4 men, 5 days, 14,500 ft
Mission: Hoisting the Tricolour
Jagmeet .Y. Ghuman

They are the daredevils, not just by their act, but also by their grit and strong will to celebrate India’s 60th Independence Day. For, they will be marking these celebrations in the world’s highest village, Kibber in Kinnaur, which is about 440 kilometers from Shimla and at the height of 14,500 feet above the sea level. The leader of this awesome bunch of four is 58-year old Bijai Singh Rawat, a veteran of 18 such motorbike expeditions. The local villagers will join them for hoisting ceremony. The motive of the expedition is to infuse the spirit the nationalism amongst Indian youth.

The expedition will pass through Narkanda, Rampur, Reckong Peo, Ki, and Kaza and will finally reach Kibber on August 15. According to coordinator of the expedition Bijai Singh Rawat, “It was the long cherished desire of my associates to celebrate I-day in style. Celebrating Independence Day in one of the remotest parts of the world will be truly a lifetime achievement for any expeditioner.” The motorbike expedition team will have Sandeep Rawat, Mohit Verma and Rahul Verma. The expedition that was flagged off from Shimla on August 13 will return to Shimla on August 17.

Bijai Singh Rawat’s passion has earned him a place in the Limca Book of Records, as he was a part of the motorbike expedition to the world’s highest motorable road “Khardungla” in year 2002 to hoist the tricolor. Last year on I-day, he hoisted the national flag on the world’s second highest motorable road i.e. Marshmik La.  Keeping intact this tradition, he is all set for Kibber to hoist tricolor on coming I-day. He hails from Chandigarh.

Sandeep Rawat is a hotel management professional and associated with hotel Cecil Oberoi at Shimla since one year. All of 25, Sandeep has been inspired by his father, Bijai Singh, and is on his first-ever motorbike expedition.

Mohit Verma of New Delhi is a marketing executive for a Japanese zipper company YKK. Mohit (27) loves biking and underwent numerous expeditions at Garhwal Himalayas. He is stepping in Himachal for the first time to accomplish Kibber motorbike expedition.

Rahul Verma, who also hails from New Delhi, is a student of journalism. He writes travelogues for vivid publications and journals. He is becoming a part of such a motorbike expedition for the first time. 



20 Armymen, 20 days, 424 km
Mission: Join the Indian Army
Kuldeep Chauhan

They have set on to do what no one has done before. Their mission is to inculcate in the youth a desire to serve their motherland. And, to accomplish it 20 Armymen are on a cycling expedition — Ashwamegh. From the tricky heights of snow swathed cold desert of Leh to the tumultuous backwaters of the Indian Ocean at Kanyakumari; the voyage that began on July 3 from Leh will zero in on Kanyakumari on August 18. They aim to complete the challenging distance of 424 km in record 20 days.

Says Col Arun Sehgal, director Army recruitment, Mandi, “ They will be paddling the tough terrain of cold deserts of Leh, Lahaul-Spiti; crossing freezing passes of Tanglangla at 17,582 ft, Lachung La, BaraLacha and Rohtang Pass.” Sehgal received the team at Mandi last week.

The brainchild of directorgeneral of EME and senior Col Commandant, Lt. Gen. Arvind Mahajan says, “ Ashwamegh is synonymous with the world conquering mission launched by Lord Rama of the epic age.” Says team leader, Major Ahlawat, “ The idea is to infuse confidence, a sense of team work, winning spirit and adventure among the armymen and the youth of the country. It will also send across a message that a career in the Army is full of adventure, excitement and fun.” Ahlawat has already led mountaineering expeditions to Mount Leo Pargial, Mt. Shivling, Mt. Sato-Panth and Kedardome.

The team is cycling 200 km each day, which is a record of sorts in the history of cycling. ”We hope to make it to the Limca Book of Records,” say the team members. Besides their bravo mantra, Ashwamegh is also spreading awareness about the upcoming 4th Military World Games that will be held from October 14-21 in Hyderabad. “Bravo is our mantra, motto and the mascot of the games as well’, says Sehgal. “Ashwamegha will bring glory to the Indian Army and attract the youth too”, sign off team members.



Flower power
Rakesh Lohumi

State flower status will be helpful in preserving the endangered Rhododendron campanulatum

The decision of the state government to accord the exalted status of the state flower to Rhododendron campanulatum will go a long way in conserving the spectacular but highly endangered species.

