No Man’s Land 
Rakesh Lohumi

While the diversion of agricultural land for setting up special economic zones (SEZ’s) has led protests across the country, the sharp decline in agriculture land in the hill state over the past 15 years has virtually gone unnoticed. More so, because cultivable land is scarce in the hilly terrain with an average land holding of 1.4 hectare. However, 65 per cent of the small and marginal farmers have just one acre (0.4 hectare) of land and another 20 per cent 1.4 hectare.

Rapid urbanisation taking its toll on cultivable land

The net sown area has been on average declining by 3,000 hectare annually over the past 15 years, which was quite alarming. The final published figures of the government reveal that the net sown area came down from 5.82 lakh hectare in 1990-91 to 2001-02, a decline of over 33,000 hectare. The trend is increasing with more and more people putting the farmland to non-agriculture use. The rapid expansion of road network and other developmental activities in the rural areas are taking a heavy toll of the cultivable land.

There is a law in the state, which debars non-agriculturists from acquiring agricultural land but it has not helped in preventing the diversion of cultivable land. However, there is no law to prevent farmers from selling or putting the agriculture land for non-agricultural use.

Director of agriculture J. C. Rana agrees that the declining agricultural land is indeed a matter of concern and feels that it is time that the government considers steps to protect it. The livelihood of the small and marginal farmers depends on agriculture and as such diversion of land will hurt them economically in the long run.

A redeeming feature is that farmers area gradually diversifying from the traditional foodgrain crops to cash crops like off-season vegetables, thanks to rapid extension of irrigation facilities and improved road connectivity in recent years. In 1999-2000 principal crops like maize, wheat and rice were sown over 8.22 lakh hectare. However, the area under these crops came down to 7.95 lakh hectare last year. The area under irrigation increased from 1.90 lakh hectare to 2.09 lakh hectare over the same period.

In the absence of irrigation facility, the farmers were totally dependent on the rain god and they could not take the risk of growing vegetables or other cash crops, which required assured irrigation.

The expansion of irrigation network is proving a boon for the farmers, though it is making it more difficult for the state to achieve the elusive target of self-sufficiency in foodgrains. However, Rana asserts that self-sufficiency in foodgrains is a desirable target but not the main priority.

The strategy is now to bring more area under high-yielding varieties. Over the past six years, area under high-yielding varieties has increased by 50,000 hectare in case of maize, 6,000 hectare in case of paddy and 32,000 hectare in case of wheat.

The emphasis now is on improving the economy of the farmers by maximising returns from the small land-holdings in the hills. The scope for increasing output through expansion of cultivable land is limited in the hills. The state has reached a plateau so far as cultivable land is concerned.

The only way out is to increase productivity and diversify to high value crops like the off-season vegetables, the production of which has shot up from 7.50 lakh tonne in 2001-2002 and it increased to 9.50 lakh tonne last year. The target for the current year is 10 lakh tonne and given the trend of the recent years it will not be difficult to achieve.

While foodgrain crops yield Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per hectare the returns from off-vegetables is around Rs 50,000 per hectare and from floriculture up to Rs 80,000 per hectare.



Justice hanged?
NDPS Act: Himachal’s over zealous judicial academy faces trial
Kuldeep Chauhan

The recent recommendations of the Himachal Pradesh State Judicial Academy on the Narcotic, Drugs Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, as issued to the district and session courts, have kicked up a controversy within the state’s legal fraternity. The legal experts and lawyers have expressed their reservations over the recommendations that talk about pushing up the “low conviction rates.” They argue that such a direction would set up a wrong precedent that goes against the “spirit of free and fair trials enshrined in fundamental principles of criminal judicial system” of the country.

Reasons Ravi Rana, the president of Mandi’s HP Administrative Tribunal and Bar Association, “The recent recommendations to the district courts, calling for coordination between judiciary, prosecution and police, have  sent a wrong signal to the trial courts. Rana, who’s also the editor of the Bar and Bench Review, quotes the statement of the outgoing Chief Justice of India, Justice Y. K. Sabbarwal, in support of his observation, “Justice Sabbarwal has said that there should be no cosy relation between the executive and judiciary. The judge should be neutral and he should also observe neutrality by his conduct.”

