SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI
JALANDHAR

H I M A C H A L

Every Wednesday

TOP STORIES

LOG(O)ING IN
Kullu shawls and Chamba rumaals are expected to bring in more profits for the state as now they will bear a special logo confirming the sign of exclusivity in the international market, reports
Pratibha Chauhan from Shimla
The traditional Kullu shawl and Kangra tea will fetch excellent prices in the international market as they will now bear a special logo which only products registered under the Geographical Indications Act, 1999, can bear.








EARLIER STORIES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


Two leaves and a bud
The lack of entrepreneurial initiative and shrinking tea gardens pose a question mark on the future of the Kangra tea industry, reports Vibhor Mohan
Each sip of Kangra tea is like tasting a glorious past. It might have long disappeared from the neighbourhood grocery shops but in the late nineteenth century, Kangra tea, known for its unmatched quality and flavour, was exported to London and Amsterdam.

HIllside view
Be cool, man!
Do you feel tense, wondering if you can get into the city-bus easily? Whether you will get a seat, preferably a window side? Later, do you keep your bus fare in hand and wait anxiously till the conductor gives the ticket in return? And do you get up from your seat well before your stop and stand edgily close to the exit?


Photos : Anil Dayal

APPLE UPDATE
The apple lobby has finally accepted corrugated cartons for transportation of the fruit instead of wooden cases. This is happy news for the state’s green cover, says Rakesh Lohumi
After years of resistance, the apple growers of the state have finally accepted the corrugated cartons for the transportation and marketing of fruit. The switchover from the wooden packing cases, which took a heavy toll of the state’s green cover, has been complete.

Who will control the langurs?
While the Forest Department has prepared a comprehensive action plan to check the monkey menace in and around the “queen of hills” and some other severely affected areas like Rampur, it seems unconcerned about the more aggressive and destructive langurs which are causing as much nuisance. Big troops of langurs make frequent forays into various localities raids fields and houses in search of food. Unlike the monkeys, which can be scared away, the langurs instantly come into attacking mode when challenged.

Trouble in Mini Switzerland
The fact that it figures among the 160 places in the world designated ‘Mini Switzerland’, doesn’t seem reason enough for the authorities to ensure that the Khajjiar lake gets the treatment it deserves.

No place for cine lovers
In the age of multiplexes, residents of Dharamsala and Hamirpur make do by watching promos of new releases on movie channels, hoping that one day the same channel would telecast the film after its box-office sales have exhausted. Most youngsters do not get to experience what it is like to bunk classes to watch a matinee or take the family out for a late-night show.

Tribal woes
The tribal population of Kinnaur is reeling under various problems and precious little has been done by the government to bring them at par with the mainstream population, reports Kulwinder Sandhu
The schemes launched for the development of tribal population in Kinnaur district of the hill state of Himachal Pradesh need to be streamlined in accordance to the needs and challenges of the local populace. The activities undertaken under the tribal sub-plan are almost the same as those launched elsewhere in the economic and social sectors in the state, except for the increased flow of earmarked funds from the Union and state budgets.

Subathu cemetery has some rare art
Situated at an isolated location, the Subathu cemetery is a treat to watch for the visitors. It leaves one spellbound with a little feeling of anxiety about its gradually deteriorating condition. It falls on ‘Cheel Chakkar’ road, adjacent to the cottage of late G. D. Sondhi, the first Indian Principal of the Government College in Lahore. The cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in the region.

marbled memories: Statesque tombstones mark the cemetry
Statesque tombstones mark the cemetry

SOS for Una

The district headquarters of Una needs a revised plan to tackle heavy vehicular traffic on the highway passing through here. Adding to this problem is rapidly growing construction activities on both sides of the state highway over the years, giving rise to felling of trees and leveling off of small hillocks in that process.

Road to destruction: The accident prone 16-km stretch of the main road passing through Mehatpur town 

The accident prone 16-km stretch of the main road passing through Mehatpur town

An ultra-modern bus stand
A N ultra modern bus stand at Jwalamukhi was inaugurated by the Chief Minister, Sh.V.B.Singh, in March 2005. It was the need of the hour as the traffic hazard was causing problems owing to unprecedented increase in vehicular-number. But the complex is lacking in basic amenities. Darkness reigns at the dusk due to the poor electricity fittings. Swaying and swaggering loose wires are mostly seen hanging in the air.

