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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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Every Wednesday

Forest of Memories
One can now be part of the Shima green by planting a sapling of one’s choice. Now, anyone visiting the Queen of Hills can be part of the greening Shimla project by planting a tree in the memory of their beloved, reports Pratibha Chauhan

BONDING WITH LOVE: One can now be part of the Shima green by planting a sapling of one’s choice. — Photo by Anil Dayal

Army gets eco-friendly
The Army has speeded up the process of raising the battalion of an eco-task force especially for the development and conservation of depleted forests in Kinnaur district, particularly in the Sutlej basin. The base-camp of this battalion is likely to be set-up at Akpa, 15 km from the district headquarters of Kinnaur. The Commander of the 36-Sector of the Army says the bio-diversity of this tribal belt badly needed to be preserved.





EARLIER Editions


Face-to-face, online
Let’s get face-to-face, that too in the comfort of an air-conditioned room. Just book your nearest informatics centre for a multi-point interface and you’re on—videoconferencing with you colleagues or counterparts in any part of the state. The facility is changing the way progressive companies and government departments function.

Hillside view
She lives for others’ happiness
She is a natural for those in distress. Perhaps because of her simple, unaffected ways of looking at life and people. Also because of her instinctive feel for her chosen fields — psychology and social work. And, when Dr Kishwar Ahmad Shirali complains now (at the age of 70) that her knees don’t bend, I laugh. When did they ever bend? In my two decades of acquaintance, I have seen her flare up even at the mention of the word ‘compromise’.


LADY WITH THE MAGICAL TOUCH: Kishwar Ahmad Shirali. — Photo by Anil dayal 
LADY WITH THE MAGICAL TOUCH: Kishwar Ahmad Shirali.

 
Shimla Diary
Monsoon brings landslides
The “queen of hills” had normal monsoon after a gap of several years. However, it proved a little too much for the fragile hill slopes. There were numerous landslides, which brought down trees in clusters. The maximum number of trees fell along the Kennedy House–Annandale road, which is being widened. The vertical cutting of the thickly wooded hills had rendered the strata unstable as a result of which trees came down with every downpour.

MONSOON MISERY: This monsoon has taken its toll on the fragile hill slopes. — Photo by Anil Dayal
This monsoon has taken its toll on the fragile hill slopes.

Gugga fair: a living heritage of Subathu
A 15 km detour of from Dharampur on the Kalka-Shimla NH, takes you to the breathtaking Subathu located at height of 4500 kms. The traffic free serpentine roads beckon one to be overwhelmed by the craggy hills, deep gorges and the most verdant view of the beautiful mountains.

FESTIVE MOOD: The Gugga festival at Subathu attracted large crowds. — Photo by the writer
FESTIVE MOOD: The Gugga festival at Subathu attracted large crowds.

Himachal Framed
The Himachal Darshan Photo Gallery offers a collage of the state’s rich art and culture under one roof for art lovers as well as tourists. After nine years of its existence the gallery has emerged as a favourite haunt for tourists coming to this temple town.

Processing the forbidden fruit
Himachal Pradesh has indeed emerged as the apple bowl of the country but the state-owned HPMC, which was specifically set up for processing the fruit is in a bad shape. The corporation has been engaged in supply of farm inputs, procurement, grading and marketing of fruit, besides processing, all of which were profit-making activities, yet it has been perpetually in the red.

IN THE RED: The fruit processing industry in Himachal has been cutting a sorry figure. — Photo by Anil Dayal
The fruit processing industry in Himachal has been cutting a sorry figure.

Campaign against drugs
The Himachal Pradesh Government has provided test facilities for DNA under ND and PS Act at the state forensic laboratory Junga (Shimla). Chief Minister Vir Bhadra Singh made this announcement at the Chief Ministers’ conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. He added that laboratories would be set up at the range level in the first phase and all district headquarters will be covered with such facilities in the near future.




