Killer Campaign
S. R. Pundir

Residents of the Renuka area have not welcomed the action of the state forest department which in collaboration with the Kheti Bachao Sanghrash Samiti (KBSS) has launched the ‘scientific culling’ of simians in 15 Panchayats of Sangrah Development Block. People say it is not the solution to monkey menace, which has put farmers and residents in deep crises.

Putting a question mark on the prospects of the ‘culling campaign’, people of the area have reacted sharply and expressed their concern over the firing in the nearby forests. They said monkeys were being shot during late evenings and night hours. They say if in the evening hours monkeys were fired at and they do not run away and hide in the same hideout, they call such killings as ‘unscientific killings’. A large number of residents of Sangrah Block expressed surprise over this operation by ‘totally untrained people’ who do not know difference between scientific culling and unscientific killing, they say.

What about religion?

They say even though monkeys are not seen in the fields these days, shooters are entering the forests, mostly the reserve forests, to kill monkeys. People question such shootings on the ground that as they were not being taken into the confidence about the firing schedule, there are chances of mishaps. People also allege that the campaign has hurt their religious feelings as they see monkey as Hanuman and oppose their killing.

Mordhwaj, president of Chokar Panchyat, where the campaign was organised on July 16, does not favour this campaign as he feels that it was a futile exercise and not the solution of the problem. He said this campaign had created an unnecessary fear and sense of insecurity among the farmers as after firing takes place in the forests of one Panchyat, the groups of monkeys were shifting to other nearby villages. He questioned that ‘how by killing 20-30 monkeys out of thousands you may claim that crises were over’.

He cautioned that the campaign had gathered sharp reactions from the religious people of the area. He said, “One should not forget that the Renuka area had been birth place of Lord Parshuram and the place of meditation of great Sages, Sapta Rishis, including Godess Renuka, people here were totally religious and do not tolerate killing simians.” The government should lift the ban on the export of monkeys, as it would provide permanent solution of the problem without hurting the religious feeling of the residents, Mordhwaj demanded.

No solution this

Reacting sharply to the campaign Deep Ram, president of Gram Panchyat Deed Panar, has totally opposed the killings as he says it was not the solution of the monkey menace faced by the farmers and hurt religious feeling of the resident. He also opposed the firings in the forest area as it would disturb the wild animals. He, along with Ram Singh, a farmer of Kotla Molar Panchyat and Kamal Kumar, a teacher of Badon village also favour export of monkeys as permanent solution to the problem.

Deep Ram Sharma, former president of Bhalona Panchyat in Sangrah Development Block questions the scientific culling process by saying that this process was fit where the animals were in hundreds, but to kill thousands of monkeys, this process will not work. Such paper campaigns were drafted by the people who just worked on files and totally ignorant about the ground realities, he commented.

Campaign under fire

The campaign under fire was launched in the Sangrah Development Block in the first phase on July 14. The campaign had been planned for the entire state as per sources. According to Virender Kapoor, joint secretary of Gyan Vigyan Samiti under which the KBSS works, during the past four days more than 20 monkeys have been killed in the Shamra, Bhutli Manal and Chokar Panchyats of the area by a team of local shooter who were provided with ammunition by the forest department. He said the department had distributed ammunition of 25 fire shots to each of these Panchyats.

He said the decision for launching this campaign in the rest of 15 Panchyats of Nohra Sub-Tehsil would be taken in the next meeting of the KBSS

Kapoor, however, made it clear that the Gyan Vigyan Samiti does not support such campaign ‘as it was no solution of the crises’. He urged the government to give serious thought to this problem.

Omprakash, spokesman of KBSS and in charge of this campaign, said the KBSS was not in favour of scientific culling campaign but keeping in view larger interests of the farmers, his association had extended support to this campaign. He said the demands of his organisation were to lift ban on the export of monkeys, to launch sterilisation campaign and to create a century for monkeys in the state.



On Red Alert
Rakesh Lohumi

AN innocuous looking MP3 sound file may be carrying a hidden video clip training on how to make a bomb or rocket launcher. An image of a unsuspecting celebrity could be hiding a text message from a terrorist engaged in subversive activities. With the hi-tech terrorists increasingly using information technology, security agencies are daily confronted with new challenges for which their personnel have to be updated on a regular basis.

