WomAn power!
When it comes to women empowerment, pahari women don’t lag behind
Vidya Rattan Sharma

Drawing strength and inspiration from the likes of Indira Gandhi, Kalpna Chawla and Sunita Williams, pahari women feel that the time has come to stand up and fight against the stress, atrocities and rising violence. International Women’s Day saw the womenfolk gather at the Nahan Municipal Hall to celebrate womanhood.

And amidst the festivities came in a boost from D. D. Gupta, district development officer, NABARD. He exhorted the women fraternity to achieve self-sufficiency and fight the surging unemployment and vicious circle of poverty.

With unity being their strength, women from Sirmour have now woken up from their slumber and have formed various groups comprising 15-20 members to fight for their rights. The radical awareness of the women has even encouraged them to apply for loans. Lakshmi Sehnaz, secretary, Mahalakshmi Savayam Sahayata Smuh, shares with pride that her group includes 20 members who have taken bank loans and are now working towards their economic independence.

Their collective efforts evolved under the leadership of Nirmla Verma of the district rural development office. Says Verma, “Women are no longer backward and are aware of their rights”. Talking of the economic sweep in the region, she says that in addition to the economic help in rural areas being provided by NABARD, women should go in for easy loans.

Madhu Bala Gupta, health educator at CMO’s office, stressed the urgent need to curb foeticide. She expressed concern over the alarming birth rate of girl child from 1,000 to 933.

Rakhil Kahlon, additional district magistrate, voiced similar views.



Royal crusader
From the lap of luxury to a life devoted to social service
Kulwinder Sandhu

Malvika Pathania Politician, social worker and a descendant from a royal family, Malvika Pathania, the protagonist of the pahari woman manages all the roles with ease and perfection.

A bold and dynamic person, after having born in the royal Suryavanshi family of Chamba, Malvika chose the rather unconventional and arduous path of social service. She has been working towards improving the economic condition of the pahari women and also preserving the dying art and craft of the hill region.

Following in the footsteps of her mother Rani Padma Singh, who created history by getting elected as the first woman legislator of Himachal in 1972, Malvika began her political career in1983 with the Congress. She parted ways with the party in 2001 on certain ideological differences and joined the BJP. Presently, the district president of the women’s wing of the BJP, Malvika who has till now never fought an electoral battle, now plans to gain an entry to the state assembly on the platform of BJP in the assembly elections.

She has also been the chairperson of the State Social Welfare Board from 1997-99 and of the State Women Commission in 2002. As the chairperson of the latter, she became the first person in the state who took initiative to establish women help lines in the police stations with the help of the state government agencies and NGOs. Having, explicitly acknowledged the problems of pahari women during these years, her crusade, however, did not end after relinquishing political appointments.

Standing up as the voice of the women of her region, she believes that empowerment of the women has to happen from women themselves and the need of the hour is to facilitate and encourage them to articulate their needs. 

She has also organised hundreds of awareness camps for women to enable them to know about their basic rights. Also, to her credit is the establishment of around 80 vocational institutes exclusively for rural women. “Unfortunately, post independence the successive governments of these states have failed to address the basic needs of empowering the society on a whole and women in particular”, she sighs.

She is presently working towards ensuring the survival of the cottage industry of rural art and craft with the help of local NGOs by pioneering a project on restoration of dying art and craft of Kangra. Besides art, she is making efforts in preserving the historical manuscripts of the region too. Seeking to establish as many as 27 art and craft conservation centres, she has prepared a craft map of the state highlighting the varied artistic skills of the entire region.

Considering economic independence of the women very necessary for women empowerment; she feels that it is not enough for the women to earn money, they must also have the right to spend it. “Empowerment is not just the right to earn but the right to spend as well”, she adds. “The pahari women of the lower hilly areas have the potential to earn money from their artistic skills, they just need to be provided the right platform to sell their products”, says Malvika. She has also floated a demand to the state government to set-up stores in major cities of the states, which shall allow the women to sell their products and also earn more in the competitive market.
Amidst her crusade for women, Malvika is also penning a book on pahari cuisine. “The book will be published by the mid of this year”, she shares.



