When the going gets tough...
Rallyist traverse the Himalayan tracks and emerge on top
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

Colourful zooming gypsies, cars and motorbikes, part of the 20th annual SJOBA Thunderbolt Sub-Himalayan Rally awakened the sleepy tracks of Solan last week. Organised by the old boys association of St John’s School, Chandigarh, the rally concluded this weekend.

The rally entered the state through Mallha road in the wee hours of Saturday morning and reached Ashwani Khud, about 20 km from Solan after crossing Bhojnagar. The real hilly track started from there on, however, harsh terrains, deep gorges surrounded by thick forests and sharp curves failed to crush the zeal of participants who drove at speeds of over 60 km an hour. Equally stunning were the motorbike riders in the two-wheeler category. The 10-km stretch of road till Jhajha, the village of Bhalkoo Baba — the man behind Barog railway tunnel — was perhaps the most difficult to negotiate. This kuccha stretch with sharp curves posed a challenge to the riders.

On this stretch, three motorbikes were ousted from the rally after their vehicles developed a snag. Among them was Mukhtiar Singh (67), the senior-most in age and perhaps the most experienced Bullet rider, too. “It is an outstanding machine and I have been riding it since I was a teenager,” he said. Hailing from Chandigarh, his ouster was sad as he was vying to steal the limelight on his 1984-model Bullet. Singh has been taking part in the rally since 2005.

The rally was a big surprise for the schoolchildren en route to Chail. They thronged the road and cheered vehicles. Near Chail, light showers greeted the participants. Sharing their experience, most of the participants said that they found the track challenging. Sunny Sidhu, four-time SJOBA rally winner, Suresh Rana, Raid-de-Himalayas rally champ, and Khushwant Randhawa, Desert Storm Rajasthan winner, were among others who took part in rally.

In these two days, the participants covered approximately 250 km per day. The total prize money for the rally was Rs 1, 80,000.

En route

Leg 1: Mallah—Bhojnagar—Chail—Koti Village—Mashobra—Koti Resort
Leg 2: Koti Resorts—Kunihar—Vaknaghat—Subathu—Parwanoo—Bhojnagar—Chakki Ka Mor

the scorecard

Jeep category: Khushwant Randhawa, Suresh Rana and Maghlani
Car section: Anil Wadia and Nitin Batra        
Motorbike category: Sandeeep Matharu, Lokesh Lakhani and Rupinder Singh
Results in order of merit



A house for IIAS fellows
Rakesh Lohumi

The stables of the Viceroyalties at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) will now house research fellows.

The stable, which formed part of the 120-year-old Viceregal Lodge, has been redone retaining the character at a cost of Rs 1.1 crore under the guidance of the Archeological Survey of India. The premises now has 15 double rooms and five single rooms along with a seminar room and a dining hall.

The renovated block has been renamed Siddharth Vihar and will be formally inaugurated on March 29. With this, academic activity on the campus will resume after a gap of one year, as the institute had no director ever since Dr Bhuvan Chandel completed her term last April.

The Viceregal Lodge had a large and well-maintained stable just next to the main gate during the British rule. The Viceroys and other high officers used horses while the ladies enjoyed the comfort of rickshaws. The sturdy horses were also the main attraction of equestrian events held regularly at the Annandale course.

The stable was not being used after independence. In 1971, when Himachal Pradesh University was established, the premises was converted into a boys hostel Himcreet. The institute found the premises appropriate for providing accommodation to fellows, the number of which increased from 30 to 55 recently.



Slice of Australia
Shriniwas Joshi

Kristy Murray and Ken Harper talk on children’s literature, community drama

It was an interesting evening at the guesthouse of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies where two literary luminaries Kirsty Murray and Ken Harper from Australia spoke on the present scenario of children’s literature and community drama in their country.

A select gathering including the vice-chancellor of HP University, Dr Anil Wilson, former vice-chancellor of Kurukshetra University, B.S. Dahiya, a retired Professor of Delhi University, R.W. Desai, who is also a Shakespearian scholar and brought out the internationally-recognised magazine Hamlet Studies for 25 years, Pankaj Narang, Meenakshi, Jaywanti Dimri and their colleagues of the English department plus the students pursuing postgraduate course formed the audience.