Experts in various fields threw light on hi-tech white-collared crimes like credit card frauds, data mining, cyber crimes, particularly the use of Internet by terrorists, provided in depth knowledge to the police top brass from various states during a six-day course on Recent Advances in Forensic Science, which concluded early this week. They gave a detailed account of how modern forensic science techniques like brain and DNA mapping, narco analysis and voice printing bring criminals to book.

The great virtues of the Internet like easy access, lack of regulation, fast flow of information and anonymity of communication have not gone unnoticed by terrorist organisations and today all active groups have a presence on the Internet. They maintain their own websites, more than one in most cases, and use several languages. Terrorism on the Internet is a dynamic phenomenon: Websites suddenly emerge, frequently modify their formats, and then swiftly disappear — or, in many cases, seem to disappear by changing their online address but retaining the content. Internet and e-mail provide the perfect vehicles for these groups to communicate with each other, to spread their message, to raise money and to launch cyberattacks,” explained P. Krishna Sastry, a digital forensic experts from the Central Forensic Laboratory, Hyderabad. Terrorists have been sending encrypted messages using a new technique called Steganograpahy that was giving law enforcers a tough time, he said. Using the technique a text file could be hidden ‘inside’ an image or a sound file. “By looking at the image or listening to the sound, one would not know that there is extra information present. Terrorists had been hiding pictures and maps of targets in chat rooms, on porn bulletin boards and on websites, he explained.

Besides network surveillance, innovative techniques like deployment of ‘honey pot’ programmes was required to combat cyber crime. Intelligence agencies were using ‘honey pots’ with a high-tech twist by setting up bogus sites to attract people they were seeking to monitor. There was also a need to sensitise departments on not providing information that might be useful to terrorists planning cyber attacks.



Inheritance of loss
Dharam Prakash Gupta

THE findings of a survey conducted in government schools by a Hamirpur-based NGO Trisha working in collaboration with Indian Medical Association has come out with disturbing figures. It reported that 73.39 per cent girls under 16 are anaemic, 19.86 percent are on the borderline and only 6.75 had the normal Hb level.
In Hamirpur, 73% girls are anaemic

It rather comes as a shock when our governments are talking loud about women health and several programmes have been launched by central and state governments to check malnutrition and create awareness among females. Out of the total 1,037 girls under 16, whose Hb was tested, 761 had Hb below 10, 206 were on the borderline and only 70 had Hb above 10. As per health norms, the Hb level is supposed to be 13 grams.

In one of the schools in Rangas, 48 girls out of 55 were found to be anaemic, 7 on borderline and not even a single girl had a normal Hb level. Health educator Satish Shukla claims that 85 to 90 per cent adolescent girls are anaemic in the district. Elaborating reasons for the prevalence of anaemia in adolescent girls Shukla says, “There are basically four reasons for the problem and excessive bleeding during menstruation is responsible in 40 to 60 per cent of the cases.” The other reasons according to him are antenatal problems among pregnant women, diseases and malnutrition. One factor, which is common in the country, is inheritance of anaemia from mothers. On an average 85 per cent women are anaemic in India according to a health report.

Strangely several specific women health oriented programmes like Health Awareness, Women Empowerment under National Rural Health Mission and Reproduction and Child Health by regional health center have been at work for many years here and Hamirpur even has a high rate of literacy. President of Trisha society N.K. Sharma says, “Our society has not only launched a survey to check anaemic level but also distributed iron supplements among girls to improve Hb levels.” Chief medical officer Hamirpur says, “In fact malnutrition among girls is one of the main reasons for this problem. Mothers should take extra care to control excessive bleeding among young girls during menstruation.” He added, “Awareness can go a long way in eradicating the problem of anaemia.”



A man with many faces

by Shriniwas Joshi 

MANY who climbed the Gaiety stage in Shimla remained amateur in acting and made their mark in a field other than acting. Rudyard Kipling won laurels for his writings, Baden Powell got associated with cubs and scouts, Newnham Davies was a writer army-man but Manohar Singh rose to starry heights on stage.