Welfare schemes taste success in Mandi
Kuldeep Chauhan

Having met 80% of its target in welfare schemes, Mandi will achieve the rest by March-end 

After claiming to have achieved over 80 per cent of the target, Mandi district social welfare department has set up a daunting task of achieving the remaining 20 per cent - envisaged in a dozen welfare schemes meant for the schedule castes, physically challenged, widows, OBCs and other deprived sections - by end of this month. The department had sought applications for the remaining benefits under different welfare schemes last week, thus exposing its ineptitude and wrong timing, as the budget will lapse after the current financial year that ends on March 31st.

After reviewing the progress of the several social welfare schemes in the district this year here, the deputy commissioner Mandi district, Subhasish Panda said that the department has achieved over 80 per cent of its targets in its schemes. The remaining 20 per cent will be achieved by 31st March, he claimed.

According to the officials, 12,865 widows have been covered under the Mother Terasa Akshay Yojna, 112 have been trained under the computer education scheme for the sons of widows and 25 couples got grant of Rs.25, 000 each under the inter-caste marriage scheme. “As many as 227 destitute girls got benefit under the C.M. kayadan scheme, 28 cases of physically challenged with over 40 disability got benefit” The officials claimed that under the Swarozgar yojna, 76 beneficiaries were covered against a target of 110 while under child widow marriage scheme, the department covered 10 widows who got grant worth Rs. 4 lakh.

Panda said that the department has provided pensions to over 28,619 old pensioners, 3433 physically challenged, 12,865 widows and 318 lepers in the
district. “Under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, four cases got benefits worth Rs. 87,000 this year”.



Past track
The country’s first newspaper was born in Shimla in 1848. The Shimla Akhbar came out lithographed in Persian and had a circulation of only 30 copies!
Shriniwas Joshi

The eight-page supplement of The Tribune on Himachal Pradesh released by the Chief Minister on 15th. March is hailed as a new beginning. My article The Glamour Girls from Himachal Pradesh had two immediate responses. One from Chandigarh: "Good to read you as Khushwant Singh of Himachal." The other from a lady in Shimla, an alumnus of Auckland House asking me, "How could you write that Priya Rajvansh was a Chelsea girl? Though senior to me, she was an Auckie." I appreciate the pride that she had in her school and stood corrected.

Many may not know that the journey of the papers started here in 1848 when Sheikh Abdul started The Shimla Akhbar. Its script came out lithographed in Persian (Urdu). As the circulation of this paper was only 30, its ink dried in 1849. The next paper worth mentioning is The Civil and Military Gazette because Rudyard Kipling used to write editorials, write-ups and reviews from Shimla for the paper that was being published from Lahore since 1872.

The Simla Times in the second and The Liddell’s Simla Weekly in the third decade of the 20th century started here the fair-weather weeklies (April to December). I have chosen an extract from The Simla Times dated 14 November, 1918 depicting the immediate reaction in Shimla on receiving the news of the end of World War II, "Shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday, the news of the cessation of hostilities was telephoned around Simla. Church bells rang out and every means of demonstrating the greatness of the occasion was employed. From the bells of the Catholic Cathedral, Christ Church and St. Andrew’s, the harmonious peals were loud and long, and the deep wide valley between Barnes Court and Sanjauli re-echoed with the tone of the Convent bells of Chelsea."

Believe me; the newsmen too have hearts pounding with warmth contrary to the framed opinion that they are drab and dry. Malcolm Muggeridge, the correspondent of The Statesman in 1934-38 in Shimla, had warm signals for beautiful Amrita Shergill, the famous artist, who too was not lukewarm towards him. Conservative Shimla was eagerly noticing the love-doves.

Jumping over decades, I come to 1972. Shimla was full of national and international correspondents. The occasion was The Shimla Agreement of 1972. Bhutto was adamant in keeping Kashmir out. The official stationery including Pakistan’s seal, typewriters etc. were sent by road to Chandigarh with other pieces of heavy luggage which could not have been taken by helicopter from Shimla. The correspondents had folded up.