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Forest of Memories

Now, anyone visiting the Queen of Hills can be part of the greening Shimla project by planting a tree in the memory of their beloved, reports Pratibha Chauhan

One can now mark his visit to the ‘Queen of Hills’ by planting a tree in the Samriti Van (forest of memories) and have his name displayed on a plate with the date and the occasion, be it in memory of your parents, honeymoon trip or simply to foster a close bond between man and environment.

With the concept of planting a tree being considered a noble deed in, the Forest Department has created a Samriti Van in Jakhu area, which they intend extending through the town as more people come forward to plant a tree. About 50 trees, including deodar, chinar and fir, have already been planted by locals as well as foreigners.

Reduced rate

In order to popularise, the concept, the Forest Department has even reduced the charges from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,00 for planting a tree. The staff of the Forest Department takes good care of the plants, which have so far shown 100 per cent survival rate. While the Samriti Van has been protected by putting an interlinked chain fencing all around, an acrylic plate is placed next to the plant, mentioning the name of the planter, date and the occasion.

Some foreigners, especially from England have planted trees in memory of their parents and plan to come back a few years later to see how big the tree planted by them has grown. “To ensure that the tree is safe, a tree guard has been put around each plant, bearing the plate with the name of the person who has planted it,” informed Mr R.K. Raj, DFO, Shimla. He adds that a person who will plant a tree here will always have the charm to come back and see how big it is, creating an emotional bonding.

Plant a memory

He explains that the concept of a Samriti Van is based on the motto “Plant a tree towards a memory you wish to cherish and help us grow it”. The forest of memories will gradually be extended in the area between Jakhu and Kamna Devi, including the main parts of the town. The forest officials feel that the only way the depleting forests in and around the town can be saved and regenerated is through public participation.

It is not necessary that the planting of a tree has to mark an occasion, as it could be planted by children to make them realise the importance of trees and forests in our lives and the need for protecting them.

Variety counts

Once the trees are bigger a platform kind of structure will be raised around it and a bigger plate will be placed on it. “Our effort is to have as many varieties as possible and the choice of plant has been left on the individual,” explains Mr Raj. He says this is one of the several efforts being made to make the ‘Queen of Hills’ look greener, the way it was several decades ago.

The project is also aimed at giving a boost to tourism as large number of British tourists come here looking for the graves, houses or some place of connection where their forefathers lived and died.

“Some of the British tourists who have planted trees in the Samriti Van in memory of their grandparents or parents who worked here during the British rule feel that this is the best way of remembering their forefathers and moreover, they will have a reason to comeback here whenever possible to see the tree planted by them grow tall and big,” say forest officials.

 

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Army gets eco-friendly
Kulwinder Sandhu

The Army has speeded up the process of raising the battalion of an eco-task force especially for the development and conservation of depleted forests in Kinnaur district, particularly in the Sutlej basin. The base-camp of this battalion is likely to be set-up at Akpa, 15 km from the district headquarters of Kinnaur.

The Commander of the 36-Sector of the Army says the bio-diversity of this tribal belt badly needed to be preserved. While appealing to the local people to come forward and join this eco-task force, he said that it was an excellent opportunity for the deserving ex-servicemen to come back on duty and work for their native land.

The army has already begun the recruitment process for the eco-task force and efforts were on to attract more and more local people desiring to serve for their native place.

The recurring flash floods in Sutlej, its tributaries and the ongoing development works had badly affected the forest cover in Kinnaur, which is vanishing day-by-day. In the absence of adequate manpower, the state forest department was finding it difficult to manage the deteriorating situation.

A specialised agency for the conservation and development of forests in the area was the need of the hour, feels Colonel ML Kom, Officer Commanding of the 68 RCC of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), who has for the past many years been entrusted with the task of maintaining the Hindustan-Tibet road from Wangtoo to Kaurik, the last village on Indo-Tibet border.

