Restoration of Gaiety Theatre

Even the British, who wanted to demolish the entire structure and raise a new one, never got down to doing it. The project to revive past glory of the building is nearing completion, reports Pratibha Chauhan

It may not be back to the good old days when the likes of Balraj Sahney and Prithvi Raj Kapoor gave electrifying performances at Amateur Dramatics Club (ADC), but the erstwhile summer capital of the British could once again be home for theatrical performances by actors from England as well as the prestigious Prithvi Theatre.

Being funded wholly by the Union Ministry of Culture, the Gaiety Theatre Restoration and Conservation Project is almost nearing completion. The Departments of Languages, Art and Culture, PWD and INTACH are engaged in the comprehensive restoration work. The top three storeys of the building, erected by the British in 1887, were removed in 1913 as a precautionary measure after the great 1905 earthquake that rocked the region. The present Municipal Corporation building was made from the material, which was left over when the three storeys were removed.

It was in the early 1970s that Shashi Kapoor said that the Gothic style structure in the town, where his in-laws, the Kendells, and his wife, Jennifer, performed, should be done up and maintained. The project which Shashi Kapoor thought would be a tribute to the memory of his late wife with whom he performed here in the 1950s never took off and work on it could start much later after 1998.

There are many others like Shashi Kapoor and a large number of Englishmen who, for the sake of those nostalgic moments when their parents and grandparents performed here, would want the place to regain its lost glory with the staging of theatrical performances.

Interestingly, even the British, who wanted to demolish the entire Gaiety Theatre structure and raise a new one, never got down to doing it. Even though an architect, John Begg, who designed the GPO building in Mumbai, had prepared drawings and a detailed map for raising a new structure for the Amateur Dramatics Club (ADC), the project never took off.

As the British intended building a new complex, only a temporary tin roof was fixed after removing the top three floors. “It is this temporary roofing with an improper slope which caused immense damage to the structure as there was seepage from all sides, resulting in extensive damage to the building”, says Mr B. S. Malhans, convener of the Shimla chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Shimla during the British rule was known as the Mecca of amateur actors in the East and the ADC, probably the best equipped amateur club in the world. The ADC paid the municipality a sum of Rs 3,000 per annum for the use of the theatre. It is said that during its heydays, boxes in the gaiety fetched Rs 9,500 to 11,000 when sold by auction for the first and second nights of a play. The theatre at one point of time had three boxes for the great powers in Shimla, the Viceroy, Commander-in-Chief and the Lieutenant Governor.

However a period of wars followed, with which the fortunes of the club too ebbed. Later with the ADC being under the Punjab Government, there was some theatre but with the passage of time, the frequency reduced. Even though Hindi plays were staged from time to time, English theatre became a rarity. With the headquarters of the Western Command moving up here, there was revival of theatre to a great extent.

“The revival of the structure had to be in Gothic style and it was essential that the material used gelled well with it”, says Mr Ved Segan, a Mumbai- based architect who is deeply involved with the project. He says that no load has been put on the external wall and an inner concrete cage with steel rods has been made to provide additional strength for the new upper floor. 

Work was started to restore the century-old building after getting stability tests conducted and exhaustive research undertaken to ensure that there was no deviation from the original structure. A third storey has been added to the building where a town hall with a seating capacity of 500 has been made. “After removing 28 truckloads of junk from the area under the roof, we discovered that the wooden floor of the removed storey was in perfect condition and it was then that a decision was taken to have an additional floor”, says Mr Malhans.

A lot of thinking went into the kind of roofing to be used. Ultimately the choice fell on slate, 1.50 lakh of which has been brought from Khaniara in Dharamsala. With a lot of options, including some latest roofing techniques being discussed, it was decided to use slate, as it dampens the sound effect, which was essential even though insulation has been done for soundproofing.

The theatre has been left untouched and unaltered but the inside has to be painted and guilding work is yet to be done. “Very bad paint and POP work was done inside the theatre during the shooting of Gadar but that is being removed so that the original powder-blue gothic colour can be used on the walls”, says Mr Segan. He says a lot of work pertaining to the façade has to be done, so it may take some more time for the entire complex to be ready.

In order to stick to the old building material, no cement has been used as lime mortar has been put to use. Fine grained hard and nonporous sand stone has been used, all of which has been brought from the Barog area. It is essential that the stone has no iron content or else it starts rusting, setting in deterioration.

Though the top floors, where the town hall and the club will function, are ready but restoring the two lower floors could take some more time. The first floor will now have a proper green room, where artistes can rehearse and prepare for their performances and the card room alongside. The ground floor will be with the Department of Language, Art and Culture where a museum, gallery and library will be made.



