie situated on the pine-covered spur at western end of mighty Dhauladhar Mountain range, was established in 1858 A.D. by the British Governor General, Lord Dalhousie and was named after him. Dalhousie town is a popular and gorgeous tourist destination of Himachal Pradesh because of its serenity, refreshing air and enchanting scenery. A number of picturesque walks run through the oak and pine forests in the town and offer superb glimpse of the Ravi valley.

It is thickly wooded with stately pines and oaks and has lovely picnic spots all around. Due to the disturbance in the neighbouring states, the importance of tourist towns of Himachal Pradesh including Dalhousie has increased and as a result, it has emerged as favourite tourist resort among the tourists. During peak season, more than 650 tourists visit the town in a day.

Dalhousie is situated at a distance of 394 km from Shimla, the state capital and 80 km from Pathankot, which is the nearest city as well as railway station while the Kangra airport is at a distance of 83 kilometres.

The municipal council of Dalhousie was established in the year 1885 as ‘nagar palika’, which included Kathlag, Moti-Tibba, Dalhousie Khas and Bakrota revenue up-Mohals. It was re-designated as ‘nagar parishad’ Dalhousie in 1994.

Kangra’s pride

The nagar parishad Dalhousie has 766 hectares of land with population of 7419 persons as per 2001 census. The cantonment area is located on north side adjoining to the nagar parishad area. The heritage of Dalhousie town can be seen in terms of natural vegetation, scenic beauty, British time bungalows, Mall roads, churches, temples, circulation system, buildings associated with the dignitaries like Subhas Chander Bose and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru etc.

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Sorrowful saga of a freedom fighter

Hoshiyar Singh
Hoshiyar Singh

As a schoolboy he took the vow to free his motherland from the clutches of the British and he stood by it in spite of facing many trials and tribulations. Ashok Raina tells the sad story of this freedom fighter from Kangra

It was 1931 and a young man of Class X in remote Bara village of Kangra district had taken a vow to liberate his country from the British. When he was 33 years old, he had this opportunity to salute the Tricolor on the Red Fort in free India after languishing years in British jails.

The young boy, now 94-year-old Hoshiyar Singh, who traveled 6000 km on foot from Rangoon to Layshi to enter India to fight the British Army, was court marshaled and sentenced to death which was later on converted to life imprisonment. He was released from Lahore jail by the interim government. But, he is now one dejected soul who breaks in tears when he talks about the treatment he was meted in free India.

Mr Hoshiyar Singh, living a one-room house with his family in a pitiable condition, was born in 1912 and joined the Dogra Company in the Burma Military Police on August 3, 1932. After Burma was separated from India in 1936, the Dogra Company was disbanded in 1939 and was shifted to 2nd Dogra.

On February 1, 1939 he was deputed to Malaya for a peace mission and later fought World War II till the fall of Singapore. He joined the Indian National Army (INA) under the leadership of General Mohan Singh on February 15, 1942, with a dream to liberate his motherland.

He joined the SSG, known as the Secret Service Group or the Self Sacrifice Group in Malaya when he was in the custody of the forces of Japan. The freedom fighter remembers his one-on-one meeting with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose during his visit to Burma when he was a member of the INA.

Well versed with the dialect of the Burmese Kachin and Japanese language Neta Ji assigned him job of entering India on foot. He says, “we were on demolition and destruction move and during the day I was intermingling with the enemies to know their strategic positions and during the nights destroying the enemy positions”. He said he reached Layshi after moving from Rangoon to Myitkyina, crossed Fort Heart (Putoao) and reached Layshi when he was caught on India Burma Border on February 2, 1944.

He was interrogated in the Red Fort for four months in the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Center (CSDIC) from and was sentenced to death. But the death sentence was later on converted to life imprisonment.

Hoshiyar Singh was imprisoned in Lahore jail. He was released in 1947.

A great fighter who fought the British rule is now desperate at this fag end of his life. With tears trickling down his cheeks as he talks about his financial condition. “I could not even construct a house for my children,” he says. He has four sons.

He says none of his sons could get a government jobs as he had no political links and his sacrifice meant nothing for the politicians of this country.

“The politicians honour us with caps and shawls but have no time to feel the agony and trauma of the freedom fighters,” he says.

He says he was denied a meeting with the President of India, Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, for which he had approached the Rashterpati Bhawan in March this year.

“I decry the day when my death sentence was converted to life imprisonment. I would have been hanged for the nation and would have not seen this humiliation,” says Hoshiyar.

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Tunnel trouble
Kuldeep Chauhan

Are the tunnels safe for the tremors in the seismic zone IV and IV in Mandi-Kulu district? Have the tunnels dried up the water sources in the surrounding villages?

These questions have triggered a major controversy in the state as the Malana Power Company (MPC) has blamed the recent blockade in the 3.3 km long tunnel of the 86 MW Malana power project on a tremor triggered last October. These questions assume significance as the stake is not only on the safety of the power projects but also the safety of the nearby village oustees and others living downstream.