Since, the Hindustan-Tibet road is the lifeline of the tribal people of Kinnaur and Spiti valley, keeping it through for traffic throughout the year is the basic requirement of the area. Colonel Kom says there is a need to launch a plantation drive of forest species along the Hindustan-Tibet road in a phased manner because it will help a lot in saving the road from landslides, avalanches, flash-floods etc.

The Army’s initiative to raise the eco-task force will also help in a long way to prevent soil erosion by the waters of Sutlej, its tributaries and various nullahs feeding the mighty river.

For the past many years, it has been observed that the cloudbursts, soil erosion by Sutlej, its tributaries and hundreds of nullahs feeding the river has eroded away thousands and thousands of trees from their catchments but the state Forest Department could hardly do anything due to the lack of expertise in the vulnerable areas and manpower.

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Face-to-face, online
Vibhor Mohan

Let’s get face-to-face, that too in the comfort of an air-conditioned room. Just book your nearest informatics centre for a multi-point interface and you’re on—videoconferencing with you colleagues or counterparts in any part of the state. The facility is changing the way progressive companies and government departments function.

While many government departments have been holding regular review meetings through videoconferencing of the National Informatics Department (NIC), private organisations have also found a cost-effective way of getting to contacts in remote parts of the state, without going through the nightmare of unending journeys on the winding hilly roads.

Mr Bhupinder Pathak, District Informatics Officer, said ever since a high-speed networking system was introduced last year, many private companies have also shown interest in using the videoconferencing facility. “This is probably the best way for government departments to hold review meetings and disseminate information to the officials posted in the far-flung tribal areas,” he says.

The facility enables several sites to participate in a live conference with audio-video and document sharing. Multipoint Conference Server (MCS) is the central point of connectivity for endpoints. It provides different networks with varied bandwidths and types of endpoints to communicate effectively. MCS supports both Voice Activated and Chairman Control mode of conferencing. NIC also supports international connectivity using public ISDN network.

“A videoconferencing meeting is normally brief and to the point as compared to a face-to-face meeting. Benefits available to business through ability to meet and work with others, over a distance, are extensive. It enables top management to communicate quickly and effectively with employees sitting at multiple locations. Videoconferencing helps to reduce travel costs, improves use of executive time and speeds up decision-making,” says Mr Pathak.

The facility is available at the NICs at 16 places in the state. Online bookings can also be made by private parties and the charges for using this videoconferencing facility are 3,3367 per hour (including both sites) for a point-to-point meeting, besides some additional costs.

Videoconferencing can also be used for virtual project management by getting together geographically dispersed colleagues at short notices. It provides an effective way of delivering cost-efficient training to individuals without the need to constantly travel to central locations. In order to bring about more understanding about the service, NIC is putting a lot of efforts in educating users to see videoconferencing as an alternative to conventional meeting, he adds.

The network used for NIC’s videoconferencing services is a SCPC VSAT link operating at 128 kbps from each of the 490 locations. All locations are connected to Delhi in a star configuration. NIC is also providing videoconferencing services from many Central and state government ministries using ISDN lines. LAN/WAN Gateway is also installed in NIC’s network to transcode between the H.323 environment over LAN and H.320 environment over WAN. NIC has been providing videoconferencing services in the country since April 1995.

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Hillside view
She lives for others’ happiness
by Vepa Rao

She is a natural for those in distress. Perhaps because of her simple, unaffected ways of looking at life and people. Also because of her instinctive feel for her chosen fields— psychology and social work.

And, when Dr Kishwar Ahmad Shirali complains now (at the age of 70) that her knees don’t bend, I laugh. When did they ever bend? In my two decades of acquaintance, I have seen her flare up even at the mention of the word ‘compromise’. She speaks her mind, has no inhibitions about what people say, and continues to fight and live for others’ happiness.

Dr Shirali came to Himachal 25 years ago. She lived in a mud-house in Ghanahatti, near Shimla while teaching at the university, and set up an NGO mainly for looking after emotionally disturbed women. “We merely helped them to recharge their batteries so that they could feel normal and go back to their families.”