Snow leopards kept in isolation

According to the norms, animals have to be kept in pairs as isolation causes complications, writes Rakesh Lohumi

Prized possession of the Wildlife Department, snow leopards in the Himalayan Nature Park at Kufri, have been kept in isolation in violation of the norms laid down by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

Sapna (six years) and Subhash (five years), two siblings, were brought from the Padmaja Naidu National Zoological Park, Darjeeling, under an exchange arrangement two years ago for pursuing a conservation-breeding programme. However, the two animals have been kept in isolation ever since and so far no effort has been made to find mates for them.

According to the guidelines of the CZA, animals have to be kept in pairs as isolation causes emotional stress, leading to behavioural changes and other complications.

Incidentally Rozy, a female snow leopard, had died mysteriously in the park five years ago even as the authorities were looking for a mate for her. The animal was found abandoned in the cold desert of Spiti as a cub.

Subsequently, questions were raised whether Kufri is climatically suitable for snow leopard, which is found in high-altitude areas along the perennial snowline. The animal is high on the list of endangered species. A team of experts, which probed the death of Rozy, found Kufri to be even more suitable than Darjeeling, which was warmer and much more humid. The fact that two animals have been hale and hearty and completed two years in Kufri without any problems has only confirmed the opinion of the experts.

The Padmja Naidu Park and the Himalayan Nature Park are the only ones in the country, which have snow leopards in captivity. As the animals at both places are from the same genetic stock, mates have to be brought from abroad to avoid inbreeding. There are a few centres in the USA where snow leopards are being bred under the conservation programme. The experts feel that the department should not only look for mates but also go for a regular breeding programme to replenish the dwindling reserves. The latest census shows that there are only 35 snow leopards in the state. Conservation-breeding programmes are being pursued in the USA and to save the endangered animal, which has been a target with poachers because of their brilliant thick coat. It is protected by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

However, a breeding programme is required for the Himalayan species. The total number of snow leopards has over the past three decades come down to about 500. With an ever-receding snowline, the number will continue to decline unless serious efforts to conserve the species are made. The state already has two high-altitude national parks where the snow leopards are found naturally.

A conservation-breeding programme will enable the department to repopulate the higher ranges of tribal Lahaul-Spiti, Chamba and Kulu, which are the natural habitat of snow leopard.



Hillside view
A bit beyond types and images
by Vepa Rao

Some notions about different groups of people may have some grains of truth. These stereotype images and impressions do have their genesis in observation over long periods of time. They were probably valid when such groups had a guarded exposure to external influences and followed inflexible norms in all walks of life. Marriages within communities ensured transmission of the traits through generations.

But many factors like education, greater mobility and freedom of the individual have been altering such “realities” of yore. So, we need to change our old perceptions and images of other groups. Broadening the mind’s horizon is central to all learning.

Above all, there is some ugliness in poking fun at, or making caustic comments about, another caste, creed, religion, etc. Those who discourage ethnic-type jokes deserve our respect. Sense of humour does not mean license to ridicule others and run down their weaknesses. You may make fun of greed, drunkenness, stinginess, stupidity, etc, but you don’t have to be destructive. Besides, ethnic-type humour fosters acrimony between communities—it does not break down barriers between them. Times have changed; people too have become very sensitive to such things.

Two months ago, I wrote about some stereotype perceptions of North Indians I gathered during my sojourn in the south. Interestingly, we find similar wrong notions about the south here also. Rural folk here are hardly aware of the striking contrasts between South India’s various segments. That it is not as homogenous as people on this side of the Vindhyas think.

The most common remark I have heard is that South Indians are “god-fearing”, honest, gentle and shareef. Crime records have a different tale to tell! A lady planning to visit Bangalore asked me whether thefts took place in trains there. She was shocked when I told her of the expertise grown there! The Southerners have also mastered the art of overcoming the “fear” through ritualistic devotion to god, and refined techniques of washing away the sins—to get ready for committing sins afresh! Just like their worthy counterparts in the country.

I have known passengers carrying heavy woollens in winter—and realising their futility after reaching Chennai. For many, a journey beyond Nagpur continues to be like going abroad.

Very few here know the sharp differences in the cultures of the four southern states—Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. And the fairly ferocious attitudes to each other in all matters! How they get at each other’s throats at the slightest provocation! There is unbelievable mistrust, jealousy and a strange incompatibility between the peoples of these states.

Their eating habits and preferences differ from each other as say, an Englishman’s and an American’s. Rice is the main common denominator. I once had a tough time while eating chapattis (made specially for me) at a wedding in my sister’s home there. Relatives gathered around me sympathetically asking about my “health problems”! Just like one is advised in the North to eat khichdi when he is unwell.

Similarly, people here think that the daily menu in the South consists of iddly, dosa, vada, and sambaar. Very few know that these are considered “tiffins” (snacks) there and not eaten daily. The main meals are like elsewhere—daal-chaaval, subji, etc, with great variations in the recipes.