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LOG(O)ING IN

Kullu shawls and Chamba rumaals are expected to bring in more profits for the state as now they will bear a special logo confirming the sign of exclusivity in the international market, reports Pratibha Chauhan from Shimla

Hand-crafted Kullu shawls are a woman’s pride and joy
WEAVING WONDER: Hand-crafted Kullu shawls are a woman’s pride and joy

The traditional Kullu shawl and Kangra tea will fetch excellent prices in the international market as they will now bear a special logo which only products registered under the Geographical Indications Act, 1999, can bear.

With a common logo being prepared for all Himachali products, which have been registered under the Geographical Indications Act,1999, the value of Kullu shawls, Kangra tea and Chamba rumaal will shoot up in international markets as it will now be exclusive only to the areas where they are being produced.

The HP Patent Information Centre in the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment here is engaged in the task of preparing a logo which can be used for all Himachali products, registered under Geographical Indications (GI). The Kullu Shawl Manufacturers Association has prepared some designs for the logo, which now have to be finalised by the council, in consultation with some other agencies. The logo will be prepared in a very sophisticated manner so that the chances of copying or producing a similar one can be completely ruled out. “The value of all products bearing the GI logo will shoot up and it is the rural artisan or the producer who will immensely gain from it,” says Dr S.S. Chandel, Principal Scientific Officer in the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment.

So far, it is only Kangra tea and the Kullu shawl, which have been registered under the Geographical Indications Act, 1999, while the documents for the Chamba rumaal will be submitted shortly to the Registrar, Geographical Indications in Chennai. The work on the collection of relevant data for getting the Chamba rumaal registered has been completed. The council has prepared a list of about 10 items like the chilgoza, chulli oil, angoori and Kinnauri shawl, all from the tribal area of Kinnaur and red rice grown in Rohru and many parts of the state, which will also be registered under GI. Efforts have been made to get all these items registered so that the benefit from the sale of these products goes only to the producers and the artisans.

With the Kullu shawl now having been registered under the GI Act, the artisans can take legal action against anybody who sells shawls produced outside Kullu in the name of their product. With certain specifications and conditions attached with the GI, only shawls produced on a handloom and not a power loom can be termed as a Kullu shawl and made within that region. With GI registration, the designs and motifs used traditionally on the shawls will also be preserved.

If the Kullu shawl manufacturers want they can put an end to the sale of factory-made Ludhiana shawls in the name of Kullu shawls through legal action. “The registration under the GI Act is a major step towards protecting the rights of the artisans who labour so hard to make their product while it is others who make a bigger profit than the artisan,” says Dr Chandel.

“It is the rural artisan who stands to gain as with the GI logo their product will get the stamp of being genuine and ethnic, which will fetch excellent prices in the market,” he explained. Being registered under the GI Act is like community patenting, where the interest of the community engaged in production of the product will be protected.

Same is the case of Kangra tea, which till now is mostly being sold unbranded or being mixed with Darjeeling tea and other brands. With the GI registration, now tea grown in and around Kangra and Chmaba can be sold under the name of Kangra tea.

Now the council is collecting data from old records like gazetteers for the documentation of other products like Kinnauri shawl and angoori as the claim has to be substantiated with enough proof for authenticity.

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Two leaves and a bud

The lack of entrepreneurial initiative and shrinking tea gardens pose a question mark on the future of the Kangra tea industry, reports Vibhor Mohan

Each sip of Kangra tea is like tasting a glorious past. It might have long disappeared from the neighbourhood grocery shops but in the late nineteenth century, Kangra tea, known for its unmatched quality and flavour, was exported to London and Amsterdam.

Even though the research institutes like the Institute for Bioresource Technology (IHBT) and the CSK Agricultural University in Palampur have made efforts to help the Kangra tea survive, the lack of entrepreneurial initiative and shrinking tea gardens pose a question mark on the future of the Kangra tea industry.

Quality control

The Kangra tea industry occupied the prime position with respect to its quality from the last quarter of nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. The tea made in Kangra during this period was comparable to that from any other part of the country. The Gazetteer of Kangra district (1882-83) recorded the quality of Kangra tea like this, “The tea now made is probably superior to that produced anywhere else in India. The demand has been steadily increasing and much is now bought by natives for export via Peshawar to Kabul and Central Asia.”

Dr P.S.Ahuja, director, IHBT, says the gold and silver medals won by Kangra tea in the European markets in the late nineteenth century (1886 to 1895) are a proof of its quality at international level. The tea made in the hot weather used to be second to none and was sold as well as any other variety.