There has been no parallel of Manohar in stage acting. He acted in more than 55 plays and it was Tughlaq done for the first time in 1973 in Delhi that made him great. Khushwant Singh since then started calling him M.S. Tughlaq. He himself says, “To do Tughlaq is to deal with a challenging and complex character. He is soft, tender and idealistic where he talks of loneliness in his life unfolding his dreams about future in one scene but then in the other he behaves like a fierce animal and slaughters man after man. Tughlaq is certainly a difficult role for any actor.”

Naseeruddin Shah playing Ghalib in the serial Mirza Ghalib had lived his role and those who had seen it believed that Ghalib could not be other than what Naseer was in the serial, so was Manohar Singh in Tughlaq. These actors enliven the characters and events of history. While seeing them perform, one sees the past in the present. Manohar’s Look Back in Anger, Danto’s Death, Sandhya Chhaya, Aadhe Adhure, Othello, Mukhya Mantri, King Lear; Himmatmai, Begum Barve and many more came later and all were rated as acting-jewels in the crown that he wore.

He was born in a small village Kawara, about 7 km from Shimla. His year of birth is controversial. Official records declare it as 1942 but, actually, it was 1938. In 1968, a known director, Shanta Gandhi was directing a play Jasma Odan for the National School of Drama, where Manohar was a student. She was looking for a person who could blow on a single note instrument called Bhungal. Manohar tried it and Shanta liked the way he played on it. She said, “Who is this boy?” The other students said, “He is a first year student, Madam.” Manohar himself says in an interview, “I was not a boy then, I was 30- year-old man.” It confirms his year of birth as 1938. Anyway, Jasma Odan became his first play under the banner of the National School of Drama in which he played a small role of Indra. The man never looked back after that.

How realistic in acting could a person be? I have two first-hand impressions with me. He had played Jimmy Porter, who ill-treats his wife, in Look Back in Anger. It was Hindi translation of the English version. A paan-walla, who sells paan just outside Mandi House in Delhi, had also seen the play. Manohar and I, after the play, went to him. He simply refused to sell paan to Manohar saying that he was a man to be hated who treated his wife with utmost disrespect and that he had no desire to sell paan to such a monster. What better appreciation than this comment on character portrayal would an actor expect? He had done the mother’s role in Himmatmai at Kamani Theatre in Delhi.

He did it as a Himachali woman with dhatu covering the head, wearing rezta and copying the accent. When the entire cast appeared before the audience after the play, Manohar was without the dhatu. A foreigner sitting in a back row unwittingly exclaimed, “Oh, she is a Man!”

Manohar was an honest actor with no arrogance and that was what differed him from Om Shivpuri, another great stage actor. Both were chiselled by E. Elkazi, both had little interest in literature but both knew how to conquer the stage and through that the hearts of the fans. Manohar remained childlike throughout his life and so decided to kick the bucket on the November 14, 2002, when the nation was celebrating the children’s day. 

For an actress to succeed, she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of a Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros. — Ethel Barrymore American actor



Doc with a difference
This doctor and poet attempts to discover spirituality and spiritual health
Kuldeep Chauhan

AMONG his medical fraternity, Dr Sanjay Pathak can be called a “spiritual bard of ward.” His collection of poems — Thought sublimates, was recently released by chief minister Virbhadra Singh. It traces Pathak’s poetic journey from emotional reaction to pangs and pains of patients to present day social problems like female feticides, HIV/AIDS, the breaking down of the family system et al.

Born in a humble family in Mandi, Pathak as a first timer has attempted to toy with an idea and then create something new. The poems are dry and they lack a soothing touch of a caring nurse. As put by a critic, they rarely touch upon human heart. But, inspite of that one could say that his poetry does inspire thoughts. His poems tend to teach and preach. For instance, for him ‘love at first sight’ can be dangerous and short-lived and a physical climax can be an anti-climax. Each of his poems is followed by a prologue and is influenced by the Srimad Bhagvad Gita.

