Back to life
Rakesh Lohumi

The prestigious project involving the conservation and breeding of the highly endangered western Tragopan is back on the rails. All the four pairs of the bird, living at the Sarhan Pheasantry—the only place in the world, which has the rare bird in captivity— have produced chicks during the current breeding season. More importantly, for the first time in the world, natural mothers hatched the eggs of two of these birds. Nine chicks were born from four clutches of eggs, out of which, one died after the male attacked it.

The number of birds has doubled from 8 to 16 in one season. It’s a major breakthrough in the conservation-breeding programme, paving way for the use of parent rearing for raising the chicks. The first and third pairs lay three eggs, each of which were hatched using broody hens. The second pair lay two eggs and the fourth, a solitary egg. However, natural mothers hatched all of them and this is a big achievement. Incidentally, a team headed by zoologist-cum-forester Dr Lalit Mohan, who achieved success in parent rearing of the endangered pheasant in captivity two years ago, has achieved the feat. He was assisted by forest ranger Sat Pal Dhiman and deputy forest ranger Alam Singh.

Before this, breeding had taken place just once in 2005, when four eggs of one pair were hatched using local broody hen as the natural mother. However, three of the chicks died subsequently and only one survived as the government shifted the project’s trained staff, midway through the breeding season, and also dropped conservation breeding expert John Corder from the World Pheasant Association. The project virtually collapsed and there was no breeding during 2005, mainly because the staff lacked requisite expertise and experience to carry out the specialised job.

The government had to engage John Corder as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) blamed the “shifting of experienced and trained staff” for the failure and asserted that that John Corder had done a good job as consultant and he was the best available expert to guide the programme.

Lalit Mohan said that parent rearing was essential for re-introduction of the bird in the wild as they had a much better chance of survival. The natural mother and chicks would be shifted to bigger enclosures where they would grow in natural environment for about a year. While those hatched by broody hen would be separated within two months. The objective is to have at least seven breeding pairs in the pheasantry. Once there are sufficient birds, some of those raised through parent rearing would be released in the wild in accordance with the guidelines of the IUCN.

Tragopan melanocephalus for the zoologists, the rare pheasant is placed high on the Red Data Book of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN), listing the highly endangered species. The survival of the species depends on success of the breeding programme being pursued by the department since 1991. It took 15 years to have a successful breeding, thanks to the guidance of John Corder, who had been making regular visits to monitor the programme.

It is a project of global importance as Sarhan Pheasantry is the only place in the world, which has the rare bird in captivity. The aim of the project is to supplement its dwindling population in the natural habitat through ex-situ conservation.



Theatre in Shimla: Missing Gaiety
Jitender Kaushik

Theatre in Shimla came alive with two back-to-back festivals last month — a weeklong show featuring 15 one-act plays by as many local groups, and the All-India Dance and Drama Competition. These festivals might have given an impetus to the lacklustre theatre activity in the town, but they also brought to the centrestage all that ails it.

“Lack of space, funds, audiences, and if you have to add, lack of will and passion,” sums up Rakesh Kanwar, a former theatre activist.

Apart from its unique theatrical tradition sustained by the Gaiety Theatre at the centre of the Mall, the town is known for producing some great actors like the late Manohar Singh, Anupam Kher and Vijay Kashyap, while greats like the late Prithvi Raj Kapoor loved to perform here.

But unending renovation of Gaiety has hit the theatre movement where it hurts most. “Set up by the British, the Gaiety was a dream place to perform. And now, for more than three years we have no space at all,” goes the common lament of every theatre artiste.

There’s more than a grain of truth in this lament, but what transpired during the recent festivals can’t be blamed just on the lack of space. Most of the plays displayed a lack of effort and imagination, more than anything else.

Except for a couple of them like Sudama Ke Chawal and Shanivar Ko Dopahar Do Baje, the rest appeared to have been hastily put together, and, with a complete disregard to the vital elements of theatrical art like set, light and sound.