Growing greens

The Government Garden at Holta was the only estate upto 1860. With the introduction of private enterprise and capital, the area under tea in 1867-68 increased to 2,635 acres, represented by 19 estates. This area was only one-third of the total area acquired by the planters for tea cultivation. In 1872, the area under tea reached to 3,292 acres, comprising 28 estates of the size of 10 acres or more— 13 owned by the Europeans, 15 by native proprietors and 29 small plantations each of size less than 10 acres. A decade later, in 1882-83, the actual area under tea increased to 7,994 acres.

“Kangra tea was exported to markets in Europe, London, Central Asia, besides having a regular local clientele. Prior to the 1880s, Kangra tea was little known in the London market, as it was received in little quantities, difficult to scatter among different brokers and agents. But later the production of black and green teas increased and reached 10,00,000 lbs and 70,000 lbs per annum respectively,” says Dr Ahuja.

The Kangra tea industry was shattered by the devastating earthquake on April 4, 1905. The majority of tea units were razed to the ground. While some tea areas were destroyed, many others were abandoned. Consequently, the Europeans, who had pioneered the production and manufacturing of Kangra tea, sold their plantations at cheaper rates to the locals and left the valley on the ground of its being unsafe. The new entrants were unaware of the technical know-how of production and processing expertise. Lack of proper maintenance of the tea plants resulted in a continuous decline of output of their plantations with the passage of time. The quality of tea also deteriorated.

The decline

Most of the planters had their own processing units, where hand rolling of tea for the manufacture of both green and black tea was done, with a few exceptions. Such varieties of tea lacked good quality and fetched poor prices. Besides, there was an acute shortage of labour and after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the young men from the valley joined the military service for better salary and the labour availability also took a toll on the industry. Fragmentation of land holdings was another irreparable setback. At the end of it all, the planters lost interest in the production of Kangra tea.

Kangra tea failed to compete with other tea growing areas of India like Assam, Darjeeling and DehraDun and the key reason was that the Kolkata market was far off and the Kangra tea growers had to pay more freight as compared to Darjeeling and Assam growers.

Secondly, tea made from Chine plant in Kangra was not able to compete with that of Assam and Darjeeling because of its poor physical appearance.

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HIllside view
Be cool, man!
by Vepa Rao

Do you feel tense, wondering if you can get into the city-bus easily? Whether you will get a seat, preferably a window side? Later, do you keep your bus fare in hand and wait anxiously till the conductor gives the ticket in return? And do you get up from your seat well before your stop and stand edgily close to the exit?

Well, you have all the symptoms of “anxiety syndrome” (or neurosis), a life-style related disorder fast catching up in our hills. Till a couple of decades ago, the hill-folk were specially known for their cool-headedness, patience, and an enormous capacity to take things as they came. Such traits had obviously evolved from living in tough conditions and from coping with the elements of nature. Agrarian culture bred contentment, and people learnt to enjoy ambience. Leisure was a natural aspect of life, breeding an array of festivals, fairs, rituals and customs. An enviable way of living!

But leisure of this kind is losing its social status now. If you are not busy, or at least don’t look busy convincingly (!), people will take you lightly, even snigger behind your back. I have met many youngsters whose tones dipped disinterestedly while talking about their “routine-type” or agriculturist fathers or elder brothers!

Senior medicos we have spoken to mentioned it as a cause of several common ailments in the hills — gastric disorders, including ulcers, headaches, insomnia and cardiac problems. How do you control it? The standard answers are — adjust your lifestyle, follow a good regimen of diet and exercise, and oh yes, practice relaxation!  “Don’t worry” is every doctor’s parting advice! Be cool, man! How easily said. 

Wrong attitudes are at the root of all anxieties. That is, the way we look at situations, other people, and most importantly the way we look at our own selves. Regulate self- perception, the saints exhort us. But how? 

A wise old man gave me a practical advice at Manali during  a  casual conversation: 
“ Forget all those big talks by big swamis. Small, small things — start controlling your habits, notions, beliefs, and anxieties at that level. That’s the way to handle the mind.” That means, why worry about a seat in the bus? Standing, if necessary, may be less harmful than that anxiety about not getting a seat! Practice this — you will not worry too much even if your son misses a seat in medicine.

“Do things you dislike. You don’t like a particular vegetable— eat it for a month. You will wonder why you had disliked it all along! Spend time with people you wanted to avoid. They will cease to irritate you”.