The themes and subject of his work are diverse. They are either a result of personal experiences or contemporary problems like crass consumerism, break down of family and marriage, politics of religion, communal flare-ups, corruption at high places, and environmental degradation. The poet in this doctor wakes up each time something happens that makes headlines in the media. “A doctor experiences life very closely. Be it, while examining his patients, watching the birth of a baby, witnessing death or conducting post-mortems. It is the exposure to pain and suffering that makes the life of a doctor different from other human beings”, he says. “And if one has a poetic mind, then words simply flow”, he says. He is no run-of-mill doctor, but a man with a deep sensitive mind and a mission to share. For him, health is not just a disease-free physical body, but complete physical, mental, social and spiritual well being. Pathak is inspired by the eternal teachings of Srimad Bhagvat Gita. “ My collection is an attempt to relate the eternal teachings with my professional and personal experiences.” He says he has been inspired by the supreme power that pervades the world. But, today market forces judge writers and not his quality of writing. “I have put up 400 copies for sale in Himachal on no profit, no loss basis to promote readership”. He is also working on theology of the human sexuality, a project that he hopes will materialise in the near future.

Pathak shares his concern about the youth of the country. “We have to harness the young generation to its full potential. With so many distractions and superficial gratifications around the youth, the task to teach them Indian values is definitely tough. But, one should not loose hope.” He signs off with a teaching from Srimad Bhagvad Gita, that the solution lies in a right balance of indulgence and self-restraint.  



Ray of hope
The IAMD camp brought relief for patients of muscular dystrophy 
Ambika Sharma

The fifteenth annual All-India Medical Awareness camp brought the much-needed healing touch for patients of muscular dystrophy. Chief minister Virbhadra Singh announced setting up of Manav Mandir and an aid of Rs 5lakh at the three-day camp. The camp organised by the Indian Association of Muscular Dystrophy (IAMD) sees patients from all over the country coming together to share their experiences.

The camp comprised mediation sessions, yoga, counselling, as well as physiotherapy required for mental and physical well being. The direction to the deputy commissioner to identify land for this project along the national highway brought a ray of hope for patients. Secretary of IAMD Vipul Goel said they hoped to identify the land soon and it would lead to the culmination of a Manav Bhavan for these patients. This model dream project would encompass an independent building for the patients where various facilities would be made available for them.

Sudhakarji from Swami Ram Dev’s Patanjali took the lead by showing the nearly 100 patients gathered simple exercises that could provide the healing effect. The task of reaching out to the patients and addressing their problems was simplified by an introductory talk on genetic counselling by Dr Chandak from CCMB, Hyderabad. The emphasis of the camp remains on disbursing information, physiotherapist’s tips, as well as updating the patients on latest clinical research in the field.

IAMD president Sanjana Goel while enlisting their achievements said a special project SPARSH was started in January 2006 to address the need of the severally afflicted physically challenged persons. Further, their education needs was under the care of the Central government’s Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. About 25 children were also receiving professional guidance from special educators, occupational therapists and speech therapists. 

Union petroleum and natural gas minister Murli Deora also extended support to the project by donating 100 wheelchairs from the Free Wheel Mission of USA. 



Shah Nehar: The wait is on
Rajiv Mahajan

The farming community in the foothills of Kangra district in bordering areas of Nurpur and Jawali sub- divisions has rued slow progress in the Shah Nehar Project. The project is likely to benefit farmers in 93 villages by providing irrigation to 15287 hectares of land. With an initial estimated cost of Rs 143.32 crore, the project is being funded by Himachal and Punjab governments in the ratio of 38.26 and 61.74 percent, respectively. The former government is executing the construction of the project.

The construction of the project started in 1997 and was scheduled to be completed in 2004. It is the dilly dallying attitude of the Punjab Government in releasing its share of cost to the Himachal government, which has delayed the project. Following the paucity of funds, the estimated cost of the project has now gone up to Rs 317. 64 crore and the targetted completion is now March 2010. The ongoing work at snail’s pace has sparked off a lot of resentment among the beneficiaries.

The project consists of two canals, one on the left bank of Beas with a length of 33 km and carrying capacity of 135 cusecs. This would be drawn from the Mukerian channel. The right bank canal is 48.85 km with a capacity of 229 cusecs and would be separated from the Shah-Nehar barrage.

L.K.Vaidya, the superintending engineer, Shah Nehar Project, says Rs 159 crore has been spent on the construction in which Rs 60.91 crore was shared by Punjab. For the current year a sum of Rs 60 crore has been earmarked for the project.” 