Such differences are essentially skin-deep. Scratch an Indian—below the surface and you will find the same fears, complexes, beliefs and other circuits that power their thinking.

That’s why I was profoundly amused to read a recent report on a study by Leonard Rosenblum, professor of psychiatry, in New York. He has found South Indian monkeys more “cultured”, behaving “in a more civilised manner”. The Northern ones are more aggressive (in all aspects) and show a “heightened road-rage”. The learned professor stretches a bit too far by calling it a reflection on human behaviour in these regions. Sorry sir, you seem to have a fixation!

Come and see our Shimla monkeys. They are as gentle as you allow them to be. They bare their fangs when you tease them, or when you run into their gang wars. Thanks to tourists, they too are getting into an aggressive mould of late—still, they are much more civilised than monkeys in Delhi, Andhra, Tamil Nadu or wherever. Besides, our monkeys here are equally god-fearing or god-loving! All temples bear testimony to this.



Alarm bells against AIDS
Kuldeep Chauhan

The Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) in the northern region has sent alarm bells ringing as the increasing HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among them poses a serious threat to country’s most vulnerable 60 per cent young population.

Even the SAARC countries have joined hands to address this menace of the IDUs, treating it as a disease as a whole, not just its symptoms.

The HIV prevalence rate among youth has turned out to be the second highest among the IDUs in the country, more particularly in North and North-East, reveal sources.

The SAARC delegates, who attended the workshop, have sent recommendations through the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the member countries to evolve a joint strategy to nip the ‘HIV time-bomb among the IDUs in a bud’.

The increasing threat to the impressionable young is clear. The drugs for the IDUs continue to be made easily available by the drug cartels operating through its rag tag chain of drug peddlers entering from the western and eastern borders, reveal sources.

In Himachal the HP Police has launched a campaign to identify the IDUs in each town. But IDUs rehabilitation remains poor as there is no drug de-addiction and rehabilitation centre for them.

Trans-national problem

The trans-regional and trans-national dimension of the problem of IDUs also came to light at a recent SAARC workshop on drug abuse among IDUs and HIV/AIDS held at Malay in Maldives on November 22-23. The Indian officials from the Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) and the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and other SAARC delegates, including the officials from the UN (AIDS) and the UN Office of Drug and Crime, attended the two days workshop organised by the SAARC.

The IDUs have become a major problem as they not only indulge in crimes, but also pose a big social problem to the communities. The injectible drugs are easily availed by them from the chemist shops, which in turn are making brisk business.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune at Mandi, the Superintendent of National Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB), Mr O.P. Sharma, who represented India at the SAARC workshop said: “The IDUs have become the focus of the workshop. The IDUs must be treated as patients with the disease and then need rehabilitation before they contact AIDS through the infected syringes”.

Mr Sharma said the delegates gave their recommendations to the WHO, suggesting to that the IDUs be treated as a disease and there is need to amend the Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) in this regard to solve this problem.

The workshop decided that to check HIV the use of condoms should be promoted vigorously among the young to increase awareness about the deadly untreatable infection in the country.

Double victim

More worrisome trend is the IDUs are becoming the ‘double victims’ as they use infected syringes to inject the drugs and, in turn, they inject the HIV virus in them and fall into the police trap under the NDPS act. The HIV prevalence rate among IDUs is over 9 per cent after the HIV transmission through ‘unsafe sex’, which accounts for the 76.8 per cent, while the infected blood transfusion accounts for 7.9 per cent as per NACO figures.

On SAARC members’ recommendations to the UN, Mr Sharma said it was agreed that there was a need to “check supply of drugs and the demand for the drugs” for the IDUs by the law enforcement agencies, which needed more dedicated infrastructure and staff. “This can be achieved only through a joint SAARC strategy checking the drug cartels operating from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in the western borders and from the golden crescent countries in the East, he said”.



Shimla Diary
Sports meet in journo’s memory
Pratibha Chauhan

There couldn’t have been a better way of remembering a person who loved sports and remained part and parcel of all such activities that were held in the town during his lifetime.

It was for this very reason that the First Vikas Memorial Sports Meet, organised by the Shimla Journalists Sports and Welfare Association in memory of their Hindustan Times colleague, Vikas Panwar, was such a big draw. Cricket and badminton were a passion with him. He took out time from his busy working hours to play the sports.

Vikas, who was much liked and admired because of his affable nature and unprejudiced, objective reporting, passed away in a car accident near Kulu, early this year. Meant to be a tribute to the memory of a much-loved man, even the organisers had no clue that the event would turn out to be such a big success.