That means, why should a window seat be a window to your anxiety? You have the money, the conductor has the ticket—why worry about the exchange? 
I was getting anxious about the overcast sky. I should reach the guesthouse before the lunchtime ended. The old man (“seventh-pass”) laughed: “So what if it rains, get drenched ! You may, or may not, catch a cold either way. Besides, it may not rain after all, despite these clouds and thunder. Or, just go and eat at that hotel out there which is good. If you bother too much about stomach ailments, they are sure to multiply. But if you have to return to the guesthouse, just go! Why treat it like a big issue with big consequences? We are losing the art of straight and simple thinking in these hills…”

Glass windows…

Householders dread the damage to these most visible and vulnerable targets of    neighbourhood vandalism. Monkeys love swinging from them, breaking them in the process. Budding Tendulkars and Dhonis of the locality keep banging them with their own brand of sixers. An occasional stone meant for chasing away monkeys too sails at these fragile sheets. Try finding a carpenter these days to fix them and you will know how serious this problem is—especially if there’s cold breeze blowing!

But it is fashionable to have both huge and medium-sized single glass sheets ( like French windows ). If they crack, you need a fortune for replacing them. They are also poor insulators in cold weather.

An architect I met during a recent travel recommends a “double-layer” system prevalent in old cities like Kolkata. Wooden windows (designed like venetian blinds) open out, with glass windows opening into the room. Perhaps worth thinking along such lines.

Silly point!

“A train is moving at 60 km speed. Another train on the next track is coming from the opposite side at 40 km speed. Tell me, what is my age? “

A smart boy raised his finger.  “Sixty-four”, he said.

The puzzle-giver was surprised. “How do you know? “

“Simple”, the boy answered. “My neighbour is half-mad. He is 32. You are fully mad— so you must be 64 !”

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APPLE UPDATE

The apple lobby has finally accepted corrugated cartons for transportation of the fruit instead of wooden cases. This is happy news for the state’s green cover, says Rakesh Lohumi

After years of resistance, the apple growers of the state have finally accepted the corrugated cartons for the transportation and marketing of fruit. The switchover from the wooden packing cases, which took a heavy toll of the state’s green cover, has been complete. For the past two years the entire produce is being transported in cartons and the wooden cases have virtually vanished from the scene. Not only apples, other fruits are also being marketed in cartons of different sizes.

Saving trees

Wooden fruit packing cases along with the trees allotted to right holders under the timber distribution (TD) rules had been a big drain on the fast depleting forest resources for long. The two accounted for almost half of the total six to seven lakh cubic metre of standing volume of trees removed annually from the forests till the ban on green fellings came into force. The spectacular growth in horticulture, which made Himachal Pradesh the apple bowl of the country, became a scourge for the forest resources as more and more of trees had to felled to make wooden packing cases for transportation of the produce.

Apple lobby

The government imposed a complete moratorium on green fellings more than two decades ago to save the hills from denudation but still thousands of trees continued to be axed every year to meet the demand for packing cases and grant of free timber to right holders. Obviously, no government had the political courage to annoy the highly influential apple lobby and the numerically significant beneficiaries of TD rules.

On average about 70,000 full-grown trees, mostly fir and spruce, were removed from the alpine forests every year to make about 1.25 crore wooden packing cases. The trees with a standing volume 1.50 lakh cubic metre were axed from the high hills ranging from 7,500 ft to 9000 ft where regeneration of forests was very difficult if not altogether impossible. In effect horticulture started eating into the vitals of forestry with increasing production raising serious environmental concerns.

New cartons

The efforts of the government to popularise corrugated cartons came a cropper as the growers maintained that they were not suitable for perishable fruits like apple. Their argument was that the wooden boxes help in maintaining moisture and also allowed fruit to breathe which was not the case with the cartons. They stoutly refused to switch over initially.

The government then decided to subsidised the cartons, which was as high as Rs 10 per carton. It scaled down felling of trees within the state in a phased manner and also allowed import of inferior grade timber from the neighbouring states for making wooden packing cases. The government even had to grant transport subsidy for on carriage of timber.

Changing times

However, the scenario changed rapidly over the past couple of years. The entry of foreign apple following economic liberalisation made more and more growers realise that proper grading and packaging of produce was essential to face international competition. The increase in demand for cartons encouraged private sector to set to manufacture apple cartons, which brought down the prices significantly. A stage has been reached where the cartons produced in the public sector unit at Pragatinagar are costlier than the ones supplied by private units even after the grant of subsidy.

The growers who opposed the introduction of cartons tooth and nail are now finding virtues in them. Packing is easy with readymade trays and a carton can pack upto 28 kg of apple with an extra layer. On average 22 kg to 25 kg of fruit is packed in a standard carton as against 18 kg in wooden packing cases, they explain.

Scaled down

The subsidy is being reduced gradually and the production of cartons in the public sector unit is also being scaled down. Last year it produced just 18 lakh cartons whereas about 1.50 crore cartons were supplied by private units located within and outside state.