 “It was indeed a hastily put together fest and it showed. But not too bad for a week-old federation,” says Kedar Sharma, the secretary of the newly set up Federation for Theatre in Shimla. “It’s just a beginning. Our first attempt to bring together different theatre groups of the town on one stage,” adds Deven Joshi, the president of the federation.

Joshi, who in his heydays has worked with the likes of Naseerudin Shah and Manohar Singh, believes that what the town needs is a cultural shift towards theatre to revive the lost glory. “…And loads of team spirit. In the recent years most of the groups have disintegrated. So now we have a peculiar situation in Shimla: We have more theatre groups than artistes,” says Rupesh Bali, a theatre graduate and freelancer.

“No government and private sector support, movies and yes, lack of good shows.” Vijay Sharma, a veteran stage and small-screen actor, lists the usual suspects for the progressive decline of the theatre movement in small towns.

Despite this, the theatre movement in Shimla, though limping and lacking direction, has not lost its way completely. Each year a new amateur group is getting enrolled.

More youngsters are applying for and making it to the prestigious National School of Drama. And some of them, like second year NSD student Vipin Bhardwaj, who learnt the ropes of the stage in town, are thinking of performing here in near future.  

What theatre needs here is a burst of energy, which, believe most of the actors, might come once the curtains go up at the Gaiety Theatre.



Breathing life into miniature paintings
Ashok Raina
After sinking and craving for survival for long, Kangra’s trademark art form gets a fresh lease of life

The Kangra School of Painting— Kangra Kalm— has been described as the ‘art of patience, labour and native devotion.’ Attributed to this school is the art of miniature paintings, described as an ‘art of delicacy of line, brilliancy of colours and minuteness of details.’ Originating during the reign of Raja Goverdhan Chand of Guler (1744-73), this 260-year-old art had almost reached the verge of extinction until the newly established Kangra Arts Promotion Society (KAPS) initiated efforts to preserve it.

Kangra divisional commissioner and KAPS president, B.K. Agrawal, stressed for a joint effort by art lovers to preserve the Kangra Miniature Paintings. Strokes of Kangra, an Exhibition of Kangra Miniature Paintings at Mcleodganj, was a step in this direction. A part of this endeavor were 11 artists, including national award winner Vijay Sharma of Chamba, Anil Raina, Mukesh Diman, Preetam, Dani Ram, Om Sujhan Puri and the only woman artist Anu Priya, who exhibited their 80 Kangra paintings.

Agrawal said that in an effort to revive this art, a special painting school would be opened here under the patronage of KAPS, which would provide financial benefits to the painters, besides promoting this art. KAPS would provide stipend to the budding artists during their one-year training in the school and they would be provided proper market for their paintings after the completion of the course.

KAPS would hold two major annual exhibitions, one each in the state and a metropolitan city like Delhi and Mumbai, in order to provide market to these artists. He informed that Kangra paintings worth Rs 50,000 had been sold at the first exhibition organised by KAPS at McLeodganj.

Describing the Kangra painting as a lyrical blend of religion and romance, Agrawal said that renowned Sanskrit poet Jai Deva’s Geet Govinda, The Bagwat Purana, Bihari’s Satsai, Keshav’s Rasik Priya and Kavipriya had been illustrated by these artists. The Nayaka Bheda, the Baramasas of miniature paintings depicting the twelve months, were the height of the creative imagination.

Agrawal added that these great miniatures constitute a valuable record of ancient culture of Vashnava faith Krishna Avtara. The universal feelings of love and romance were conveyed through ideal and spiritual love of Radha and Krishna.

The artists have captured moonlight, the rain-rich clouds, white swans against the dark sky, lotus pools and lovers’ pavilion and the love messengers like Chakva-Chakvi. Anand Coomaraswamy brought the Kangra paintings into the limelight for the first time in 1910, when he visited the Kangra valley. The state government, in a bid to revive the art by starting training centers for young artists through the Handloom and Handicraft Corporation and the Himachal Academy of Art Culture and Languages, also started training in this art in the 70’s through guru shishya parampara but failed to achieve the desired results.

