A quivering haze covered the morning sky. The pale winter sun brought no warmth. Columns of smoke rose into sky from the chimneys perched atop slanting tin roofs as residents kindled coal fires early in the day to fight cold. In the evenings there was a spate of crackling bonfires with people wrapped in heavy woollens huddled around. And when it snowed “icicles”, a magical creation of nature, hung majestically from the snow-covered roofs. The taps remained dry for days together as water pipes froze.
This was typical of winter in the “queen of hills” until two decades ago. All that has changed since. The winter is no longer as severe and its duration, too, has shortened. The sun shines brightly over the hills even as the adjoining plains are enveloped by thick fog. The smoke-belching chimneys are a thing of past. The fireplaces have fallen in disuse and even dismantled in many houses. Thanks to the changing climate and the efforts of the state Pollution Control Board to check smoke emissions. The bonfires are seen only on the festival of Lohri.
However, the most striking evidence of the changing microclimate comes from the total disappearance of the “icicles”, which lent a unique charm to the snow-scape. The cone-shaped glassy tapering spikes are formed due to freezing of dripping snow-melt. This happens only when the mercury dips sufficiently below the freezing point and for a considerable period of time. With average minimum temperature remaining on the higher side, such conditions are not created any more. Thus, it is hardly surprising that the phenomenon is no longer visible.
Until the late 1970s, winter used to be quite long and harsh and made life difficult. The residents got prepared for the annual ordeal well in advance. They stocked coal, ration and other essential items by mid-November as snow could come anytime thereafter. A good snowfall early in the season normalised life and the town was cut off from rest of the country. It took weeks to clear the roads and frequent spells of snow ensured that the region remained under snow most of the time. The administration also geared up to handle the winter, which added to the woes of the residents. In fact, the British rulers had framed a snow-manual to keep the life going during the prolonged winter. The precautionary measures were clearly spelt out in the manual and the disaster management plan was always in place.
Monkeys migrated from mount Jakhoo to the lower areas of the town to avoid starvation. The children took out sledges from the stores at the sight of first clouds in November and eagerly waited for snowfall. While the elite thronged the ice-skating rink, the common residents enjoyed sledging on the snow-covered streets and roads. It was the favourite winter past time in the hill station. It hardly snows these days and even if the weather god obliges, the white sheet melts away quickly. A white Christmas or a white New Year, which was the norm earlier, invariably eludes the queen of hills these days.
The temperature remained below freezing point for days together and in the 1960s it even plunged to minus 13 degree Celsius. The sun-shadowed parts of the town remained under snow till the end of March. Asia’s oldest natural ice skating rink kept humming with activity for almost four months. Nowadays only 60 to 80 sessions take place during a normal season and at times the number did not cross even 20. Three decades ago 120 to 150 sessions were possible.
The winter vacations in schools and colleges extended almost up to one hundred days and a majority of the residents shifted to plains to escape the ordeal. The duration of vacations has been reduced to half and the residents no longer feel the need to move to the warmer plains. The nearby tourist resort of Kufri, near here, which regularly hosted national winter games has ceased to be a venue because of irregular and inadequate snow.
Glaciers have been meting and the snowline across the Himalayas due to global warming. However, indiscriminate felling of trees and unregulated construction activity, which has virtually transformed the lush green slopes into a concrete jungle, are also greatly responsible for the undesirable changes in the microclimate.
The Forest Department is making an attempt to restore the old-British time walking trails in and around Shimla, reports Pratibha Chauahan
Providing a peek into the town’s remarkable history, the British time walking trails in and around Shimla, which came up as a colonial settlement between seven compact hills, will be refurbished by the Forest Department.
In its effort to restore the lost glory of the ‘Queen of Hills’ the department will restore these old-time trails, which make interesting heritage walks. Along with this, the department will create a habitat congenial for breeding of pheasants in the forests around the town, where some of the species can be occasionally spotted.
Restoring the old-time trails is aimed at providing the tourists some quiet moments in the erstwhile summer capital of the British, which remained the seat of power for several years. These trails are located in and around the seven hills of Shimla—Prospect Hill where the Kamna Devi temple is located, Summer Hill, Observatory Hill where the Indian Institute of Advanced Study is, Mount Pleasant, where the State Museum is located, Bantony (Grand Hotel), Jakhoo where the Hanuman temple is located and Elysium, atop which Auckland House School is.
Some of the most popular and old British time trails are located around Glen, Annadale, Craignanao, Boileauganj to Prospect Hill, Five Benches in Jakhoo and around the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
The Shimla Forest Division, which has already received a grant of Rs 10.46 lakh from the 12th Finance Commission will be undertaking the task of creating 5.5 kms of walking trail for those keen on a quiet walk through the deodar forests. Some of the old British time walking trails, which formed the lifeline of the town, will be revived so that tourists can enjoy the solitude of a hill station amidst nature.
Besides enjoying the excellent walks, one can also be fortunate enough to spot the birds and animals found only in the solitude of the jungles. Deep down in the valley one can spot a pheasant, black partridge, yellow-throated martens, hen harriers, barking deer and rarely a leopard or a fox.