Kirsty has books on fiction and non-fiction to her credit. She calls herself a ‘children’s author’ though six out of her seven novels address the problems of adolescents and Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish, from which she read a few excerpts, is for children under 12.

She says, “I write children’s fiction with a focus on Australian history. Whether the book is a contemporary novel, time travel, or historical fiction, each one of my stories is set in the real world and connects to real people, events and places.”

Her reason for writing for children is that they are universal audience and that a few people live to a ripe old age but everyone experiences childhood once, which really does not disappear from one’s personality and that she can make her child hero speak with honesty, see with clarity and act with courage.

Zarconi’s is a book on the fascinating factual details and legends of the circus world in which Gus, Effie and Kali, the elephant play their roles. Her style is simple and acceptable to both the children and the adults.

She read the excerpts from this winner of Western Australian Premier Book Award, 2000, with proper modulations but it would have facilitated the listeners if photostat copies of the excerpts were made available to them.

When asked about the tips that she could give to the would-be writers, she said that there were seven commandments, “ First, read and read. Readers and writers go together. Second, the most important thing about writing is ‘words on the page’; so write. Third, look around you.

If you’re stuck for an idea, try and look at the people and places around you with fresh eyes. Fourth, daydream. The more thought you put into a story, the more powerful it will be. Fifth, don’t give up. Everybody gets stuck sometimes. Have faith in yourself and continue. Sixth, read your drafts out loud.

If you’re too shy to read your story to someone else, read it to the mirror. Your ear is the best editor you will ever meet. Seventh, try again. Very few authors get the story right the first time. Rewriting a story gives you the chance to take out the bits that were slowing the story down and to polish up the good bits so they shine.”

Ken Harper is the head of drama in the University High School, Melbourne. He role-played a self-written piece of community drama but began with the statement that Australia has no tradition of folk theatre, unlike India.

Here, the folk theatre attacks the existing social evils getting the desired results.

He believed that in Australia, the uniqueness of community drama in promoting individual and social change was being recognised. He told the gathering that community drama was a form of communication and expression that allowed sensitive and virtually cleaving issues to be addressed more easily. 

This form of drama, Ken said, allowed previously hushed voices to be heard by encouraging a dialogue within local communities and therefore promoting awareness and understanding between people and communities.


Wowser means ‘prudish teetotaler’ in Australian English. John Norton, who claimed credit for inventing this word, said, “I invented the word myself. I was the first man publicly to use the word when I applied it to Alderman Waterhouse, whom I referred to as the white, woolly, weary, watery, word-wasting wowser from Waverly.”

Sustainable development

The Institute of Vocational Studies, Master of Tourism Administration at the Himachal Pradesh University organised an international conference on cutting edge research, challenges and new direction in tourism.

With the seminar being organised in collaboration with the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, participants from India and abroad attended the sessions. Detailed discussions were held on issues like sustainable development with focus on eco-tourism so as to ensure that there is no damage to the fragile hill environment. Areas like adventure, temple, culture, Buddhist circuit and health tourism were discussed at the seminar. — TNS



Relief for food ‘vulnerable’ sections
Rakesh Lohumi

There is good news for the food vulnerable sections of Shimla. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will be now providing financial assistance to Shimla for improving the means of livelihood of the identified sections exposed to food insecurity.

The decision is a reward from the FAO to the hill state for implementing it’s important programme effectively and efficiently. Daniel Gustafson, representative of the FAO, who was here to review the implementation of the ‘Food Insecurity Vulnerability Information Mapping System’ (FIVIMS) said, “Himachal has been doing exceedingly well and it has been way ahead of Orissa, which is the only other state in the country where the FAO sponsored programme was implemented”. Keeping in view the impressive performance of the state in putting the FIVIMS in place, the FAO decided to go a step further and help the vulnerable sections to augment their means of livelihood.

To begin with, a scheme to promote herbiculture among the poorest and the most food vulnerable sections like Gujjars, farm labourers and wage labourers will be introduced. It is expected to take care of everything from growing, storing, value addition and marketing of herbs.