Then it dawned upon Indira Gandhi that the failure of The Shimla Summit would mean the fall of Bhutto and return of Army in Pakistan. For democratic Pakistan, she gave this much concession that the ceasefire line as on 17 December, 1971 be respected as the Line of Control.

Bhutto immediately agreed but wrote in his own hand in the Draft ‘without prejudice to the recognised position of either side’. The Agreement, as such, was signed at 12.40 a.m. on 3 July, 1972. As the seal of Pakistan could not be put on the document, India also did not put its seal on it. This probably is the first important official document between any two countries without the seals of the signing nations - a gift of Shimla.


Newspaper is a publication that condemns gambling on the editorial page and prints racing tips on the sports page!



Shimla Diary
Weather worries
Rakesh Lohumi

The “queen of hills” is known for its tricky weather. This winter it has lived up to its reputation to the hilt. The first half of March witnessed arctic conditions with mercury touching the freezing point twice in the first week.

The minimum temperature till March 15 hovered between zero degree and five degree Celsius while maximum temperature struggled to reach double digits. The sky mostly remained overcast.

However, there was an abrupt change as sun finally came out on March 16.

The mercury shot up sharply over the next two days with maximum temperature reaching 22 degree and the minimum to 14.5 degree Celsius.

The impact of the change in weather is visible in the belated blossoming of rhododendron and apple orchards.

The apple growers are praying that the weather stays warm, as another spell of cold will ruin the crop. Last year was a lean one when only 1.23 crore boxes of apple were produced compared to 2.63 crore in the previous year. They could not afford a second consecutive crop failure.

Another gift to Himachal

Himachal edition of The Tribune has finally hit the stands. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh formally launched the edition in the presence of a galaxy of VIP’s. Almost all those who mattered attended the function.

The gesture of the management of honouring its old readers and agents was appreciated by one and all. The oldest reader to be honoured was Lala Amar Chand Sood. The 101 year-old advocate had started reading the newspaper in 1924 while he was studying in Lahore. Interestingly, Justice R S Pathak, president of The Tribune Trust who honoured him at the function, had designated Lala Amar Chand as senior advocate in 1974 when he was the Chief Justice of the Himachal High Court.

During his long and distinguished career in different courts of Shimla and Chandigarh, he earned respect, recognition and reputation in the legal circles. He was honoured by the state high court in 1997 and by the Governor in 1999 for his contribution to the legal profession. The local Rotary Club conferred the vocational service award on him. A philanthropist, Lala Amar Chand has remained associated with several religious, charitable and educational institutions and has been making generous contributions for helping the needy students and poor patients.

Among the agents who were honoured are Mangat Ram and Brothers from Solan who have been the agents since 1930.

It was an emotional moment when veteran politician Sat Mahajan, speaking on the budget in the House, declared that it was his last budget speech. As the assembly election is due in February 2008, the announcement implies that he has finally decided to quit electoral politics.

He has indeed played a long innings starting his political career in 1954 from Nurpur municipal committee that he headed for five terms. He first made it to the Vidhan Sabha in 1977 and represented the Nurpur constituency for five terms. He also held the Kangra parliamentary constituency once. His exit from the electoral arena could see the entry of his son Ajay Mahajan whom he has been grooming as his successor for the past quite sometime. If all goes as planned, the ensuing assembly poll will see the rise of another son in the state politics.



Religion binds
Joining hands for Choor Dhar
S. R. Pundir

Setting an example of ‘peoples action for the development’ by crossing all social, cultural and area boundaries, residents of Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand have joined hands to develop Choor Dhar Hills also known as heaven of adventure for tourists and trackers all over country. For the lakhs of residents of this part of country, it is a holy religious place dedicated to Lord Shirgul, incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Chooreshwer devotees have united under the Chooreshwar Sewa Samiti, headed by a leading social worker of Sirmour, Amar Singh Chauhan. The committee has spent over one crore rupees out of their hard earned money for the development of this pious religious place and is providing 24-hour bhandara for the visitors at the hill top from the last six years. The Samiti has over 500 volunteers dedicated for the development of this tirth.