To encourage pheasant breeding, the Forest Department intends creating nesting space, feeding and reduce human interference in some of he forests where certain species of pheasants are already there. The forests around Annadale and Glen have a fairly large population of Kalij pheasant and in certain places one can also spot a Chakor.
There are seven species of pheasants, with most of them falling in the highly endangered schedule-I of the Wild Life Protection Act. These seven species include Red Jungle Fowl, Monal, Western Tragopan, Koklas, Chir, kalij and Chakor. “By reducing public interference and creating a natural habitat for the pheasants, we will automatically help in their breeding which will be an added attraction for wild life lovers visiting the town,” said Mr R.K. Raj, DFO, Shimla.
The department has already started creating van vihars at different places in the town. Some of the sites where a vihar will be created include one on the Kali Bari-Grand Hotel road, near Chalet Day School, St Bede’s College and another en route to Annadale.
The forest officials said work on creating van vihars and walking trails would be completed before the onset of the tourist season in April next year. They said the thrust now is to create more urban forests and increase the catchment area so that the green cover and forest for which Shimla is known can be protected.
Bishan Dass was a young man in late twenties when he came to Shimla from Una. He took to the profession of door-to-door newspaper vending. He could manage his Spartan living with the little income that he got from distributing papers and had established his own beat of the Lower and Middle Bazaars and the Mall Road.
He recalled that there were only a few established newspapers till 15 years back and to carry those neatly folded in his arm for distribution was not a tough task and that The Tribune was in great demand in those days and still was the first choice of the pick of the town.
When his legs started feeling the fatigue walking up and down the hilly tracts, he preferred to sit and sell newspapers. Lately at the age of 75, the window slab of The Gaiety was his open-air kiosk. He narrated the story of his wife who had got ill about two decades back when he got her admitted to the Government hospital where she died one morning.
Bishan Dass had two options before him, either to carry the mortal remains of his wife to the cremation ground immediately or to distribute the newspapers to the waiting customers and then perform the rites. Like a true karmyogi he decided to distribute the papers first.
He, who had served the people of Shimla town for such long time and with such spirit, would have left Shimla unnoticed had the district administration and the Language and Culture Department not joined hands to present him a pahari cap, a shawl and a few nickels with lots of good words in a short and sweet function held within the premises of the Collectorate. He has returned to his ancestral village in Una, claiming that he was happy that people of Shimla had remembered the services that he had rendered in the past 45 years and that had he served in a bigger town not in the hills, he would have gone back “unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.”
Folk theatre with the advent of television is a forgotten art in the metropolis and the buzz-towns of India but it still has attraction in Shimla. On a cold wintry evening, I walked towards rather nippy Kalibari Hall to witness a play Pyar ki Jeet to be done in Karyala style.
Karyala is folk theatre of Shimla, Solan and Sirmaur districts. I had thought that a few Karyala fanatics and I would compose the audience but the sight there was different.
The hall was full with real enthusiasts who not only laughed but also applauded at the appropriate places. Karyala in a satirical way attacks the social, political or economic evils and evokes laughter, at places, with even double meaning dialogues.
It was at satirical best when the villagers placed their various problems before the visiting minister whose remedy for all problems was the project to be prepared by the Central Government with adequate financial assistance flowing from it as the Sate Government’s exchequer fed its employees only and the officers here had delegated their powers of thinking and preparing projects to their fraternity in the Government of India.
Samanvay Theatres under the direction of Bhupendra Sharma has the knack of experimenting and this experiment was a no mean attempt.
The (dog) tail piece
With great fanfare, the then PWD Minister, Mr J.B.L Khachi, laid the foundation stone of the first and the only Guest House of Shimla Municipal Corporation on the Lakkar Bazaar-Bharari road. No site better than this could be thought of—slightly away from the town with a jungle of cedar in the foreground. It waited for 10 long years for its completion and for a guest. Neither could be accomplished.
A Sanskrit adage, at last, came to the corporation’s rescue. It is Atithi devo bhav (the Guest is God). If the place could not be converted where Gods in the garb of guests could live, let their ‘reverse’ Dogs stay there—Aatithi shwano bhav. It has now been converted into a Dog House, where sterilisation of stray dogs is done. The dog enjoys the hospitality of the corporation in the Dog House, stays there for a required period of time, gets sterilised and then romps along with a red collar tied to its neck – an emblem declaring that the dog has been the honoured guest of Shimla Municipal Corporation.
Putting his lifelong experience serving in the state Himachal Vidhan Sabha to good use, Mr P. C. Pande, a retired deputy secretary, has come out with yet another informative book which throws light on the legislative history of the state.
The three-part book entitled Legislative History of Himachal Pradesh covers the period from April 1948, when Himachal Pradesh came into being as a centrally administered Union Territory by merging the erstwhile princely states, to December 2004. It contains interesting facts and incidents concerning the legislative history. When the Constitution of India was adopted, it became a part “C” state under Lieutenant Governor with a 36-member legislative Assembly and a tiny three-member Cabinet. In 1954, another part “C” state, Bilaspur, was merged raising the strength of the House to 41.
In 1956 the States Reorganisation Commission recommended its merger with Punjab but the Cetnral Government did not agree with the recommendations. Instead it was made a Union Territory. It was provided a territorial council with strength of 43, including two nominated ministers, sans legislative powers.