While the government did not pick up courage to rationalise the grants under the TD rules all these years, the state high court last month restrained it from allotting any trees. Trisha Sharma passed the significant order on a public interest litigation. The environmentalists are hoping that the intervention of the court will compel the government to take decision on the proposal of the Forest Department to rationalise the TD rules and save the 65,000 to 70,000 trees felled every year.

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Who will control the langurs?
Rakesh Lohumi

While the Forest Department has prepared a comprehensive action plan to check the monkey menace in and around the “queen of hills” and some other severely affected areas like Rampur, it seems unconcerned about the more aggressive and destructive langurs which are causing as much nuisance. Big troops of langurs make frequent forays into various localities raids fields and houses in search of food.

Unlike the monkeys, which can be scared away, the langurs instantly come into attacking mode when challenged. The last head count of simians carried out in December 2004 had revealed the presence of 55,180 langurs in the state. Organised into 1,173 troops they are not evenly distributed like monkeys, which have a population of 3,18,680. They have significant presence in areas like Hamirpur, Shimla and Dalhousie. In fact, in the Hamirpur forest division they outnumber the monkeys. However, there are certain forest divisions like Una, Kulu, Parbati, Ani, Lahaul and Spiti, which have no langur population.

In a bid to contain the monkey menace the Forest Department trapped over 2,200 animals from the queen of hills and released them in deep forests. However, langurs were kept out of the translocation plan. They became all the more conspicuous after the translocation of monkeys from the queen of hills. Now that the plans to sterilise 5,000 monkeys, it should also take care of langurs which are occupying the territory vacated due to translocation of monkeys.

All-equipped crematorium

An environment-friendly modern crematorium built by the local Rotary Club on the bypass road in new Shimla has finally become functional. With Kota stone paved floor, the crematorium has four fuel-efficient traditional pyres and all other required facilities like toilets and prayer hall.

A liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) retort (furnace for burning bodies) is being imported from the USA to save fuel wood. It will be in place over the next two months. “The club preferred a gas-fired facility instead of an electric crematorium which is not considered suitable for cremating the bodies as per the Hindu rites”, explained Mr Umesh Akre, the in charge of the project. It will take about three LPG cylinders and three to four hours to burn a body. The process will be similar to traditional pyre except that LPG will be used in place of fuel wood, he added.

This will be the first gas-fired crematorium in the state. A suitable drive-in site was not easy to find and ultimately a site had to be created by channelising the nullah on the bypass, which increased the cost of the project to Rs 1 crore.

The people have been facing problem in arranging fuel wood for funerals and the new crematorium provide a permanent solution. The Club hopes that the authorities would agree to supply LPG at domestic rates, which will make it cost effective in comparison to fuel wood.

However, the crematorium lacks adequate parking space for vehicles but this problem could be solved constructing a culvert on the main to bypass the bend. The old curved-road could be then used for parking.

Monsoon misery

With more than 80 per cent of cultivated agricultural area solely dependent on rains, the people in hills anxiously await the arrival of monsoons. However, the rain also brings misery, particularly for those living in interior areas where flash floods and landslides disrupt normal life. Out of the total 26,000 km of motorable roads maintained by the Public Works Department 11,000 km is still unmetalled. They mostly become unserviceable during rains as a result hundred of villages are cutoff. Rains trigger off numerous landslides, which affect the movement of vehicular traffic not only in the interior roads but even on the national highways.

The situation has been aggravated as a large number of roads are under construction across the state. The hills are cut vertically which makes the strata unstable and prone to slides. There is no proper disposal of the debris, which is mostly thrown on the slopes. All this leads to choking of nullahs and often becomes a cause of flash floods.

The harvesting of apple crop also takes place during the monsoon for which thousands of trucks from the neighbouring states are deployed. The heavy traffic takes a toll of the rain–soaked roads. Vast stretches of Pucca roads are virtually transformed into Kutcha roads during the season. The lack of proper drainage makes things worse. Last year over 60,000 truckloads of apple were exported out of the state. This year the production is less and only about 1.70 crore boxes of apple are likely to produce. The harvesting has already begun in the lower hills it will reach its peak during August.

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Trouble in Mini Switzerland
Vibhor Mohan

The fact that it figures among the 160 places in the world designated ‘Mini Switzerland’, doesn’t seem reason enough for the authorities to ensure that the Khajjiar lake gets the treatment it deserves.

The small lake in the middle of the tourist spot can best be described as a pit of mud and slush, which needs expert advice for a long-term solution of water channeling.