According to the puranas, situated at 11,700 feet above sea level, the white capped Chood Dhar Hill of Himalayan range is dedicated to Lord Shankra. The most famous temple of Lord Shirgul, which is more than five thousand years old, is the main attraction for the visitors.

A temple committee chaired by the sub divisional magistrate of Chopal looks after the Choor Dhar tirth. A spokesman said that the government was developing the ancient temple and beautiful Choor Dhar Hill as a religious as well as a tourist place. The new temple of Shri Shirgul Devta was under construction with an estimated cost of over one crores rupees.

Amar Singh Chauhan, chairman of Chooreshwer Sewa Samiti, said that welfare of devotees visiting the shrine was the main object of the Samiti. The Samiti has its units at a number of places in Uttrakhand including Vikas Nagar, Kalsi and Chakrauta apart from Shimla, Sirmour and Solan dlistricts of Himachal Pradesh. He disclosed that the Samiti was spending over five lacs every year for providing free food to the visitors and has constructed a big bhandara hall and 19 rooms for free lodging of visitors at the Shri Shirgul shrine complex at Choir Dhar. A sarai with the help of government had been constructed at the Nohra village for the comfortable stay of devotees and tourists. The Samiti has taken up the project to construct 14 km road from Nohra Dhar to Kharech

Tourists have to reach Sarahan in Chopal Tehsil where famous temple of Bijat Maharaj is situated. From Sarahan it is 9 km steep path for Choir Dhar hill that takes more than three hours to reach the Chooreshwer shrine. From Sirmour, the main path to the shrine is from Nohra Dhar. Foot tracking from this side take around six hours.



Saving tender lives
Kuldeep Chauhan

In a new initiative to check the spread of deadly HIV/AIDS virus from mother to child, the state government has decided to provide free artificial milk to new born babies upto two years of age in case the lactating mother tests HIV positive. This step is aimed at encouraging mothers to go for the HIV test at the Voluntary Confidential Testing Centre (VCTC) to check spread of HIV virus. It will also encourage institutional deliveries as government is running 24-hours delivery centers under the National Rural Health Mission (RHM) programme.

The antenatal mothers come for check up at the weekly clinics, but the institutional deliveries remain less than 40 percent in rural areas. Very few antenatal mothers opt for HIV test at VCTC centers and hence they run the risk of transmitting the HIV virus to newborn babies.

“Once HIV status of the antenatal mother is known, she can breast feed her new born baby without HIV risk, which is very essential for health of the child”, said Dr. Hemant Kapur, DAIDSPO Mandi district. “If she is tested HIV positive, then her baby will get free artificial milk from the government at her place for two years.” Though each VCTC center has a counselor, most of expectant mothers remain without the facility of antenatal care. To bridge this gap, 24-pregnacy clinics are being opened in key areas under the NRHM that in turn help encourage the antenatal to know their HIV status.

Not only women but also even males suffer equally. “There is a need to share responsibility by both men and women, commented Lata Anand, a legal expert. “Women need to know their rights, government schemes and law protection that they enjoy and men need to change their orthodox outlook towards women”, she added. 



 Wait is on: Pharma cos yet to go bilingual 
Ambika Sharma

The introduction of bilingual labelling norms by the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Petrochem-icals for the pharmaceutical industry appears to have found little purpose. Though some companies have adopted the norm enforced since October 2, the system is yet to set in the market.

Information regarding the batch number, maximum retail price, manufacturing and expiry date, are displayed both in English as well as in Hindi. Earlier, these details were printed only in English. Since a large chunk of the population cannot understand English, the Union Government decided to make the process bilingual.

However, it has created ambiguities in the market. Since all pharmaceutical firms have not adopted this norm, it has created problems for retailers. It usually takes four to six months for new stocks to reach the retail level. A survey of the various markets showed that barely 5-10 per cent drugs with the new labels had started reaching retail outlets. While some pharmaceutical companies have bothered to write the medicine’s name in Hindi, rest of the details like batch number, manufacturing date, expiry date and maximum retail price continue to be English.