It was only under mounting pressure from the leaders of the state that the territorial council was converted into a legislative Assembly from July 1, 1963. However, the status of the state continued as that of a Union Territory. It had just six districts, namely Mahasu, Mandi, Chamba, Sirmour, Bilaspur and Kinnaur. When Punjab was trifurcated, its hill areas were merged with Himachal Pradesh in 1966. Besides the districts of Shimla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahaul-Spiti, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala and some parts of Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur became part of the state. The strength of the Assembly increased to 56, including two nominated. It was further raised to 63 (three nominated) and finally to 68 when it became the 18th full-fledged state of the country on January 25, 1971.
The Centre was forced to issue an ordinance after the apex court held the Land Reforms Act as ultra vires on the ground that the legislative Assembly, which passed it had not been properly constituted. It raised a number of constitutional issues. To address these, an ordinance was issued. Apart from important legislative events, it also contains details of the 850 legislations, along with their objectives, passed during the period. All the Acts and orders have been compiled in the second part of the book, which is quite a task. In the third part, the functionaries associated with the state right from Chief Commissioner, Lt Governors, presiding officers, council of ministers and members of the Assembly along with their respective constituencies have been included.
It is a reference book which scholars, legislators and advocates will find very useful. This is the fourth book of Mr Pande, while two more Indian Democracy and Challenge and Office of the Presiding Officers are in the press.
A silent worker
The dedicated efforts made by Mr S.P. Vasudeva, member secretary of the state Pollution Control Board, to make Himachal Pradesh a zero-pollution state were acknowledged when the Mumbai-based Indian Council of Management Executives conferred on him the “Order of Merit -2006” along with “Samaj Sri” award. A 1982 batch Indian Forest Service officer, Mr Vasudeva has been a silent worker. Instead of wielding the stick, he used persuasive methods to encourage the polluting industries to install proper control devices.
The influence of the MBA degree and the specialised training in participatory management of natural resources he obtained from United Kingdom is visible in his approach.
Absence of conflict
There is no conflict as long as we continue to live as human beings without an identity tag. Conflict arises only after individuals are labelled on the basis of caste, creed, religion and nationality. This message has been effectively sent across by national award winner short film-maker, Vivek Mohan, through his latest production Spot the difference.
With no dialogues the film is in fact a visual presentation of a day in the life of two families who settled in Shimla to make a living. The families are happily engaged in their daily chores and there lives seem identical. Both are running shops on the Mall, one selling handicrafts and other shoes. The importance of “absence of conflict” sinks in only at the end when the camera focuses on the signboards of the two shops. One reads “Tibetan Refugee Shop” and the other “Chinese Shoe Shop”. The bitter Chinese-Tibetan animosity had no bearing on their lives.
Born and brought up in Shimla, Vivek has been focussing on Himachal Pradesh. His very first documentary on Malana, the oldest surviving democracy in the world, won him the national award. His second film For whom the jingle bells toll highlighted the “environmental concerns” and cautioned against its disastrous consequences.
He was inspired to portray the “absence of conflict” by the words of renowned educationist, Dr Rafique Zakaria, that “Secularism is not presence of all religions but absence of religion”. The film has been made for Prasar Bharati and the Ford Foundation.
Crisis in Hindi literature
The country’s top Hindi writers and critics agreed that journalism and literature are changing with time. They are wrestling with the ‘crisis of credibility’ and are engaged in self-examination. The writers, even journalists, are being ‘branded as the leftists-progressive, rightists and centrists’ in India’s geopolitical milieu. But they all agree on one thing, that they get peanuts for their work even as the forces of market and commercialisation decide the ‘agenda for the publication in this era of resurgence of Hindi Journalism in the North’.
These viewpoints came to light at the two-day-long All-India Shikhar Writers’ Conference held at Mandi recently. The conference discussed issues that concern literature and journalism, particularly in Hindi.
However the conference ignored the regional Dalit literature and Pahari literature, which has taken root in the state. Sadly, not more than seven writers from Himachal participated in the conference.
The conference touched some burning issues and came out with the conclusion that Hindi literature and journalism can prosper along the ideal of ‘composite culture and coexistence of all languages and traditions’.
The former Director-General of Doordarshan and Sahitya Akedami Award winner, Mr Kamleshwar, who presided over the session on ‘Interrelation of Literature and Journalism’ said: “Journalism and literature are the products of society and both complement and supplement each other. The journalist faces work pressure and stress whether his story is published or not daily. The case with the struggling writer is the same.”
Mr Kamleshwar, who edited Hindi dailies like Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, and published a book Aur Kitne Pakistan commented; “There is no clash of civilisation, it is the coexistence of civilisation that ensures civic and moral order in the society. The communal virus, be it in Gujrat or the minority communalism, will kill this coexistence.”
The Hindi writers said Hindi literature and journalism had come of era and it employed the largest number of freelancers. The writers would benefit from one another if books were translated in other languages. English can play an unifying role, they said.
The writers emphasised the need for broader cultural exchange in this era of globlalisation and commercialisation. They said that the market forces had taken its toll on both journalism and literature.
Mr Kamleshwar cited an example how this so-called dropsy fever caused by the consumption of infected mustard oil, spelt doom for the rural economy after they fell victims of propaganda flashed allegedly by the company who wanted to promote Soya bean.