Shimla Diary

Mission Restoration

Pratibha Chauhan

IT is probably for the first time that the local administration has involved the army authorities in beautification of the erstwhile summer capital of the British. The district administration held a meeting with senior army officials here and identified certain areas to be maintained by the latter. The faujis known for keeping their cantonments and other areas absolutely spick and span too are keen to pitch in. This would be besides the efforts being made at the higher level to undertake conservation and preservation of the rich heritage of the town, which has been a host to many historic events.

The deputy commissioner Tarun Kapoor said efforts are being made to involve everyone in restoring the lost glory of the town. In fact it is the result of such efforts that Ladies Park, which had become a venue for political rallies and functions is now a park with lush green grass. The town which has been awarded the most popular tourist destination award is witnessing haphazard growth and congestion leading to shrinking of area under green cover.

What lies ahead

The visit of the newly appointed in-charge of Congress affairs R.K. Dhawan to the state has not only put a rest to the speculations about change in leadership, but also more importantly left all wondering about the action being proposed against suspended Congress MLA, Vijai Singh Mankotia, in wake of the CD released by him against the CM and his MP wife Pratibha Singh.

In response to the queries that efforts were being made to woo the rebel Kangra MLA who is on a virtual warpath with the CM, all that the central leader said was to wait for the decision of the disciplinary committee. This has left all wondering about the action that the party would initiate against Mankotia. The loyalists of the chief minister, who were elated on the appointment of Dhawan, are quite confident that strict action would be taken and he could even be suspended from the party.

Further they said that what is most important is the timing of the release of the CD. They pointed out that it was released just before the Hamirpur Lok Sabha by-election, which affected the party’s prospects that was otherwise giving a tough fight to BJP. Now it remains to be seen whether the decision of the central disciplinary committee would be in line with their expectations or he gets a reprieve.

Vibrant Hues 

It is no longer just flaming red rhododendrons that are welcoming visitors to the Queen of Hills, but now yellow, pink and white flowers called brass in local language are also adorning the hills in and around the town. Keen to push their urban forestry project in the state, the forest department has started planting 5,000 rhododendron plants, which have been specially brought from Darjeeling to add colour and greenery to the town.

Having planted only 500 rhododendron trees last year on an experimental basis, the forest authorities this year got in 5,000 of them as the survival rate of the ones planted last year was pretty high. Besides the colour, the shape of the flowers is also different. The brass flowers are used by locals to make squash, jellies and jams, which according to medical experts is very good for health.    



God’s blessings in a new avtar
Prasad may mean God’s blessings to you, but it’s beginning to imply economic uplift for some
Ambika Sharma

Religion has been the major driving force behind the dynamics of social change in our country. Be it politics or society, every thread of our social fabric has a religious flourish. However, the religion that holds such a high position in life, offers little to the country’s economy. These were the sentiments that propelled Dr Anil Joshi, running the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO) in Uttranchal, to successfully motivate people to earn their livelihood by organising tasks like preparation of God’s offerings (prasad) into a small scale industry.

Shedding light on the need for such an industry, Joshi explains, “The religious set across the country offers a variety of offerings at shrines and temples. These include puffed rice, batashas and sugar balls, which are then returned to the devotees as God’s blessings.

Hindus also offer flowers, fruits, incense materials, incense cakes et al. Most of these are brought from urban areas, contributing little to the local economy. However, these items have a great potential for uplifting the area’s economy, if produced locally. Like the unorganised prasad making industry alone is pegged at Rs 650 crore.”

Realising that the villages in and around the pilgrimages fail to be its beneficiaries, the prasad making has been organised by Anil in a systematic way.

Joshi made this beginning from the famous Badrinath temple that is considered a very pious Hindu shrine. Recalling his pleasant experience in Badrinath and Gangotri, Joshi avers, “When the temple was opened for pilgrims on April 26, 2004, what caught people’s attention, apart from the presiding deity, was a group of tribal women.

Clad in black robes covering their colourful kurtas and singing traditional songs, these women were carrying with them basketfuls of small packets of prasad. Business worth Rs 50lakh was done by the incense sticks alone, which were bought from South India.”