A survey conducted under the programme revealed that the abject lack of exposure to modern techniques of breeding, harvesting and utilisation of livestock has resulted in low productivity in case of Gujjars. As many as 213 out of the total 20,118 villages are vulnerable to food insecurity in the state. Out of these, 58 villages are most vulnerable to food insecurity.

The mapping system will provide complete data about cropped area, food grain production, productivity of livestock and food requirement which in turn will enable the concerned authorities to identify the food vulnerable areas and sections and take short and long term measures accordingly.

According to Gustafson, there is a need for the upgradation of the mapping system; the present system is not universally accessible and only those who have been given the code can access it.



Vanishing act
Jersy, Holstein and Red Sindhi are fast replacing local-bred cattle at the Nalwara fair at Sundernagar
Kuldeep Chauhan


The weeklong Nalwar Fair that was in full swing at Nagaun Khud, Sundernagar concludes tomorrow. One of the premier cattle fairs of the region, though the fair has picked up trade in last two years, the native sturdy pahari livestock including cows and bullocks still face extinction.

The cattle breeders feel that the reason for vanishing hill breed is the Animal Husbandry Department’s keener interest to promote Jersey, Holstein and Red
Sindhi breeds (under the livestock development policy) “As a result, the hill breed has been pushed to the brink,” 
they rue.

The cattle breeders who showcased the sturdy “Lal Baulu” and “Kala Baulu, the two hill breed bullocks at the cattle fair said that they breed and preserve it at their own with no incentive from the Animal Husbandry Department. “The pahari breed suits the hilly areas and they are a part of our valued heritage”, says Balak Ram, a cattle breeder from Jai Devi, Sundernagar.

The cattle fair also had participants from Hoshiarpur, Nangal, Kiratpur, Pathankot, Ropar, Ambala, Hissar, Gurgaon, Jagadhri, Saharanpur, Vikasnagar and Jammu. Besides, traders from Hamirpur, Una, Kangra, Palampur, Kulu and other places too came for the mela.

With weather playing an important role in the mela, while the best pair in the 2004 mela was sold for as high as Rs. Rs.10,000, in 2005 the best pair was sold for a mere Rs.4000 owing to bad weather. Says Tulsi Ram, a cattle farmer from Mandi, who won the best award for his pair of Haryanvi breed: “The weather is good this time and the best pair of the Haryana breed was sold for Rs. 20,000”.

Hari Saran, another farmer adds that over 80-90 per cent of the farmers still use the hill bred bullocks to till their fields and cows for milk.

The hill breed has not been registered with the Central Herd Registration scheme, Central Ministry of Animal Husbandry for promotion and “gene pool”. As per state’s breeding policy, zebu cattle is bred with Jersy or Holstein or Friesian breed to produce more milk and to maintain 50 percent blood purity in both breeds.

Even the farmers have evolved a breed of their own that best suits their local climate and farms fields.

The farmers say that the hill breed is also getting extinct as the richer apple and vegetable growers have stopped keeping cattle. “They prefer a jersey cow for milk rather than the cow bred here”. Cattle breeders say that they cannot afford the power tillers or tractors and sturdy bulls continue to be their first choice to till the small and marginal fields.

Even the traditional venue for the mela has shrunk over the years as the encroachers from its surroundings are out to grab the land. The farmers allege that the area that was meant for the cattle fair was leased out by the government to several private institutions and hostels.



Copy right?
D. P. Gupta

The ongoing campaign by the Himachal Pradesh State Education Board (HPSEB) to check the growing tendency of copying in school exams through strict measures has started a new debate in Hamirpur. The very means of tackling the problem are now being questioned.

More than five lakh students appeared for the board level school examinations this year and till date 4300 UMC (Unfair means cases) have already been registered. Though, there is unanimity on checking the growing menace of copying but a few voices have criticised the highhandedness of the flying squads.

There is also another view to the on going debate where some people have alleged that the strict measure to check copying has created a fear psychosis among students and affected their performance in the exams.