“The dropsy fever did not only take a heavy toll on the farmers’ economy, but its news impact was so lethal that it snipped out songs of Basant season from the country side”, said Kamleshwar, who has composed over 100 film songs for the Bollywood as well. “Not even a single song has been composed featuring the yellow lolling mustard countryside in India after the fallout of dropsy fever,” he said.
On the charge that Bollywood is promoting valueless culture,
Mr Kamleshwar, who has written over 100 films like Andhi, Mausam and Natwar Lal and other blockbusters during his 25 year-long-stint in Mumbai, felt that Hindi films were reinventing themselves as there was no mood of gloom in Bollywood. “They preach popular culture and pose no threat to society and its values as some critics might think,” he said.
Mr Gobind Singh, the Associate Editor, Amar Uajjala, New Delhi, said Hindi journalism had witnessed a boom and has led the democratisation of news involving the views of the common man and villagers.
Commenting on the crisis of ‘credibility and news impact’ following the regionalisation of Hindi journalism, he said that the “good thing is that a simple villager gets the feel and can relate himself/herself when he reads news stories nearer home. The bad thing is that the news impact has been lost as the local news does not go beyond his home town.”
Noted Hindi writer Chitra Mudgal, who is also member Prasar Bharti, said the ‘Shikhar’ has constituted an yearly award of Rs 50,000 for the best writer. “The novels, poetry and other forms of literature have flourished in the state and have made their mark on the national scene. The poet Dinu Kashayap, story writers Murari Sharma, Rekha, Jaja Jadvani and novelists S.K. Phull, Keshav Narayan and Harnot are notable names in their fields.
The Kashmiri writers called it an aesthetic of terror. It has taken shape in the Kashmir valley as the exiled Kashmiri brahmin refugees are turning to revive their arts, culture and literature after they were forced to leave their homeland by the terrorists in the 1970s when insurgency gained ground in the valley.
Agnishekhar, a poet and president of the ‘Panum Kashmir’, who has two collection of poems to his credit says, “Kashmiri literature is yet to be recognized. It reflects the trials and tribulations of the exiled Kashmiri pandits struggling to eke out their living and also to save their arts, music and literature, besides seeking a geopolitical space in the valley”.
Others who participated in the conference were Bal Ram, Chitra Mudgil, Sushil Kumar Phull, Prabhakar Shrotya, Rajinder Prasad Pandey, Lavan Thakur, Raj Kumar Gautam and Raj Kumar.
Joggers Park of Nahan
Nahan is a picturesque hilly town situated at 933 metres above sea level with mild climate. It has three walking rounds — Military round, Hospital round, and Villa round.
One-and-a-half-kilometre green patch in the southern part of the Villa round, now known as Joggers Park, is a real health retreat for the locals and the visitors. Hundreds of regular morning and evening walkers, joggers, sports persons and senior citizens are regaining and maintaining their health in the company of scented pine trees, pollution-free fresh air and the rich green environment of Joggers Park.
The Villa round is a 3-km circular road. Many private and government buildings have come up on the northern stretch of this refreshing landscape, thereby endangering the green cover with an expanding concrete jungle.
It was due to sincere, honest and constant efforts of the active members of the Environment Society, Nahan, and some other nature lovers who joined hands in their earnest efforts to get this area declared as ‘City Forest’ by the Municipal Council of Nahan. The society had to put up huge iron grill gates to stop vehicular traffic from both ends. The members of the society are making efforts to involve all wellwishers of the area.
Ranbaxy has donated treeguards for Joggers Park. Volunteers of the Eco-clubs of different schools and at times the regular labour force sweat hard in the park to maintain the health of walkers paradise of the sleepy town. Invasion, every now and then, by stray cattle into the area is a constant threat to the growing plants. Walkers to the ‘city forest’ can also visit ‘Chhatri’ (Philosopher’s Umbrella), a historical, picnic spot just nearby.
Nahan has been declared as a ‘Heritage Town’. The Villa round should be made a reserve forest. Possibilities should be probed to make it a homeland for birds flora and fauna natural to the local environs. Joggers Park can prove a boon and blessing to the sick and ailing also. So come one and came all. Get rid of your tensions, be active, fresh and healthy in the tranquil environs of the Joggers Park of Nahan.
The Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (CORD) has changed the course of lives of scores of rural women and physically challenged, reports Vibhor Mohan
The pictorial depiction of Chaillo, a rural woman, who has set an example for others in self-empowerment, keeps you engaged as you sit in the waiting area of the Dharamsala office of the Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (CORD).
Looking around, you learn more about how CORD has touched the lives of thousands of beneficiaries, especially rural women, in over 500 villages of Kangra district through its Comprehensive Integrated Rural Development Programme at the village level after its inception in the year 1985.
“Our programmes are demand-driven, truly participatory, which integrate every aspect of life through Mahila Mandals, Yuva Mandals, Gram Sabhas, micro credit through self-help groups and community based livelihood,” says Mr Narinder, senior programme manager, CORD.
Before the constitution of CORD, the Chinmaya Ashram in Tapovan, which is now involved exclusively in spiritual activities, carried out welfare activities as well.
