Showdown time
Kuldeep Chauhan

It’s show time in Kullu. Followers of two devtas who have not been invited to participate in the divine Dasehra durbar are up in arms against the Dasehra Committee. As many as 365 devtas and devis are expected to attend.

The committee decided not to invite two devtas — Balu Nag and Shringa Rishi – to avoid a controversy. Now, the organisers find themselves at the receiving end. It all began in the 80s as to which devta would march on the right side of Lord Raghunath, presiding deity of festivities, as his rath leaves the temple for the Dhalpur Maidan marking the start of festivities.

Both devtas’ followers stake claim to the right hand side position. Balu Nag is considered an avatar of Lord Laxman. So, as Lord Rama’s younger brother, he traditionally is on Lord Rama’s right in festivities, according to Balu Nag devotees.

Shringa Rishi is believed to be the guru of Lord Rama. His devotees claim that Shring Rishi had been on Lord Rama’s right during festivities in the 1980s and 90s, as Balu Nag did not participate in the rath yatra and had therefore, lost his position.

The Kullu Dasehra Committee has for several years been allowing only Shringa Rishi to accompany Lord Raghunath. Balu Nag’s karkoons – followers accompanying devtas to Dasehra — were not allowed to participate and Section 144 was invoked on them.

Balu Nag’s irate followers accuse the committee of interfering in traditional festivities.

Kullu deputy commissioner Abhishek Jain, who is also president of the Dasehra Committee, says they had left settlement of the dispute to the devotees.

“The devotees failed to solve the matter and we have decided not to invite both devtas. Even now, if they come out up with a solution, they are welcome to join in. Dasehra is their festival and we want to maintain its traditional gaiety and purity,” said Jain.

Interestingly, new devtas represented by Dalits are also coming for the divine show.

Modern vs traditional

Kullu Dasehra is under strain from the two major different mindsets — modernist and traditionalist, each trying to prevail over the other.

Modernists want to see the festival in a more democratic modern avatar while traditionalists want to celebrate it as it used to be. Though both are unanimous in keeping politics at bay, both indulge in politics accusing each other of dragging the devtas into the arena.

All efforts of the Kardars’ Sangh to resolve the dispute have also failed. Shringa Rishi’s Kardars (followers) claim that the Sangh had in 2001 supported them but Balu Nag devotees rejected the decision, saying that tradition and devniti could not be decided by human voting. Kardars allege that petty politics is taking its toll on the sanctity of the festival ever since Maheshwar Singh joined the BJP in 1978.

Modernists say that men should not carry Maheshwar Singh, a representative of Lord Raghunath, in a palanquin during the Jaleb ceremony and Lanka Dahan on the banks of the Beas on the last day.

Animal rightists have demanded that animal sacrifice during Ashtang, which is part of Lanka Dahan, be stopped. But traditionalists believe stopping the sacrifice will incur the wrath of Hidimba Devi.

Last year, chief minister Virbhadra Singh declared that the government would create the Raghunath Temple Trust at Sultanpur Kullu. His proposal raised the ire of Maheshwar Singh, who claimed, there was no need for such a trust as Lord Raghunath has been worshipped as the kul devta down the line by his ancestors.



Scientific Drive
Farmers in Hamirpur take to scientific methods of farming 
Dharam Prakash Gupta

A few enterprising farmers in Hamirpur have become a role model for the rest of in the district. They have adopted scientific methods of farming and are growing fine varieties of seasonal and off-season vegetables. The horticulture department, under their Horticulture Technology Mission introduced them to the benefits of growing new varieties of vegetables and is also offering incentives to them.

Many farmers have taken to growing capsicum and other vegetables in several blocks. The red and yellow variety of Seegenta capsicum has brought good dividends for farmers; one kilogram of good quality capsicum fetches Rs 80-100 in the Delhi market. A single capsicum of this variety weighs up to 400 gm.

To further promote vegetable cultivation, 12 hi-tech green houses have been set up in the district and 6,491 sq km of area has been brought under vegetable cultivation. A resident of Rohvain Patta, Kamal Pathania who gave up his profession of a taxi driver and set up a green house, is now expecting a return of three lakh rupees in a single year. Pathania hopes to sell 30 quintals of capsicum by year-end repay his loan of Rs 2.50 lakh in a single year. He says, “The government has provided me subsidies and the officials of the horticulture department have provided me all the technical help.” Another 500 sq mt of unutilised piece of land in the village is in the hands of Surender Kumar who too has set up a green house.