More than 90 persons participated in the two-day badminton competition. The date for filing entries had to be extended as people from journalism, marketing and circulation wanted to participate in the event. Mr Gian Thakur of the Dainik Tribune clinched the men’s singles and doubles title while Mrs Archana Phull of the Hindustan Times was the winner of the women’s singles title.

Encouraged by the tremendous response to the humble beginning made by a handful of colleagues, the organisers have decided to hold a North Zone Sports Meet from next year. It is only befitting to have the sports meet at a grand scale and pay tributes to the memory of a colleague who will always be remembered and missed.

Empowering disabled

Mr Ajai Srivastava, Chairman of the Himachal chapter of the Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, has been nominated as member of the Working Group on Empowering Disabled in the Planning Commission.

Mr Srivastava, who is convener of Ashadeep, a local NGO, is the lone person from Himachal to be nominated to the group. Ever since the creation of the Himachal chapter of the society, he has been taking up the cause of persons suffering from various disabilities at the government level.

Mr Srivastava said the high-level working group would be making recommendations with respect to planning, programmes, legislature and financial aspects related to disability. He said efforts would be made to find a solution to the problems faced by the disabled and other issues concerning them.

Writer-poet honoured

The Himachal Pradesh State Art, Culture and Language Akademi has decided to honour Dr Dinesh Singh with the Sahitya Akademi Award for creative writing in English for the year 2002.

The awards will be given to Dr Singh for his poetry book titled House Arrest. He is a bilingual writer-poet. A native of Dhami village near Shimla, he is currently posted as lecturer in English at Government College, Shimla, and edits Litcrit India, a literary journal in English.

Being a bilingual writer, Dr Singh has also received the Acharya Mahavir Prasad Diwedi Samman for Hindi poetry in 2004. His published works include nine poetry volumes in English, two poetry collections in Hindi, two books in literary criticism and eight research papers. His poems, reviews, articles and letters keep appearing in leading newspapers and magazines.



81-foot-long idol of Shiva
Kiran Deep

The 81-foot idol of Shiva in front of the exit gate of the Shiva temple at Kotla Kalna in Una district.
The 81-foot idol of Shiva in front of the exit gate of the Shiva temple at Kotla Kalna in Una district. — Photo by writer

Many tales of Hindu mythology can be heard from people here about worshipping of Shiva by the five Pandavas during their vanwas in Una district. Going by the belief of locals, at different places in the district and in nearby places, the Pandavas left behind Shivalingams they worshipped. Now devotees have constructed temples at these places, which are thronged by people on religious festivals. 

One such Shiva temple in the remote village of Kotla Kalna, about 4 km from the Una-Hamirpur road, has become a major centre of attraction for the devotees. The temple, which was visited by only locals is now thronged by pilgrims from distant places to get a glimpse of the 81-foot-long idol of Shiva here.

Experts from Rajasthan took three years to build this huge idol of Shiva with the help of locals. The idol has been erected in front of the exit gate of the temple. The concrete structure has been completed but it will be covered with copper metallic layers in the next few months. Priests said funds for the construction of the idol came from contributions by the devotees.

A Shivalingam exists here from ancient times. About 28 year ago, the temple got a face-lift. Recently a new structure for the temple was built and a shrine was also constructed for the devotees. Twenty experts from Rajasthan have been working for over three years and will require about six more months to complete the structure, said Rajinder Sharma and Ram Pal Sharma, followers of the temple.

With the persuasion of the head priest of the temple, Channa Nand, devotees had contributed various materials to be used for the construction of the idol. Seeing the flow of devotees to the temple, a local bus service was also started to the temple about four months ago.



Saffron cultivation catches up
Ashok Raina

Cultivation is fast catching up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh. Saffron cultivated in the Mediterranean countries is now being popularised in these dry temperate hills by the scientists of the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University, Palampur. These scientists are cultivating Saffron in the Sangla valley under the programme Technology Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture in H.P.

The Vice-Chancellor of CSK HPKV, Dr D.S. Rathore has said in India saffron cultivation remained mostly confined to Pampore, in the Kashmir valley at an altitude of 5, 300 feet from sea level and was introduced lately in Kishtwar in the Jammu region.

History of cultivation of saffron in the Kashmir valley dates back to 550 A.D. nearly 400 years earlier than its cultivation recorded in Spain by the Arabs around 961 A.D. It is also said saffron was brought to Kashmir from Persia. Dr Rathore said efforts were also being made to cultivate saffron in other parts of the country. It is being popularised in the dry temperate hills of Kinnaur and Lahaul besides in Pangi and Bharmaur tehsils of Chamba district.

Saffron is used principally for its colour and flavouring properties. Saffron is a source of a powerful yellow dye. It takes at least 4000 flowers to furnish an ounce of the natural dye.