For years, prasad had been brought from the plains of North. HESCO coordinated with the temple samiti and the Department of Biotechnology in the central government and sent a protocol for the prasad to CFTRI, Mysore, for finalising the plan. This was further modified by HESCO and finally adopted by the temple. As many as 105 families of two districts have now been making prasad and incense sticks. Ringal baskets are also being prepared to hold the prasad. Incense sticks worth Rs onelakh are sold in Badrinath alone in a year.

Similar experiments at the famous Vaishno Devi Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir have yielded encouraging results. “The local community of Parthal village in the Udhampur district has been involved in making prasad. Nearly 400 families belonging to all castes are benefiting from this activity,” quips Joshi. He adds that, “ Makke ke laddus worth Rs 36lakh were sold in a single year and the turnover is slated to increase each year.”

Similarly HESCO has successfully managed to bring prosperity in and around the Muslim locality of Shahadra Sharif in Jammu, where the menu of the edible offering has been made tastier and attractive by its initiatives.

Joshi is now trying to do the same in Himachal.He’s met the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Solan, Lokender Chauhan, and urged him to organise a similar venture for the villagers residing around the famous Shoolini Mata temple.



Chamba’s Chowgan to regain lost glory
Balkrishan Prashar

Chamba’s Chowgan is getting a facelift with the government actively involved in restoring the glory of this public promenade. It stands on a plateau on the right bank of river Ravi near the junction of the Sal rivulet with the Ravi in the bosom of the Himalaya Mountains. It is a beautiful grassy sward. In addition to being a public promenade and place of recreation, it was at the Chowgan that state durbars used to be held.

With the passage of time, the Chowgan has become uneven. Improper drainage system has triggered undulations in the ground putting the Chowgan on the verge of sinking. Various organisations of Chamba town have been raising a hue and cry against the degradation and destruction of the Chowgan. Considering their persistent demand, the Himachal Pradesh Government drew up a flagship project to revive the old charm of the historic Chowgan.

The work on the project is now underway. So far, almost half of the Chowgan has been brought under green cover.

In the first phase, the Union Ministry of Tourism sanctioned a sum of Rs 49 lakh under the Integrated Development of Chamba Tourist Circuit project. It is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Experts believe that the original grass of the Chowgan has mixed up with local weeds and it has, therefore, lost its shape and grace. They point out that the development of Chowgan needs a proper drainage system and fresh grassing with original grass. In this context, a complete survey was conducted and a two-way drainage system – from Circuit House side to Gandhi Gate and Millennium Gate side to Ravi View Café side — has been designed to form a uniform slope.

For rough dressing, roughly 5550 cumecs of soil is required. Sandy soil has to be consolidated in a six-inch layer. For fair or final dressing, approximately 1321.57 cumecs good earth is required to be spread over the rough dressing. Good earth consists of clay soil, fine sandy soil and manure mixed in a fixed proportion.

The total area of the Chowgan is 26431.60 square metres. There are plans to place 64 benches and 94 lampposts to make the Chowgan more attractive.

Appreciating the measures taken by the state government to save the Chowgan, the Chamba Welfare Association Senior Vice-President, Mr. Harish Chandra Sharma and the local Citizens Progressive Council Senior Vice-President Major S.C. Nayyar hope that with the completion of the project, the Chowgan would regain its splendor.



Fight for rights
Pratibha Chauhan

Equal opportunity and social inclusion are understood only as hyperbolic expressions by the majority among nearly 1.5 lakh persons with disability in the state.

Equal opportunity and social inclusion are a far cry for 1.5 lakh physically-challenged in the state

Statutory requirements like reservations in government jobs, integration of the disabled students in normal schools and identification of disability in early childhood have been practiced more in breach than compliance by successive governments.

A plethora of laws, including the torch-bearer The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and government schemes meant to ensure equality of opportunity for the disabled have remained only on the paper. The disabled have had to wage a humble fight not just against the government but the society at large for their rights. It may change though.

A recent landmark judgment of the state High Court has rekindled hopes of affirmative action by the state for the persons with disabilities.

Prodded by the recent court judgment delivered by Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Surinder Singh, the government has been pushed into a pro-active mode to re-evaluate and fine-tune its approach towards the disabled persons.