There was no ‘formal therapy’. Disturbed women came, worked and at times lived in her abode, well, just like that! They shared the household chores with other member of her family. “It’s important not to make them feel like patients. They were free to do whatever they were good at, or learn any other work. Embroidery, gardening, any thing they felt like. A little genuine appreciation would put them back on the road to recovery, self-respect and confidence. Keep the focus on their strong points—that’s the mantra “.

Once, a twice-widowed woman (thrown out of her house) with T.B. was brought to Dr Shirali from Solan district. She would go up a tree and refuse to come down. There was no expression on her face. Her only link with the outside world was with her 8-year-old son— she wouldn’t even let him go out of her sight. It was a ‘symbiotic relationship’.

She stayed at Dr Shirali’s home for 14 months. On the first day she threw out half the food given to her. The mental health activist asked her to cook for herself and gave ‘full autonomy to choose the menu and do whatever she liked’. Slowly, the patient came around, with the first smile appearing on her face after living as an equal in that appreciative, confidence-building atmosphere. She was encouraged to do odd jobs and household work for the villagers and earn for her son. Widow pension was obtained from the state government. She was ‘gently helped to recover her self-esteem’, on the way to normalisation.

Apart from an active association with the state’s literacy movement, Shirali popularised many social causes through street plays in several districts of Himachal.

She now lives in a mud-house in Rakkar village (VPO Sidhbari, near Dharamsala), actively helping Nishtha, an NGO promoting self-reliance among people. Nishtha also runs many effective programmes related to health, environment and education.

The modest Dr Shirali feels ‘somewhat embarrassed’ to be among 100 women in India whose names have been forwarded by a women’s group in Geneva for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has been visiting the strife-torn Kashmir regularly to help and counsel the victims of the unfortunate circumstances there. She does Vipasana meditation too unfailingly.

Kishwar Shirali had her share of woes and setbacks in life, which might have mowed down any male or female without her indomitable spirit. Her unaffected manner and those peels of laughter continue to boost others’ confidence.

You burn, they fiddle!

It’s annoying to see guests and visitors fiddling with small, handy objects at your home or office. Glass paperweights on tables are the most favoured of the lot. Next come ballpoint pens, scissors, hard cover books, staplers and small punching machines in that order. In my observation, round objects score heavily over square ones—probably because it’s easy to twirl or spin them. And how hateful to see someone turning the pencil or pen on your table blissfully in his ears!

At home, the TV remotes attract the most, followed by torch-lights. Guests love surfing the channels even if disinterestedly! The worst is when they play with the torch-light, pushing the switch up and down rapidly. Some itching fingers maul the computer key-boards too.

There is this gentleman, an occasional visitor, who fiddles with the edges of quilts — you can’t put them out of sight easily in Shimla’s changing clime. Another worthy spins the steel katoris and tumblers in my kitchen noisily.

Children? God, those doting mammas feebly admonishing (in cho chweet, syrupy voices) the kiddos fiddling with or dropping your precious little gadgets! Meanwhile, the scolding dads set off the kids’ roof-shattering wails. The hosts may grind their molar teeth inwards; but continue grinning, mumbling polite stuff like koi nai ji, aakhir bachche hain!

The most repulsive of all habits commanded the stage till a few years ago. Fingers digging into nostrils, ears, or scratching invisible body-parts and surreptitiously wiping on the undersides of your tables, chairs… They would surface to shake hands, handle your papers and even foodstuffs… eek ! Mercifully, this habit has receded from the public view in recent years— though god knows if it is flourishing in private!

After suffering much loss and nuisance, I have put a gentle ban of sorts on house-guests with children below 10 years. I also hide away things that usually attract fiddlers’ eyes and itching fingers.

They all mind badly when you tell them not to do such things, or show politely where the washroom is! So you sit there burning with irritation, while your guests fiddle merrily. Any solution? 