After the death of the renowned Kangra painting artist Chandu Lal Raina, on May 5, 1994, his son Anil Raina and Satya Prakash made copies of masterpieces. The practicing artists of the school could be counted on the fingertips now.

Art scholar Dr Eberhard Fischer held a show of Kangra paintings in the Museum Rietberg, Zurich, for three months. Under the guidance of Dr Fischer, the Department of Art Culture and Languages had to set up a gallery for Kangra paintings at the Kangra Museum, which didn’t materialise due to lack of patronage from the Government. It’s hoped that with its sincere efforts, KAPS would certainly help to revive this art in the days to come.



Remembering Ranaji
Kuldeep Chauhan
A tribute to Rana Arjun Singh, who dedicated his life working for society

A freedom fighter-cum-revolutionary, a social worker and a veteran Congressman, Rana Arjun Singh was all rolled in one. He breathed his last early this month and would always be remembered for his exemplary social work. He is survived by his three sons. Rana helped in quenching the thirst of many villagers by digging up umpteen number of wells in his native Balh valley, Mandi. The villagers in Balh owe a permanent debt to him as he solved the problem of drinking water in the valley. Once when he was sick he told his son, “Do you know my horoscopes say that I would not live beyond 60 years, but I have turned 85. Perhaps these bonus 25 years is the blessings and good wishes of the villagers.”

An upright and disciplinary soldier, Rana was humbled by the untimely death of his eldest son and daughter, but still never gave up his missionary zeal to serve the people and later came to be known as Kuoan wale Ranaji among his admirers. The villagers recall Rana as a man with a scientific temper and intuition to identify underground water. He would use a V-shaped mulberry stick to spot water waves on the surface and then the villagers would dig up the spot and hit water for sure. As a sarpanch of Nayay panchayat in Multhair for 17 years, he went from village to village and helped dug up thousands of wells in the valley and outside. Recalls his son Ravi Rana, who is senior advocate in Mandi Bar, “He had a knack for predicting which place to strike for water. Once an IPH team started digging up a well in Ner Chowk and he had predicted that the spot had no signs of water. The team spent thousands and later failed.” Later they dug at a place suggested by him, just few feet away from it and it magically struck water.

A recipient of Tamrapatra given by the then late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972, Rana served in INA led by Netaji Subhash Chander Bose.  Later as a prisoner of war he converted several other prisoners into freedom fighters under the direction of Netaji. He along with several other revolutionaries walked on foot in the tough terrain of Malaysia, Malaya,

Southeastern states and Andaman and Nicobar Islands to raise their voice against the British army. Rana was jailed along with other soldiers for revolting against the Britishers. He was one the 45 soldiers who had undergone a trial that came to be known as Red Fort trial of 1945 in which Bhola Bhai Desai acted as the veteran defense lawyer. “Post independence, he joined the police but left the job when my elder brother died soon after the custodial death of a murder accused under his supervision,” recalls Ravi. Rana even had a stint in Bollywood and was a part of four films. He returned home in Balh due to ill health and served the Congress as a social worker till his last breath.



Majestic ride
Meet the hill capital’s Rani Mukherjee & Kajol... Any trip is incomplete without a ritual ride on the royally dressed four-legged wonder, says Priya Gill

Her shiny coat glistens in the sun, her radiance is unmatched. Eyes upon eyes watch her sculpted muscles moving to the beat of her sudden steps. Adorned like a maharani, such majesty stands before us. In awe, we climb upon her sturdy back, on which she graciously allows us to rest. We smile as we proceed down the path listening to the gentle pitter-patter of her stride. We march past the rolling hills, until we reach the end; it’s over, but she is always in our hearts.

Shimla market is home to these special horses. Over 20 beautiful horses take small children, adolescents, parents, and individuals for a stroll down the Mall road. The business, located by the Lakkar market, has been in existence since the time of the Brits and horse keepers maintain their horse’s elegant appearance with endless hours of grooming from head to toe.

