Deprived of basic benefits in the state, medical specialists are looking for greener pastures
Brain Drain
Kuldeep Chauhan

The state is facing an exodus of postgraduate doctors from the state. The reason for this is the wrong policy of allocation of over 23 postgraduate seats on an all-India basis at Indira Gandhi Medical College at Shimla, and also because the doctors, who pass out on the state quota of 32 seats from the college, prefer to join private hospitals. The postgraduate doctors here do not get ‘matching’ benefits as their counterparts in other institutions and hospitals in other states.

This phenomena is not only taxing the state’s meager resources, but it has also hit the health care at the IGMC and Dr Rajinder Prasad Medical College at Tanda, besides all zonal hospitals, where shortage of specialists is a persisting problem.

The sources said over 55 specialists, 23 from the all-India quota and 32 from the state quota, are enrolled at the IGMC every year. But PG doctors enrolled on the all-India quota leave the state after passing out from the college.

Even 20-30 per cent doctors enrolled in the state’s quota, desert the state as they look for greener pastures in the country or abroad. They get a monthly package of Rs 25,000 in the state, which remains the same for another 10 years till they get regularised. On other hand they can jump to Rs 40, 000 to Rs 80,000 monthly packages in private hospitals or institutions outside the state.

The doctors say there are no postgraduate increment, no house rent allowance or other benefits like their counterparts enjoy in the other states. However, they add that it is not always the money that should be the driving force or motivation for doctors. “The good pay package is welcome but then doctors should have also a commitment and obligation to serve the society,” he says.

The HP Medical Officers Association (HPMOA) has suggested that the government should disband the all-India quota altogether like the states of Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. They have submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court pleading that they will neither send their doctors nor they will accept doctors from outside the state and hence they should be exempted from the all-India quota fixed by the apex court.

Members of the association said they had suggested that postgraduate seats should be increased at the IGMC from the present figure of 55 to 70 or more. “This can be done by increasing the strength of the teaching faculty at the IGMC so that the Medical Council of India (MCI) does not have any objections. Apart from this, the government should give a postgraduate increment and house rent and other allowances on pattern of Punjab,” they added.

Commenting on the issue, secretary health, Nisha Singh said the government was aware of the problem and was in the process of giving incentives to both institutions and specialists in the state. “We are open to suggestions. We are training medical officers as specialists to take care of the shortage in the field.”



Few takers for Barog bypass
Ambika Sharma

Built to ease traffic on the already congested NH-22, the Barog bypass is far from serving the purpose. Tourists, commuters and truckers still choose to drive through Barog, as taking the bypass increases the journey by 3 km.

Thrown open to the public in 2003 by then Union surface transport minister B.C. Khandoori, the bypass offers a hassle-free, smoother and picturesque drive.

NH-22 is choked with hundreds of apple-laden trucks at this time of the year. According to an estimate, nearly 300 to 500 trucks ply daily on this road. In addition, several vehicles from neighbouring states also use this stretch.

But all’s not well with the bypass. Even before it was inaugurated, several flaws were noticed in its construction. Now, its parapets have sunk below road level and landslides have caused losses. Khandoori had earlier ordered an inquiry.

When contacted, officials admitted that they had been unsuccessful in diverting traffic to the bypass and said they were working out a plan on how to put it to good use.



Cricket for a cause
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

Far from the ongoing T20 extravaganza in South Africa, a different kind of cricket tourney was organised on Saturday in the not-so-cricket-crazy US. Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Americans gathered to remember cricket lover Hitender Thakur, shot dead by black assailants on May 25 last year, and to urge the local police to trace his killers.

Hitender (23) hailed from Mandi and was studying at the Harrisburg Area Community College. He worked part-time as a store clerk at the City Gas & Diesel Mini Mart in Harrisburg and was on duty when he was shot and robbed of $ 100.

Thakur’s friends gathered at Susquehanna Township’s Veterans Park where Hitender used to often play. His teammates and players from nine clubs of the Pennsylvania United Cricket Association were also there. His friends led by college president Edna V. Baehre dedicated a special bench there to his memory.