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Shimla Diary
Monsoon brings landslides
Rakesh Lohumi

The “queen of hills” had normal monsoon after a gap of several years. However, it proved a little too much for the fragile hill slopes. There were numerous landslides, which brought down trees in clusters. The maximum number of trees fell along the Kennedy House–Annandale road, which is being widened. The vertical cutting of the thickly wooded hills had rendered the strata unstable as a result of which trees came down with every downpour.

A portion of the Ridge, which has the underground storage tanks of the Shimla Water Supply Scheme, also started sinking causing concern to the municipal authorities. Not far away the hill on which the Grand Hotel is located has also started sinking. A large stretch of the Kalibari Temple road has already sunk a few feet and the sliding hills is now posing a threat to the buildings of the hotel.

Bizarre bazar

Nowadays it takes quite an effort to pass through the congested Lower Bazar, the main market of the sate capital. The narrow winding street in the heart of the city has always been a crowded place. However, the situation has become worse with shopkeepers using a good part of the road for displaying their wares. Any open space still left is readily occupied unauthorised vendors. They could be seen selling vegetables and fruit right next to garbage dumps. They not only add to the congestion but also play with the health of the people.

One has to jostle through hoards of people amidst constant din created by vendors shouting at the top of their voice. The market has not only become a crowded but also an irritatingly noisy place. The municipal authorities have issued only 163 “teh bazari” permits but the actual number of vendors is manifold. Occasionally, drives are carried out to remove unauthorised vendors but that hardly makes a difference.

Mercifully, the municipal authorities have so far not implemented the national policy for street vendors as per which their number could be up to two per cent of the population. The permissible number of street vendors could go upto 3,000 if the policy is implemented.

Updated directory

The official government telephone directory has not been published this year so far. Normally the updated version is brought out at the start of the year. The general administration department is still in the process of compiling the updated telephone numbers from various departments. With less than four months to go it is already too late will print the directory.

Mr V.C. Pharka, Principal Secretary, General Administration, says that the directory could not be published as several of the departments failed to send the updated lists of telephone numbers. The department has, however, did print the government dairy, which carried all the important telephone numbers. Further, an updated list of telephone numbers of the state secretariat had also been published.

The government diary is no substitute for telephone directory, which not only has all the telephone numbers of various departments and public sector undertakings of the entire state but also includes important number of Central government offices and banks. One hopes that the department will carry out the exercise for updating the information in a time bound manner and come out with the directory well in time.

Sinking shop

At last the local municipal corporation has decided to remove the encroachments on the busy Rivoli road, which have been virtually reduced to a footpath. As per the proposal sent to government the Tibetan market will not be shifted but relocated on the hillside. The shops, which at present cover three-fourths of the road width will be pushed back a few feet beyond the side drain to ensure that it became wide enough for plying ambulance and other light vehicles.

The shops will be constructed in two blocks to accommodate the 150 odd Tibetan and local vendors. Since the area falls on the sinking zone, light structures will be constructed. 

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Gugga fair: a living heritage of Subathu
Madan Gupta ‘ Spatu’

A 15 km detour of from Dharampur on the Kalka-Shimla NH, takes you to the breathtaking Subathu located at height of 4500 kms. The traffic free serpentine roads beckon one to be overwhelmed by the craggy hills, deep gorges and the most verdant view of the beautiful mountains. Adding to the hill charm is the humble tea and pakoras available on the road-side dhabas or have the four star comforts in the newly built Victoria Continental Inn to ease your tired limbs.

Subathu is the oldest town believed to have been in existence since the era of the Pandava’s and the name has been derived from King Subahu, whose name figures in the Mahabharata. It has been a cantonment since 1815, when Briton captured it from Gurkhas and the then Viceroy too stayed here in the Vice Regal Lodge much before Shimla was discovered by Captain Kennedy operating from here. Presently, it houses 14-Gurkha Training Centre, since 1960. The most salient feature of this hill town is that its identity has not been botched by a tourist destination image.

The only Gugga Navmi fair in Himachal has been organised here annually for the past three centuries at par with Kullu, Lavi and Nalwari fairs   at Subathu. It is unique in celebrations as the festivity continues for three nights and three days without a break.