The villagers face eviction and flood threat during rains as there are over a dozen tunnels under construction in the Mandi-Kulu valley. These include the Parbati stage II and III, Larji, Allian-Duhangan,

Uhal stage III and now 8.8 km long Rohtang traffic tunnel- all under various stages of construction in the Kulu and Mandi zone, which falls in seismic zone IV and V.

The local villagers blame the power project authorities for the recent phenomenon of drying up of their traditional drinking water sources in and around the projects sites.

The tunneling and other works have triggered water crises in villages around 126 MW Larji project, and the 105 MW Uhal stage III in Mandi district and Parbati stage II and the 192 MW Allian-Duhangan project, both in Kulu districts.

Not only does tunneling inside the mountains dry up water sources, pushing ground water low the blasting work inside the tunnel is also causing the flash flood, claim Pulga villagers, pointing out the flash flood in Jigrai nallah near that village that damaged the project machineries and trapped over 20 workers inside the tunnel in 2004.

But the engineers at National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), which is executing the 2051 MW Parbati project, one of Asia’s biggest project in geologically sensitive Parbati valley claim that the tunnels are safest structures inside the earth for the tremors.

Mr AK Mishra, General Manager, Parbati stage 11 that involves the construction of 31 kms long tunnel in Parbati valley says: “It is a myth that the tremor triggers rock slide in the tunnel.

Tunnels are the safest underground structures for tremors”. There is no recorded instance of the tremor damaging the tunnel anywhere in the world, asserts Mr Mishra. “The 21-km long tunnel has been completed for the Parbati stage II and is the safest mode to carry water”, he informs.

Even the 61- meters high dam at Pulga for the Parbati stage II is designed for the high-intensity tremors, which have not been recorded in this part of the world so far, the NHPC engineers said.

There is no evidence that the tunneling dry up the water sources as tunnel lies very deep inside the mountain, they claim, dismissing villagers’ claims as misplaced.

On the other hand, the geologists disagree and say that the Parbati valley is active for the geothermal energy, where tunnels can interfere in its natural cycle.

“The interference is understandable as tunnels are being constructed by the blasting process not by the boring machines”, comments Mr Arun Sharma, the state geologist. “The NHPC has just one boring machine for the stage II. The tunneling is done by blasting the mountainside, which renders the strata loose and sensitive for the vibrations or tremors, they reveal.

On this Mr. Mishra says that the tremors cause maximum damage on the surface depending its distance from the epicenter.

“The tunnels are being constructed with the tested materials through the controlled blasting and hence a little damage to the geology. Natural disasters like flash flood and high intensity tremors are beyond the control any engineers in the world”, he explains.

Mr V.K Sharma, general manager, 600 MW arbati stage III, work for which has just begins and which has no tunnel boring machines says: “We do not need the boring machines as the rock strata is moderate to hard. We do controlled blasting to bore the tunnel and is reinforced with the tested materials”.

But the General Manger, MPC Mr. BD Bhatia holds a different viewpoint saying the rockslide inside the Malana tunnel, for which the project was shut down for a month, was caused by a tremor triggered October last year. “We have taken measures required under the good manufacturing practices to construct the tunnel”, he claims.

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No road leads to Baddi
Bipin Bhardwaj

Coming up rapidly in the foothills of lower Shivalik Hills, the industrial hub in Baddi has been lacking an un-interrupted corridor for transportation of raw material and finished goods for the past couple of years. Courtesy the Punjab Government, for turning a deaf ear towards the Central Government directions for constructing a pucca road, linking this upcoming industrial town of its counterpart Himachal Pradesh with Chandigarh.

Though the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways under its inter-state connectivity programme has already approved the construction on the Chandigarh-Baddi road in the territories of Punjab and Haryana, yet the condition of this inter-state link, supposed to be completed by October 2007, is deplorable. The ministry has already sanctioned around Rs 8 crore to the Punjab Government for laying this stretch of road between Sultanpur and Siswan villages.

This road has proved to be a major bottleneck in the development of the biggest industrial area of the state. The road link could also boost economic development in the surrounding areas of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

Besides this, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had even directed the Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Haryana for making the road, running through their respective areas, traffic-worthy. The states were also asked for obtaining clearance from the Union Ministries of Environment and Forests for the widening of the road.

In its order, a Division Bench of the Himachal Pradesh High Court had also directed the Director-General (Road Development), Government of India, to ensure that the directions be complied within stipulated time frame.

Following pressures from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the Himachal Pradesh High Court, Haryana had completed the constructing of a stretch of the road, falling under its jurisdiction. However, the Punjab Government seems to be in a deep slumber. It has hardly initiated any construction on the road as yet.

With the non-completion of this direct link that would be a shortcut (about 22 km) to Chandigarh from Baddi, the growth of this upcoming industrial hub of the region has infringed.

Apprehending the shifting of industries from Punjab to Himachal Pradesh, after completion of the road, the Punjab Government seems to be reluctant on this major issue even after the involvement of the Centre, claimed Mr Rajender Guleria, Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industries, HP State Council.

Mr Guleria claimed that in absence of the direct link for transporting raw material and other goods, the industrialists have to use the Chandigarh-Pinjore-Baddi and the Chandigarh-Ropar-Nalagarh-Baddi and in the reverse directions, thus causing them a detour of about 28 km and 88 km, respectively.

“Tapping potential in industrial areas in Ludhiana, Mandi Gobindgarh and other parts of Punjab will be possible for Himachal Pradesh only after the construction of the road,” said Mr Guleria.

While talking to The Tribune, Himachal Pradesh Industrial Minister Kuldeep Kumar said the Punjab Government was reluctant in completing the Chandigarh-Baddi link road. The Punjab Government has been spreading a false propaganda saying that industrial units from Punjab would shift to Baddi.

The minister said that with the construction of the Chandigarh-Baddi road, Punjab would be main beneficiary state. In absence of adequate infrastructure and facilities in Baddi almost every industries have to go to Chandigarh for it.

Mr Daljit Singh Kalsi, a Mohali based industrialist, said with the construction of the Chandigarh-Baddi link will not cut short the distance but the commuters would also save fuel and time avoiding the hazardous Chandigarh-Pinjore-Baddi route.

A survey by The Tribune revealed that about 6 km stretch of the Baddi-Chandigarh road, starting from Haryana border till Siswan village is in a pathetic condition. One has to travel in a zigzag way of about 1km on the bed of a seasonal rivulet. The entire stretch is un-metaled and deep ditches have developed on the road.

Efforts to contact Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, Punjab Public Works Department (Building and Roads) Minister and the Chief Engineer of the Department Mr Har Ashok Sharma proved futile. The both did not come on records despite repeated contacts to their secretaries.

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The killer stretch
Kiran Deep

For over two decades, 14 km link road, popularly known as Kacheri Road, from Santoshgarh to Una district headquarters passing through several villages situated on borders areas is in pathetic conditions. Despite the fact the road is a major link for traffic, both local and heavy vehicles carrying goods from industrial units, nothing has been done for widening and carpeting of the road. A visit to villages situated on the border areas of Una revealed the sorry state of the road that passes through 20 villages. The affected villagers of the area from Khanpur, fatehpur, Nangran, Jankaur, Rampur grudge that the Chief Minister never used the link road passing through their villages to reach Una and traveled through the state highway. Therefore no one bothered about the conditions of the road here. Driving is a risky business here, as the narrow road, which is only about 6 to 8 feet wide, is full of potholes and it becomes worst as the sun goes down, as there is no streetlight.

The situation aggravates during the monsoons as potholes get filled with water. Life is much tougher for two wheelers. Incidentally, the link road ends in front of the Mini Secretariat, the districts headquarters of Una. Though there are potholes in front of the secretarial too, the officials have not taken notice of them.“The poor condition on this link road has been the same for years. No carpeting or maintenance of the road has been done here for more than two decades. I hope the Chief Minister would travel by this road and then only he would understand our problem,” say Lashkri Ram and Kulwarn Singh. They say carpeting of road and widening of the road is required urgently as vehicular traffic on the road has increased in the past years.

Another problem, which is bogging down the villagers here, is shortage of water, specially for irrigation purposes. Swarn Singh, who is running a roadside shop in Faithful village, says the villagers here do not get water irrigation scheme from the reservoir at Vibhor Sahib at Nangal. Only one or two villages are getting water while the rest of villages under scheme facing the shortage of water. Either pipe supply the water got damaged or water being absorbed in the first two villages fall under the schemes, he adds.

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NGO breathes life into TB patients
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

The Solan TB Treatment Society has engaged an NGO to strengthen its grass root campaign to curb Tuberculosis. This would be conducted under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP). A Solan-based NGO, The Old Age Help Line Society, has been entrusted the responsibility to provide door-to-door medical services to TB patients in the remote areas of Solan. The NGO has planned to cover a two-lakh population in the district. Ten Directly Observed Treatment Short Course Chemotherapy (DOTS) providers have been hired by the NGO to keep a track of the patients in remote areas.

The drive was started with awareness camps in different villages. The schools are the main target under drive. The idea to involve the NGO was to check the discontinuation of treatment by patients. Says Solan District’s TB Officer, Dr. H.C. Gupta, “To ensure 100 percent success of the RNTCP program, the time-to-time monitoring of patients is a must. “ Besides keeping check of patients the DOT providers would ensure consumption of medicines by patients in their presence. The NGO is to arrest transmission of the disease by early reporting of new cases,” he added.

The Solan TB Society had earlier involved private practitioners in its endeavour to provide timely and free medical treatment to TB patients. The programme’s success can be gauged from the fact that indoor admissions in the TB Sanatorium, Dharampur, have been cut down drastically.

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