“It’s frustrating. It’s been over a year (since Hitender was killed) and we thought it would be quick. But it just seems like nothing’s going on because we don’t hear about it on the news or on radio,” says close friend, Porus Irani.

Narender Atwal, another friend, will never forget May 25. “At 4.30 a.m. I got a call that Hitender had been shot at. Something died within me,” says Atwal, originally from Mumbai. He had taken Thakur’s body back to his native place. Even as Hitender’s friends try to raise money for a reward fund, hoping to help catch the killer, Avnish Katoch, a tourney organiser, sums it all up, “Thakur’s dreams were cut short and a promising career was brought to an abrupt end. It’s a shame that the men who murdered him are still free.”



PWD starts work on Kalka-Shimla overbridge
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

Acting on High Court order, PWD has finally started the work to rebuilt the overbridge on Kalka-Shimla rail line. The bridge on Dharampur-Subathu road was closed down in January for vehicular traffic by railways. The decision came as a shock for the panchayats and also caused embarrassment to the army based at Subathu.

Though, light vehicles were allowed till February end, it led to a disruption in the normal lives of thousands who used the road for their livelihood. The railways had termed the bridge unsafe after conducting an inspection of the spot. In September last year, an assistant engineer of Northern Railway from Shimla had written to the DC of Solan seeking a diversion of heavy vehicles from the bridge.

Later, Dharampur-Bashalu Sampark Marg (DBSM), a local registered society challenged the railways in the High Court. Interestingly, the railways failed to give any affidavit about the technical reasons on the basis of which they had termed the bridge as unsafe.  However, the main plea taken in writ to High Court was to counter the claim of the railways that the road was earlier allowed only as a pedestrian path.

As per records available with DBSM the road was constructed way back in 1815 when the Britishers set up a cantonment at Subathu and the rail line laid in 1903.

Passing order on writ, the division bench of High Court had asked both PWD and railways to decide on the construction of the bridge. The order also said that the bridge could be constructed by railway and PWD, individually or jointly. The report in this regard was to be filed with the court by September 10. Since the railways refused to construct the road, PWD started its work before the court deadline. An amount of Rs 10 lakh for bridge construction had already been deposited by the DC of Solan and was still lying unused with the railways. 



IEET students to develop softwares for BBNIA
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

The Baddi, Barotiwala and Nalagarh Industries Association (BBNIA) has allotted two software projects to the students of Institute of Engineering & Emerging Technologies (IEET), Baddi.

The projects of computerising the truck union operations of Baddi, Barotiwala and Nalagarh region and another of establishing a database for members of BBN Industries Association, will be developed by the students of Computer Science and Information Technology Engineering Department of IEET. Head of the department Jaswinder Singh Dilawari said a team of 32 final year students with eight faculty members would develop the software using net technology. General secretary of BBNIA-Baddi Arun Rawat said the projects were assigned in view of the world-class facilities and infrastructure available at the institute.



Miles to go...
This German couple simply cannot get enough of India. The doctors are back here for the 28th time
Jitender Kaushik

Müller s’ motor home, the Unimog 435 Mercedes Benz They don’t like to be called tourists; they call themselves travellers. Roswita and Günter Müller, both retired doctors and professors from Germany, are in the twilight of their life, but they are on a world tour.

From Hanover to Himachal, they have traversed about 30,000 km in their six-cylinder Unimog 435 Mercedes Benz, called motor home. Günter, a former radiologist, is 70. His wife Roswita, a retired paediatrician, is 67. “We didn’t want to end up in front of a television set with remote control in our hands and our grey cells dying fast,” 
explains Roswita, “so we embarked on this journey.”

And what a journey it has been! “We started early April last year,” begins Roswita, who does most of the talking. “April 7, Hanover (Germany),” intervenes Günter. “We don’t keep a diary. This doctor has got everything stored here,” smiles Roswita, patting her hubby’s head affectionately.

In this incredible journey they have crossed Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Iran — where they spent six weeks — and Pakistan, to count a few, before entering what has always been their most favourite destination — India.