The farmers are using vermicompost and have build water tanks along with filters for drip irrigation. For the marketing of their produce in the Capital, they have made arrangement with HRTC. The farmers feel that the youth too should avail of government incentives and lead a honourable life as a farmer, instead of running after petty jobs.

Deputy director of Horticulture Hamirpur Dr. R.N. Sharma who has been an inspiration for many farmers says, “Several green houses have been setup in Bijahadi, Moharal and other places. Around 6,400 sq mt of area has been roped in under this horticulture mission and the success of the capsicum crop has furthered the interest among farmers.” 



Fruitful season
Rakesh Lohumi

Despite unfavourable weather conditions, with frequent hailstorms during early stages of the crop, the hill state has achieved a record apple production during the current season, which saw emergence of local markets.

The horticulture department had estimated an output of 2.40 crore standard boxes but the production has already crossed 2.65 crore boxes. Every day about 1.25 lakh to 1.5 lakh boxes are being exported out of the state.

With still a fortnight to go for the season to come to a close, the final figure will cross the previous highest of 2.68 crore boxes achieved in 2005-06.

Last year, the state had a lean crop and only 1.34 crore boxes were produced. In all 2.40 crore boxes have been exported out of the state so far. Besides 27,000 tonnes of fruit has been procured under the market intervention scheme.

However, the market remained low throughout not only because of higher production but also due to the fact that almost 30 to 35 per cent of the crop was damaged by hailstorm. Further, the size of the fruit was also restricted due to adverse weather conditions. The large size fruit, which normally accounts for 25 per cent of the produce was almost negligible. The only exception was the apple produced in the tribal Kinnaur district with superior grade royal delicious variety fetching up to Rs 1200 per box and rich-a-red variety Rs 1050 per box in Delhi market. The apple of various varieties produced elsewhere in the state on average fetched Rs 150 to Rs 200 less than last year.

The entry of big private companies, which procured about 15 lakh boxes, and the emergence of local markets within the state helped in preventing market from crashing. The big players like Adani Group and Fresh and Healthy initially offered Rs 22 per kg for as against Rs 32 per kg last year. However, gradually they increased the purchase price to Rs 28 per kg.

The local markets at Dhalli, Narkanda, Rohru, Nagwain, Solan and Parwanu attracted more buyers from outside the state as a result only about 55 to 60 per cent of fruit was send to the Delhi market. In Dhalli alone, over 11 lakh boxes were sold and in all about 30 lakh boxes were disposed of at these emerging markets. In the past almost 75 to 80 per cent of the apple was disposed of at Delhi market where the ‘arhtias’ exploited the grower to the hilt. It was a positive development which will enable the growers to get reasonable returns for their produce within the state, says Devinder Shyam, chairman of the Shimla-Kinnaur Market Committee.

The small growers, in particular were finding it very convenient to sell their produce in these markets as it saved on transportation of fruit. The committee had now prepared a Rs 57-crore project to set up a full-fledged market at Dhalli with selling yards at the nearby Bhatta Kufer.

With a record apple crop, the state could well cross the barrier of 7 lakh tonne in fruit production. The highest production recorded so far was 6.95 lakh tonne in 2005-06 in which the apple contributed 5.40 lakh tonne. Apple has been the main stay of farmers in the mid and higher hill areas where the terrain is not suitable for gowning traditional crops. The improving production in recent years was a good sing as the area under apple had started declining in the 1990’s because of declining yield, which had come down from 9.5 tonne per hectare in 1970’s to 6 tonne per hectare.

Over the past six years, the production has been rising and there has been only one crop failure in 2006-07. The area under the crop has also started increasing though marginally which was a good sign.



Early polls shatter plans
Pratibha Chauhan

The announcement of early assembly polls in Himachal may have left the Congress MLA’s high and dry but the BJP leadership is thanking the Election Commission of India for saving them from the numerous pre-poll sops that the chief minister Virbhadra Singh had in his kitty.

The announcement of early polls has stalled the foundation stone of several mega projects like medical colleges, health institutions and schools which were aimed to woo the voters. Even BJP leaders are candid enough to admit that these announcements could have improved the prospects of the Congress candidates in the polls. The two biggest announcements of increasing the retirement age of employees from 58 to 60 years and giving an unemployment allowance to the educated youth would have certainly made an impact as it concerns two of the biggest sections of the electorate. Virbhadra Singh, who had earlier planned to announce the unemployment allowance with the budget in March, must be certainly regretting his decision to hold it back. Little did he know that the early poll announcement by the Election Commission of India would spoil his game plan. The government was keen that the foundation stone of the central university in Kangra and IIT in Mandi is laid at the earliest. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was likely to visit the hill state shortly to lay the foundation stone of the two projects.