“There are scores of rural women and physically challenged, who have changed the course of their lives, staying within the framework of society. For instance, we are involved in community based re-habilitation of the disabled, so that they don’t have to go to special schools and then adapt themselves in the mainstream,” he says.
The activities of CORD range from income-generation programmes to self-help groups’ training, in collaboration with NABARD, primary health care services, participatory natural resource management and setting up of social justice and informal legal cells.
“By associating with mahila mandals, more and more women are playing decisive roles, which are evident through their active networking and participation in conflict management and interactions with stakeholders like schoolteachers, health personnel, bankers and political leaders,” says Mr Narinder.
“This year, the literacy programme has reached out to 2,327 women and 34 men beneficiaries. As many as 321 women are regularly participating in the literacy programmes of CORD. Physically challenged, especially women, who had been deprived of elementary education, have also been included in the programme,” he adds.
Besides, the organisation is involved in information dissemination and hands-on work on basic issues like toilet construction, environmental sanitation and things like learning to prepare oral re-hydration solutions for childcare.
The ‘Balwadi and Balvihar programmes’ for children impart education in the age group of 2-5 years, which also includes inculcating moral values, focusing on proper nutrition through regular health check-ups for the class.
The adolescent girls groups in villages are taken care of under the Yuvati project, which provides continuous counselling on issues like reproductive health, gender, dowry, female foeticide and local self-governance. The youth programme is working with over 6,000 youths directly through over 200 youth clubs.
A link with Tibet
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has conducted a preliminary survey on the Namgiya-Shipki La mule track for converting this 5.28 km stretch into a metalled road. This road will reach up to Tibet at a height of more than 1,4000 ft. This exercise is being done to give a boost to the Indo-China trade that had been suffering since the 1962 war.
The Union Government had already opened a trade centre at Nathu La Pass in Sikkim early this year and re-opened trade after a gap of more than four decades. Similarly, the government has also proposed to open a joint trade centre near the Ship ki La Pass so as to boost the trade.
Revealing this to The Tribune, Colonel M.L. Kom Officer Commanding of the 68 RCC of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) of the BRO, said the report of the preliminary survey has been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs for approval to begin with the construction work.
Meanwhile, the GREF engineers have started constructing the Khab-Namgiya approach road, which will link to the Namgiya-Ship ki La road.
The Centre’s concern to boost trade with China could well be judged from the fact that the Union Minister of State for Defence, Mr M.M. Pallam Raju, along with senior officials of the Defence Ministry personally visited the area to review the progress on construction of this approach road.
Bridging nostlagic gaps
She lies resting in the calmness of her nun’s cubicle. Surrounding her are here meager furnishing: a solitary chair, an old wooden cupboard (holding her share of clothing) and a corner table. On it are neatly arranged or few papers, a small prayer book and a rosary. On the otherwise bare walls hangs the Crucifix of Jesus. Mother Peter Claver, my former Principal of St. Bedes College, Simla (and founder Principal of Jesus and Mary College, Delhi) is spending her sun-set years, in Provincial house. A caring place for the old nuns, in Pune.
“Ah! Inderjeet! How good of you to come and see me.” That long forgotten maiden name of mine! How it comes to life, once again, from Mother P.C.’s lips. Tied to its echo, are memories. Memories, of that long lost youth ..... spent in absolute carefree splendor. Those were the days of full throated laughter and meaningless giggles. Rushing to and fro; jetting in and out of our class rooms with half opened plaits and fully closed ‘texts’. Amidst the banging of desks and clanging of those church and class bells, we scaled those uneven lengths and breadths of St. Bede’s in our own zig-zag manner.
“The college has expanded considerably”. P.C. takes me back to my alma-mater. “They celebrated the centenary recently. Did you go?” I tell her I did. I returned. To touch, sniff and linger at all those nooks and corners, which once formed an integral part of my life. But alas! I felt like an alien. Far removed and disconnected. The intervening years had made the gap too wide to be bridged.
“It was sad about Minna Ahuja and Geeta Dutt. Both died young”. And in this painful reminiscing of her departed students, emerges the face (and memory) of that forever swaying and mirth - fill class-mate of mine, Mohini Kambley, “How I reprimanded her, for her fidgety way”, recollects mother sadly. “That girl never could sit still!”
Forever on the move, Mohini floated through the college corridors (and her brief life span) always with a song on her lips. God had indeed gifted her with a captivating voice. So, Mohini sang and hummed, at all odd and even hours. She barged into my room often. At that much forbidden silence hour... to softly sing those Hindi movie songs. Ironically, her (and mine) favorite being
“Waqt ney kiya kya hasin sitam.
Tum Rahey na Tun; Hum Rahey na hum”
If only we both knew! That violent end she was destined to meet a few years later. For, Mohini was found brutally murdered, in the school where she taught. “Our lives take such somer-saults, sometimes”, sighed Mother. “So many of them gone”.
In togetherness, we share news about, Usha Iswardass (I am sorry, she lost her husband) and Preneet Kahlon (‘married to a Chief Minister.. I think’) “I wrote to her. Commending the good work she does for the poor. But she never replied.” I sense the disappointment. But make no effort to explain. Would this nun (so far removed from the word of politics) understand those sea-saw ways of up-ward swinging and downward slinging politicians? In their race of rushing, pushing, tripping and remerging where was the time, to stop for a while. And reflect at days- gone by.