“India is not a nation, it’s a continent,” says Roswita, staring at the map spread over her knees. This is visit no. 28. They know more about the country than any average Indian would. But they hunger for more. “We have been to its hinterlands, its remote nooks and corners. We have seen boundless affection and energy here. It has amazing variety and beauty. But our favourite destination in India has always been Ladakh,” says Roswita. “Sixteen times we have been there,” adds Günter.

The couple first landed in India for a medical conference in the early sixties. “The invitation card somehow didn’t mention the country’s name. We were practicing in Hanover for quite some years. We decided to attend the conference, not knowing Coimbatore was in India,” recalls Roswita.

The fascination has grown into an obsession over the years. They have a staggering collection of 60,000 photographs of India alone. “We can put up an exhibition on India, we might,” says Günter. Armed with their hi-tech Nikon cameras, both are always clicking when on the road. “We love photography, we love this landscape.”

The couple landed in Guwahati during the peak of the Ulfa crisis. “For a seminar!” laughs Roswita. “Many Indian doctors skipped the event,” says Günter. “We’ve been to this country so many times we feel people recognise us,” says Roswita. “In Pune, a young boy stopped his bike right in the middle of the busy traffic. He rushed towards us screaming, saying he had seen us in Ladakh a couple of years back.” It’s not that they haven’t had bumpier rides during their marathon journeys across the country.

“We had a tough time handling some young boys at upper Kinnaur a few weeks back. We have a big vehicle and parking is a huge problem. Someone hit it from behind in Darjeeling a few months back. The ladder has come off, and it can’t be repaired in India. So we are stuck with this wooden ladder.”

Their self-designed motor home is a marvel in itself. They got it made in 1999. It’s equipped with a kitchen unit, refrigerator, toilet, small bedroom partition and working space for two. The 6.5-m long, 3.5-m high vehicle has a solar panel fixed on the roof and a 280-litre water storage tank.  “We can cook but we generally don’t. We prefer the local food. We try everything,” says Roswita, showing around what has been her only home for the last 16 months. They have been on the road before in this motor home, many a time. They travelled 42,000 km in their previous long journey in 2004-05. This time round it’s an open-ended trip. “We might keep travelling till 2009. We dream to go to Tibet if allowed. And Myanmar, if the borders open,” they say.

Don’t they feel scared in the alien lands among people with different languages, beliefs and cultures? Don’t they feel tired, homesick? “I spent 60 years of my life at Hanover. Isn’t that enough for one place in one lifetime?” Günter asks. “Scared of whom? This is our planet, isn’t it? And we just want to see more of it, more of is people, its cultures,” says Roswita.

As the sun settles behind the peaks of Kinner Kailash, and birds fly back to their nests, the Müllers are busy scanning the map in their mobile home, parked at the narrow, dusty bus stop of Sangla. “Tomorrow we are headed back. We are too old to revisit this part of the world. So, we are driving slowly. Only 25-30 km a day,” says the couple. “Sarahan, Shimla, Chandigarh, Pune, Uttaranchal, no… khand (Why do you guys keep changing names of places, it’s so confusing? says Günter), Nepal, Bhutan…  At 70 we don’t have much time left with us,” sighs the doctor. And miles and miles to go before 
they stop!



Time to Raid De Himalaya
The six-day rally will be flagged off from Shimla on Oct 2
Rakesh Lohumi

The hill state is gearing up for adventure. In the following weeks, the state will host three international adventure sports’ events. To begin with, Raid de Himalaya, India’s toughest and longest motor sport rally, will be flagged off from Shimla on October 2. Two days later, a mountain terrain biking event will take off from the same venue. Finally, a pre-World Cup paragliding event will be held at Bir-Billing in the Kangra valley.

The main focus, though, will be the ninth edition of the Raid de Himalaya, which will culminate at Srinagar on October 8 after covering 1,815 km of rugged mountain terrain over a period of six days. This year, the Reliability Trial category has been replaced with Adventure Trial to enable first-timers to have a feel of the event. The race has received 141 entries; 93 in the four-wheeler category and 48 in the two-wheeler one.