Rana adds that the coordination between the judiciary and executive would impinge on the basic presumption that “a person unless proves guilty in court is innocent”. Venting similar view, Des Raj, secretary of the Indian Association of Lawyers and a member of HP Bar, says, “Judiciary has no business about the low rate of conviction or high rate of acquittals. Judges should be above these considerations. Such a coordination among the judiciary, prosecution and police over the NDPS Act can question credibility and independence of judiciary.” Opine some lawyers, “If the trial courts get directions from the judiciary that NDPS cases must be taken up with a view to push up the low conviction rates, it is bound to cause harm to the common man. The big fish or actual smugglers never get caught by the police, leave alone their conviction,” they add.

However, argues George, member-secretary of the academy, who has been conducting workshops on NDPS Act, “The recommendations do not impinge on credibility and freedom of judicial process. Coordination is needed as judicial officers and prosecutors are not aware about technical points of the Act. We are only educating and updating them on those technical points and new developments in the field.”

George further points out that the high rate of acquittals under NDPS in the state, particularly in Kangra, is more due to technical reasons. It is cause of concern as contraband drugs, smuggling and addiction have become serious problems. Moreover, judicial officers need to be updated on the Act. “Drug traffickers are adopting new methods in circumventing law,” he says, adding, “the academy has also recommended to prosecution how to catch the big fish,” he says.



New lease of life for Tanda hospital 
The foundation stone of the building was laid in 1996
Kulwinder Sandhu

The new building of Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College and Hospital, Tanda, is almost complete and will be functional in a month’s time. The new campus is spread over 46 hectares in Nagrota Bagwan. The shifting process of the institute from Dharamsala to Tanda has already begun and it would benefit the residents of Kangra, Chamba, Hamirpur, Una, Bilaspur and Mandi.

One of the state’s most ambitious and prestigious project, the medical institute is at present running from the Dharamsala Zonal Hospital. The foundation stone of the new building of the college was laid by chief minister Virbhadra Singh in October 1996. And, the college started functioning at Dharamsala from March 1997.

Presently, the state has only one such medical institution at its state headquarters in Shimla, Indira Gandhi Medical College. A large numbers of patients from the lower areas of the state were forced to travel long distances to reach Shimla. Kangra being one of the largest districts of the state, earlier did not have a hospital equipped with advanced technology.

It may be mentioned that the first batch of 50 students was admitted in 1999 and till date, three batches with a total strength of 150 doctors have passed out from here.

The college was accorded permanent recognition by the Medical Council of India (MCI) in 2004. The state government strived hard to seek recognition and in the past four years has released more than Rs 160 crore for its construction and infrastructure development, said a government spokesperson



by Shriniwas Joshi 

TWO sides of Shimla: British & NativeShimla, during Raj, was generally seen as a place occupied by the British for fun and amusement. It was the colonial equivalent of “Bath or Brighton, cliquish resort where rakish officers, vampish ladies, ambitious bureaucrats, and bored housewives engaged in endless parties and gossip.” We, today, praise the British for excellent use of topography and giving us the Mall, the Ridge, picturesque upper roads and quite a few buildings in exquisite architecture but all this was done with a purpose to separate themselves from the natives. The air was fresh and pure on the upper reaches and they deserved it because they were the rulers. The undulating surface and slopes of the hills carried away all decaying matter in the drainage and there was no chance for stagnation. If filth had to gather, it had to be where the natives lived. Shimla became essential for the British not only for satisfying their public purposes but also their private ones in the mirror image like English enclave, away from the madding native crowd and its problems. Shimla’s social structure was decided by successive layers of geological strata because the fine houses upon the ridges belonged to white-skinned senior officials; Anglo-Indian clerks lived in cottages along the slopes; Indian clerks in single-roomed quarters further below. This way the British actually lived away from, and out of sight of, the Indian populace. As long as the natives remained isolated in the bazaar wards at the lower reaches of the hill stations, the British living in the ‘station ward’ enjoyed the illusion of seclusion.

Around this notion, as Shimla matured a Lower Bazaar started growing. Kipling describes Lower Bazaar in Kim as “the crowded rabbit-warren that climbs up from the valley to the Town Hall at an angle of forty-five. A man who knows his way there can defy all the police of India’s summer capital; so cunningly does verandah communicate with verandah, alley-way with alley-way, and bolt-hole with bolt-hole. Here, live all those who minister to the wants of the glad city—jhampanis who pull the pretty ladies’ rickshaws by night and gamble till the dawn; grocers, oil-sellers, curio-vendors, firewood-dealers, priests, pickpockets, and native employees of the government.” A 1905 study found that Lower bazaar averaged 17.4 residents per house as compared to average of 5.7 in the rest of the Punjab.

When a fire broke out in the upper bazaar on the Ridge in 1875, the British prohibited the Indians from rebuilding shops and homes on the Mall thus further segregating the whites and the browns. The Simla Improvement Committee of 1877 disturbed by the way “the native town has sprung up and extended to the very heart of the station,” advocated the demolition of the entire lower bazaar, which was “saturating the site with filth and polluting its limited water-supply.”

It was also decided to have intersecting streets through the new planned bazaar. The Crofton Plan, as it was called, could not be carried out and after 1890 a jigsaw puzzle of stairways connecting the various alleys was constructed. In 1907 the bazaar’s “unsanitary excrescences upon the European quarter” again occupied the attention of the committee. While authorities could not make the lower bazaar disappear, they could at least ensure that it did not encroach on European areas by delineating the precise boundaries beyond which it could not grow. It further increased the population density of the bazaar and so its health problems. The town, thus, had the ‘British Shimla’ and the ‘native Shimla’.

Those coming to native Shimla were further humiliated by making them disembark at Tara Devi where a medical-inspection post was opened in 1899. All third-class passengers, mostly Indians, were fumigated here. A vigorous protest from them resulted in the closure of the post to start again in 1930, which, might be, to curb the entry of nationalist agitators into Shimla.

Lower bazaar, which for the British was dumping ground for the natives, retains an old world charm and has remained an effervescent, pulsating and thriving bazaar for the denizens in the past as it is in the present. 

He liked Shimla in his short stint and sent a telegram to his wife, “I wish you were HERE.” She sought a divorce from him because she received it, “I wish you were HER.”



  Model villages 

THREE villages — Takrota, Mehalon and Seri—falling under Banasar Panchayat in Dharampur block, will be developed as model villages by NABARD under the complete village development programme. The Banasar is the most backward Panchayat of Solan.

The programme is meant to provide all basic facilities to the villagers. Rajinder Singh Chandhel, general manager of the bank said the Aanad Auto motive System and SNS Foundation would also help in developing those three villages. The different schemes of various government departments and banks would be effectively implemented in these villages, which would benefit 84 families living in the villages, he said. — TNS



Shimla Diary 
Revival of monsoon brings relief
In the nick of time, too... saving apple growers of the higher reaches from disaster 
Rakesh Lohumi

FARMERS, particularly apple growers, heaved a sigh of relief as monsoon showed signs of revival with the onset of August. Most parts of the hill state received widespread rain with Nahan recording over 150 mm in a single day.

The monsoon has been playing truant this season with most areas recording 25 to 40 per cent deficient rain. For instance the state capital had so far received only 430 mm of rain as against the normal 550 mm since June. There have been exception like Dharamsala, known for high precipitation after Cherapunji, which has received 1,225 mm of rain. The tribal areas like Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti, which fall in the dry zone, also had normal rainfall. Kinnaur had 81 mm as against the normal rainfall of 80 mm.

The apple growers have been waiting for rain, which is essential for a good crop. In absence of rain, the size of the fruit is restricted which affects production. The juice content and colour of the fruit, which is important from the marketing point of view, is also affected. Though it has come rather late for the growers in the lower and middle belt, the growers of higher hills, which account for the bulk of produce, are a happy lot, for it has come in the nick of time.

More importantly, the cloudy conditions along with lack of rain had created hot and humid conditions conducive to the outbreak of plant diseases and pest attacks. With the revival of monsoon the orchards the diseases are likely to subside.

Mahajan will not contest

Old war-horse Sat Mahajan has finally decided to quit electoral politics. The Assembly election is due in February next but the octogenarian leader has already announced his decision not to contest the poll. Obviously Mahajan, who is currently holding the important portfolios of revenue, Panchayati Raj and rural development, is keen to end his long and somewhat chequered political career on a high note.

It has been a long and eventful career spanning over five decades during which he saw many ups and downs. A grassroots leader, Mahajan first entered the electoral politics in 1953 when he was elected president of the Nurpur municipal committee. However, it was only after the Kangra region was merged into Himachal Pradesh during the reorganisation of states that he emerged as a top congress leader. He unsuccessfully contested the Assembly poll in 1972 but withstood the Janata wave in 1977 to win the Nurpur seat. Subsequently, he lost the Assembly only once in 1990. He defeated the BJP stalwart Shanta Kumar to win the Kangra Lok Sabha seat in 1996. He also remained the state Congress president for several years.

BSNL suffers due to cable theft

Increasing instances of telecom ‘cable cutting’ are affecting services of the Bhartiya Sanchar Nigam Limited in the far-flung areas. Over the past one year, there have been over 1,400 such incidents and intriguingly theft is not the motive . This is evident from the fact that the damaged cable pieces were left on site. Further, optical fibre cables, which do not have any metal component and cannot be sold, are also being removed.

Officers of the BSNL feel that it could be the handiwork of their competitors. What hurts the Nigam the most is the fact that once a cable is damaged, vast areas in the interior are cut off. It takes time to restore the services.

Chief general manager of Himachal Telecom Circle Anil Kauhsal says the matter has been taken with the police and in some cases the miscreants have been caught. The only option for the BSNL is to either bury the cables underground or switchover to cable-less telecom systems like the WLL.

Kaushal maintains the cable-less is a better option and the Nigam is planning a gradual switchover. 



No naukris for Himachalis 
Despite tall claims of the state government, the induction of 70% Himachali youth in industries hasn’t been possible

Ambika Sharma

WITH unemployment touching a whopping 8.75lakh in the state, the provision of jobs for the educated youth has become a major challenge before the government. Gauging the seriousness of the problem, the government has made induction of 70 per cent Himachali youth in the industries a mandatory clause in its industrial policy of 2004.

However, the investors have not been keen to comply with these directions. They prefer to recruit Himachalis either at lower positions or on contractual basis. Earlier, the investors rued that the local youth were not technically qualified but now, they reason that their lack of experience is a deterrent factor in employing them.

Sample this: A Himachali youth having B.E. (Electrical) and MBA qualification was denied job in a leading firm that manufactures electrical appliances at Baddi, on the pretext of lack of experience. Another Himachali youth with M.Sc in microbiology, failed to find a job in any pharmaceutical firm as he had approached.

Though the government has been trumpeting its achievement in having generated nearly 3.15 lakh employment avenues, the figures depict a dismal picture. The total intake of Himachalis was therefore a meagre 34,290 persons till December 2006. These figures were projected by the latest report of the Economic Survey of Himachal Pradesh, which was released by chief minister Virbhadra Singh in the winter session of the Vidhan Sabha. The report further supports the grim picture where despite notification of as many as 3,767 vacancies through the employment exchange last year, only 925 candidates got placements in the industries.

This gives rise to significant questions about the 70 per cent mandate imposed by the state government. The Department of Labour and  Employment has been entrusted the task of conducting periodic surveys of employment in all industrial units. Each unit is in turn directed to file monthly employment return to the labour department, which can be cross checked by spot inspections.

Inquires made from the labour department revealed that quite a few firms failed to abide by this 70 per cent norm at all times.  This included a confectionary unit at Parwanoo, which could only employ 63 per cent Himachalis despite coming into production in February 2005. Yet another Fast Moving Consumer Products (FMCG) unit at Baddi has barely managed to meet only 66 per cent. But they earned no punitive action from the industries department.

A blatant violation of the industrial policy of 2004 was the induction of more manpower on contract than permissible and also without paying any higher wages.Reports sent by the labour department were shovelled under the carpet and little was done to ensure that the qualified youth got employed gainfully. 



Fruitful story
Mango orchards of Hamirpur are contributing their bits in the economic growth
Dharam Prakash Gupta

THE initiative to plant mango trees about two decades back have started bearing fruits now and all blocks under Hamirpur district have come under mango cultivation.

The Dushehari variety has attained a good name in the market, besides local varieties. The government on its part has tried to promote mango cultivation and provided several incentives to farmers in the form of subsidies and technical know-how.

Even at present the horticulture department is offering several incentives to mango growers like 75 per cent subsidy on plants, financial aid for constructing water tanks and for other inputs under the area expansion schemes, says R.N. Sharma, deputy director, horticulture.

Out of total 4,931 hectares of land under horticulture, 2984-hectare come under mango orchards. While Nadaun block is the highest producer of mangoes with 700 hectares of land dedicated to orchards, the other blocks are Bijhadi with 600 hectares and Bhoranj with 400 hectares of land. Besides, mangoes are also being produced in Hamirpur, Sujanpur and Bamsan blocks.

Growing mangoes in Hamirpur was not easy as it had many inherent problems like hard soil, scant irrigation facilities and frost during winter. But combined efforts of farmers and government agencies have made it possible.

A total of 3,954 metric tonne of mangoes have been grown in the district. The hard work of 20 to 25 years by the farmers have started yielding good results and it has improved their economic conditions.



Go Travel 
Preserving nature as it is
If the concrete jungles of the state disappoint 
you, it’s time to head for Great Himalayan National Park

Subhash Sharma

HOW often have you landed on a hill station after months of planning and felt utter disappointment to find the natural wealth of the hills is in disarray? Well, with tourism growing at an alarming rate, it’s rendered the flora and fauna of most tourist destinations vulnerable. You could, however, visit the Great Himalayan National Park, which promises some hope, having preserved the world’s most endangered wildlife species of flora and fauna

Situated at Kullu is the Great Himalayan National Park, an area declared in 1999 as a reserve forest for its diverse flora and fauna. In fact, this jewel of the western Himalayas is the only viable protected area in the world that has a unique biological diversity, besides protected endangered and threatened wildlife species.

Sprawling over an area of 765 sq kms, the park has been identified as one of the five centres of plant diversity and endemism in India by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. It supports diverse wildlife and many of the species that are locally threatened, including large mammals Serow, Himalayan tahr, goral, blue sheep, Indian pika, giant Indian flying squirrel, Himalayan black bear, brown bear, leopard, snow leopard, red fox, Himalayan palm civet, yellow-throated marten, and musk deer.

The director of the GHNP Harsh Mitter informs that 203 birds’ species have been recorded from the park. The GHNP is one of the two national parks in the world with a population of the endangered Western Tragopan, (locally called Jiju Rana) now adopted as the symbol of the park. The Chir Pheasant, also endangered, is present on the steep, south-facing grassy slopes.

The four valleys of the national park

Tirthan Valley: The treks are beyond Gushaini.

The road ahead: The all-weather road from Aut to Gushaini is about 34 km long.

Sainj Valley: The trekking trail begins at Neuli, 30 km from Aut. Check with GHNP officials for access to Neuli by road.

Jiwa Nal Valley: This valley is accessible from Siund, about 18 kms from Aut, or from Neuli.

Parbati Valley: Beyond Aut, continue on NH 21 up to Bhuntar and then take the link road to Manikaran and up to Barshaini/ Pulga villages. (Barshaini is 50 km from Bhuntar, the starting point for the popular treks up to Mantalai, and further up to the Pin-Parbati Pass (5,319 m altitude). From Kullu, Bhuntar and Aut, there are regular taxi and bus services to the Sainj, Tirthan and Parbati valleys.

Getting to GHNP

The starting point for any visit to GHNP is Kullu, accessible by both road and air.

By Air: Daily flights from Delhi to Kullu (Bhuntar)— Air Deccan, Jagson Airlines.

By Road: From Delhi, approx 500 km (14+hours).

General route: Delhi to Chandigarh on National Highway 1, then to Aut in Mandi district by NH 21. Chandigarh and Swarghat are suitable overnight halt. From Aut, take the link road from the Larji Project Tunnel across the Beas River into the Banjar valley, where the park is located.

Approximate distances from GHNP: Airport: Bhuntar (Kullu), 50 kms. Railhead: Chandigarh, 240 km; Town: Kullu (District HQ), 60 kms.

The unplanned development of tourism creates problems, especially in areas as fragile as national parks and sanctuaries. Poaching of rare species of birds and animals, felling of tall green pine trees for timber, rehabilitation of hundreds of villages and various other tourism-related problems have started springing. Setting up of camps by people from the metropolitans and guest houses being run in the name of eco-tourism are also disturbing the wildlife. According to GHNP range officer M. P. Sharma, the total number of tourists visiting the park during 2006-07 was 546, including 58 foreign tourists. However, the GHNP still holds the promise of hope as it has nurtured and protected this huge range of rare animal and plant species for centuries.

Pic courtesy Ankit Sood



An evening in IIAS 
Jitender Kaushik

YOU have seen it in countless pictures, the imposing façade of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, the erstwhile residence of the British viceroys, in Shimla. A lot of you may have been there, for it’s one of the most sought after — and easily accessible — destinations on the tourist map of the Queen of Hills.

But most of the visitors restrict themselves to the building’s hallowed halls and manicured lawns.

Step beyond the lawn’s boundary, take the narrow trail that connects it to Summer Hill, and you will find yourself right in the middle of a small forest, where amid the seeming quietude, chirp hundreds of different birds.

It’s what used to be the backyard of the British viceroys’ envious grand palace, and what a wild trail it must have been those days! It still retains its natural charm, for the whole area is a restricted zone. You only come across occasional people here: Labourers digging nearby roads, gardeners employed with the institute, lovelorn couples from HPU, groups of smoking youngsters, and, of course, the eternal drifters, always willing to tread on new ground.

An evening stroll in this expansive backyard of the institute can be an exhilarating experience, provided one keeps his eyes and ears open. Especially, if it happens to be a monsoon evening when the skyline changes its colours with each passing moment! While the sun and the wandering clouds play a constant hide and seek in the sky, the earth is alive with hundreds of different varieties of plants and ferns, thanks to the ceaseless monsoon rain this season.

For the avid birdwatchers it’s heaven right in the middle of town. Tens of birds — including the little blue sparrow and melodious bulbul (see pics) — hop from one branch to another gathering their last bit of food for the day before the sun sets in and it’s time to fly back to the nest.

Families of monkeys and langoors hang around tree branches — some bare, some lush with shimmering leaves — and all you listen in the overbearing silence is the chirping of birds.

Rain clouds continue to threaten from the distant mountain peaks and as the sun dips down, the noise created by invisible insects on the trees reaches a crescendo. Is it cricket, or cicada? What is that blue bird called? What’s that tree next to that rhododendron on which we spotted an abandoned nest? An evening in the backlanes of Advanced Studies can dazzle by its sheer beauty and bounty. It can also tell us how ignorant we are of our own surroundings.  Whatever be the case, next time you are there, go beyond the usual, and try a detour.



Shimla after a shower
For some dreamlike, for some nightmarish, 
the rains evoke extreme emotions

Jitender Kaushik

Romantics find it melancholic, sceptics call it depressive. The monsoon season with all its contrasting shades always evokes extreme emotions from folks in the hill. This year round the reactions are even more pronounced because the monsoon arrived in the state right in the middle of local rains.

“It’s a pain, this wretched weather. It’s just begun and my house walls are wet and cupboards stink. Water seeps into everything. I just hate these rainy months in Dharamsala,” complains Gunjan Pardhan. Gunjan’s grouse against the season is understandable. In Dharamsala, the saying goes, even the Dalai Lama can’t tell about rains. This year too the region has already witnessed the highest rainfall in the state, and the official weathermen are seeing more rain clouds hovering on the Dhauladhars’ horizons.

In Shimla, the weather this year has been at its mercurial best. “Every morning when I am leaving for office, I look at the sky and wonder: Should I carry an umbrella, or not? Do I need a sweater, or not? Mostly, I end up making the wrong decision,” says Parvesh Jassal, who hates the very idea of getting wet. Jassal’s dilemma is universal, for in Shimla, it’s safer to bet on women and wine than the weather – especially during the rainy season. “The weather Gods here are behaving so whimsically these days that each time I venture out in the evening I find myself either overdressed, or underdressed,” laughs Suruchi Sharma.

While housewives, office-goers and aged find the long rainy months irksome; there are people who look forward to these days. Farmers, to begin with, who heaved a collective sigh of relief as the timely rains last month helped them sow their seasonal crop of maize and other vegetables. Children, of course, are always excited about rains. Then there are youngsters like the final year student Ambika Sharma, who says “I can sit by the window and stare at the rains and drifting clouds for hours. Wasn’t it Kalidas who wrote a whole epic on the rain clouds? Rains in Shimla may be messy, but I just adore this weather.” There’s no denying the fact that the floating mist, widespread fog and intermittent showers make the hills even more adorable. In fact, many Shimlaites believe that the town looks best after a shower in rain.

But it’s also a fact that frequent rains over the last fortnight have weaned away many a weekend tourist. The Mall is brimming with a large number of foreigners instead. Most of them are backpackers, who’re on their way to Kinnaur and the Spiti valley, rains notwithstanding. “They’re a small tribe yet, but hopefully their numbers will swell,” says Brijesh Sharma, a local tourist guide, who’s taking a group of Europeans to the Sangla valley.

“Because of rains, I know, it’s going to be a tough ride on the roads, but that’s the adventure. And Shimla, my God! It’s like a dream with all this wafting mist and rain. Feels just like home,” chips in Gloria Brown from London. He is on his first ever journey to India. 



224-year-old, yet not fully grown
One of the five oldest educational institutes in the 
state is facing neglect
S. R. Pundir

Though it is 224 years old, Shamsher Senior Secondary School of Nahan is still a picture of neglect. It still does not have the basic infrastructure like rooms, furniture and other basic facilities. The school is the oldest in Sirmour and one of the five oldest educational institutes in the state.

The school played a vital role in India’s freedom movement. Students of this school got involved with the Prajamandal movement under the leadership of the then student leader Jagmohan Ramoul and hoisted the Congress flag in the campus. Some teachers of the school also contributed to the freedom movement by writing articles, poetry, patriotic songs, besides participating actively in the movement. The students and teachers had to face the wrath of the then rulers of Sirmour estate for it.

The school that produced students like Himachal Nirmata Yashwant Singh Parmar, a number of freedom fighters, Bollywood actor Rakesh Pandey and a number of IAS, IFS, IPS officers, was founded by Maharaja Dharam Prakash in 1783. It was upgraded to a middle school in 1808 and a high school, in 1816 during the rule of Maharaja Karam Prakash.

After this, nobody bothered for upgrading of the only high school of the district and it remained in a bad shape. It had a long wait of 170 years to be declared a senior secondary school in the year of 1986.

The school is overcrowded with an enrolment of around 1,200 students. It is being run in double shifts and one can see hundreds of students sitting on the floor. It is the only senior secondary school for boys. Dr Anil Kumar Kashyap, principal, who was making efforts to set things right for the past three years, is facing an uphill task to implement the improvement projects in absence of sufficient funds.

Roshan Lal, a former student of the school, admits good academic performance for the past three years has helped the school getting an overwhelming response from the local residents and as a result of which it has registered an increase of over 30 per cent in enrollment. Despite the addition of teaching rooms, the administration has demanded immediate sanction of a hall with the capacity of at least 1,000 persons and desks for all students.



Sinking into the depths
Ground reality: The state govt’s done little to check the depleting groundwater level in the Baddi belt
Ambika Sharma

THE groundwater level in the industrial belt of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh is facing severe threat, with no authority checking its misuse. While the Irrigation and Public Health Department awaits a notification for the enforcement of Groundwater Act, 2005, the government appears to be sitting pretty after notifying the Act.

Thousands of industrial units and scores of housing colonies have put strain on the water bodies. In the prime industrial places like Sai Road in Baddi and Bhatoli Kalan, the groundwater level has declined by 40 to 50 feet. In areas lying in the periphery of Baddi and Malkhumajra, Manpura, the groundwater level has gone down by 20-30 feet. Consequently, it is hard to find water even at a depth of 350 feet whereas earlier, it was found easily at a depth of 250 feet. A similar situation exists at Kasauli. Though a number of private resorts have dug underground boring systems, they face scarcity of water in the ongoing tourist season. “Though we had found water at a depth of nearly 240 feet some years ago when we constructed out resort, we are still facing a sharp decline of water this year.” says a resort owner.

In a bid to regulate and control the development and management of groundwater, the government had enacted a H.P. Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act, 2005.  However, the IPH department has been unable to regulate its enforcement. The onus of enforcing the Act presently lies with the groundwater organisation based at Una.

While no industrial unit sought permission from the IPH department to instal boring systems, these have been set up within short distances, which has proved fatal for the groundwater level. Anyone violation of this Act attracts punishment. This is supposed to check excessive withdrawals from a water source.



The 11th century Nako Monastery in Kinnaur is getting ready 
to receive the Dalai Lama
In the right spirit
Pratibha Chauhan

THE painstaking preservation work at the 11th century Buddhist monastery at Nako village in the tribal district of Kinnaur is being given the final touches as the Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, the Dalai Lama, will dedicate the cultural complex and perform Avaloketishvara initiation and teachings for world peace from August 22.

Having the distinction of being one of the 100 most endangered heritage sites by the World Monument Fund, the ancient monasteries along with the smaller temples in the complex are being protected under a preservation project being executed jointly by department of culture of the University of Vienna, Austria, conservation architect, Romi Khosla with the active involvement of the locals.

It is not just the locals but people from the remotest villages of Kinnaur, Lahaul Spiti, Ladakh and other areas are likely to attend the teachings of the Dalai Lama, who will be visiting Nako for the first time. A special complex, which has been designated as the residence of the Dalai Lama, has been made in the local style for the stay of the spiritual leader.

The over 900-year-old pilgrim centre has survived the vagaries of climate, but in recent years, it has started showing signs of deterioration. The heavy rainfall, a recent climatic change in the area is causing extensive damage to the historic Buddhist temples. “The need for conservation work was felt as the monastery was endangered due to the fragility of the architecture and the extensive damage being caused by rain to the intricate wood work and the paintings on mud walls,” says H.C. Negi, who has made endless efforts to ensure that the monument is protected.

he Dalai Lama will arrive in Nako on August 21 and inaugurate the cultural complex, which includes the main monastery in which the conservation work has been accomplished the next day. On the same day will be the commencement of teachings on 37 Bodhisatva practices and Kamalsheels’s Middle stages of mediation.

The Avaloketishvara initiation will take place on August 24 and the Chakrasamvara initiation on the next day. Long life empowerment and offering ceremony for the Dalai Lama’s long life will be held on August 26. The same day international scholars from all over the world will take part in the international seminar on the Western Himalayan Buddhist Culture-Problems and Possibilities.

It was in the 11th century that 108 small and big monasteries were set up by Lochava Rinchen at several places in Kinnaur, Lahaul Spti, Ladakh and Tibet. Some of them include the ones at Tabo in Lahaul Spiti, Nako, Asrang, Ribba, Chanrang, Ropa and Peo in Kinnaur, Alchi in Ladakh, Tholing in Guge in Tibet. In fact the paintings in the Nako monastery display evidence of common stylistic features of the Dungkhar and the Alchi school of paintings.

It is T. K. Lochen Tulku Rinpoche, the 19th reincarnate of Lochava Rinchen, who heads the Hangrang Rinchen Buddhist Cultural Heritage Foundation, which is protecting the priceless architectural pieces. He is also the head of the Kei monastery in Lahaul Spiti and is revered by the people of the area.

While major part of the funding has come from the World Monument Fund but other agencies too have been involved. The tourism department has given Rs 1.35 crore for development of the village, which has been adopted as a model village.

The initiative taken by the seven villages of Hangrang Valley in forming the cultural heritage foundation, under whose aegis the conservation project has been undertaken could be the beginning towards saving other such monasteries in the area. A huge prayer hall, which can be used for religious congregation has been added so that the use of the main monastery and the old structures is kept to the minimum for its long life.

To ensure complete waterproofing the services of the Auroville Earth Institute were taken. Several alternatives were tried but strictly with the use of locally available material so that foreign material does not have to be transported there. A research programme was undertaken so as to ascertain the traditional waterproofing methods and the materials used, which have long withstood the vagaries of nature.

While many of the 108 monasteries in the belt extending from Tibet to Kinnaur have been lost, oth3ers are crumbling for the want of proper care. “The few which are in relatively good condition must be saved before it is too late,” says Negi. Since it would not be possible for experts from Vienna to undertake similar conservation projects at all the monasteries, they have trained the locals in Nako to deal with these ancient heritage structures with utmost care.

These trained people can now help in protecting and saving the other temples and monasteries in the region which would have simply been lost to time. “The local carpenters, masons and other skilled craftsmen have been guided how to deal with the rotting wood and remove the dust and carbon from the paintings on the mud walls,” says Negi.

The zeal shown by the people of Hangrang Valley could prove to be a boon for saving the ancient monasteries in the region, which are exquisite architectural creations we cannot afford to lose.



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