Mr O.C.Kaundal, DFO, Wildlife, Chamba, says the lake suffers from a perennial problem of weeds and slush formation, which is hard to tackle. The lake would be manually cleaned up in a month’s time after its boundary dries up a bit as presently it is too sticky.

He adds that all efforts were being made to keep the place litter free and talks were on with the horse owners not to let loose their animals on the main grassland and follow an alternate route even for taking tourists on a horse ride around the place.

With cattle and abandoned horses straying all over the 1.6 km-long and 0.9 km wide tourist spot, the green carpet shows ample signs of neglect. Most tourists do not even walk up to the lake, which is fed by streams that traverse the grassland.

Tourism Officer Mr Vikas Labru says a walking trail was being laid at Khajjiar as part of steps being taken for its beautification. He further said a decision had been taken to put up barbed wires around the lake and a trekker’s hut, which was a heritage building, would also be spruced up.

Located 24 km from Dalhousie, the tiny picturesque tourist spot in district Chamba continues to attract thousands of tourists every year, who find the lush cover of pines and deodars encircling the green meadow a scene straight out of a calendar.

It was in 1992 that Mr Willy T. Blazer, head of Chencery of Switzerland in India christened it as mini-Switzerland and thus put it on the world tourism map. He had also put a signboard of yellow Swiss hiking footpath, showing the 6,194 km distance of Khajjiar from the Swiss capital of Berne. A stone from Khajjiar was made a part of the stone sculpture in Berne.

The place attracts tourists for not more than four months before the rain sets in. Most tourists coming to Khajjiar feel the government can make concerted efforts that during this time the lake remains all decked up and the place should not be treated as just another community garden where people can litter at will.

The glade and the lake are held sacred to Khajjinag, the deity in the temple nearby—after whom the place is named. Khajjiar has the thick forest of the Kalatope sanctuary surrounding its soft green grass.

Locals say many years ago water of the lake was even used for drinking. But now the depth of the lake has also started decreasing, since silt and cow dung flows into it from the slopes.

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No place for cine lovers
Vibhor Mohan

In the age of multiplexes, residents of Dharamsala and Hamirpur make do by watching promos of new releases on movie channels, hoping that one day the same channel would telecast the film after its box-office sales have exhausted. Most youngsters do not get to experience what it is like to bunk classes to watch a matinee or take the family out for a late-night show.

With no quality cinema halls in the two districts, low-budget video parlours are doing brisk business at McLeodganj and Hamirpur where special shows are organised for English, Tibetan and Bhojpuri films.

The sole cinema hall at Dharamsala has a long history of screening only old films, most of which had bombed. Broken seats, dilapidated interiors and no parking facility ensure there are no long serpentine queues at the ticket window. The only hall at Hamirpur has also closed down.

The Kangra district administration, on its part, tries to make up for the lack of entertainment sources by organising events like the summer festival, which draw huge crowds on all days.

“People of this area are known to be tight-fisted when it comes to spending money on recreational facilities. This is the main reason why local entrepreneurs are not keen on setting up cinema halls, multiplexes and other hang-outs for the fear of incurring heavy losses. Even the shows like summer festival are a hit because the entry is free. The moment tickets system is brought in, the crowd would dry up,” says a senior government official.

Tenzin Namgyal, who runs a video parlour in McLeodganj, says the business requires minimal investment as foreign tourists do not mind sitting on chairs and sofas as long as the movie is good. “That is why we focus on giving them a home-like atmosphere where they could be munching on a burger while watching a blockbuster on the CD. We also organise special shows of new releases or blockbuster films, for which the original CD is available,” he says.

“It would be wrong to say that people don’t want to see films at Dharamsala. The Tibetan Film Festival orgainsed at McLeodganj recently was well-received and films like Deepa Mehta’s Water and a dozen Tibetan films attracted large audience,” says Lobsang.

Raj, a photojournalist at Hamirpur, adds that after the sole cinema hall was closed down, people do not mind going to a video parlour in case the CD of the film is not available in the market.

In the absence of good movie halls, the pirated CD trade is thriving. There is a regular demand for most big releases, which are available on the illegal copied CDs for a paltry rent. For those particular about the quality of print, the original CDs are available at Dharamsala.

“There is an absolute lack of entertainment facilities in the old town of Dharamsala and students studying at the local degree colleges, college of education and medical college, have no place to hang around in the evening,” says Rajiv Bansal, a BA II student at the degree college.

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Tribal woes

The tribal population of Kinnaur is reeling under various problems and precious little has been done by the government to bring them at par with the mainstream population, reports Kulwinder Sandhu

The schemes launched for the development of tribal population in Kinnaur district of the hill state of Himachal Pradesh need to be streamlined in accordance to the needs and challenges of the local populace. The activities undertaken under the tribal sub-plan are almost the same as those launched elsewhere in the economic and social sectors in the state, except for the increased flow of earmarked funds from the Union and state budgets.