Unlike the slower Reliability Trial, the new version will be more competitive. “On a scale of 1 to 10, if the X-TREME version is rated nine in terms of difficulty and speed, the Adventure Trial can be given six points,” says Vijay Parmar, president of the Himalayan Motorsports Association that organises the annual event. The two races will run concurrently on the same route. Newcomers will not be allowed to participate in the X-TREME format, keeping in mind the dangers involved.

The race will pass through five mountain passes - Kunjum (15,800 feet), Baralacha (16,400 feet), Nakee La (16,300 feet) and Lachu Langla (16,600 feet). This event tests the endurance of the vehicles and the driving skills of the competitor.

This year, three new dirt stretches, Gumma Umpladwar, Narkanda-Kelodhar-Chhattri and Shuwad-Khanag, have been added to the first day of the competition.

The Indian Army is fielding six teams. Four foreign teams are also taking part in the raid. Suresh Rana, who has won in the past three years, will be looking to making it four in a row. 



Simla through a journo’s eye
by Shriniwas Joshi

When an uneasy peace returned to India after the First War of Independence, many firangi survivors of the mutiny arrived in Simla to breathe the mountain air and to give first-hand accounts of the violence or the risk on life that they had experienced. William Howard Russell, a famous correspondent of The Times and his friend, Captain Alison, also joined them to reach here on June 14, 1859. He wrote pieces in superb English from here, the style emulated by many a journalist of his times. A pleasing description of Simla at first sight is, “At a turn of the road, I catch sight of a conical hill, covered with a deluge of white bungalows, dominated by a church behind, and above which again rises a steep of sugar-loaf of fir trees. ‘That is Simla! There is Mount Jakko!’ I replied with pleasure and thankfulness. To taste such pleasure, we must be sick, wounded, roasted, and worn-out in the dreadful plains of India.”

Russell and his friend stayed, at first, in Simla Club, which today is U.S. Club. Here at the announcement of dinner, officers and others “file into a large room with a table well laid with flowers and plated epergnes round which there is double file of the club servants and of the domestics which each man has taken with him. The dinner, at all events, is plentiful enough, pastry and sweets being perhaps the best department. Conversation is loud and animated.”

Russell, who had a leg injury, was tired of this noisy bonhomie and he, along with his friend moved into The Priory, a verandahed bungalow on the slopes of Mount Jakko. Here Russell, like a student, learnt the pleasures in the small-scale life that he could see from the window of his bungalow.

Russell’s thoughts on rains in Simla are charmingly word-pictured by Pat Barr as, “The low dense clouds had fallen into bed with him; they seemed to have settled in his very boots, and his dressing-table was dank with their dew. The valleys shone green and fresh, the slopes of Jakko were enamelled with wild geraniums, hill anemones, columbines and pheasant’s eye, and the effects of the high-banked clouds tinted with rays of occasional gold and pink light over the distant mountains were magical.”

The passing hill-folk, who wore homespun, grubby woolen tunics and trousers, looked like adding “an oriental spice to even the most suburban Simla road” to Russell. He found the hill-folk captivating through their hearty laughs and flowing songs besides being “amazingly honest in their poverty”, the women were slit eyed and had high cheek bones; they wore silver or gold nose-rings and were “disapproved by the memsahibs” because some of them were polyandrous. In summer, they used to bring honey, nuts, peaches and apricots from their drier lands beyond Sutlej. He gave opinions not only on the native populace but also was frank in criticizing his own society of Englishmen in Simla, “the social distinctions are by no means lost sight of in India. On the contrary, they are more rigidly observed here than at home, and the smaller the society, the broader the lines of demarcation.” He found that each man’s status in Simla was entirely dependent on his rank in the public service, which was a kind of aristocracy; woman’s social position was tagged with the ranking of her husband. He writes, “Simla had its St. James’s and its St. Giles’, the latter constituted by tradespeople and by the Crannies or Kerannes who are writers in the various offices and often Eurasians.” His severest censures were for the Anglo-Indian Officers who called their servants as “dogs of the natives” and those young officers who “are up here on leave and sick certificates” and whose “wildness of spirit and lax notions of discipline and decency were only too convincing a proof of Simla’s miraculous health-restoring properties.”

Russell did not recover fully here and eventually left Simla without regrets though the town could not cope with his hardy and questing temperament.



Scout’s honour
Hamirpur teacher represents India in an international scouts camp
Dharam Prakash Gupta

A scout from Government Senior Secondary School, Sera in Hamirpur, has brought laurels to the district by representing India in an international scouts camp in England. Priyadarshni, who teaches science, has just returned after attending the Centenary World Jamboree held in London.

Ask her to share her experience and she gets all excited —“It was a fantastic experience and I don’t have words to explain.”

Priyadarshni attended a 21-day-camp at Halnus Park in London as a member of the Scouts and Guides’ International Service team. She says this was a festival of peace and brotherhood, where 40,000 scouts from 158 countries gathered to strengthen the international brotherhood through principles of scouts and exchange their cultures. They were made to live in tents in the Halnus Park.

Since Priyadarshni is also a leading member of the international service squad, she was made the in charge of the scout’s team of Ice Land and Czechoslovakia. In this festival, participants shared their art, culture and food habits. A separate food plaza was set up for this purpose.

Priyadarshni says, “While the world jamboree works for peace and environment protection, it also provides an opportunity for physical and spiritual growth of an individual.” 



No lure for investors
The rural areas in the state fail to attract investors despite making developments 
Ambika Sharma

The efforts of the state government in promoting rural areas has failed to create an interest from investors. Areas in places like Mamlig (99.19 bighas), Vakna (51.03 bighas), Domehar (80.12 bighas), Manjhol (353.15 bighas and Banelgi (556.08) were earmarked to draw big industrialists, and though a number of investors evinced interest in a few sites, no one turned to invest in any of these areas.

A few investors had shown interest in Banelgi, however, even after a year of allotment work is yet to begin at these sites. This also offset the scheme of the industries department whereby they had incurred an expenditure of nearly Rs 45 lakh in establishing a sub-station at Banelgi. Officials in the power department said that though the construction of the sub-station was completed a few months ago, not a single investor had approached them yet for power supply.

GM District Industries Centre Lokender Chauhan said work was yet to begin on the 13 plots allotted to investors. There were also some investors who were yet to gain possession of the land. Also, these investors had been issued notices and directed to begin work within a month or face cancellation of their plots. He added, “Other sites like Vakna, Domehar and Manjhol come under the purview of land acquisition of proposed satellite township and a part of it had been kept aside for IT based industries.”



Fatal encounter
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

The Kalka-Shimla National Highway-22 had taken four more precious lives last week due to rash driving. The deadly curves and dangerous points on the highway were equally responsible for the loss.

Over the years, hundreds of people have fallen victim to fatal accidents. Traffic flow increases manifold on weekends when tourists make a beeline to the hills. Most of them are not very accustomed to driving in the hills. Adding to this problem, most of the tourists are under the influence of liquor when they drive back home after enjoying a day’s outing. 

Most of the accidents in past have happened during the night, involving drunken drivers. In fact, the 25-km stretch of the highway from Dharampur to Parwanoo is most dangerous where the road moves along the deep valley. There is no immediate help available as most of the accidents take place at night. 

The stretch has numerous sharp curves that make it an arduous task for motorists to drive freely. There are a few notorious spots between Datiyar and Parwanoo where fatal accidents are a routine affair. The mushrooming of roadside dhabas and eating joints have further aggravated the problem. Despite high frequency of accidents, the Public Works Department has failed to put signboard at the crucial points to alert the motorists. 



Nature’s own
The herbal nursery in Pangi valley is a storehouse of medicinal plants
Balkrishan Prashar

The herbal nursery at Hudan Bhatory village in Pangi Valley is proving to be a cache of medicinal herbs. An initiative of the department of forests, this nursery has not only helped in cultivating herbs, but has also generated income for persons living in the tribal belts of the valley.

In a short span of five years, the nursery, which is situated at 12,000 feet above sea level, has emerged as a storehouse of medicinal herbs. It has eased the burden of those who have been trekking far and wide in search of them. The marketing of medicinal herbs grown in the valley is producing a turnover of Rs 25 lakh
per year.