Learn the ‘lens’

A three-day workshop on ‘Media Communication, Role of Digital Photography and Digital Management of Visual Images’ was organised by the Information and Public Relations Department recently.

Director photo division of the union government, Debatosh Gupta, said a photograph is worth a thousand words. “Over the years, this field has witnessed remarkable advancement and the art of photography can be learnt more through technical and practical aspects,” he said.

He said history of photography was not very old but its functional efficacy and its unique contribution and capability has made it a toll for human existence. More than 100 photographers from all over the state attended the workshop and held detailed discussions about practical aspects of photography. Mr Mahesh Shankar, senior photographic officer briefed the participants about the practical details of digital photography.

Eye camp

The Department Of Ophthalmology at the Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) organised a symposium on an eye disorder called glaucoma. Unfortunately, the problem remains undetected in half of the over one crore patients in India. Glaucoma is the second most common disease after cataract. It is accompanied by increase in intraocular pressure, resulting in perfusion of blood in the optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying vision to the brain. It is a potentially blinding disorder that may be devoid of any symptoms in the initial stage.

Doctors point out that large number of patients go undiagnosed and suffer irreversible vision loss. “Factors like increasing age, family history of glaucoma, and diabetes are major risk factors,” say doctors. One of the painful variety of glaucoma known as primary narrow glaucoma is more common amongst women above the age of 40 years.

Head of ophthalmology at IGMC, K.P. Chaudhary stressed the need for early detection and timely treatment of the disease. He also spoke about the various modalities of treatment available for the disorder. “Drugs, lasers and surgical treatment can be instituted depending upon the need of the patient to prevent blindness,” he informed. 



Bowled over
Kuldeep Chauhan

India’s win in T20 served as an inspiration for Mandi’s cricket enthusiasts. The Paddal stadium here became the pitch for the old and young last fortnight, when two matches were played between veterans from Mandi and Chamba, and the Press club-Mandi and District Cricket Association.

The game between the veterans was organised by the Veterans’ Cricket Association- Manali and brought together players above the age of 60 years. They played a game after a gap of 70 years and it brought back good old memories for many, who had earlier played at the stadium as students.

The team from Mandi won the toss and decided to bat first. Chamba bowlers kept Mandi’s batsmen tight right from the beginning and their wickets fell one by one to the bowling of Jai Ram Nayyar and Puran Singh. Pawan Verma played a good innings and scored 25 runs. The team managed to put together a competent total of 101 runs, with BC Kapur scoring 14 and Santosh Kapur, who scored 10 runs. The Chamba players outsmarted the Mandi veterans in all fields of the game. Their wicket keeper Narinder Puri played a memorable innings of 55 runs and skipper Nayyar contributed another 14 runs to the total score. They managed to achieve the winning target of 102 at the loss of three wickets. Puri was declared as man of the match and Puran Singh was declared the best bowler. The best fielder title went to Mandi’s SP Puri.

Retired director of HP youth services and sports TL Vadai said, “ The idea behind the game is to infuse a spirit of fitness among the youth of the state.” Vadai, Mandi’s skipper and captain further said, “Organising such games helps cultivate team spirit and enthusiasm among the people.”

In another match, District Cricket Association’s team defeated the Press Club-Mandi’s team by two wickets. The latter chose to bat first and set a target of 112 runs for the opponents with their captain Murari Sharma scoring 12 runs, Parkash, 25 and Ankush at 18. The target was met by the association team at a loss of 8 wickets and their top scorers were Yatish at 24, Sunil at 19 and Pravin at 13 runs. President Press Club Hemkant Katayan said, “ Such games help keep the team spirit alive and promote health and fitness among the youth.”  



The play of light & shade
by Shriniwas Joshi

It may interest the readers to know that Shimla, along with other larger cities in India, was the first centre to establish commercial photography. T. Reinecke and C.W. De Rusett used to visit Shimla in 1850s and during that period De Rusett switched from a tailoring job to commercial photography. Then Shepherd and Robertson moved from Agra to Shimla and established themselves here as photographers in 1864, thus throwing away De Rusett from behind the camera to yet another vocation of a builder.