The intimacy of our re-union is disturbed by the rushing in of a young nun. “Mother, your B.P. is high. Please get dressed, we have to visit the Doctor”. And she vanished with the speed with which she came, muttering, “Poor sister Felix ... spent such a bad night with here asthma”. Mother P.C. raised her feeble frame to speak apologetically, “So many of us need looking after here, Sister bears a heavy cross”.
The ravages, of those passing years what havoc they play with our human frame. This mild nun, in no way resembled, that authoritative Principal whose iron-grip once controlled every happening in Bede’s. Whence went, that commanding voice, hearing which we tumbled out of any and every where. That stern face, over those up-tight and up-right bearings. But the horror of all fears, was the blazing gaze, from her be-spectacled eyes.
I came under their scrutiny once. During that hour of night study in the library. Opened before my droopy eyes was the messy reproductive system of that loath some... earthworm. And at the other end of the study table, sat my (equally inattentive) friend, Geeta. Ignoring Biology (Mother P.C’s subject) we both started playing a silent game of ‘Catch’. Flying to an fro, between us, was the much respected ‘silence’ signboard.
Its when I missed the catch and did an about turn to retrieve the crash landed sign-board, that I froze. Standing in the door-way, with disbelief writ large on her face, was Mother P.C. Digesting the rude shock of seeing her much inculcated discipline, flying right out of those French windows.
Dear Mother P.C.! How she tried to make a lady, out of me. Leaving those rushed hours far behind, today she sits back, in restful contemplation and prayer.
Back home, sorting my personals, I stumble across that college autograph-book Starting in my face is that fare-well message. Penned in mother P.C’s flowing bold hand.
Rs 32 cr sanctioned for Chamba
The concept of Lok Adalats is catching up in Himachal Pradesh with ministers making use of this popular medium to address the problems of the people. Effective in redressing grievances of aggrieved people, Lok Adalats provide a dual advantage of interaction with people and finding prompt solutions to their problems.
Power Minister Vidya Stokes, who convened one such Lok Adalat at Solan last week, said, “I have made it a habit to convene such meetings whenever I visit any place for a function. It ensures the accountability of officials and people can approach me directly in case they have grievances.”
It was her second such Lok Adalat in the district. Going by the rush of people, mainly from rural areas, Lok Adalats appear to have gained the confidence of people. Ms Stokes took officials to task for not having heeded to her instructions regarding installing transformers in the rural areas.
A number of villagers from various panchayats, including Haripur, Hinner, Bohli, Kalyana, etc, complained that low voltage hampered children’s studies and they could not draw water to irrigate fields. She directed the officials to take prompt action in the case.
The minister took the district administration to task for not having granted about Rs 2.33 lakh for the repair of Chail Senior Secondary School despite her having sanctioned the amount in 2003. The SDM and the ADM later assured her that it would be dealt with soon. Residents of Chail had brought to her notice that despite the school facing an appalling state of affairs on account of lack of funds for repair, no funds had been granted for its upkeep.
Stressing the need for electrification in the rural areas, Ms Stokes said Himachal was the first state in the country, which had achieved the target of electrifying all its census villages. The state had now sought a budget from the Centre under the Rajiv Gandhi Gram Vidyutikaran scheme for connecting houses located in the far-flung areas.
Elaborating on it, she said a budget of Rs 32 crore had been sanctioned for Chamba, which is the most remote district of Himachal. An estimate had been provided for all other districts and Sirmaur and Solan would benefit next from this scheme.
The earlier Lok Adalat, which was convened at Parwanoo, had also drawn a number of people from the industrial area. A significant number of complaints pertained to the industry. The Parwanoo Industries Association general secretary, Mr Rakesh Bansal, put forth the problem of power shortage during the lean winter months. The association said the lean period should be counted from October 16 to April 15 as against the prevailing period—from November 1 to March 31.
Another point stressed was the grant of power-availability certificate to even those buildings, which have not been approved by the Town and Country Planning Department but have initiated industrial ventures. The investors stressed that the department was adopting a selective approach in the matter. All such buildings should be given power connections.
India-China trade through Ship ki La Pass comes to a halt
The India-China trade, being carried out through the Ship ki La Pass in Pooh subdivision of Kinnaur district, came to a halt last week due to severely cold weather.
Stating this, Mr Arvind Sharda, Superintendent of Police, Kinnaur district, said the trade between both countries had commenced from June 1 this year.
The cold weather conditions did not favour plying of the trade through this land route during the winter season, he said.
The orders for resumption of trade between the two nations will be issued later, probably in the middle of next year, by the district administration once the weather is slightly favourable, he added.
The items allowed for export through Ship ki La are agricultural implements, blankets, copper products, clothes, textiles, cycles, coffee, tea, barley, rice, flour, dry fruit, dry & fresh vegetables, vegetable oil, gur & misri, tobacco, snuff, cigarettes, canned food, agro-chemical, local herbs, dyes, spices, watches, shoes, kerosene oil,
On the other hand, major items of import from China via Tibet include raw silk, goats, sheep, china clay, wool, utensils, textiles (mostly ready made garments), shoes etc.
When contacted, an official of the customs department based at land customs station Ship ki La near village Namgiya revealed that the total value of the import and export during the current year is estimated at less than Rs. 10 lakh.
The exact figures were not available immediately as they were still being calculated at the time of the news report.
During the year 2005-2006, the total value of export was Rs. 12.32 lakh while import was 3.63 crore. Similarly, in the year 2004-2005, the total value of export was Rs. 12.62 lakh while import was 3.07 crore. In the year 2003-2004, the total value of export was Rs. 15.38 lakh while import was 9.30 lakh.
The value of trade between the nations this year was very low compared to the last couple of years. An official of the customs department revealed that during the years 2005-2006 and 2004-2005, a Mumbai based businessman had imported raw silk from China through this trade route due to which the value of import was much higher as compared to other years.
It may be mentioned that the border trade with China was resumed following the signing of an MOU on resumption of border trade through Ship ki La Pass in September 1993.
The cross-border trade between India and China is being conducted through village Namgiya-Ship ki La in Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh along the Namgiya-Ship ki La and Shipki-Jijubu land route in accordance with this MOU.
Pragpur: country’s first heritage village
Pragpur, once a sleepy village under Dehra sub-division of Kangra district, silhouetted against the snow-spangled Dhauladhar range, evokes images of the slate-roofed and mud- plastered houses, majestic manors, the sky-kissing heritage buildings blending the medieval and modern architecture, the cobbled lanes and by-lanes dotting this countryside tourist destination.
Nestling in the lap of the sprawling Kangra Valley (1800 ft), also called the valley of gods, Pragpur, 175-km from Chandigarh, which was crowned the coveted First Heritage Village of the country title in 1998, beckons nature lovers from home and abroad to discover the hidden charms of this hill retreat.
The story goes that the local Kuthiala Soods were instrumental in the founding of this once-a-non-descript village, which was named after the gazelle-eyed princess of the erstwhile Jaswan empire, Prag Rani. Prag in Sanskrit means pollen and Pragpur literally translates as the country of pollen. The young princess, known for her formidable fetes of fortitude, fought tooth and nail against the Mughal. Naming the village after her was indeed a tribute to the brave princess.
The Kuthiala Soods of Pragpur constructed a chain of ‘serais’, shrines, temples, water tanks across this hill state. They also introduced a permanent water supply scheme to this area by importing water pipes from England, which proved a boon for the residents, who had to trudge long distances under harsh weather conditions to fetch water to meet their needs. The Soods, who were well conversant with the terrain and topography of the valley, chose an idyllic site for the dream village, surrounded by three ‘shakti peeths’, namely Ma Brajeshvari, Ma Jwalamukhi and Ma Chintpurni, with the snowy Dhauladhar peaks offering a perfect backdrop.
Pragpur, endowed with rugged grandeur, offers a peep into its rich past. The discernible winds of change sweeping this hill state have failed to touch even the farthest of its fringes. The age-old folk traditions that the people of this heartland have fiercely stuck to and guarded against time, are their prized possessions.
As you zoom off, a brisk four-hour drive through Ropar, Kiratpur Sahib, Nangal, Una, Amb, Bharwain offers a captivating overview of the valley. As you gain Nehran Pukhar, a bustling outpost buttressed between Dhaliara and Dehra, a 3-km link road takes you to the dream village, which abounds in natural beauty and bounty. As you negotiate a vertical turn with a deft hand, the hidden charms of this elegant village start unfolding. The flora dotting Pragpur is oftropical sub-Himalayan varieties. Enroute, orchards of mango, peepul, eucalyptus amaltas, kutchnar and banyan trees provides a breath taking view.
As you cross Har-Mitan, Pundara and gain the shrine of Guga Pir, a little distance away from the historic Sikhan-Da-Talab, your roving eyes suddenly catch a glimpse the formidable ‘Judge Sahib Ki Kothi’, as the locals address. Now a heritage country manor, re-christened Judge’s Court, this shining resort is owned by Mr Vijay Lal, the grand-son of Justice Sir Jai Lal, the second Indian to bag a rare honour of eminence as a Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court during the British rule.
Pragpur is twice blessed in the sense that besides its heritage status and the sprawling landscape, it offers a rare example of unity in diversity with people from diverse communities living in perfect harmony.
As you leave the Judge’s Court, you are ushered into the Ram bazaar, the hub of all business activity, through a snaky cobbled street, flanked on both sides by rows of shops huddled cheek by jowl. This old shopping centre, now doing scant business activity, offers a peep into the psyche of the ancient village and its historic past.
The ornamental tank, built in 1881, adds to its heritage character
As you thread your way through an array of well laid-out havelis with projected balconies and other heritage buildings, partially in ruins, you tend to get more involved in tracing the history of this quaint little village. With the descending of the dusk, a typical village scene thrills you, with the hardy hillbillies retiring home after a day’s toiling harvesting operations. As you stroll your way through the shady trails dotting this picturesque village of legends and lores, the shrill sounds of cicadas and cricket shatter the eerie silence of a serene evening. The sweet chirpings of the birds of varied hues, perched precariously on treetops offer a slice of the bucolic bliss.