The spacious Hudan herbal nursery, which was raised in 2000-2001, is spread over an area of one hectare. Its location offers a panoramic view of the Greater Himalayas. Over the years, the nursery has acquired the state of an herbal garden.

Although cultivating medicinal herbs is a tradition in Himachal Pradesh, the producing of such herbs for scientific and commercial purposes is a recent phenomenon.

It is indeed an arduous task to raise an herbal nursery. The seeds of numerous medicinal herbs are first collected and then raised at the nursery. For this, the persons involved in the process have to trek hundreds of miles in search of them. The saplings are then later planted in the forests.

In the last seven years, 2,62,679 saplings of medicinal herbs were raised at the Hudan nursery. Of these, 1,74,415 saplings were transplanted to 71 hectares of forest. Some of the herbs being cultivated here are Dhoop, Kour, Pateesh, Kuth, Pharna, Shawan, Ateesh, Chukri, Bhootkesi, Van Kakroo, Chura, Ratnajot, Meethipateesh, and Salampaja.

This endeavour is also a source of livelihood for poor families of the tribal belts. The government has issued permits to more than 600 families of the Pangi valley. Only those with permits are allowed to collect the saplings after they mature. One quintal of herbs fetches between Rs 14,000 to Rs 25,000. Out of the sales of every quintal, the panchayats get Rs 540 each. This income is then used for their development. This is, undoubtedly, supplementing the income of the tribal people of the valley.



Son et Lumiere at Viceregal Lodge

With its imposing building, an architectural marvel of the British era, meticulously manicured lawns and well-maintained botanical garden, the sprawling Viceregal Lodge complex has in recent years emerged as a major tourists attraction in the capital. A visit to the historic heritage site is a must for every VVIP who lands up in the hill station.

The decision of the IIAS (Indian Institute of Advanced Study) authorities to impose an entry fee to regulate the rush of tourists has not only helped in keeping the premises in good shape but also generated the much required financial resources for the upkeep of the complex. This year, the total collection by way of entry fee is likely to cross Rs 20 lakh, which is enough to pay the expenses of watch and ward staff engaged through a private security company and maintenance of lawns. 
The Government of India gives a sufficient fund for the upkeep of the main building.

The state government now wants to arrange light and sound shows in the complex as an added attraction for the tourists. The issue was discussed the deputy chairman of the planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia who visited the institute recently to deliver a lecture. He advised the institute to submit a concrete proposal in this regard.

Old age or management lapse?

It has not been a good year for the wild animals Himalayan Nature Park at Kufri, which has lost three of its prized possessions in a matter of few months. While Sapna, the female snow leopard brought from Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Darjeeling, died after prolonged illness in August, a Tibetan wolf passed away last week. Earlier, a brown bear had also died in the park. A lion died in the Renuka Safari.

Chief wildlife warden Vinay Tandon maintained that there was no lapse in the management of the park and it was the age factor, which proved fatal for the Tibetan wolf and the brown bear. Similarly, the lions, which were affected due to inbreeding were being phased out.

Royal Hic!

The heritage liquor served in royal marriages over centuries will now be available in the hill state. Rajasthan-based Crown Heritage Liquor, sole commercial manufacturer of heritage liquor in the country, has obtained license for distributing its product. To begin with the Royal brands Maharani Mahansar and Maharaja Mahansar will be made available in Shimla and Solan.

Chairman of the company Rajinder Singh Mahansar reveals that his ancestors have been into the liquor business of supplying liquor for royal marriages since 1770. It was no ordinary liquor but one with high medicinal and nutritional value. It was being manufactured in traditional method using herbs and spices like cardamom, musli, ashwagandha and natural ingredients including almonds, walnut and munacca. It was being marketed in cardamom and shahi gulab.



Meritorious Service
Dharam Prakash Gupta

The National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers at Hamirpur have been doing commendable work in the district. Besides campaigning for social issues, these volunteers have been doing manual work for brining a change in the rural areas.