Manoj Parihar, general secretary of science teachers association is of the firm opinion that the growing menace of copying is linked to overall erosion of moral values in the society and tendency to adopt short cuts to get through exams and succeed in career.

He says “The pressure on teachers to give good results in exams in their schools is also creating a lot of pressure on the teaching community and some of them even connive in copying to give better results”.



shimla diary
A season of attacks & counter-attacks
Pratibha Chauhan

If the BJP is using the charge-sheet against the government to pin down ministers and other Congress leaders, it is the letter written by four ministers and three MLA’s of the BJP against their own government which is coming in handy for the Congress to turn the table around.

With practically no answer to the allegations of corruption and regional discrimination leveled by the seven BJP ministers and MLAs against the Dhumal government, the Congress is very cleverly using it to counter similar allegations being leveled by the Opposition.

During the Assembly debate to discuss the budget proposals for the next financial year, practically all the ministers used the letter very liberally as they read out excerpts from it, much to the discomfiture of the BJP members and especially those who were signatory to it. As such the issue of corruption raked up by the BJP and highlighted through the charge-sheet has boomeranged against the Opposition party.

With the names of practically all ministers in the Virbhadra cabinet figuring in the BJP charge-sheet against the government, the ministers are doing their bit with each one of them threatening to slap legal notices against the Opposition leaders who drafted the document.

Though the government has handed over the document to the Lokayaukta for probe but is still not willing to hand over investigations to the CBI. On the hand, the BJP says it has all the evidence to substantiate the allegations leveled against the ministers and other Congress leaders.

Fight HIV, the folksy way

It is through the medium of pahari folk theatre like banthra and kariala that the Department of Language, Art and Culture intends fighting the problem of AIDS and female foeticide, tightening their grip on the hill state. Joining hands with the health department to create awareness amongst the public, the Department of Language, Art and Culture will encourage folk artistes to give performances in the rural areas with a strong message on upholding of our ancient culture and traditions and high moral conduct.

The department will involve artistes performing the pahari theatre like kariala, banthra, nukkad, bhagat, raas and harantar in its fight against HIV and AIDS. The number of AIDS and HIV infections in the state are rapidly increasing and the thrust of the campaign will be on good moral conduct and upholding our rich culture and tradition. The Director, Language, Art and Culture, Prem Sharma informed that the department will extend financial assistance in all the districts for the staging of folk theatre on these themes. “While the bigger districts will be provided Rs 55,000, the smaller ones will be given Rs 42,500 for launching this awareness campaign,” he informed. The district language officer, health officials and the local panchayat pradhan will get involved in this fight against AIDS. Besides a strong message on the problem of AIDS, female foeticide and other women related issues will also be highlighted.



Pratibha Chauhan

The thrust is now on adventure
The thrust is now on adventure and eco-tourism

Adventure and eco-tourism are the latest buzzwords in the tourist’s itinerary to the ‘original God’s own country’ or the ‘Dev Bhumi’ which is finally waking up to tap its unrealised potential as a big-time tourist destination.

So far, tourism in the state has generally revolved round Shimla, Kullu-Manali, Dharamshala and Dalhousie, which has led to overcrowding of these destinations during the peak season. Not forgetting the huge ecological cost suffered by these hill stations to serve the needs of the tourism industry, the seasonal barrage of tourists only means more discomfiture than a serene experience for the visitors. Civic amenities are being put under increasing strain as cleanliness and hygiene becomes a casualty and traffic snarls become a routine.

No wonder, the tourists are increasingly seeking quieter and unexplored destinations in the hill state. The government and the private sector are finally articulating a response to this new wanderlust of the tourists.

Eco-tourism has become a special focus area for the government as it moves to create ideal destinations for nature lovers. In a recent move, the government has leased out locations in forest areas to private entrepreneurs for running eco-tourism resorts. Potter’s Hill, near Shimla, is one such example. In a policy shift, the government would bear the cost of creating basic infrastructure at these locations so that a place is permanently developed. 