Saffron is used principally in exotic dishes like in Spanish rice and French fish preparations. It is used for colouring butter, cheese, puddings and pastry confectionery, cooked rice and curries. Qazis used saffron for giving manuscripts gold highlight and the Greeks also used saffron as an important dye.

Dr Thakur says at the Sangla research station during the past few years the encouraging results of saffron production has made the scientists to bring a sizeable area under its cultivation in the tribal areas, in Chota and Bara Bangal areas of Kangra district besides in the high altitude areas of Mandi and Kullu districts of the state.

Dr Rathore said that a team of scientists headed by Dr K.S. Thakur visited Pampore and other areas of the Kashmir valley this year and got 15 quintals of ‘ good quality’ of saffron corms, which were sown in the research farm at Sangla. He said that in subsequent years field demonstration for the farmers would be carried out to make the crop a family affair. He said that the saffron crop has a potential to uplift the economy of the tribal farmers.



Crime shoots up, police inactive
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

The industrial activity in the twin industrial belt of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh-Parwanoo has pushed the crime graph up alarmingly. The presence of large number of migrant labourers from UP, Bihar and MP has made this belt prone to crime. Observations showed that over 80 per cent cases in Solan district are committed in this belt.

Earlier, crime in this belt meant petty theft, smuggling of liquor and other narcotic drugs and assault. But now serious cases like kidnapping, snatching of cash and even murder, have been recorded. Besides, accidents and traffic problem have emerged a major problem.

Ironically, the police force is understaffed and ill-equipped. It has three police stations—at Parwanoo, Barotiwala and Nalagarh. While, Barotiwala police station has one police chowki at Baddi, Nalagarh police station has two police posts at Jogon and Dabota. There were just about 100 personnel in these posts.

The area has 60 cops in the rank of constable. According to police officials, the area should have at least 50 more constables to maintain the law and order situation. At Parwanoo, there are 30 police personnel to keep a check on the law and order besides performing duties for VIPs passing through the Kalka-Shimla National Highway.

Usually the investigating officers have to remain busy in VIP duties. The police says the VIPs duty should not be given to police station staff.



Controversy continues at MCM DAV College
Ashok Raina

MCMDAV College at Kangra, known as the Swarsati temple, today is bogged down with controversy. The academic staff of the college has been sitting on dharna for the past fortnight, raising slogans against the DAV Management Committee
in Delhi.

The lecturers are demanding the merger of 50 per cent of ADA with their basic pay and the DAV management had been denying it. Mr D. R. Gupta, Director of the DAV Colleges, said the government freezed the grant-in-aid and the management was not having its own resources to accept the demand.

The agitating lecturers said the college had generated its own resources but despite that 50 per cent ADA is not merged with their basic pay.

The controversy started 14 months back with the teachers resorting to dharna during the vacant periods. They later abstained for one or two working periods. This further provoked the management, which moved the court through the Principal of the college seeking a direction of the court for the maintenance of the academic atmosphere of the college.

Mr B.L. Sharma, a retired SDO and a senior citizen, said the local managing committee had no interest in the college affairs. A member of the committee on the condition of anonymity said, “one of the members of the committee even did not know who is the acting principal of the college.”

Mr P. R. Agnihotri, a retired Executive Engineer, alleged that the Delhi DAV Management Committee keep such people in the local committee who either have no time or no interest in the college affairs. He said this was detrimental for the proper growth of the college.

The HPNGCLA, spearheading the agitation, said instead of bringing both sides on the negotiation table, there are people with vested interests who are interested in keeping the agitation going.

The DAV management committee has decided to move the court against state government decision of freezing the grant in aid and the HPNGCLA is apprehensive that this act may irk the government and may result in freezing the remaining, nearly Rs 1 crore, annual grant given to the college.

The DAV management committee had offered to have negotiations in Delhi and the HPNGCLA sought a date and time for the meeting. The agitating lecturers said they had no further communication in this regard except that they received court notices.

Local residents feel pained by the developments in this college and pray to the Goddess Bajjreshwari that this college comes out of this situation.



A Gaddi’s best friend
Vibhor Mohan

With very few quality kennels in most parts of the state, finding a pure breed dog is not easy.

Even though the sheer look of an Apso, a Tibetan lapdog, can instantly turn you into a dog-lover, finding a pure descendent of the beautiful breed is unlikely. And for those unwilling to accept a mixed breed, there is often little choice but to get a dog from a reliable breeder in Punjab.

The same goes for the coveted local watchdog, which is popular for guarding herds of sheep single-handedly and are traditionally considered ‘gaddi’ community’s best friend.

Dr K.C. Katoch, Senior Veterinary Officer at the Government Veterinary Hospital, Dharamsala, says with dog breeding not considered a lucrative vocation here, one can only stumble on a pure breeder by chance as the concept of expert breeding needs professional know-how.