The inspiration for this programme is drawn from the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, who suggested that community service plays an important part in the personality development of a person. To give practical shape to this thought, the NSS scheme was started at the national level in 1969.

The NSS volunteers are carrying campaigns on social issues like AIDS awareness and prohibiting the consumption of tobacco, liquor and other drugs. These volunteers are also contributing in eradication of social evils.

Besides, 30 educational institutions of Hamirpur are organising 10-day camps in different villages, creating awareness about cleanliness among villagers, constructing paths and play grounds, cleaning water sources, planting saplings and such other activities. The NSS volunteers from the district have also earned few distinctions by participating in the national level NSS camps in the Republic Day parade and participating in the inter-state NSS camp in Nagaland, where they had won four trophies in different events. 



Knotty Affair
Cutting across caste, religion & creed, foreign nationals are marrying localites, for love, easy, simple living, drugs
Subhash Sharma

Kullu, a tourist paradise holds multifarious attractions for tourists. Adventure sports activities like heli-skiing, mountaineering and white water rafting, cheap livelihood, peaceful environment and good quality charas. Notorious for drugs, the tourist spot is also a major centre for marriages between locals and foreign nationals. More than 60 such marriages between Indians and foreigners have been solemnised here since 1981.

Many foreigners in Kullu opted to settle here and built houses on private lands in the villages (with the consent of locals) and have now been living here for the past many years. Their command over the local language, Kulvi, is surprisingly marvellous and they can easily be mistaken for local natives. And, perhaps, it is their close familiarisation with local customs and style of living that attracted many local girls towards them. According to official figures, 48 such marriages have been registered with the registrar of marriages at Kullu. Twenty-seven local girls have already tied the knot with foreign nationals and another 21 boys have chosen foreign brides for themselves, though they haven’t got their marriages resgistered. Ten Anglo-Indian couples have opted for living in the villages here. An Anglo-Indian couple has even named their family as Shiv Parivar and their children as Ganesha and Kartika. The man is living his life as Bawa with Shiv as his name, and his foreigner wife has Parvati as her name. There is also a case of a foreigner who was brought up here and later married a local girl from Shihah, a village in Gadsa valley.

Though, love could be the reason behind these marriages, the option for a better life among locals and addiction or trafficking of drugs among foreigners could also not be ruled out. 

Figures so far

  •  Out of the 48 marriages registered:

6 British men, 4 Italian men have married local girls

  •  6 Japanese, 3 US, 3 French, 3 Russians, 3 Australians and 2 Swiss men have also chosen locals as their life partners.
  • Other nationalities include Dutch, Belgians, Singaporean, Norwegian, Danish and Korean. 



A cry for help
Devastated by the 1905 quake and neglected by the Department of Archeology, the century-old monolithic rock-cut temples of Masrur need strategic planning to restore their former glory 
Kulwinder Sandhu

The famous monolith rock-cut temples of Masrur at Kangra are in the state of neglect for almost over a century. These outstanding pieces of architecture were damaged in a powerful earthquake that shook the region in 1905 that also claimed more than 20,000 lives.

Ever since, the temples have not been renovated. The archeology department has listed it as protected sites and thus the local people are not allowed to offer prayers daily, except for on Ram Navami and Janamashtmi. In other days both tourists and devotees have to pay Rs 5 as entry fee.

Comparable to the monolithic temples of Mahabalipuram, Ellora and Dhamnar caves, these rock-cut temples lie to the north-east of Masrur village, about 35 km from Kangra, on a sandstone ridge.

There is a group of 15 monolithic temples belong to the Indo-Aryan style. The highest central portions of these temples have been separated from the rest by two transverse cuttings. In the intervening portions of the rocks, are sculpted the series of temples unique in the entire Himalayan region.  
The Masrur temples have an adjoining tank, large and rectangular hewn from sandstone, almost the same length of the temples. It is nearly 50 mt in length and contains water throughout the year. Few species of colourful fishes in this tank are the major attraction for tourists.

The main shrine consists of a square garbhgraha. This structure also includes a rectangular mandappa with four massive columns and mukhmandappa, with four subsidiary shrines on either side. The main door has beautiful rock-cut designs and each side of the mandappa gives way to a staircase, which ascends to the roof.