“The pampered ponies are massaged by hand for two hours every morning with oil, then thoroughly washed and brushed to preserve their shimmering glow,” says Gopal Singh, a horse keeper. They are also adorned with bells and impressive saddles. To add to their majestic look, some of the horses are named after film stars such as Rani Mukherjee and Kajol.

The keepers ensure their mares are not overworked by restricting each ride to no more than ten-minutes. Another keeper, Amarjeet, who has been in the business for ten years, says they frequently feed the horses water, allow them to rest, and give them four substantial meals a day consisting of such items as channa, jaggery, and grass. “In summers, we ensure that they drink a lot of water and take plenty of rest,” he says. “Whenever there is a break, the horse takes rest. They sleep on three legs and rest each leg alternatively.”

The keepers charge Rs 20 a ride for a single child, Rs 30 for one adult and one child, and Rs 40 for two adults. Amarjeet tells that the business is most demanding during the holiday period where horses give up to 30 to 40 rides a day. “During off season, we make only Rs 50 to 100 a day,” says Amarjeet.



Arrested development
The Nahan Jail is overcrowded
Vidya Rattan Sharma

The condition of inmates housed in the local Central Model Jail is no better despite the directives of the apex court and the National Human Rights Commission guaranteeing the rights of the prisoners.

The strength of the overcrowded Nahan jail is now 355 inmates, including 8 women, as against its capacity of 198. There are 285 convicts and 70 under-trials in the jail.

The number of criminals lodged under the NDPS (Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act is highest at 120 persons.

This is despite the stringent measures being taken by the Sirmour police. Motivational techniques, corrective lectures in colleges will be conducted to curb drug abuse, said J. P. Singh superintendent of police.

The jail is not equipped to meet the needs of the large number of addicts. At present the jail comprises of 20 barracks that has 85 inmates from Kulu, Sirmour and Kangra, 10 prisoners from Haryana, eight from Panjab, 10 from Jammu and Kashmir, 10 from Uttrakhand, five from Bihar and five from Italy and one from the United Kingdom.

There are 102 inmates facing charges for murder under the IPC 302, followed by 38 convicted for rape and 98 others facing charges under various sections of the IPC. The staff posted in the jail remains 11 against the sanctioned strength of 39. The 53 home-guards are not enough to tackle when some conflicts arise amongst the inmates.

A visit to the jail shows the jail has is only one regular doctor and two pharmacists. The jail remains poorly equipped to tackle any emergency situations. Recently a convict Karam Chand had slashed his veins in protest against the poor medical facility and there were nobody around to take him to Shimla for treatment, said Ashok Shandil, jail superintendent.

In order to keep the inmates busy the prisoners are engaged in making durris, shawls, blankets and bed sheets. The women prisoners are made to do the kitchen work

Recollecting his memories, a former inmate of the jail said the authorities should put strict vigilance as the number of drug addicts was increasing. A fair quantity of cigarettes, bidis and drugs can be bought inside, said the inmate.



Rooted in tinsel town
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

It has been lying here for years. Those were the days when it enjoyed importance owing to the special place it held in a popular Bollywood flick Kudrat, starring Hema Malini and Rajesh Khanna. The deodar tree christened Paro-Madhu, takes its name from the lead cast of the movie. The huge stem of this huge tree in Naldehra forest now lies neglected and ignored.   

According to a local belief, Paro-Madhu was the oldest tree in Naldehra’s dense cedar forest surrounding the Golf Course. The tree had three full-grown parallel stems with a combined bottom radius area of 15 feet. It was uprooted during a severe dust storm about seven years ago. Some even estimate the tree to be 400 years old. Though, there are many more deodar trees in the forest, none towering has matched Paro-Madhu’s height.