The area under the species, which is found in the wild at high altitude areas, ranging from 8,000 ft to 11,000 ft throughout the Himalayan region, has been fast declining. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has placed it high on the list of endangered plant species. Its distribution stretches from Himachal and Uttrakhand through Nepal to the eastern states like Sikkim, Darjeeling and Arunachal Pradesh. But it existed in sparsely located stretches.

So far the more widely distributed Rhododendron arboretum species which grows at a relatively lower altitude of 6,000 ft to 8,000 ft spread had been enjoying this status of the state flower. The fact that it was already the national flower of Nepal also influenced the decision of the government which wanted Rhododendron arboretum replaced as the state flower by an equally if not more fabulous species.

The two native species in the state differ widely. While the R. campanulatum yields pinkish flowers, which change hues from almost white to purple, whereas the R. arboreum has deep red flowers. Being a high altitude species the former is difficult to regenerate naturally, hence the need to conserve and propagate it.

Further, the R. arboreum is much taller and attains a height of 15 m, while R. campanulatum is a profusely branched shrub, which grows up to a maximum of 6 m. All parts of this plant contain a poison called grayanotoxin, but the leaves are the most poisonous part. Eating this plant can cause a severe stomachache and damage of the liver. In the Himalayas rhododendrons are mostly found at the same elevation as the summer grazing pastures, it is important to keep the animals away from rhododendrons.

Its endangered status and aesthetic charm of the species apart, it is a plant of medicinal value and social value for the people living in the Alpine areas. It is useful in cold, hermicrania, chronic rheumatism, syphilis and sciatica. In Nepal, its dried leaves are used to cure chronic fever. Wood from the rhododendron is used for firewood and building materials by shepherds. Large stands are often clear cut, which leads to major soil erosion. Many areas where rhododendron forests used to grow no longer exist.

Chief wildlife warden Vinay Tandon state flower status will help create awareness about this endangered species and give fillip to the much need efforts to conserve and propagate it.



Cities of seven hills
by Shriniwas Joshi

Tirumala-Tirupati & Shimla in India, Cincinnati in the US, and Rome have lots in common. Read on...

Karan Johar while interviewing Himesh Reshammia in his popular Koffee with Karan wanted Himesh to coin a tune for the title of his show. He did it with ‘Koffee with Karan… with Karan…nothing more.’ I always found some music in cities of seven hills and if I am asked to go tuneful for it, I would say ‘City of seven hills… seven hills…something more.’ That something more is piousness or greatness tagged to a city of seven hills. Shimla is known as the city of seven hills, the officially declared seven hills are Prospect, Summer Hill, Observatory, Mount Pleasant, Bantony, Jakhu and Elysium. The prophecy of Captain Mundy made on 17th October, 1828, “I cannot doubt that Simla will rise in importance as it becomes better known”, came true when this one-horse town became the capital of India, capital of the united Punjab and capital of the exiled government of Burma. No other town in the world, perhaps, has had this distinction of being the capital of two countries and a province. Many attribute this greatness of Shimla to its seven hills. The only other town in India that has seven hills, I believe, is Tirumala and Tirumala-Tirupati is the seat of all pervading Lord of the Universe, Sri Venkateswaraswamy. It is the richest shrine in the world and has seven peaks - Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri representing the seven hoods of Adisesha. Can there be a more pious city than the seven-hill city of Tirumala-Tirupati which is visited by the highest number of devotees in the world?

Cincinnati in USA, on the banks of river Ohio, too has seven hills. And like Shimla, it has more than that number but officially accepted hills are seven - Adams, Airy, Auburn, Washington, Echo, Lookout and Hope. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow praised it as the ‘Queen city of the West’ and Sir Winston Churchill called it ‘America’s most beautiful inland city’. Fortune magazine has named it as the 11th best livable city in the USA. Longfellow, about 150 years back salutes the city as, “This greetings of mine / The winds and birds shall deliver / To the Queen of the West / In her garlands dressed / On the banks of the Beautiful River.” Ohio meant ‘Beautiful River’ in the language of the Red Indians who used to live in its banks in the beginning.

Another great city that has seven hills is Rome. Its earlier seven hills were Cermalus, Cispius, Fagutal, Oppius, Palatium, Sucusa and Velia. The present ones are Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal. The original city was held by tradition to have been founded by Romulus on Palatine hill, so it figures in both the lists.