The temples have three stone images of Lord Rama, Laxman and Sita. But according to historians the temple was originally dedicated to Lord Shiva. There is a figurine of Lord Shiva to prove their theory. In fact, it is believed that it was converted into the abode of Lord Rama only after the earthquake.

Although the exact date of construction is not yet ascertained, it is thought that it started sometime during the first half of the seventh century and almost a hundred years after it’s birth, it reached its competition. However, going by their architecture and sculptural designs, these temples are believed to be constructed between the 8th and 9th century AD.

Some of the beautifully carved rocks that were earlier part of the 15 temples are lying damaged and no one has so far tried to put them in their original position.

During monsoons, water logging is a common sight on the base of the temples. A villager says the archeology department is collecting thousands of rupees every month from tourists but no money is being spent on renovation and preservation.

The state tourism corporation had constructed a cafeteria a few years back, but so far it has not been made functional. Residents feel if the corporation is unable to run this cafeteria, it should be leased out to some local person.

Encroachment is another problem that is likely to add to the temple’s problems. On one side there is a government school and on the other side there are a few shops and houses.

Tourists feel that further construction on the periphery of the temple complex should be banned so as to preserve their natural beauty and sanctity.



Standing tall
Solan teacher bags national award
Ambika Sharma

Yudisthar Mehta, hailing from a non-descript village of Dharo-Ki-Dhar in Solan has bagged the national award for teaching this year. Belonging to a family of freedom fighters, Mehta entered this noble profession at an impressionable age of 19. He did his schooling from Fagu and Rajgarh. And later joined JBT Training School at Kandhaghat to pursue a two-year junior basic training course. He emulated the leadership qualities of his grandfather and joined the profession of teaching in the footsteps of his father.

During his tenure as a head teacher from 1996 to 2000 at Jawahar Punjvilla School in Solan, he worked towards strengthening the basis of education. He impressed upon the teachers to encourage the students to become self-reliant by adopting agriculture. A firm believer of Guru Shishya tradition Mehta believes, “No education can be complete unless a child learns the fundamentals of life, including simple things like agriculture, cooking food for oneself and giving respect to elders.” He says, “ I am attempting to bring children from rural backgrounds come closer to their roots.” Mehta also ensured that his students participated in various sports and cultural programmes as well. Besides teaching, Mehta also contributed towards the society and was even invited as an assistant by the United Nations (UN) in 1990-1991.

It was his dedication to serve the students that made him emerge as an unbiased, hardworking, efficient, persevering and successful teacher. With 39 years of dedicated service, the retired teacher still stands tall for his principles and ideals among the teaching community. He continues to be a guiding light for one and all, encouraging them to work for the society.



Lawrence School wins declamation

Lawrence School, Sanawar, won the Inter School Hindi Declamation organised by its Faculty of Oriental Languages.  

The speakers including both boys and girls kept the audience spellbound with their speeches. Under the individual category, Khwab Sanghvi of Lawrence and Megha Jaswal of APS, Dagshai, bagged the first and second positions, respectively. Yashika Pehal of Lawrence and Rohit Goel of Pinegrove shared the third spot. Consolation prizes were awarded to Kanika Dogar of Eicher School, Puneet Sharma of DAV Sr. School, and Prateek Makhija of Pinegrove School. Lawrence School, Sanawar, Pinegrove School, Subathu and Eicher School, Parwanoo bagged the overall first three positions, respectively.

Secretary multi purpose projects and power Shri Kant Baldi was the chief guest and gave away the prizes. He motivated and advised the speakers to set high targets in life. Headmaster Praveen Vasisht welcomed all participants, escorts and distinguished guests and extended a vote of thanks.

Besides Sanawar, 12 other schools including Doon School, Sherwood College, Nainital, BCS, Shimla, Sainik School, Chittorgarh, Himalayan International School, Shimla, Army Public School, Dagshai, Eicher School, Parwanoo, DAV Sr. School, Parwanoo, Pinegrove School, Subathu, etc participated in this declamation. — TNS





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