Even though dogs are the favourite pet of Tibetans settled in McLeodganj, cases of random mating are common and the off-springs are often not of pure breed.

Mr Tenzin Namgyal, a part-time dog breeder in McLeodganj, says to set up a good kennel, one needs male and female dogs of at least 10 quality breeds, which requires an investment of over Rs 2 lakh, besides land.

“But with most people hesitant to loosen their purse strings for pets, neither can one find any dog training equipment or can take his dog to a training school in the area. The fact that regular dog shows are not held here is another disadvantage,” he says.

There is absolutely no practice of getting pets registered with the local authorities. Consequently, there are little chances of getting your dog back in case he strays away because it won’t have the owner’s name and address written on the collar.

Nevertheless, says Dr Katoch, the trend to have a good-looking dog playing around in the backyard is growing in Dharamsala, especially after setting up of 9 Corps in the Yol Cantonment.

“The defence personnel are known to be great dog lovers and with most of them bringing along dogs of good breeds, the trend is picking up and people are becoming aware of dog care,” he says.

Where a local watchdog needs continuous care, heavy diet and proper exercise, Apso dogs are not that demanding and only crave for continuous attention. One essential requirement, however, is cool temperature throughout the year.

But there are many Tibetan toy dogs or lapdogs, which are no longer seen in the area and only inter-bred versions are available.

Dog’s day out

At the out patient department of the Veterinary Clinic in Dharamsala, more than a dozen dogs are brought for treatment for common diseases every day. Many private clinics and dog accessories shops have also come up lately in the area.

The most common dog ailment in hills is infestation of worms and dogs need regular de-worming. Besides, cases of mineral deficiency and general malnutrition are also widespread.

“Even though dog are given rabies shots, there is still little awareness about general health and proper nutrition is still a low priority area. Calcium deficiency often leaves the dog with deformed legs,” says Dr Katoch.

Symptoms of respiratory disorder in dogs could be due to canine distemper, which is more prevalent among younger dogs. If not treated in time, it could leave incurable secondary disorders, wherein the body parts of the dog suddenly start trembling vigorously.

Watch that cough

These days, cases of bronchitis are on the rise among dogs. So, if you pet is continuously coughing, don’t take it lightly, it is usually the symptom of bronchitis and the dog needs to be treated with anti-allergics.

“Most dog-owners assume that the cough must be because of a bone or other foodstuff stuck in the dog’s throat, but it could be the indication of other ailments,” says the veterinarian.



Tourism project to be revived
Ambika Sharma

The hopes of the villagers of this nondescript hamlet of Sadhupul, en route the picturesque Chail, have again been revived with a recent announcement made by Tourism Minister G. S. Bali to restart a tourism project here.

The earlier project, conceived in 1999, had envisaged construction of an artificial lake and a Japanese bridge. Aiming to allure tourists by providing them with a picturesque site amidst a flowing brook, the project had been launched with much fanfare in 1999 by the then BJP government. Former BJP Chief Minister P. K. Dhumal had laid the foundation stone of this Rs 80 lakh artificial lake on December 21, 1999. It was proposed to be completed by the end of 2000. Covering an area of 13,275 square metres, the lake was expected to promote tourism.

The project, which was announced in haste, failed to get executed. Dashing hopes of villagers, the failure created an atmosphere of uncertainty. Hopeful of making a bargain, a few enthusiastic villagers set up hotels and restaurants at the site. This would have fetched them neat profits in case the project had taken off. About Rs 63.33 lakh, earmarked for the project, however, remained unutilised and it attracted audit objection in the annual report of the CAG in 2002.

A Tourist Cooperative Society was got registered to oversee the project. It was headed by SDM, Kandhaghat, tourism officials, Regional Engineering College, Hamirpur, the PWD as well as locals. Later an advisory committee comprising officials from the Horticulture, Agriculture and Tourism departments was formed to make the project viable. The site was got surveyed to work out the nitty-gritty of the project.

State geologist Arun Sharma said the department had conducted a feasibility study to assess the feasibility of constructing an artificial lake. The survey, conducted in 2000, however, considered the area unfit for this purpose. The report stated that since the downstream seepage was excessive and the disposition of the dam was not proper, the construction of the lake was not considered feasible. If the lake were constructed, it would escalate the cost of construction by several times. The area consists of thin bands of slates and pilates. A survey conducted by a Roorkee-based institute and the IPH Department substantiated this report. The proposal was eventually abandoned.

The next hurdle was encountered when a local resident, Mr Jagdish Raj, filed a Special Leave Petition in the state high court seeking acquisition of his entire 3.5 bighas of land. The project, however, only required 12 bighas of this private land while the rest of the land was government land.