 The tree caught the attention of the crew of Kudrat and its director Chetan Anand. The tree was used as a meeting spot of the love pair, Paro and Madhu, reborn after their tragic end in the previous birth. The crew left its mark on the tree in the form of a heart carved on its trunk. Since then the tree is known as Paro-Madhu. After this, the tree gained commercial value and a few vends were set up near it. Even today it is home to a small makeshift weekend market run near the tree side. The area along the tree is still visited by tourists thronging Naldehra. Though only the base of the trunk lies on the spot, it is enough to give an idea of the tree’s size.

Locals still rue the falling of the tree. For them, the matter is indeed a sad one as the tree had brought them fame. Paro–Madhu had opened avenues for film shootings at Naldehra and a good number of hit Bollywood movies were shot in this forest. The location continues to be a big draw for Bollywood.  Interestingly, a cedar tree near Paro-Madhu was used as a meeting point by Mithun Chakravorty and Padmini Kohlapuri in Pyar Jhukta Nahin. Ironically, this tree too fell in 2006.



The Gandhi connection
by Shriniwas Joshi

Rajkumari Amrit Kaur may have inherited Manorville but her’s was a life spent in the service of the nation & and its father. She often distributed pamphlets and Harijan bulletins in Gunj Bazaar

Photo by S. ChandanRaja Sir Harnam Singh of Kapurthala, who had embraced Christianity at a young age, was nominated a member of the Council of Governor General to India in 1893-94 and, probably, during that period Manorville at Summerhill (see photograph) was constructed. Or was it in 1900-02, when he was member of Punjab’s Legislative Council? The records are wanting in this late 19th or early 20th century building.

Standing close to the present administrative block of Himachal Pradesh University, the mansion signs on many pages of history of India’s independence because here lived Kapurthala’s daughter Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, a staunch follower of and English language secretary for 16 years to Mahatma Gandhi. He, on his visits to Shimla, during 1935 and 1946, stayed here though he wrote to indisposed house-owner from Wardha on September 26, 1936 “surely it is ‘idiotic’ to pass summer in Simla merely because you possess a house there. You ought to select another summer resort where you can really recoup yourself.”


Gandhi wrote to Amrit Kaur on October 8, 1936: “ My dear Idiot and Rebel combined, Of course there is as much illness in Simla as elsewhere and I was told when I came there for the first time that the place was notorious for venereal diseases. But those who choose can certainly benefit by its mountain air.”

Few know that the Mahatma used to address the Rajkumari as Idiot, Rebel, What Not etc. and signed letters to her as Tyrant, Warrior or Robber! Correspondence between the two had started in a formal way with Bapu addressing her as ‘dear sister’ in 1933 but changed to very informal when they understood each other. The chain of correspondence was broken in 1942 when Gandhi was jailed. That year Amrit Kaur edited Harijan from Manorville.

Wherever Gandhi might be, his eyes and ears were always stuck to happenings in any part of India. Once he enquired from her from Bulsar on June 7, 1937, “Do you know anything about two Englishmen stealthily removing the Congress flag flying over the Khadi Depot of Simla?”

Nobody could ever think that a socialite, party-girl and tennis-playing lady like Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, schooled in England and who, according to Lady Dufferin was a ‘very pleasing and perfect English speaking native lady, remarkably nice and clever’ would lead a life of austerity in Bapu’s ashram. Who could foresee her going to Gunj Bazaar, distributing pamphlets, Harijan bulletins and persuading government servants to join the civil disobedience movement?

Lakshmi N. Menon says, “The master craft of Gandhi is conspicuously visible in the case of Amrit Kaur who gave up her princely ways and habits in favour of service for the nation.”

On the death of her father in 1930, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur inherited Manorville and her two brothers Sir Maharaj Singh, the first Governor of Bombay in independent India, and Justice Dalip Singh, puisne judge of the Lahore High Court, succeeded to the adjacent buildings that were burnt down to make way for the administrative block and the library of the University.