The festival still maintains its heritage reflecting the culture, tradition and ethos of Himachal. Nearly 60,000 devotees from different states paid obeisance during the celebrations.

The one and half kilometer bazaar of Subathu is decorated with different stalls for the local devotees to offer prasad on every nook and corner.

The old residents either settled abroad or posted any where in Army may miss Diwali but try to reach the town on Gugga fair. The traditional garam jalebis and pakoras run out of stock despite 1000 temporary stalls or local halwais.

The fair attracts “Chari” of Gugga Peer from UP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, besides several places of Himachal accompanied by the devotees who come singing in praise of the deity of Bagar (Rajasthan) who fought against invaders during eleventh century.

The farmers offer first agricultural produce like fresh makki, vegetables and fruits to the deity before selling it in the market.

This  Gugga Mari was built by local residents after bringing a brick from Bagar. To fix the location of the existing temple, the brick was tied around the neck of a goat believed to have some supernatural powers and it was supposed to guide the followers to the sacred spot. The ‘mari’ was constructed at the lower bazaar of the then strategic place before the Gurkhas captured Subathu in seventeenth century.

Families having slightest link with Subathu throng from different corners of the world in order to pay obeisance to Gugga Chauhan Jaharpeer.

The three day nonstop fair has not yet lost its cultural heritage of holding Karyala, an open air folk theatre and such is its appeal that it continues till the wee hours and the theatre lovers remain glued even in the age of television.

 Thodo, a game of bow and arrow of Mahabharta era and the recitation of Gugga songs besides exhibitions of folk art, folk songs continue till dawn. It is not an allegory but a fact that none has died here due to snake bite during the past three centuries the devotees believe because of Gugga.

The residents have demanded Gugga Fair of Subathu   to be declared as state fair. Its an absolute must for the lovers of the Himachali culture.

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Himachal Framed
Kuldeep Chauhan

The photo gallery at Bindrabani showcases the rich art and culture of Himachal Pradesh.
ART & SOUL: The photo gallery at Bindrabani showcases the rich art and culture of Himachal Pradesh. — Photo by Chaman Sharma 

The Himachal Darshan Photo Gallery offers a collage of the state’s rich art and culture under one roof for art lovers as well as tourists. After nine years of its existence the gallery has emerged as a favourite haunt for tourists coming to this temple town.

Located on the Mandi-Kullu National Highway-21 at Bindrabani in the town, the Photo gallery showcases pictures taken by the camera. Photo gallery gives a peep into Himachal’s art and beauty, temples, festivals, melas, traditions, history, folk arts, dramas, dresses, life of people and other aspects of life in the hills.

Drop in and the visitor is taken to the world of sheer beauty of the temples, gompas, highland spots, gurgling streams, rippling rivers, snowbound passes, snow-clad mountains, lush green jungles and meandering meadows all unfolding as a feast for the eyes.

If the visitors’ book at the gallery is anything to go by then photo gallery is valued as a good collection of hard artwork. More than 1.5 lakh visitors have visited the gallery and many have showered praise on the rich and varied collection of pictures taken by the lensmen. Film directors like Vidhu Vinod Chopra and lensmen from the region have visited the gallery over the years and praised the collection. 

The photo gallery finds a mention in the Directory of Museums 2003. It showcases over 500 photographs. The photo gallery is run by Puratatva Chetna Sangh, Mandi and was founded by Birbal Sharma, who began as a small time photographer. He is currently working with a vernacular daily in Mandi. Birbal Sharma says, ‘It is a successful venture. Over 1.5 lakh visitors have visited the gallery in its 9 years of existence. We are increasing the collection by 2 times next year’.

The photo gallery has added an antique collection of photographs dating back to the British time. ‘We will showcase the picture side by side with the current picture on the same theme. This includes the picture of Prashar lake taken 50 years ago and how it looks now from the same angle” says Birbal.