The state high court, however, ordered a stay on any construction in the area on January 17, 1999. The court directed the Tourism Department, District Collector and the SDM, Kandhaghat, not to commence any construction without the permission of the court till the disposal of the writ. This further impeded any progress of the project.

A hotelier, Mr Pawan Thakur, who had invested as much as Rs 45 lakh on buying land and constructing a hotel at Sadhupul said, “I had invested here after former Chief Minister P. K. Dhumal laid the foundation stone of an artificial lake here. It is unfortunate that despite a budgetary provision, the project could not be completed.”

The place receives a fair flow of tourists during the peak summer season. A number of holiday revellers take a break at Sadhupul to enjoy the cool climes. The locals feel that if the Tourism Department provides a cafeteria and a park for the tourists to sit and unwind, it could allure the passersby to stop and spend some time here. They add that activities like boating for children or creation of an amusement park could brighten up the prospects of this place.

The Tourism Department had received fresh instructions from the minister, Mr G. S. Bali, to construct a picnic spot here. This would enable the locals to earn something from the tourist inflow. Mr Bali said whatever happened during the previous BJP regime was history but now it would be converted into a picnic spot. This would encourage the flow of tourists.



Rejuvenate yourself with yoga
Vibhor Mohan

To nurture a clear conscience what better place than the pristine environs of Dharamsala? And with yoga now being an in-thing world over, the meditation centres in McLeodganj, Dharamkot and Bhagsunag are thriving.

Come winter and most centres shift their branches in India and abroad. Impressive websites facilitate on-line registration for tourists and a batch is usually finalised well before the centres re-open in March.

But learning the ‘eastern feat’ of yoga is not all that easy. There are yoga and meditation centres, which have a long list of dos and don’ts and even require the trainees to stay on the campus during the period of the course. The code of conduct includes rules like abstaining intoxicants, sexual activity, sensual entertainment and bodily decoration and even telling lies.

Yogi Shivam of Siddhartha Yoga Centre in McLeodganj said what he teaches at his branch centres in England and Paris is quite different from the Indian version as it as more ‘mechanical’.

Those taking up the course in McLeodganj include foreigner tourists and even locals, he says.

Most yoga centres offer a variety of courses. For instance, the Ashtanga Hatha Yoga intensive course is for those who want to set up their own yoga centres back home. Ashtanga yoga is known to purify the body and soul by creating the right balance.

A course in Toga postures or asans is for general fitness and is the most preferred at most centres. Once you have learnt the postures, these can be practiced at home.

Then comes pranayama or the specialised technique of breathing, which, if mastered, can keep many ailments at bay. It uses breath control to release energy in the body.

The centres also have meditation courses, which help gain peace and clarity of consciousness by meeting one’s own self through the techniques of yoga.

And to give the foreigner tourists a peep into the rich cultural heritage, the yoga course cannot be over with an ayurvedic massage, which rejuvenates the body, revitalises the immune system and leaves you fresh to face the world.

Most yoga centres claim to put you through a process of self-purification by controlling the natural breath to concentrate the mind, leads to purification by realisation of truth.

Hemant, a local youth, says he joined a yoga course recently with his friend to develop a habit of waking up early and general health. “A good start to the day leads to a good day. Meditating for even a short while relaxes the body and prepares me to face the day,” he says.

“One reason why the period of stay of foreigners in Dharamsala is so long is because of their enrollment in these yoga and meditation centres,” he adds.

The owner of a yoga centre says foreigners mostly decide on joining a yoga centre considering the safety aspect. “The charges are not an issue with them. They want to stay in a place where they feel secure and are convinced that nobody would take advantage of them,” he says.

For tourists planning to join the yoga courses, the centres also offer lodging facility in the picturesque environs of Dhauladhar hills in McLeodganj, Bhagsunag and Dharamkot.



Storyteller sadhu
Kuldeep Chauhan

A sadhu turned scriptwriter of Geet Gaya Pathron Ne fame, Krishan Kumar Nutan, celebrated his 79th birthday in his hometown Mandi, last Wednesday. For readers of Hindi literature he needs no introduction.

Born in the family of freedom fighter late Khem Chand on November 29, 1928, he rebelled as a boy against the social evil of untouchability. He later took to spiritualism and turned a sadhu, but returned to become a writer.

Nutan then went to Bollywood in his quest to “raise awareness about burning issues of the times through the medium of films”. Unable to get along in the show biz world, he came back to Mandi, got married and devoted the rest of his life to writing books on different aspects of life.

He aspired to be a romantic rebel. Recalling how he became a rebel Nutan says, “In my early years I saw a poor untouchable boy of my age shivering in bitter cold outside the verandah of my house. His miserable condition changed me. I brought him inside, gave him food and a bed to sleep”.