As per the Integrated Tribal Development Plan (ITDP), the tribal sub-plan of a financial year covers 65 panchayats to benefit 78,000 tribal people (population status as per the 2001 census) of this remote district.

Snow glaciers, high altitudes and highly rugged terrain having fast-flowing Sutlej River and its tributaries are peculiar features of this tribal belt. In any economic development programme due to the combination of factors, which may be historical, territorial or natural, some remote areas that lag behind in the process of overall development surely needs to be attended on priority basis.

Even after three decades of the introduction of tribal sub-plans for each financial year in Himachal Pradesh, the successive governments had failed to establish a post-graduation college, consumer’s court, juvenile court and headquarters of the district and sessions court in district Kinnaur.

The state government has also been unable to establish a fruit/vegetable market and cold storage facilities for horticultural produce in Kinnaur. As a result of which, the traders mostly non-tribal continue to ‘loot’ the local people by purchasing the horticultural produce at very less price and selling the daily needs items at very high prices. The district administration enjoying wide range of powers has never made any effort to stop this ‘loot’ that is going on unabated.

On the other hand, a critical evaluation of the Budget outlay for the year 2005-2006; brings to light that in district Kinnaur under the agriculture and its allied services programme no fund has been allocated for the development of vegetables, market intervention scheme for potatoes, agriculture exhibition, macro-management approach for agriculture and no grant-in-aid was provided to the state Agriculture University for initiating agro-related projects for this tribal belt.

Similarly, under the horticulture development scheme for the year 2005-2006, no money was reserved for the development of hops and neither any grant-in-aid was provided to the state Agriculture University for initiating horticulture research projects for the area. As far as the cooperatives are concerned, no share capital was provided to consumer cooperatives and marketing societies during this financial year.

Surprisingly, no provision was made in the Budget outlay of the last financial year for the development of state highways and maintenance of bridges. As a result of which, this tribal district due to its natural location has one of the worst condition of roads in the entire north-India. Not only this, no money was reserved for the development of science, technology, and environment, conservation of monuments and archeological sites, establishment of art galleries; mountaineering and allied sports; national programme for control of blindness; compensation for sterilization; establishing or strengthening existing bal and balika ashrams, special nutrition programme; tribal development machinery; soil, science and chemistry research; promoting cultivation of saffron, apples, grapes and mushrooms; subsidy on milch cattle, cattle/yak breeding, sheep/wool development and poultry development; SC/ST corporation for employment and income generating schemes; social services and development of village/small industries in district Kinnaur.

Similarly, a study of the tribal sub-plan approved for the current financial year revealed that many projects related to rural development were hanging fire for the past many years due to unavailability of funds or the delay in executing the works on these projects. It appears to be that there still prevails a colonial mindset of the state/union governments that needs to be changed to bring closer the tribal people of this far-flung area by reducing their distances providing better communication networks and bridging the gap between tribal and non-tribal people.

Therefore, the Union and state governments need to explore the development avenues for the tribal people of Kinnaur in which they could promote their skills and talents in keeping with their natural habitat and the day-to-day challenges of their environment and natural resources of wealth.

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Subathu cemetery has some rare art
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

Situated at an isolated location, the Subathu cemetery is a treat to watch for the visitors. It leaves one spellbound with a little feeling of anxiety about its gradually deteriorating condition. It falls on ‘Cheel Chakkar’ road, adjacent to the cottage of late G. D. Sondhi, the first Indian Principal of the Government College in Lahore. The cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in the region. It has the graves of the British Army officers and veterans. Unlike other English cemeteries in area, this cemetery has some well-built and nicely designed huge tomb graves. Generally the other graveyard at Kasauli, Dagshai and even the two other cemeteries at Subathu have trade mark cemeteries with average height of cemeteries being less than five feet .

However in this Subathu cemetery, the structures are as tall as the houses. The cemetery holds its importance in history. It was built soon after the British defeated General Amar Singh Thapa, the Gurkha warlord and the master of the guerrilla war. Gen Thapa was a dreaded name in the English Army officers. Gen Thapa fortress, built at a hilltop just behind the Timber Trail Resort Height Resort, is still a reminder of fear created by Gurkha Empire among English warlords. Gen Thapa wanted to conquer a few parts of Punjab, that time under the control of the East India Company. It is said that a fierce and bloody battle was fought between the British and Gurkhas at the Ramshahr Pass and Lohar Ghatti, near Malaun, the main pocket of Gurkhas, in 1814. The war ended after Gurkhas signed a treaty in 1816. Sir David Ochterlony, the British General, was so impressed with the fighting skills of Gurkhas that he offered them the best terms of enlistment under the British flag and asked them to form a battalion of their own. Thus this had led to the formation of the first Gurkha Rifles.

Gen Thapa and few of his close men had refused the offer and were allowed to leave for Nepal. The Subathu Fort just near the local bus stand a part of the erstwhile Gurkha Empire, finally fell to the British. The British soldiers, who were killed in the war, were buried 2 km away from the fort in this cemetery. The six-year-old Litishia, the daughter of the founder of Lawrence School, Sanawar, Sir Henry Lawrence, was buried in this cemetery. Sir Henry Lawrence built his cottage at Kasauli at a place from where he could easily see his daughter’s grave. The cottage, called Sunny Side Cottage, is the first house constructed in Kasauli. Sir Henry Lawrence and his wife Honoria were also buried in this cemetery. The design of tombs on graves has an artistic touch. Few structures are really rare due to their matchless architecture and unique creativity.

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SOS for Una
Kiran Deep

The district headquarters of Una needs a revised plan to tackle heavy vehicular traffic on the highway passing through here. Adding to this problem is rapidly growing construction activities on both sides of the state highway over the years, giving rise to felling of trees and leveling off of small hillocks in that process.

Right from the Punjab border to about 16 km stretch of the main road passing through Mehatpur town to Una, one can see construction activities coming up along both side of the highway besides other places.  After being established as an industrial town, Una has been attracting people from nearby areas, including people from Nangal in Punjab, to set up their business.

But Una, which got the district status in 1972, still lacks the basic amenities. 
A portion of the main road with a number of potholes, has become accident prone. In the absence of parking space in the main market a large number of vehicles are being parked in front of the shops on both sides of the highway. And it is not just vehicles, even the shopkeepers exhibit their products in front of the shops, encroaching the highway.

Things have become worst as three barricades have been placed on the road near the bus stand. Poor drainage system and garbage lying unattended can be seen everywhere.

The bus stand here is also wearing a deserted look, with a number of potholes and unhygienic conditions around it. Though the state roadways buses and also private buses operate from here, only one room is available for commuters.

Life becomes much tougher for the commuters during the monsoon.

The environment seems to be nobody’s business, as most of the hillocks have been leveled out to make way for houses and shops.

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Citizen First
An ultra-modern bus stand

AN ultra modern bus stand at Jwalamukhi was inaugurated by the Chief Minister, Sh.V.B.Singh, in March 2005. It was the need of the hour as the traffic hazard was causing problems owing to unprecedented increase in vehicular-number. But the complex is lacking in basic amenities. Darkness reigns at the dusk due to the poor electricity fittings. Swaying and swaggering loose wires are mostly seen hanging in the air. There is no proper seating arrangement, as the benches provided by the benevolent Nagar Panchayat are not fixed to one place and the shopkeepers are found dragging those benches as per their good will. Water supply is not adequate. A single and dry water tap is usually a place of turmoil. Toilets are emitting stinking stench.

Interestingly, at the time of inauguration there was meretricious ornamentation in the complex perhaps just to rise to the occasion. Concerned at the helm of affairs should think of the impression that goes to the visiting pilgrims and tourists. For good and all, this indifferent attitude of the Nagar Panchayat is shocking.

Ravi Datta, Kangra

I’d like to draw your attention towards the pitiable plight of the historical rental tank and garden, situated in the heart of the town a place of attraction for locals as well as tourists. This tank is in a complete neglect for years together, since it was built up by the erstwhile rulers of the state, handed over to the Municipal committee later for its maintenance but as time has passed, both the park and garden are in pitiable condition, especially the tank which is about 100 meters in length and 50 meters in width and about 5 meters in depth. This tank is full of mud, garbage, silt, broken pitchers and garbage etc, and has never been cleared and cleaned up since its inception about a hundred years back.

Suresh Joshi, Nahan Solan’s woes

Named after the goddess Shoolini, Solan once enjoyed the pride of place in HP some 10,000 people lived in this calm, quiet, serene small town in 1950. Today, it has a population nearing 40,000. Solan was surrounded by lush green trees, which have all fallen, thanks to illicit felling allowed by greedy forest officials. I urge the Solan MLA, Mr Rajeev Bindal, that he takes up the issue with HP CM Raja Virbhadra Singh, and helps his voters/outsiders who visit Solan.

— SS Jain

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