Manorville with open spaces is spread over an acre of land. The structure has three floors besides the basement. Gandhiji used to stay in suite number six on the ground floor. It has seven suites and exquisite teak and walnut wood furniture. When Amrit Kaur became the health minister in Nehru’s first cabinet, she was the moving force behind conceptualising and designing the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi. She brought help from various countries to establish it and, today, it is the apex health institute of the country India. She then donated Manorville to AIIMS to serve as holiday home for the staff and nurses of the institute, which it is till date. As health minister, she laid the foundation stone of Vallabh Chikitsalaya, a government hospital at Nahan in 1949.

She fought the first General Election in 1952 from Mandi and won. She left the ministerial berth in 1957 but remained a member of Rajya Sabha till 1964. And on her mentor’s birthday, October 2, that year, her soul merged with that of the Mahatma.



Vice-Chancellor Tej Pratap Singh is ready for new challenges in the agricultural sector Rakesh Lohumi

Back at the helm for a second term as vice-chancellor of Chaudhary Shrawan Kumar Agriculture University, Palampur, Dr Tej Pratap Singh feels that he is much better equipped to carry forward his unfinished agenda to reform and restructure the institution to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Dr Pratap says the experience he gained in the intervening period as chairman of the working group which prepared the framework of the Rs 2,500 crore organic sector programme for the 11th plan and as a consultant to the commission on farmers for hill farming will indeed be a big asset. He feels he is now aware of the plans of the government as well as the expectations of the farmers.

The university has been continuing on the old pattern and there is an urgent need to reorient the academic, research and extension streams, he says, adding that the first and foremost thing in his mind is to restructure the academic courses to make them self-employed.

“I want to see the passouts as agri-business professionals taking up their own agri-business ventures rather than looking for white-collar jobs,” Dr Pratap says.

Apart from restructuring the curriculum, the mindset of both scientists and students needs to be changed and also bring in a new work culture, which is by no means an easy task.

Citing an example of the old-fashioned courses, which requires a fresh look, he says the university has been running a degree course in home science, which in the present shape has little job potential. However, it can be remodeled with an eye on the growing tourism and hospitality sector into a most selling proposition.

At present the state has no agriculture policy and also lacks an effective strategy for the growth of the agricultural sector. Besides, there is also no feedback mechanism which makes it difficult to define the role of agri- universities and what is exactly required of them. His effort will be to focus on policy research and other important areas and put in place the feedback mechanism to enable the government to come out with new strategies for the growth of this sector. In the fast-changing global scenario, new policies and strategies have to evolve constantly

Organic farming will be one of the core areas as it is the key to development in the environmentally fragile hills, which lack the means of irrigation.

Shift from inorganic to organic farming reduces the cost of inputs by Rs 3,000 and generates extra employment for the farming household. The Government of India proposes to bring 5 million hectare under organic farming during the 11th plan and 10 million hectare by 2015.

Moreover, organic farming is essential to boost agri-exports, which amounted only 0.3 per cent, Dr Pratap says.

The new stringent international food safety regulations will virtually make it next to impossible for a country like India to export in organic produce.



A ray of hope
Balkrishan Prashar

The district leprosy hospital at Sarol village, near Chamba town, brings a ray of hope to the people suffering from this disease.

The hospital Sarol, situated around 6 km from Chamba, is one of the oldest leprosy hospitals in Asia. Founded in 1875 by Dr Hutchison Belley, a British physician, it started functioning under the guidance of Raja Ram Singh, a far-sighted ruler of the erstwhile state of Chamba.

The hospital was expanded in 1975 and a new building was erected alongside the old one. The hospital is now being run under the National Leprosy Eradication Progra-mme. At the moment, 20 patients are undergoing treatment at the hospital.

Meanwhile, Dr Nagesh Verma, chief medical officer, claims that owing to early detection and elimination of deformities, there has been a decrease in the cases of leprosy, thanks to the leprosy eradication programme. “However, the state government has recently launched a rehabilitation scheme. Under the scheme a sarvodaya colony is being constructed, adjacent to the hospital. The colony will have 25 huts which will be allotted independently to the patients of the hospital,” he says.