But in turn he had to face the wrath of his family and relatives for doing what was forbidden at the time – an untouchable was not allowed inside a high-caste household.

“But I rebelled against this and left home in the 1940s in search of truth”, he says. He turned a sadhu and visited temples, shaktisthals spread all over India and studied religious texts, preached social equality, raised voice against the caste system and blind faith in rituals.

“No Harijan or Scheduled-Caste person was allowed to visit temples and high-caste or royal households. But my teachings had an impact as the then Raja Joginder Sen of the erstwhile Mandi state opened the doors for them after he became my disciple”, he recalls.

Nutan shot into fame when he migrated to Mumbai, not to seek a career in the film industry but to carry on with his campaign to oppose social evils through the medium of films. His story Geet Gaya Pathron Ne, taken from his book Yadgar, was made into a feature film by V Shantaram and made him famous in Bollywood.

“I worked with Prithvi Theatre, Gulzar, Bhishm Sahni, Ramanand Sagar, Anand Bakshi and other film-makers from 1949-57”, he says.

Defying his age Nutan, still works for a vernacular daily and leads an active life. He also supports his joint family. He is currently writing his autobiography.



Greening the cold desert
Kulwinder Sandhu

The highways, passing through the places of historic and tourist attraction in the Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh, today give one a pleasant surprise.

Once known as the ‘barren land’ of the cold-desert belt, the successful launching of a plantation drive along the major roads has given a green look to the highways.

The endless rows of plants dotted on the roadsides of all the highways has not only given a new look but also added to the scenic beauty and grandeur of the tribal belt that remains cut off from the rest of the country for more than six months in a year.

The thrust of this roadside plantation drive is on indigenous plants. More than 11,500 ‘posts’ of poplar, willow, deodar and other varieties of trees have already been planted. To begin with, the district administration thought it was proper to lay stress on the plantation of poplar and willow trees. Both varieties are fast growing with a high rate of survival in the cold desert area. Later, the species of deodar, rubunia and rose bushes were also introduced in the plantation drive that was finally extended to all three highways in the Lahaul valley.

These highways extend from Koksar to Keylong, Keylong to Darcha and from Tandi to mini-Manali, near Udaypur. The administration by involving the project implementing agencies and NGO’s carry out a massive plantation drive in the month of March every year for the past many years.

The departments of forest, agriculture, horticulture, irrigation and public health, public works and the district rural development agency were actively associated in this drive by the district administration, said Mr R Selvan, District Magistrate of Lahaul and Spiti.

Prior to the undertaking the plantation campaign, short duration awareness camps were also organised for the active participation of general public, including Mahila Mandals, Yuvak Mandals and watershed development teams.

Apart from making the barren roadsides of Lahaul valley green, it is also giving economic benefits to local farmers. Thousands of saplings of the trees used in the plantation drive were purchased at the rate of Rs 12 from the farmers.

The administration claims that utmost importance has been given to the after care of plantation of the saplings. Jute bags have been wrapped around the saplings to provide protection.

It is essential to protect the plants since the stray cattle are fond of the bark of willow, poplar etc. The watershed committees have been entrusted with the task of irrigating the plants at least once in a weak.

However, during acute scarcity of water, General Reserve Engineering Force authorities have promised to cater water to the plants.



Baddi is government’s pot of gold
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

The industrial boom in the Baddi belt has brought a sharp rise in government revenue receipts. Despite the fact that the Central and state governments have extended the exemption on Central and state taxes, mainly to attract new investment, the revenue receipts have shown a healthy upward trend. Set up in 1964-65, the Baddi industrial belt has made its mark on the international industrial map after 2003 when the Central Government announced an industrial package for the state.

This was followed by the state government’s various industrial incentives under a friendly industrial policy in 2004. Since January 2003, 7768 industrial investment proposals have been registered in the small, medium and large-scale sectors in the state, involving an investment of over Rs 21,250 crore.  Moreover, an investment of Rs 5000 crore has been envisaged in biotechnology over the next five years.

The Baddi belt has emerged as the main industrial corridor of the state, thanks to its proximity to Punjab and Haryana. The belt has witnessed huge investments in the pharmaceutical and real estate sectors. The revenue collection from the area has increased a number of times.

As per information available from the Industries Department, the annual turnover of industrial sector for the state was more than Rs 4,000 crores. Out of this about 40 per cent was contributed by Baddi belt. As per revenue records the sale of land and its value, increased due to industrialisation in the area resulting in the sharp increase in the stamp duty and land registration fees.

The stamp duty registered an increase of 115.23 times over the past decade. The export from the area has increased to more than Rs 517 crores over the past decade and more than 50 per cent of the share was contributed by Baddi area. The Central Excise collection has increased to more than Rs 500 crore over the past decade.





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