Sharma says that they have added a library and a museum of art and craft that will make it a complete art centre for the researchers as well.

Critics may charge the lensmen of flat photography, but visitors here laud the efforts put in by them in going from place to place, taking pictures from different angles.

Entry to the gallery is free of cost for the visitors. “We will honour the artists working in the field of art in the state when we celebrate 10 years of the gallery”, says Sharma.

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Processing the forbidden fruit
Rakesh Lohumi

Himachal Pradesh has indeed emerged as the apple bowl of the country but the state-owned HPMC, which was specifically set up for processing the fruit is in a bad shape. The corporation has been engaged in supply of farm inputs, procurement, grading and marketing of fruit, besides processing, all of which were profit-making activities, yet it has been perpetually in the red. The accumulated loss has crossed Rs 30 crore and its outstanding liabilities have reached Rs 8 crore. Inadequate procurement of apple under the market intervention scheme (MIS) during the current season will cause further losses.

The corporation has a capacity of processing 18,000 tonne of apple but so far only 1,800 tonne of apple has been procured which will produce about 180 tonne of juice concentrate. As the state has a lean crop this year, the corporation is not likely to achieve the target of producing 1000 tonne of juice concentrate and increasing the annual turnover from lat year’s Rs 42 crore to Rs 55 crore.

The government has directed the HIMFED, which also procures fruit under the MIS, not to sell fruit in market and make it available to the HPMC for processing. The step has improved the situation and the corporation was now getting about 12 to 14 trucks of fruit daily, however, with just a month left for the harvesting season to be over, the corporation will be able to procure about 3,000 to 3,500 tonne of fruit only. Mr C.R.B. Lalit, Managing Director of the corporation, says that after the harvesting season ends in the state the corporation will procure fruit from Jammu and Kashmir.

Last year too 1,000 tonne was procured from the state to meet the shortfall. However, in any case the total production is not likely to exceed 500 tonne.

How precarious the financial position of the corporation has become could be judged from the fact it owed over Rs 8 crore to growers and suppliers. Its turnover has been hovering around Rs 40 crore and the efforts to increase the sale of its processed products had not yielded results as its overall sales have been declining due to the withdrawal of subsidies on apple cartons and other farm inputs which it had been supplying to growers.

Like most government organisations the HPMC has been lacking professionalism and work culture. It never really functioned as a commercial undertaking all these years. It is overstaffed but still did not have right kind of manpower. In a bid to curtail losses it recently decided to lease out 10 grading and packaging centres to the private sector. The grading centres at Reckong Peo and Jarol Tikker have been taken by the Adani Group and ITC, respectively, on eleven-month lease on a trial basis.

There is now a talk of disinvestment and some big houses like the Reliance Group have shown interest. The Union Minster for Commerce, Mr Jairam Ramesh, during his visit to the state expressed concern over the mounting losses of the HPMC and asked the government to ponder over why it had failed to establish itself as a brand in the country. He had also stressed that disinvestment would be worthwhile only if the government agreed to part with 51 per cent share so that the private company could control the management. 

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Campaign against drugs

The Himachal Pradesh Government has provided test facilities for DNA under ND and PS Act at the state forensic laboratory Junga (Shimla). Chief Minister Vir Bhadra Singh made this announcement at the Chief Ministers’ conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. He added that laboratories would be set up at the range level in the first phase and all district headquarters will be covered with such facilities in the near future.

The Chief Minister also said that illicit drug production and trade had become a major problem in five districts of the state due to the huge influx of foreign tourists. He added that the state in co-ordination with the Central Narcotics Control Bureau had already destroyed cannabis plants in 5,384 bighas of land during 2005 and 242 cases under the ND and PS Act. Some 260 kg of charas and 12 kg of opium was recovered. He said that strict vigil was being maintained on the migrant labour who were smuggling in narcotics. While pleading for adopting multi-pronged strategy in affected areas, the CM advised the Centre to accord high priority to provide relief and development schemes in the drug-affected areas of the state. — TNS

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