Samuel Bourne, to earn a great name in Indian photography, joined Shepherd as partner immediately afterwards. His initial disappointment with Shimla as a photographer is reflected in, “Its great defect to the photographer is its lack of water…There are no lakes, no rivers, and scarcely anything like a stream in this locality, neither there is a single object of architectural interest, nor rustic bridges, and no ivy-clad ruins, trees and mountains; and the beautiful play of light and shadow about them, are, therefore, all that the photographer has to compose his picture of. On some days we get a very good view of the higher and snowy ranges of the Himalayas, but they are too distant, and the atmosphere not sufficiently clear to render them in a photograph.” The clear light that he found in India and on a cloudless day in Shimla, however, captivated him. “I have frequently stood transported at the wonderful brilliancy of the image portrayed on the screen (here), at the beautiful touches of sunlight amongst the trees, and the fine masses of broad light and shadow everywhere pervading the picture.”

His photographs of Road around Jakko, Simla during the winters of 1867/68, The Yarrows, Peterhoff, A European Cemetery, The Priory, The Retreat and Christchurch from Jakko and many others are a treat to watch, though the photograph of Rudyard Kipling taken in his studio is the most used one in almost all the works of that great writer. He got disturbed by the license that artists took in drawing paintings of Shimla and his remarks sent to the British journal of photography on the artist’s sketch of Peterhoff were, “We were amazed here to see how greatly the artist had drawn on his imagination, and pressed into his service beautiful overhanging of trees, which, no doubt, ought to have been there, but were not… If you compare the view of Peterhoff with the accompanying photograph taken from the same spot, you will see how far we can rely on these artists’ creations.” His marked success in photography was acknowledged by various journals of photography. Imagine the days when photography technology was not as advanced as it is today, Bourne produced astonishing photographs. He took Himalayan Expedition in 1865-66 and took three extremely good photographs before clouds could come down and obscure the view of 18,600 Manirung Pass. There was none, at that time, who equaled Bourne in photographing the grandeur of mountains.

A professional remarked on the clearness and cleanness of the skies in Bourne’s photograph, “None of them were blacked out, and all of them without spot or blemish of any kind… now after seven years’ of practice as a professional photographer, I cannot do this.” Such a talented photographer partnered Shepherd to huge success. Their studio was at the ground floor of the two-storeyed Talbot House made of dhajji wall, which is in a mound opposing the Oberoi Clarke’s (see photographs).

In 1866, the studio issued an impressive catalogue listing over 1500 views of India for sale. In 1870 Samuel Bourne returned to England and Charles Shepherd left in 1885 but the firm survived and another photographer of great acclaim, F. Brenner occupied the place in the early 20th century.


A photographer went to one of the remotest parts of Himachal Pradesh. In a primal village, he met a woman clad in colourful primitive garments - dhatu and rezta. The photographer wanted to take her photograph and seeing her ignorant face preferred to use sign language. He pointed to his camera then to the woman. The woman nodded. Ready to take photograph, he started reading the intensity of light through a meter when the woman said, “Today use f/16 at 1/125 for ISO 100 film”.

— John Wilmot



Villagers to open doors to tourists
Home away from home
Pratibha Chauhan

With a view to promote rural tourism, the government has planned a ‘home stay scheme’ where villagers can open up their houses for tourists. It will entitle them several incentives, including free land use change and exemption from luxury taxes and VAT.

Even though the state tourism policy focuses on rural tourism but till date nothing has been done to take tourism to the village level. As per the scheme, any villager having a decent accommodation of at least two to five rooms can use it for putting up tourists.

“The scheme is aimed at ensuring that the benefits of tourism reaches to the village level and rural tourism is next big thing,” says a senior official. The responsibility of marketing the destination and the venue would be on the tourism department on their website.

As part of other incentives, under the scheme, the user will be charged domestic rates for water and electricity connection instead of the commercial one. They will not be charged any luxury tax or VAT and would be entitled to subsidy.

The tourism department has also decided to simplify the lengthy procedure for registration of the guesthouse with the department. There are hardly any formalities that the person will have to follow. The person keen to adopt the scheme will have to ensure that he has at least two to five rooms with the basic minimum facilities. One very important benefit for those covered under the scheme is that they will be entitled to change of land use without the payment of heavy rates by the Town and Country Planning Depart-ment. Under normal circumstances change of land is very difficult and a heavy amount is imposed for it.

With a shift towards adventure sports and eco tourism, which offer them complete rural feel amidst pristine environment, the government wants to promote rural tourism in a big way. The government on the other hand feels that promoting rural tourism would not be possible till a number of incentives are offered to the rural folk.

The experiment of declaring some villages like Pragpur in Kangra and Naggar in Kullu have been major success. As such the government is keen that the benefits of tourism must reach the village level. “With unemployment being one of the major problem, promoting rural tourism would offer self-employment opportunities to many,” feel tourism officials.