The state tourism department, in collaboration with the forest department, aims to introduce jungle safaris, forest trails, nature walks, trekking and other such activities in the state’s 32 wildlife sanctuaries and two national parks. Eco-tourism Societies have already been formed to cover the Great Himalayan National park, Himalayan Nature Park, Renuka Wildlife Sanctuary and Potter’s Hill in Van Vihar. The forest rest houses in the most idyllic locations have been thrown open for tourists after refurbishing them to meet the demands of the tourists. Keen to play the role of a facilitator rather than being a provider, the government wants major participation of the private players in promoting tourism. The department had held a conclave in Shimla a year ago, offering more than 100 private and public properties to the private entrepreneurs. Some of these projects include proposal for a golf course at Baddi and a mini golf course at Baragraon near Manali.

The private players are, however, of the opinion that unless and until the focus is on marketing and selling of Himachal as a destination, the state cannot promote tourism in a big way. “We need to improve the infrastructure and have a professional marketing approach, in which the private players are taken into confidence,” opines Umesh Akre, President of the Himachal Hotels Association and Member of the Tourism Development Board. Aimed at attracting the high-end tourists, the government plans to set up spas, health resorts and recuperative centres to encash the salubrious climes and scenic locations in the state. Special attention is being paid towards promoting rural tourism, Buddhist circuit in the tribal districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti and temple tourism at various shrines all over the state.

To cater to the high-end tourists, the state government, despite widespread criticism, is keen to go ahead with the Himalayan Ski Village project in Manali, which is said to be one of the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in the country. The American Motor giant, Ford, is awaiting the final go-ahead for the $ 500 million project.

While most of the land is proposed to be bought from private land owners, it is the construction of villas costing several crores of rupees each which has attracted lot of criticism. The company proposes to sell these to the globe trotting high profile people, whose arrival in the valley is expected to promote the place at an international level.

Even as the ski village project at Manali is yet to take off, the government is already talking of a similar project in Chanchal in the Rohru area.

To enhance connectivity of the state with the rest of the country and also between various tourist destination within the state, an MoU has been signed with Jagson airlines to start a regular chopper service. The chopper service will ply between Chandigarh-Shimla-Manali but later would be expanded to connect 52 helipads in the state.

The government is also focusing on activity-based tourism like white water rafting, para-gliding, trekking, mountaineering, water sports, mountain biking and car rallies. Heritage locations like old havelis, palaces and forts are being empanelled to be turned into tourist destinations on the pattern of Rajasthan. In addition, heritage zones or villages have been identified like the one at Paragpur in Kangra with the aim of preserving the state’s cultural heritage.

All this to achieve the grand objective of turning Himachal into a preferred destination of tourists.



Erosion check on Shiwalik river catchments
Ambika Sharma

The catchments of the rivers in the Shiwalik ranges of Himalayas are among the severely affected. With an erosion rate of 80 tonnes per hectare annually, the problem requires urgent attention. The acute problem is apparent from the large-scale terrain deformation brought about by severe gully erosion, landslides, silting up of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

The concern about the severely affected catchment areas was echoed by Dr. Y.S.Parmar, vice chancellor of University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni and Dr. Jagmohan Singh during a one-day state level workshop on ‘Catchment Treatments of River Valley and Flood Prone Areas in Himachal Pradesh’.  Addressing over 80 delegates from across the state, Dr Singh emphasised on the fact that the state experiences soil displacement of about 280 million tonnes annually which posed severe problem of silting of dams and rivers lying downstream.

Talking on the large-scale soil erosion issue, he said, “ Out of the 16 rivers which experience the worst erosion globally; Ganges, Brahmaputra and Kosi stand at the second, third and twelfth position respectively”.

About 45 per cent of the land in India is battling with water erosion leading to a loss of topsoil in about 148 million hectares. According to an estimate, about 800 hectares of arable land is being lost annually due to ingress.

Citing the example of Sukhna Lake at Chandigarh the VC said that within ten years the lake was filled with sediments exceeding it’s capacity by as much as 65 per cent.

Speaking at the workshop, Dr Pankaj Khullar, principal chief conservator of forests, highlighted the urgent need to recharge the water resources and check soil erosion by enhancing the green cover. He informed that at present 47-watershed catchments work were in process in the Satluj, Ravi and Yamuna.





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