Holy temples, unholy mess
Balkrishan Prashar

Once called Brahmpura, the capital of the state of Bharmour, the town still retains its temples and monuments, some of them dating back to the seventh century.

But, today these historic monuments present a picture of neglect. The temples’ glittering façade is decaying due to the vagaries of the weather and interference of cattle.

The most important of the existing temples are Manimahesh (Suryamukhling temple), Lakshna Devi, Ganesh and Narsingh. These temples are beautifully carved with human figures and floral designs. The Manimahesh Shikhara style temple is one of the most ancient and beautiful temples in the state. The Narsingh temple was badly damaged by an earthquake on April 4, 1905.

Though these six temples are being looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), little has been done in the name of renovation. Rainwater trickles down from the decayed roofs. The work of art on the walls of these temples have decayed. The ASI must take steps for the preservation of the antique art of these temples.

Earlier, the local temple committee looked after the maintenance which has now been handed over to the Manimahesh Trust.



Shimla diary
Problem of the meter
Pratibha Chauhan

The verbal assurance given by chief minister Virbhadra Singh to taxi owners in the state as far as the metered taxi scheme is concerned, has left senior transport officials in a quandary as they are desperately looking for a way out to resolve the impasse.

Knowing very well that the scheme is being implemented on the directions of the High Court, all concerned are aware that sooner or later it will have to be brought into effect. The agitating taxi owners in the state might have called off their strike after a verbal assurance from the chief minister but in reality it could prove to be only a short-lived breather for them.

Not impressed with the verbal assurance given by the chief minister, the taxi owners in Dharamshala are still continuing their strike as they want everything to be in black and white so that the government cannot go back on its word. Senior transport officials will be holding a meeting with the chief minister to work out a solution, which is acceptable to all within the parameters of the criterion laid down by the High Court.

The only saving grace was that the deadline for the implementation of the metered taxi scheme was June 24, which is practically the end of the tourist season in the state. The tourists did face some inconvenience but by the time the taxi owners proceeded on a strike, the number of tourists had come down drastically.

It remains to be seen whether the government can find a workable solution acceptable to all with no legal implications. It’s a different matter that the people had welcomed the implementation of the metered taxi scheme which they said would save them from fleecing and harassment at the hands of taxi owners who quote exorbitant rates.

Encroachers, beware!

The enthusiasm with which the new mayor and his team has got down to serious work without losing out much time has impressed everyone.

Mayor of the local municipal corporation (MC) Narinder Kataria is not just committed to restoring the lost glory of the erstwhile summer capital of the British but is keen to keep it free of encroachments.

To begin with he has directed the officials to remove all encroachments from the crowded Lower Bazar area. The congestion in the narrow market is worsened by the vendors who sit all along the road and the extensions made by the shopkeepers to display their products.

Though the problem of encroachments is not new but rarely has the MC taken the task so seriously. Often there were talks on the problem being faced in the free movement of ambulances and fire tenders through the thickly populated Lower Bazar but no steps were taken to solve it.

Hope that the zeal being shown by the MC remains alive in the interest of the town and its residents.

Gram Shree Mela

The Gram Shree Mela in which more than 50 artisans and NGO’s from all over the country participated was a major attraction for the locals as well as tourists here last week.

Being organised by the Social Organisation for Upliftment and Research Centre (SOURCE), it had artists right from Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Delhi, Punjab and many other states. The mela, which was inaugurated by union rural development minister Raghuvansh Pratap Singh, will now be held every year.

The mela offered handicrafts products like Gujarati bed covers and cushions, shawls and embroidered firhans from Jammu and Kashmir, leather works and also exquisite collection of natural dry flowers from the North-East. Along with the handicrafts items artists of Rajasthan presented folk dances and their famous puppet show.

The local authorities have decided that the mela will be an annual feature and efforts will be made to bring in more and more artists from every part of the country.



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