One of the highlights of the judgment is the court’s observation on unsatisfactory recruitment against the posts reserved for the disabled persons and direction to the government to fill up the backlog of these posts by December 2007. The court observed that closer examination of employment records had shown that reservation in jobs for the disabled had remained ‘illusionary’. The task is cut out for the government, though, to meet the deadlines set by the court which has directed it to undertake a special recruitment drive to fill up the backlog of vacancies meant for the disabled by the end of this year. Before that the government has to meet the October 31 deadline set by the court for identification of all posts where reservation is provided for persons with disabilities.

The task seems Herculean considering the fact that during the past three decades only 1,420 disabled persons were given regular government jobs in the state. A total of 11,877 disabled persons have been registered at the State Special Employment Exchange. The major chunk among these are orthopaedically handicapped (10,704), 765 are visually impaired and 398 have speech and hearing impairment.

Interestingly the court has also directed that under the statutory requirement of three per cent reservation, the roster point for the disabled persons should be in the first six and not at 30, which is the first reserved point fixed by the government for persons with disability.

A policy for the disabled persons is also in the pipeline of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, which will focus on early identification of disability among children, integrated schools for the disabled and special schools for children with extraordinary disability.

“Persons suffering with various disabilities have been fighting their individual cases for years but we are confident that after the High Court judgment, things will look up for the disabled,” remarked Ajai Srivastava, chairman of the Himachal Chapter of the Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies.

Not that the government has been completely oblivious to its responsibilities towards the disabled, but its efforts have lacked momentum. Officials point out that cards have been issued to over 49,000 disabled persons, which ensure all benefits to them. It has been made mandatory for medical boards to meet at all district headquarters twice a week and once a week at the sub-division level not having specialist doctors. The Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan programme has made a good beginning by enrolling 27,000 children with disabilities in regular schools as efforts towards inclusive education for children with special needs. The court has directed the government to ensure that all children below 12 years have been checked for the identification of ‘at risk cases’ for their early detection and management. 



Life on the narrow gauge
Residents irate over the dilly-dallying stance adopted by the railways ministry
Kuldeep Chauhan

THE peace loving people of the state are irate over the delay in expansion of three railways projects — Bhanupali-Bilaspur, Nangal-Talwara broad gauge rail link and Pathankot-Jogindernagar narrow gauge line.

The demands for the expansion of railways lines are more than pressing in the light of increasing congestion on the three inland highways—Pathankot-Mandi, Ropar-Manali-Leh and Kalka-Shimla-Kaurik. These highways are choked with traffic due to various factors, including tourist inflow, hydropower construction, transportation of cement and clinker, increasing local traffic and the carrying of essential supplies of the Army to the forward post in Leh-Ladakh and Kinnaur sectors. Even the cost of goods and services supplied from markets and farms outside, has gone up due to the absence of adequate expansion. The cement industry, tourism and hydel projects and the sensitive nature of the Indo-china border are dependent on Ropar-Manali-Leh and Kalka-Shimla-Kaurik highway for essential supplies. And they have made the expansion of railways in the state as a national priority.

Several memorandums addressed to the President, Prime Minister and railway ministers over the decades have fallen on deaf ears. Railways minister Lalu Prasad Yadav did not include the project in his last railway budget. Hamirpur BJP Lok Sabha MP and former CM, Prem Kumar Dhumal said, “It was during his tenure as an MP and CM that railways was expanded a few kilometers till a place beyond Una, but nothing has happened after that.”

The people say have they do not protest or terrorise the authorities unlike their counterparts in other parts of the country. “Being peace-loving people, we are now paying a heavy price for not agitating”, says PC Bisht, the president of Citizens’ Council Mandi (CCM). They also feel that the reason for the same could be that Himachal has no political clout like Punjab and UP. They rue that Himachal has just seven MPs to raise their issues in the parliament.

Even though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared the Bhanupali-Bilaspur line as a national project, there has been no real progress on the front. The plight of other expansion plans in the state remains the same as it used to be in British time. The survey of the Bhanumapli-Bilaspur railway line has turned out to be viable, but work is yet to be expedited. Early this week, CCM submitted a fresh memorandum to the PM urging him to speed up the projects in the state. 



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