Number seven is a universal symbol that signifies completion or perfection, and the ancients who founded Rome in the eighth century B.C. wanted the city to have a world influence and fame. The very fact, that Rome was designated the seven hilled city was significant enough to render it as a sacred and holy city that was designed to have world power and authority. That was why the ancient people of the world always respected the city of Rome, whether they were its great protectors and supporters or its enemies and was unfamiliar with its political and religious concepts. It was with that in mind, perhaps, that the founders of Shimla laid its foundation. It might not have worn the garb of sacredness but it did don the mantle of power and authority and endorsed quite a few international agreements including Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907; Simla Convention of 1914 whereby Henry McMahon drew a 550-mile line between India and Tibet and Shimla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan.

Time is ripe to rename the seven hills of Shimla by dropping a few mere ascents and including genuine hills of Dhingu at Sanjauli, Craighdu near Elysium and Keleston towards Bharari to the list. Rome has done it why cannot we do it, modify the proverb and proclaim,” when in Shimla do as the Romans do”.


If you would be known, and not know, vegetate in a village; if you would know, and not be known, live in a city.

— Charles Caleb Colton



Nightmare on NH-21
Kuldeep Chauhan

The never-ending line of trucks, tippers, tankers and lorries, carrying cement from Barmana, Darlaghat and Bhagha factories, all located in the Bilaspur-Mandi-Solan limestone belt, has an adverse affect on the state’s tourism.

The trucks ply daily on the highways carrying cement and clinkers to the markets outside and also to the cement plant at Ropar. The open tippers and trucks, which carry back fly ash and coals from Haryana, have become a major irritant for the tourists.

These trucks add to the pollution and have made traveling on the highway between Barmana and Ropar a nightmarish experience.

The state transport authority and traffic police have neither staff nor proper patrolling force to enforce traffic rules and anti-pollution norms. Most of the trucks are old and emit heavy amount of exhaust fumes.

Also, the trucks are parked on the highways, posing traffic hazards.

Moreover, three cement companies, ACC cements at Barmana, Ambuja cemnets at Darlaghat and JP associates at Bagha have done nothing to ease the congestion.

“Tourists come to Himahchal to breathe fresh air and enjoy the serenity, not to chock their lungs with exhaust fumes,” said Surinder Thakur, an hotelier from Shimla. “These trucks and lorries on the highway have become a nightmare,” rued Minakshi and Deepak Bhasin, a couple from Delhi.Though the tourism department has taken a note of the hazards created by the cement-carrying tippers and truckers, nothing has been done to make the traffic flow hassle-free. In fact, the government has cleared the deck for the fourth cement plant near Sundernagar, which will be the proverbial last nail in the coffin, say hoteliers and travel agents.

They do have a point. “When all four cement plants will become operational, another 5,000 trucks will be added to the existing 7,000 trucks plying on the highways,” they says. Additional chief secretary, tourism, Avay Shukla says the government has taken up the matter, suggesting measures to bypass the trucks from the highway. “The proposed railway project will take years, but we will find measures like cable cars or waterways through the Bhakra dam for the transportation of cement transportation.”



Shimla Diary
Pure music to the ear
Pratibha Chauhan

Shimla warmed up to the military band from the Nasik artillery centre on a chilly day

It was a rare feast for the local residents as well as tourists to see the performance of the military band of artillery centre at Nasik on the Ridge here.

It was one of the rare occasions when the band played here, despite the heavy rain. Raised in 1947 in the erstwhile state of Kapurthala, the band has been awarded President’s Commendation card twice. After taking part in the Republic Day parade for the first time in 1951, the band has been a regular feature in the parade in Delhi every year.

In fact, the band is an integral part of any function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Amar Jawan Jyoti and other international and national events. Being raised in Kapurthala in the year 1947, the band was transferred to the erstwhile state of Nabha in 1948, and the next year was presented to the erstwhile state of Pepsu. When Pepsu was dissolved, the military band was allotted to the regiment of artillery in May 1951 and was located at Nasik.

As far as the history of bands goes, it was first introduced in England from Germany. However, records show that the royal artillery had a number of men trained as musicians as early as 1662. Military ban in India often gets wrongly referred to as brass band whereas it has woodwind, brass and percussion instruments combined together.

The road to nowhere

Despite being the closest villages to the state capital, the residents of Chachru, Chabrog and Ghanoti have been denied the benefit of a road link, resulting in great inconvenience to the villagers in carrying their vegetables, milk and other produce to the market.

Repeated pleas of the residents to various authorities have not been able get a road link to the village as people rue that even the remotest areas of the state are connected by road and living right under the shadow of the higher ups they have been ignored.

“Despite the land being very fertile for growing off seasonal vegetables and other agricultural produce, we are at a loss as it is difficult to market the produce as the carriage to the road head works out to be very high,” says Chanderkanta Verma, former panchayat pradhan.

The villagers say even after the chief minister directed the Public Works Department to prepare an estimate and put up the file before him for providing a road link to these three villages, there has been no progress. Several representations have been made to various authorities in this regard.

The villagers have requested the chief minister that necessary directions may be issued to the PWD authorities to prepare the proposal and move the case for seeking permission under the Forest Conservation Act for construing the road.

Short but not sweet

Even though the three-day monsoon session of the state Assembly later this month would be a brief one but it is bound to be full of fireworks. The BJP legislators have enough ammunition in their bag with issues like the audio CD, containing allegations against the chief minister and his wife and the latest birthday bash controversy of the high profile former minister, G. S. Bali.

Though Bali has demanded holding of an inquiry by a High Court judge into his birthday party, where the presence of call-girls from Delhi made national news but it remains to be seen how the former tourism minister defends himself in the Assembly. Being one of the most controversial and high profile minister, he has always been the target of opposition criticism.

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity that has come their way, the BJP will make the most out of the Bali episode with old issues like corruption, price rise, unemployment relegated.

The BJP would have to do without its former chief minister, P. K. Dhumal, who is now a Lok Sabha member. It is the former education minister, I. D. Dhiman who will for the first time since his election as the leader of the Opposition, lead his team in the Assembly.



The pass of light & despair
Jitender Kaushik

The majestic valley of Sangla holds its charm in the midst of human intervention, the game of power, and massive construction

A season of fruits in Sangla.
A season of fruits in Sangla.

Sangla in the lap of Kinner Kailash.
Sangla in the lap of Kinner Kailash.

A view from the Baspa river bank.
A view from the Baspa river bank
. — Photos by Jitender Kaushik

The tourist season is just about picking up in what is considered to be one of most beautiful valleys in the world, but Sangla in Kinnaur is under construction. Dust fills the bazaar air as the roads are being widened and the bridge, which is the gateway to Sangla, is also under repair. New guesthouses are coming up, and the existing ones are being expanded.

The signs of massive construction (and destruction) start right from Karcham, the site of the second hydel power project by the Jaypee group, where the Hindustan-Tibet road takes a detour to the majestic valley of Sangla. Ugly tin sheds have come up at the site, and the noise of hundreds of machines and trucks is deafening.

Even the mighty rugged mountains look vulnerable as tunnels are being drilled through them. The beautiful Baspa river that runs through Sangla valley and merges into Sutlej at Karcham seems to be under siege. “Why are they destroying these great Himalayas,” sighs Roswita Mueller, a German tourist, looking through her Nikon camera lens. Mueller, a retired doctor, is visiting the country for the 28th time along with her radiologist husband. They love the Himalayas and just can’t understand how the state government can sponsor these big projects. “Power, ma’am, power politics,” says Madhusudan, a Sangla native studying at Panjab University, Chandigarh. “It’s easier these days to reach Sangla. These projects have at least ensured that the roads are open throughout the year,” says Madhusudan, who, like many locals, is ambivalent about the power projects in the valley. From Karcham, it’s a shabby 16 km road to Sangla, full of dust, and acute turns, but the view is breathtaking. “Nature has been generous to Kinnaur. There’s gold in the soil here,” says C.M. Negi, a local, as the shared taxi wends through the lush greenery.

Nature’s bounty is at full display everywhere. A walk down Sangla’s narrow lanes is full of temptations as the drooping trees are laden with a variety of fruits: apples, pears, peaches, plums, almonds and walnuts. The slated roofs of the wooden houses with elaborate carvings are full of drying fruits. “This place looks like one big orchard. Do they mind if we pluck a few,” asks an Israeli couple.

The small bazaar of Sangla, spread over hardly 500-meter distance is in a mess due to construction work. But the backpackers from Israel, who’re on their way to the higher ranges, seem at ease gulping down mutton momos at small Tibetan cafes, where beautiful local women run the show. Beyond the dust and din of the bazaar, in the upper Sangla, there are more farms blossoming with fruits and flowers, and water flows freely through the green slopes. But what takes one’s breath away is the imposing and rather stoic Kinner Kailash ranges, each time their peaks are revealed from behind the clouds.

A curious world of modern and olden ways of living is revealed as one walks down through the narrow, but mostly empty lanes of the Sangla to the river Baspa. Old women with wrinkled faces stare out of the windows of the creaking, wooden houses, and amid the lush orchards stand the newly erected modern constructions.

The Bairing naga temple complex also houses a Buddhist monastery. “You can click the Buddha and the temple, but if you click nag devta or any of his three brothers, we will snatch your camera,” a local boy tells me politely. The Baspa’s right bank is still a forest, though new houses, and guesthouses are beginning to sprout up. “The tourist boom is about to happen here in a big way. Manali is overcrowded, Kashmir is still burning, and people still don’t know how different this valley is,” says CM Negi, staring at the jagged Kinner Kailash peaks, glowing in the orange hues of the setting sun. Sangla means light and la, of course, is pass in the Tibetan language. It’s the pass of light, Sangla, still is, despite the mindless human intervention and power and money politics.



Finally, transport nagar for Baddi
Ambika Sharma

With a view to facilitate transporters operating in the industrial areas, the Baddi Barotiwala Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) has initiated the setting up a ‘transport nagar’ near the Balad riverbed. The authority has invited tenders for conducting feasibility studies of an area of nearly 715 bighas in the riverbed.

This survey will identify nearly 50 to 60 acres of land among the available stretch so as to accommodate at least 2,500 vehicles. Throwing light on the concept, the authority’s CEO, Amandeep Garg, said the focus would be on providing space for parking of vehicles. Further, to access the demand of the existing influx of vehicles and its growing number, a demand survey would also be undertaken. This facility, which was first of its kind in the region, would initially accommodate vehicles of Baddi and Barotiwala areas.

The transporters had since long been demanding this facility as they were facing problems in parking their vehicles. The local truck unions had nearly 2,500 trucks. Since the land in question belonged to the common pool and it could only be used for community purposes, the authority had moved a case for providing adequate land from this pool into the common pool. This hurdle had initially delayed this ambitious project.

Deputy commissioner  Mohan Chauhan, while confirming the development, said the process of identifying suitable land was in progress. The project would also take care of the increasing number of vehicles and provide an earmarked space for the trucks. This would ease the problem of parking along the roadside, which had been a cause of concern for the residents.

The industrial area has been facing a shortage of container trucks, which are fitted with air-conditioners for the transportation of specific goods like pharmaceuticals. 

Since the local unions lack such arrangements, their availability has become a concern for investors. The problem acquires a law and order problem when the investors try to hire trucks from outside and the local unions resent it. The opening of this transport nagar would help solve this problem.



Mission Mountain
Yana Banerjee-Bey

Readers of this column, be warned. This is a forum for the hardcore (as well as aspiring-to-be-hardcore) adventure sport buff. At the same time, there will be much that is readable (meaning doable) for the layman, first-timer, novice enthusiast – whichever you are. So men, women, and children (of whatever shape and size!) who have the faintest inclination towards adventure activity (and perhaps not even the foggiest notion of how to start), read on.

Summer is the time for one supreme adventure destination – the mountains; one superlative adventure sport – mountaineering; and one splendid adventure activity – trekking.

Mountaineering is an adventure sport that requires – for personal as well as team safety – at least a basic course from the top three mountaineering institutes in Manali, Uttar Kashi and Darjeeling. Their courses are broadly similar, lasting 26-28 days and costing Rs 3,600-4,000.

There are hundreds of civilian mountaineering enthusiasts who have done this course and who spend at least a month each summer on an expedition to a peak in Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Ladakh and even Arunachal Pradesh. An expedition from the Howrah Mountaineers and Trekkers’ Association of West Bengal has just climbed Mt Kamet (7756 m) in Uttarakhand, the third highest peak in India.

But the biggest news in the Indian Himalaya this season is the first ascent of the northeast face of Arwa Tower (6352m) in Uttarakhand. It was accomplished by three Swiss climbers — Stephan Siegrist, Thomas Senf and Denis Burdet on July 7.

Meanwhile, two of our well known mountaineers, veteran Mandip Singh Soin and cricket broadcaster Charu Sharma, have just returned from three climbs in the Swiss Alps – the Riflehorn south face, Pigne De La Le, and Allalain.

For young, qualified mountaineers who are not attached to climbing clubs, the best bet is to join expeditions organised by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of climbing in India. This summer sees eight IMF-sponsored expeditions (five men’s and three women’s). Berths may still be available in the women’s teams so apply with a copy of your CV.

For non-mountaineers, there’s always trekking. Mountaineering expeditions involve a walk-in to the base camp and many club-organised expeditions take along trekkers who man the base camp while the team is tackling the mountain.

If you are not part of a club, organise your own trek. One of the loveliest trekking destinations for people living in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal is the area above Manali. Popular and easy-to-moderate treks here are the Beaskund trek (5 days: 3 walking, 1 rest, 1 sightseeing) and the Bhrigu Lake trek (5 days: 3-4 walking, 1 sightseeing). These treks can be done even by first-timers. For experienced trekkers, I recommend the moderate-to-difficult Malana trek (7 days) and the Pin-Parvati trek (14 days). There are several other treks.

For a luxury trek, contact International Treks and Tours (9816003572,email: internationaltrekkers@gmail.com). For a budget trek, contact Above Fourteen Thousand (9418070391, 98165 44803). Or take your pick from the many large and small adventure tour operators on the Mall in Manali. 

How to get started

1) Directorate of Mountaineering & Allied Sports

Manali – 175131, Tel: (01902) 253789, Website: www.dmas.gov.in

2) Nehru Institute of Mountaineering

Uttar Kashi – 249193, Tel: (01374) 222123, Website: www.nimindia.org

3) Himalayan Mountaineering Institute

Jawahar Parbat, Darjeeling-734101, West Bengal, Tel: (0354) 2254083, 2254087

Website: www.himalayanmountaineeringinstitute.com

4) Indian Mountaineering Foundation

6 Benito Juarez Road, Anand Niketan, New Delhi – 110 021, Tel: 91-11-24111211, 24117935, 24111572, Website: www.indmount.org

The writer has authored India’s first handbook of adventure sports and is available at y.bey@excite.com



Relics of the British era
Pratibha Chauhan

The residents are being encouraged to revive the magic of the Raj

Shimla MC building
Shimla MC building

Auckland House
Auckland House. Tribune photos

With a focus to conserve the British architectural heritage efforts are on to encourage people to replicate features of the old colonial bungalows in the ongoing construction.

The Town and Country Planning Department is undertaking a study of the heritage features of the unique buildings in Kasuali, so that people can be asked to use similar designs in their houses. Since most parts of Kasauli fall in the cantonment area, the churches, old cottages and bungalows here are well preserved. In fact, it is mainly the cantonment area that has retained the old world charm be it in the form of old furniture or structural design.

Those residing in the suburbs of Kasauli, Dalhousie, Dagshai, McLeodganj, Bakloh, Yol and Shimla would be encouraged to take a hint from the architectural features used in doors, windows, chimneys and roofs of British time buildings. Efforts would also be made to identify a heritage zone that reflects the colonial flavour by way of architectural features. “This is the only way we can preserve the precious British time heritage, which is, one of the major tourist attraction for people visiting the state,” said a senior official. The motive is to encourage people especially those who can afford to incorporate some of these architectural features in new constructions.

The beginning has been made from Shimla with the declaration of a heritage zone there and heritage reports of Chamba, Mandi and Rampur have also been prepared and some structures notified as heritage buildings. Work is also underway for preparing a heritage report of Nahan and Kasauli. The government has constituted a heritage sub-committee for Shimla. The area from the state secretariat till the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) has been declared as a heritage zone. The government has so far notified 96 buildings in Shimla as heritage structures and while 38 of them fall within the heritage zone, the remaining are scattered all over the town and in the suburbs.

The municipal corporation on its part will put plaques outside the heritage buildings, giving details like the year of construction and style of architecture. The funding for the same is coming from the tourism department and plaques have already been placed outside some of these old buildings.



Ready to take off
Dharam Prakash Gupta

Model turned actor Simran Sachdeva was the chief guest at the annual function and fashion show organised by International Institute of Fashion Design (INFID), Hamirpur. Simran will be making her debut in Bollywood with a flick titled Hamilton Palace. Starring Mimoh Chakraborty, son of popular actor Mithun Chakraborty, the flick will be released early next year.

The NIFD Chandigarh passout says, “The world of films and modelling are two entirely different domains and the former requires a lot of hard work and struggle. But then, good work definitely gets noticed.” Gladrag fame Simran has worked as model for Jazzy B, Harbhajan Mann, Mika and Atif. Next on her cards is The Murderer, a Sippy production film.

Simran backed by a four-year course in fashion designing tells, “There is lot of scope in fashion designing today.” She was full of praise for the designs displayed by INFID students. She says, “They are doing good designing work.” On the people in the state she says the people are affectionate and warm-hearted which is generally missing in the metropolitan culture.



Nahan (not) Shining
S. R. Pundir

India comes out shining after 60 years of Independence but Nahan remains neglected

Famous for its all weather pleasant weather Nahan town was founded by the ruler of Sirmour Riyasat Raja Karam Prakash in 1621 A.D. A Vaishnav saint Baba Banwari Dass who was meditating on the top of this hill, in the dense forest of Cheer at the height of 960 meters from sea level advised King to establish his kingdom on this hillock. For the construction of King’s Palace saint vacated his Taposthali Ashram and entered in a cave where he meditated for the rest of his life, as per historians. The cave is situated inside the Shri Jaggan Nath temple in the town.
Famous for its all weather pleasant weather Nahan town was founded by the ruler of Sirmour Riyasat Raja Karam Prakash in 1621 A.D. A Vaishnav saint Baba Banwari Dass who was meditating on the top of this hill, in the dense forest of Cheer at the height of 960 meters from sea level advised King to establish his kingdom on this hillock. For the construction of King’s Palace saint vacated his Taposthali Ashram and entered in a cave where he meditated for the rest of his life, as per historians. The cave is situated inside the Shri Jaggan Nath temple in the town. — Tribune photo

Surrounded by the lush green forests of Shivalik hills, 400-year-old Nahan is situated on a beautiful hillock. Despite having been the kingdom of Sirmour riyasat and the district headquarter of Sirmour district, this city of temples, palaces and historical structures, has failed to get heritage status so far.

The local residents have aired their voice at many occasions against the government’s apathy. They’ve alleged that all major problems of the town have been left neglected since independence (including construction of a by pass to divert the long route traffic), though this town has witnessed every colour of freedom movement. It were the brave freedom fighters of Sirmour riyasat, who made this town the center of activities of Prajamandal movement.

The movement got a boost after the Prajamandal activists strove to get freedom from the cruel rule of riyasati rulers, who were working as official agents of the British. The sons of Nahan faced wreath of English and riyasati rulers and sacrificed themselves to their motherland. However, after independence, this town has got sheer political negligence instead of development. A similar treatment has been given to the Sirmour district, which had been put in the list of 200 most backward districts in the country by the Government of India.

Laments revolutionary Urdu poet, film script writer and Prajamandal activist of Nahan, Adil Sirmouri, expressing anguish over the negligence of Sirmour, “Is dharti ke beton ne maan ki aazadi ke liya khoob lahu bahaya, magar wo bhool gaye ki jinda rehane ke liya jang jari rakhni padti hei.”

Agreeing with NGO’s and social workers of this four-century-old town, the president of Nahan Nagrik Sabha Digvijay Gupta expressed his deep concern over ‘pushing all the major development proposals of the town in dark corner’ and alleged that during the past 60 years, the people in power had done nothing for the town.

He charged that only public statements were made to lay sewerage system in the town but there was nothing on the ground, while even tehsil level towns in the state had got sewerage systems after independence. Soon after independence, the residents had demanded to make Nahan an educational hub by opening medical colleges and universities here but the political leaders closed popular institutes like the Art College and the evening colleges of this town.

A veteran Congress leader, who has Chaired Nahan Municipal Committee, Babu Ram Bansal also feels that this historic town has been victim of political negligence, “Those who represented Nahan constituency never kept development of this town in their priority, they did vote politics,” he alleged. He said that it was shameful for the state that 140-year-old Nahan Municipal Committee, which was second oldest municipal committee in the country and oldest in Northern India, was facing deep financial crises for the past 25 years and did not have money to pay even the salaries.

Revival of Nahan foundry, the oldest foundry of Northern India, did not materialise even after 35 years. The only government college of Nahan has failed to get its own complex for the past over 30 years. Despite best efforts by the IPH department, residents were crying for drinking water, the town was getting irregular and insufficient water supply. To top it all, there were regular monthly power cuts. He demanded that Chief Minister Vir Bhadra Singh should take account of problems faced by the residents of Nahan for the past several decades and provide some effective solutions.



Killer embrace
Rakesh Lohumi

Illicit felling, unscientific disposal of urban waste and dumping of debris has taken a heavy toll on the green cover in and around the state capital over the years. The urban forests are now facing a new threat from the fast-spreading climbers and creepers.

Tall deodar (cedar) and kail (blue pine) trees struggling in the choking embrace of giant climbers are becoming a common sight in the city these days. The trees appear like tall masts tied down by countless climbers which creep along the ground, cling to every trunk and fling from tree to tree. In some worst-affected forest patches in Chhota Shimla, Kusumpti, Annandale and Lower Kaithu, almost every other tree is in the strangle hold of such climbers. There are many species of climbers and creepers in the region but those posing a threat to the trees are the fast-growing Vitis himalayana and Hedera helix species. They have overwhelmed hundreds of trees.

It is not a happy situation as climbers and creepers take a toll on the trees in the long run. While the growth of young trees is stunted, some aged trees could even dry up. It is a losing battle for the trees, which have to compete with the climbers for water, nutrients and sunlight for survival.

The scenario is indicative of the abject neglect the urban forests have suffered over the years. The authorities have not been carrying out the silvicultural operations necessary for keeping forests in good shape. In fact, the working plan for the Shimla forest division, which expired in 1984, has not been revised so far. Silvicultural operations are carried out in accordance with the prescriptions made in the working plan. Without a working plan, the forest cannot be managed on scientific lines.

The Shimla forest division has been all these years under the control of the local municipal corporation, which miserably failed to protect the once impeccable green cover. Over the years, a large number of trees were axed and encroachers were virtually having a field day. Saving trees was the last concern as electoral politics dictated the priorities. Over the past one decade, more than five thousand trees were felled and huge chunks of forestland was encroached. There are as many as 916 cases of encroachments on forestland on record. The fencing of well-preserved forests carried out under the NORAD project had also not been maintained. No visible effort was made to raise new plantations.

Now that the entire forest has been transferred to the forest department, things will improve, says principal chief conservator of forests Pankaj Khullar. The process for revising the working plan has already started. It will take care of all the issues pertaining to scientific management of forests. There is not only an urgent need for cleaning of forests but also for the replacement of the aged growing stock in a planned manner. Most of the existing trees are aged and die over the next 25 to 50 years.

Divisional forest officers R. K. Raj admitted that the unchecked spread of climbers was a serious problem along with the unscientific of dumping of garbage and debris. A massive operation will have to be undertaken to free the trees from the grip of climbers. He plans to involve the eco-clubs of various schools in the exercise under which the climbers will be cut at the base. An eight to 10 inch piece from the base of the climbers will be removed to ensure that they dried up in due course.



Cleanliness Drive

The Barotiwala and Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) has launched a sanitation management and garbage disposable project to improve civic amenities in Baddi. Under this project, nine wards of Nagar Panchayat, Baddi and seven industrial areas in and around Baddi have been divided into16 garbage disposable collection wards.The project has been allotted to a Nagpur-based NGO — Centre for Development Communication (CDC).  CDC would do door-to-door garbage collection and clean the main roads daily. For the industrial segment, the Industrial Area Development Authority (IADA) has to deal with CDS. — J.G.



Education on the decline

The state might have done well in the expansion of government school network but the education standard in these institutions has deteriorated drastically over the past few years. Examination results, dropout rates and preference for private schools support this argument.

The largest public sector in employment potential has been alone experimented severely in the guise of fiscal correction measures. Consequently, teachers have been classified to many categories such as, para teachers, assistant teachers, contract teachers, PTA teachers, vidya upasaks, adhoc, stop gap, JBTs, TGTs, PGTs and so on.

It also satisfies politicians’ ego, duly flattered in the maha sammelans organised frequently by these teachers for the continuation of their services. Such an environment has lowered the teaching standard and the work culture, paving the way for dualism in education sector. Even these teachers are hesitant to enroll their children in these government schools.

It has serious implications on the widening gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ and urban and rural people, where less privileged class is left with no other option but to study in these schools.

In such conditions, we should be more specific about the objectives of education, whether to achieve higher literacy rates or develop human resource for the development of a nation and the civilized society?

Rakesh Kumar Sharma, Shimla

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