Womenfolk of this part of the hill state are very talented and enterprising. While menfolk work on the fields, their female partners attend to other household chores, like knitting at looms or giving a fresh coat of cow dung to their adobe houses and homesteads. They are amazing artists who create alluring rangoli patterns to mark festive occasions.
A visit to this weaver’s village, as it is called, offers a surfeit of exquisite woollen items, including blankets, ‘lois’, ‘khes’, shawls and scarfs with ethnic folk motifs. These woolen creations, a collector’s item, are a craze among the foreign and domestic buyers.
Another fascinating feature of this heritage village is the festival of lohri, now a state event, which is celebrated here with much fanfare and traditional gaiety. Besides hosting of a potpourri of pulsating folksongs and dances that mark the grand finale to the festivity, stalls showcasing rare antiques, like bronzeware, silver jewellery, weapons, vanity boxes, coins, currency notes, medals, medallions, hubble-bubbles, earthenware, ethnic wears, folk musical instruments, books and literature on ‘Pahari’ art and culture and other items of heritage value, are put up, which attract admirers from across the globe.
For sports aficionados, Pragpur is a dream-come-true destination. A host of sport activities and off-beat adventure fetes, including angling, boating and other aqua sport activities in the legendary Beas, 6 km from Pragpur will make your visit to Pragpur memorable. For keen hang-gliders and para-sailors, Billing and Bir are the ideal destinations. Bird watching, walking, trekking, sight-seeing in and around Pragpur are the other viable options for the intrepid few.
Tall claims of sufficient power notwithstanding, the industrial units in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area have been facing shortage of power. This is chiefly on account of lack of transmission lines in the region to cater to the growing rush of industries.
Power cuts have become routine, lament industrialists with supply lines bearing excessive load. Though industrial units drawing more than 2 Kwatt load have been directed to set up their own sub-stations and draw power from the 66 KV transformer, yet scores of such units have been given connections from the other lines. This has overburdened the supply system leading to power cuts.
There were as many as six steel mills in the Export Promotion Industrial Park at Baddi, which had severely burdened the 11 KVA lines. Using 5 MW power each, they had put immense burden on the existing lines. They were initially granted a year’s period to set up their sub-station but more time was sought by them to erect these sub-stations.
Officials in the board, however, said now a final three-month period ending in December had been granted and notices had been served to ensure compliance. Any failure in compliance would lead to power disconnection. While two units have managed to erect the sub-stations, work was at the final stage in another two units, Winsome and R.R. Castings. The remaining units would be issued another notice before action is finally taken against them, added officials.
“It is routine to experience unscheduled power cuts in the industry. Sometimes they last for a bare few minutes but at times continue for as long as 2-3 hours. It has, therefore, become mandatory to keep diesel-run generation sets in the unit. Since these cuts are abrupt, we cannot compromise the critical processes for manufacturing batches getting hampered. This puts an undue expenditure of lakhs on the unit.”
Some investors also advocated privatisation of power under such circumstances. Illustrating their point, an investor said, “In states like Goa, it is the responsibility of power suppliers like Reliance to pay penalties in case there is an unscheduled power cut. While the company ensures that there is no such problem, the investors, too, are at ease to use power as required.”
A production engineer of another leading unit in Baddi said, “Since ours is a continuous process industry, unscheduled breakdowns have an undesirable bearing on the machinery and product manufacturing. Once power breaks down, the entire process has to be re-started and production reassembled. This causes loss of time and hampers the process.”
This has created a situation where most of the units have to keep diesel generation sets ready for facing any eventuality. Interestingly, a number of units had to run on such temporary arrangement when they were denied connection from the 33 KV lines. “Lack of power has forced us to put our expansion plans at bay. We have not been able to expand keeping in view the fluctuating power supply. Not only did we run our unit on diesel generation set for several months but we have managed to procure only 1.9 KV power as against our total requirement of 3.5 KV. The shortfall is met by using DG sets”, confided another investor. Investors said it was inadequate augmentation and modernisation of the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) system often leads to break downs. They felt adequate expansion and strengthening of the system should be taken up at the earliest to reduce overloading and breakdowns of the system.
Interestingly, the department had cancelled Power Availability Certificates (PACs) of a number of units, which, despite availing, had delayed setting up of the units. Such units had not even taken effective steps for setting up the units despite the lapse of more than a year.
Despite the shortage in power, officials of the board have been granting connections to units operating from illegal buildings or those meant for residential use. Though a connection cannot be granted to a unit until it has an NOC from the TCP Department but such cases have come to the fore where conditional power connections have been granted. Senior officials point out that a number of such cases had come to their notice through various newspapers. While terming them as illegal, the officials said such officers would also be liable to explain. A number of such cases were noticed at Baddi, Nalagarh and Sector-4, Parwanoo.
While defending power cuts, officials said, “These were not power cuts but power-tripping cases due to excess load withdrawal by units from the transmission lines. Certain cases had come to light where the units had projected lesser contract demand than required. This leads to units drawing more load than permissible, straining the lines.
“Two new feeders were being installed in the industrial area and some load would now be transferred to them. This task would be accomplished by August-end. This would make available 20 MVA power and sufficient power would be available for new units. In addition to this, a new sub-station would be functional at Manpura soon.”