Some pharmaceutical companies have carried all these details in both the languages but it has been restricted only to the medicine box while the strips bear the drug’s name in Hindi. More ambiguities have been created with a number of pharmaceutical firms continuing to use their old labelling strips bearing MRP. In some cases the MRP and LTE have been crossed and a stamp of MRP IAT has been affixed on the old

It could create confusion in the market. In case a consumer finds an old batch of a similar medicine at any other chemist shop then he would doubt whether the chemist himself has crossed the stamp having a higher price and negating MRP local taxes extra. It will take at least another three months for the new labeling norms to become universal.

The consumers in Southern parts of country are not very proficient in Hindi hence making it bilingual would invite demands from the South Indians to insert the labeling in their languages, opined other pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The insertion of bilingual labeling has reduced the readability of the information displayed on the labels. An expenditure of about Rs 10-15 lakh has been incurred on each pharmaceutical firm’s products escalating the cost of production by 10 per cent.

The abruptness of the norm has made the old stock redundant. Various processes like designing, films, and plates had to be altered for the modification. All this has now gone waste leading to wastage of money. An excessive expenditure of nearly 25 per cent had to be made for making the required changes. 
The norms are however not mandatory but obligatory.



Trailing the herbal path
Kulwinder Sandhu

A fresh spring of hope came to the Herbs Antique Research Botanical (HARB) Society recently when around 19 herbal formulas were granted approval by the government for commercial production. With production of medicines, herbal water and beauty products are likely to get a boost and the nearby areas of Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana will soon too be walking the herbal path.

An interesting product of the society is the unique herbal water meant for herbal bath. A mix of 16 essential herbs and medicinal plants, the results of the bath start showing results from the second or third bath itself. R. S. Guleria, president, Aromatic Plant Growers Association of India (APGAI) said, “The herbal water containing essential herbs has been fully tested. The mix of 100 ml of this herbal water with 20-25 litres of water refreshes the body and mind,” he added. For better results, he advises intake of 2-3 litre fresh water before the bath and not exposing the body to air for an hour after the bath.”

The homemade spa has medicinal values as well, Guleria further claimed. “This water helps in cleaning the stomach, reducing knee pains, gastronomical troubles, mental fatigue, physical exhaustion etc. The herbal water also helps in expelling toxic substances created in the body due to unbalanced diet and unstable lifestyles,” he said.

The medicinal production using the herbs is likely to begin soon. Some of the patent herbal medicines include Sugokan, Cardiokan, Pathrenokan, Ikan, Brain-okan, Orthokan, Powerkan, Gastocan, Slimokan, Haem-okan and Respokan, etc. Most of the medicines will be available in tablet, capsule or syrup form. Besides the patent products, traditional products like Triphala Churan, Talishadi Churan, Lavangadi Vati, Sanjivani Vati, Kanchnar Guggal and Shankhpushi Syrup would also be produced by the society.

While the clinical trails of these herbal medicines had been successfully completed, now they would be put to mass production at Kangra Herbs. Dr Mayaram Uniyal, Dr Tarachand, Acharya Prabhakar Mishra, Dr. Yudhvir Singh Bhoon and Dr Ajay are among the few who have assisted in the preparation of these formulas.

Neelam Thakur, founder member of HARB society and the director of Kangra Herbs shared that the beauty products prepared from these herbs will soon be available in Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana as well. Undoubtedly, they would be highly beneficial, she said.



 Dog love brings fame
D. P. Gupta

A young veterinarian from Hamirpur brought in laurels to his district by grabbing the ‘Field Veterinarians Best Presentation Award’ awarded by the Indian Society for Veterinary Medicine (IVSM) recently.  Dr. Pardeep Sharma, presently posted as Veterinary Officer at Government Veterinary Hospital, Tikkar in Rohroo area of Shimla has been given the prestigious award for his new findings in the field of diseases in pet kennels.

Sharma, who has done his masters in veterinary medicine from Gujarat, detailed out the causes and treatment for age related diseases in pet dogs in his research paper titled ‘Clinico- Biochemical Hematological study Stoma-Titus of Kennels’. The budding veterinarian has found out that age related problems like oral smell, indigestion and other oral disorders which lead to a separation between the master and his pet and also emotional problems at times can be taken care of through better knowledge about these diseases.



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