Some of the private entrepreneurs who have set up their resorts in their orchards or in a rural setting are doing good business and there is no dearth of visitors who prefer to stay at such places.  



A toxic journey
Ambika Sharma

With no regulatory norms for maintaining air and water bodies, the industrial area of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh has been polluted to its limit. Toxic effluents are being dumped in all water bodies, including various nullahs like Sitomajri, Sandholi and Baddi. Even the large number of scrap dealers are adding to this problem.

The problem of water pollution has been compounded by the large number of jhuggi dwellers, who have erected their dwelling along the river.

It is not uncommon to see smoke rising from these jhuggis. Unmindful of the environmental havoc, the jhuggi people are adding to air pollution. Also the blame goes to the industrial units as they do not dispose their toxic wastes in a scientific manner.

“Not only scrap dealers are washing the chemical-coated drums and other containers openly in the rivers but also they add a large chunks of concentrated toxic chemicals to the water. At times, they burn these containers to collect scrap and this cause air pollution of the worst kind,” says Deepak Bhandari, senior vice-president of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industries Association (BBNIA).

Such violations are hard to be checked. Though as per the Hazardous Waste Management Handling rules each unit is supposed to ensure that all containers carrying chemicals are disposed off in a scientific manner, no one seems to be adhering to it. The unit owners just leave these containers to be collected later by the scrap dealers.

An indication of the degrading water level can be gauged from the fact that it’s pH level upstream of Sarsa River has been changing from 7.83 in April 2005 to 8.13 in January 2006. With a view to study the pollution load in the area, a high-powered committee had been constituted by the chief minister in July after a large number of fish died. It was an indication that the Baddi-Barotiwala industrial area up to Ratta nullah has been saturated with pollution and industries that add to pollution should not be allowed to set up their plants here. Only information technology-based or biotechnology-based units should be allowed.

The committee has pointed out that the water quality of Sarsa has reached level ‘E’ this year, which indicates that it was only fit for industrial washing. It was rated as ‘A’ in 2004 wherein it was considered fit for drinking. The situation had reached such an alarming level now that units were openly dumping toxic effluents into the water caring little for any punitive action. Though some companies had earlier faced disconnection of power, but it failed to make any impact. More needs to be done in this direction.

According to Vijay Arora, senior vice-president, BBNIA, “The government should appoint a third agency to study the problem. This would ensure that measures are suggested to weed out this problem. The problem lies not only with the industries but the lack of planning and infrastructure availability.” 



Sportsman spirit
Three-day meet of cadets held at Chail saw five schools participate in a variety of events
Ambika Sharma

A strong sense of communion, comradeship and national integration prevailed at the three-day pentangular meet of cadets. The meet saw 150 cadets from five Rashtriya Military Schools of Dholpur, Belgaum, Bangalore, Ajmer and Chail participate in games, debates, plays, quizzes and painting.

The quiz competition turned was one of the interesting events. The team from Ajmer bagged the first prize, and Belgaum and Dholpur got second and third position, respectively. Cadets of the host school Chail secured the first position in the on-the-spot painting contest. Chail’s team also bagged the first prize in the one-act play event. Rajeev Kumar was declared the best actor.

The debating skills of the speakers won appreciation from the audience. Shashi Bhushan and Rajeev Kumar stood first in the junior and senior category. The overall trophy for basketball matches was lifted by Belgaum, and Venit Kumar was adjudged as the player of the meet. The host school bagged the overall champion trophy. 



In the name of Constitutional duty

Election duty of government servants, targeting teachers, is back once again. Not liked by the teachers, manipulations will soon start to escape from it. This makes the people at the civil magistrate office more privileged, to oblige the known and show the power to others.

The seniority-based protocol is thrown into the dustbin and many juniors in the administration dictate the worst affected community. A long queue for receiving and submitting different packets of election material at various places brings out the mismanagement. After the completion of election duty, queuing for relieving orders from the SDM clerk is a humiliating experience.

There are no arrangements for stay in the field and they are left at the mercy of people. In some areas, people on duty who belong to lower castes, have to face socio-psychological problems too.

I have gone through such experiences several times. Helpless people are terrorised in the name of Constitutional duty. These issues need to be addressed properly by the state election commission to avoid any negative impact on the motivation level of people performing this sensitive duty.

Rakesh Kumar Sharma, Shimla

Readers, write in

Make Himachal Plus your very own forum and do yourselves and your neighbours a good turn. Highlight civic and other public issues, and air your grievances about government negligence and ineffectiveness, and the apathy of officialdom. Send in write-ups, not exceeding 150 words, to Himachal Plus, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh, or e-mail at





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |