Violations of the model code of conduct for elections continue unabated by all political parties — be it the ruling Congress, the BJP or the BSP.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh and few of his senior party leaders were exposed by the media during the past few days for using red lights on the top of their vehicles to influence voters. The top brass of the BJP was also caught on the wrong foot while doing similar thing.
A car using the red light in the cavalcade of the chief minister was challaned by the police in Kinnaur district a couple of days back when he had gone there to canvass for the party candidate.
The Tribune has in possession many photographs of the cars of the chief minister, former chief ministers Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar bearing red lights while campaigning for their respective parties.
Interestingly, the BJP leaders had been criticising chief minister Virbhadra Singh and other leaders of the Congress for violating the model code of conduct but they themselves were using red light on their cars even as the election commissioner had asked all political parties to refrain from doing so.
The BJP had leveled many other allegations against the chief minister like issuing notifications in a back date for allegedly carrying out various development works and recruiting unemployed youth in many departments.
The BJP had categorically alleged that a sum of more than Rs 2.5 crore was released after the announcement of the elections for the renovation and upkeep of the temples in the state, out of which, more than 50 per cent of the amount was given to the temples of Rampur and Rohru areas.
“In the name of temples, the CM is wooing voters of his home areas, which is a gross violation of the model code of conduct,” Dhumal had said recently during poll rally.
The BJP and the BSP leaders had so far filed as many as 27 complaints of such violations by the ruling party leaders across the state, besides 65 complaints by the common people. In as many as 10 cases the chief electoral officer of the state had taken a suo moto notice of the news reports with regard to the violations of the model code of the conduct.
In such a complaint, the EC had asked the CM to bear the cost of the helicopter used by him when he went to New Delhi to meet the chief election commissioner. In another case, the Bilaspur police had registered a case under the Defacement of Property Act against the BSP on the complaints of wall writings in the district.
Though the district magistrates-cum-district returning officers are authorised under various laws to implement the model code of conduct, they are taking any actions.
There were also reports that the political parties had used the premises of an ancient temple complex to hold public rallies at Bharmaur in Chamba during the election campaign. No action had so far come from either the election commission or the district administration. The election commission had banned holding election rallies in religious institutions.
As the electricity and IPH departments indulge in a blame game,
hundreds of villagers around Kasauli go without water
Lack of co-ordination between the Electricity Department and the Irrigation and Public Health Department has reduced the Ladah Potable Water Scheme into a non-functional one. This has put hundreds of villagers around Kasauli into inconvenience as water supply has become erratic. The scheme had ceased to function after it’s transformer gave way about three months ago.
Initially, Electricity Department officials said the transformer, which was installed in Ladah Khud, could not be installed at the same place as it was difficulty to repair and maintain it. This was despite the fact that officials of the Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) Department felt it would have facilitated in drawing water from the khud. This dispute delayed the installation of the transformer and the scheme could not be made functional for weeks together.
The people who were earlier receiving water on alternate days were initially made to go without water for days together. Later, an arrangement was made with an adjacent water supply source and people are now receiving water after three days.
IPH executive engineer Dharmender Gill, who visited the site recently, however, assured that the scheme would soon be re-started. He said though they had requested the officials of Electricity Department to install the transformer in the earlier position but it was finally installed on the Bandh road above Ladah Khud.
As against required 400 volts, less than 300 volts was made available which later was reduced to 80 volts. He added they had taken up the matter with the department a number of times but to no avail.
The officials of Electricity Department are planning to augment this power supply by installing a conductor. The concerned executive engineer A. S. Dhillon said this problem was brought to his notice only recently and he had directed his staff to do the needful adding that even if the required estimated cost was not deposited by the IPH immediately, they would squeeze funds from their other payments.
Villagers from Garkhal, Tickethatti, Chabal, Badaha etc, were made to run from pillar to post to get the scheme re-started and various panchayat representatives rued that they were virtually made to shuttle between two departments whenever they tried to enquire about its status. With a number of big hotels coming up in the Chabal area it also affected the inflow of tourists, rued hoteliers.
With the onset of the winter season, Gujjars, Gaddis and other nomadic sheep rearers have started descending from the alpine pastures to the valleys below.
A Gaddi moving along with his flock of sheep and goats is a common sight these days in the interior areas of the state. However, it also draws the attention towards the problem of soil erosion in the fragile Himalayan ranges, which is turning from bad to worse due to over-grazing and the harsh life of the migratory sheep rearers.
With the network of roads penetrating deep into the remote areas and reaching high-mountain passes, their traditional migration routes have been criss-crossed by roads. Consequently, they have to cover long stretches on metalled roads with heavy vehicular traffic. The motorists too have to wade through the flocks comprising hundreds of animals. The impounding of rivers for hydroelectric generation has disrupted the routes at places forcing them to take detours.
The spurt in development activities in the interior areas, particularly the higher hills, is depriving the nomads of grazing land. Over the past two decades thousands of hectare of forestland has been diverted for non-forest purposes. The pressure on the alpine pastures is increasing with each passing year.
According to forest officials as against the minimum requirement of 0.5 hectare, the availability of grazing area per sheep unit has come down to 0.15 hectare. Over-grazing is leading to problems like run-down in productivity, soil erosion and the consequent loss of nutrients and declining bio-diversity.
The continuous grazing without allowing adequate time for regeneration mars the growth of palatable grasses and encourages the undesirable species.
The higher reaches of the Chamba, Kulu, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Shimla districts where the Gaddis and Gujjars camp during summer months from April to October bear the brunt of grazing pressure.
Officially, around 2,400 grazing permits were granted for 5.75 lakh sheep and goats annually but the actual number of animals, which are actually taken to alpine pastures is much higher. The impact of over grazing is visible in the increasing silt load in the various rivers and their tributaries, particularly in the Ravi and Sutlej basins. The once crystal clear water of snow-fed rivers has turned into grey slush. In fact, the high level of silt has also been affecting power generation in many projects.
The pastoral tribes too are finding it hard to sustain their traditional avocation. It’s a harsh way of living as evident from their rickety muscular legs and wrinkled faces. The government has already frozen the number of migratory stock but the declining grazing area is a problem. Currently, the smaller flocks are pooled together and the owners take them for grazing in turns to cut down on the physical toil during migration.
The government has identified about 1,000 Gujjar families for settlement and sent fresh proposal to the centre for diversion of forestland for the purpose.
APPLE orchards, tin-roofed houses, poplar trees, dal makhani & butter chicken, receding snowline, growing tourism and prosperity... that’s the all-new Lahaul Valley. Snowbound, landlocked and home to Buddhist, Hindu & Tibetan cultures, this land of gods and monasteries is getting a makeover. And once the all-year, 8.8 km Rohtang tunnel is thrown open in 2014, the “transformation” of this tribal belt – cut off from the world six months in a year — will be “complete”.
Lahaulis have come a long way from “transporters” who once dominated trade on the Silk Route. Always shrewd traders, they now control hotels and resorts and orchards in the Kullu-Manali belt and own farms in Lahaul. They are the top potato and pea-growing farmers, producing highest per hectare potatoes in Asia. Scores of Lahaulis are employed in the government and private sector. They run apple orchards, hotels and resorts in Manali and Kullu and have dumped vernacular architecture for convenience.
Mud-brick vernacular architecture has made way for brick and boulder and brick tin-roofed gable-shaped houses. The richer among the tribals picked up the trend from government-built tin-roofed rest houses and RCC office buildings.
As you travel from Koksar — the first village in Chandra valley across the 13,050 ft Rohtang Pass
Apple orchards, once unknown in this snowbound valley, now dot this snow-swathed desert. Farmers have planted apple trees in lower valleys of Pattan, starting from Kondla, Tandi, Goushal, Sansha, Thirot and the surrounding villages of Keylong, the district headquarters. Orchards are being raised on irrigated land, signifying a climatic change that is making this valley suitable for apple cultivation, say horticulturalists. “Earlier, land here was not suitable for apple cultivation as it used to be too cold and snowy. But now apple trees tolerate the temperature and harvesting commences in mid-October and November,” says Vinod, an apple farmer in Sanshi village in the upper Pattan valley.
Dal makhani etc
Even as the rest of the country relishes momos and steaming thukpa, burgers, pizzas and dal-chawal rule here. Almost every village in this tribal belt has a road link to the national highway-21, which has also contributed to the prosperity brought about by potato and pea cultivation. Earlier, barley was the staple diet for residents, but now it’s over to wheat, rice and potatoes.
Though not scientifically established, but changing food habits have given rise to many never-heard-of scores of diseases in the valley, say old-timers and health officials who have worked here for years.
Poplar trees planted under the government-sponsored desert development project have sprouted along the national highway between Koksar and Keylong and between Tandi and Udaipur in Pattan valley. The alien tree species is competing with the local juniper, sea buckthorn, willow trees and other high-altitude deodars and pines found in the lower Pattan valley.
The Himalayas have always attracted people to satisfy their urge for adventure or peace. Lieutenant George Francis White was one of the officers in the British Army who could not resist the pull of the mountains and undertook treks to Himalayan ranges in 1820-30s and brought out pencil-sketched views of India with copious notes and descriptions. Simla and Mussooree (Himalaya Mountains) by White printed in 1836 gives a description of Nahun, a ‘diminutive, considered one of the best-planned and best-built cities in India’.
He entered Nahan from Dehradun side and had to say this about the route that he took, ‘It is approached through a very picturesque, well-watered, and finely-wooded valley, and, occupying the summit of a rock, it commands on all sides most extensive and beautiful views…. The road leading to the town is exceedingly steep and narrow, cut inconveniently up a very precipitous ascent, which elephants, however, contrive to mount, even when laden with luggage’.
Nahan appeared ‘a bright white spot against the dark verdure of the mountains’ to him. Lieutenant White had visited Nahan when Raja Fateh Prakash was on the throne. Those who know the history of Sirmour State are aware that Raja Fateh Prakash got the throne in 1815 as minor and his mother Guleri Rani was appointed protector under the eye of Captain G. Birch, Assistant Agent to the Governor General. The Raja got the full rights around 1826 when he attained majorship.
White had visited Nahan after that year as the Hindoo Rajah ‘appeared an intelligent young man, of about three and twenty’ to him. He gives a very interesting account of the troop-display of the Rajah’s army. He says that they were a score of ragamuffins, no two were dressed alike but they attempted to ape the drill and equipments of the British sepoys. The Rajah knew the smallness of his army and before the actual march-past he had confessed to the visitors that he had no time to concentrate on the troops. He was eager that the entourage of White witnessed the display of his pride and boast. And ‘so round they marched in open column of companies, headed by a tall drummer and a little trumpeter, who sounded with all their might, until the hills and vallies re-echoed to their exploits; they then drew up in line and saluted, the generalissimo giving the word in broken English. The visitors were then asked if they would see their troops manoeure; but this was declined, on the plea that they were perfectly satisfied of their proficiency, from the specimen they had just witnessed’.
The cleanliness of the bazaar streets done with cobbled stones impressed Lieutenant White, as any other visitor to the town of Nahan. That reminds one of the streets in Brussels and Prague. On my past visit to Nahan, I had heard that there was a proposal to replace the cobbled stones with cemented roads. If you let that happen, Nahanwallas, your town would lose a distinct inherited identity. They have not done it and will never do it at The Grand Place in Brussels or to the streets in Prague. The streets of Nahan are clean because with cobbled stones they are cleanable. It required to be understood that cleaning was a matter of social will and municipality’s ability and cleanability was a matter of technology.
Sketching the city from the North, as it existed in the first quarter of the nineteenth century (see photograph), White says Nahun is a walled-in city and the houses are built of stone cemented with lime. He found the streets narrow, yet clean. He was happy with the petty ascents and descents made at every turn and also cutting into succession of steps. It was, he felt, because ‘of the unevenness of the rock on which the place stands’. The following words of White may, however, baffle a denizen of Nahan today, “Elephants and horses are to be seen pacing these streets; but so much in miniature is the whole, that from horseback the rider may reach the balconies, and from the pad of an elephant may step on the flat roofs of the houses.”
Common saying is Nahan shehar Nagina: Aye do din, thehre mahina, i.e., such is the attraction of Nahan that a visit for two days may compel one to pass a month here.
Relics of the Raj
It is being felt that heritage conservation should not be confined to declaring a limited area as heritage zone in the summer capital of the British India, but the entire colonial Shimla should be protected as a valuable heritage.
The boundaries of this heritage zone would extend right from Bharari to Kasumpti, Summer Hill to Tuti Kandi and right up to Dhalli and Chakkar.
The fact that only 37 heritage structures, notified by the government, fall within the designated zone and 54 are at locations outside the zone, is ample proof that the entire town is dotted with reminiscences of the British era.
Even though the Indian National Trust for Art, Culture and Heritage (INTACH) had identified over 300-century-old structures to be declared as heritage buildings, only about 96 have been accorded this status so far. These include four cemeteries set up by the British.
Even a former governor of Himachal, Rama Devi, who was here to be part of the 175th year celebrations of the Barnes Court, felt that the entire colonial Shimla needed to be designated as a heritage zone. She felt that the town was fast losing its colonial character, as there was unregulated growth.
The state government had notified a heritage zone extending from the state secretariat in Chotta Shimla to the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in 2000. All structures within 25 mt on either side of the road were part of the heritage zone.
Though a proposal has been pending with the government to increase this distance up to 50 mt on either side of the road, no decision has been taken till now.
In sharp contrast to the British, who did not raise any structure against the view, vision and vista, haphazard constructions are mushrooming all over the town.
The regulatory authority like the Town and Country Planning Department and the Municipal Corporation have completely failed to check this growth.
“We need to be much more serious in our efforts to conserve the British legacy,” said a senior official.
The heritage report has also been pending with the government for quite some time. With vested interests creeping in at every level, the will and commitment required to preserve British Shimla is missing.
PURCHASING land along major roads in Himachal seems to be the new hobby in neighbouring states. As benami deals flourish with overt connivance of revenue department staff, even land allotted to the poor has been sold out.
Brisk sale and purchase of land has been witnessed along all major roads like the Barog bypass and Karoro-Kainthri. Revenue officials say virtually no private land is vacant on the Kasauli-Dharampur road. Buyers, mostly from Punjab, Delhi and Chandigarh, have also bought land along the Kimughat-Chakki Ka Mor road, which connects about 15 villages, near Kasauli.
Old-timers feel if this trend continues hardly any private land would be available in the years to come. It is ironical that on one hand the government had to abandon a well-planned residential project proposed by the H.P. Housing Board near Nahri and Chatyan due to non-availability of palatial houses and commercial projects in every those areas, thereby leading to unplanned development. With elections round the corner, BJP workers have been levelling allegations of benami transactions on their own leaders. The issue has generated much heat as it concerns the local MLA and is going to become a poll issue.
Though the question of sale of land allotted to families below poverty line has come to light, it remains to be seen what action the revenue department takes to check violations of it’s own act. The government has conveniently spared some benami transactors in Barog even after the apex court had directed acquisition of such properties. This proves how influential people can get away with irregularities. It, however, puts a question mark on the intention of the government. These buyers enter into an agreement with local people and buy land in their names. The high prices offered by these affluent people lure the locals.
In other cases gift deeds, collusive decree etc, are the commonly used tactics. The revenue officials, while admitting this practice, add that there is a risk involved in such deals. It found to be benami, such land can be confiscated any time. The cost of land has increased manifold and the average middle class is finding it beyond their means to construct houses here.
The most telling effect of the increasing constructions is on water resources. There is an increased burden of about 20 per cent on the water table, reveal Irrigation and Public Health Department officials.
Disputes are brewing between commercial builders and local villagers over sharing of water. The villagers maintain that they have a right to the water sources falling in the vicinity of their village, but the builders contend that once they have bought the land, they become the beneficiaries of that particular source.
Interestingly, the revenue department had detected nearly 5,700 cases of illegal land deals in the district. The deals were executed on general power of attorney. And though the buyers are violating the H.P Tenancy and Land Reforms Act by not possessing bonafide certificates, they are yet to be booked.
With a rather extended two-month campaigning, for the assembly polls due on December 19, the dust and toil is proving to be too much. To the extent that most of the politicians in the fray haven’t been able to enjoy Diwali with the same fervour and enthusiasm.
“Weighed down with the tension of first ensuring a party ticket and later a victory is too much for any one of us to enjoy the festival of lights,” admitted one of the contestants. However, most of them did take time off to be at home with family and friends to at least pray for their success if not for the fun of feasting and merry making.
Most of them were heard grumbling that the Election Commission of India has spoilt the fun of Diwali by preponing the polls. For the candidates of the three tribal seats, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Bharmour going to the polls on November 14, it was even worse. With barely four days for the polls after Diwali they did not bother much to celebrate the festival.
Mithai’s bomb on Diwali
With reports of adulterated and even synthetic khoya being used to prepare Diwali sweets, there were hardly any buyers at the mithai shops in most places. Even those who till date adhered to distributing the traditional sweets like ladoo and burfi, decided to drop the idea. They went in for the safer dry fruits and things like juices, chocolates, crystal and other gift items.
The few who did buy sweets for personal consumption and gifts made it a point to rely on the state government owned Himachal Milk Federation, which has already made a mark in producing quality milk products. Having done good business last year there were far more buyers at their outlets than even at the shops of the most renowned mithai walas in the state capital.
Their kaju burfi, kaju pinni, petha and rasgullas were a big hit as the sales were even better than last year. “With the growing demand in the market for our products, we intend not just increasing the production next Diwali but also focusing more on variety,” said a senior Milkfed official.
Quality and credibility sure matters when it comes to eatables and that could easily be seen when people queued up at the Milkfed outlets specially put up on Diwali at various places in the state.
Remembering Sir Ibbetson
Formed in the year 1907 to honour Sir Denzil Ibbetson, Governor of Punjab, the 100th anniversary of the Ibbetson House at the Bishop Cotton School (BCS) was celebrated.
To recognise the service rendered by Sir Ibbetson in helping the school get back to its feet, after a devastating fire, that a house was formed after him. The function held at the school not only marked one hundred years of the house’s formation but also looked at the glorious history and the illustrious boys who brought laurels to the house and went on to make a mark in the world.
Several former students, who were members of the house, made it a point to be part of the celebrations. Many of them took out time to look back with pride and nostalgia and to plan for greater glory for the boys of the house and the school in the years to come.
Household waste dumped in drains, garbage bins set ablaze; that’s Dharamsala
Dharamsala, situated in the foothills of the Dhauladhar range, has a salubrious weather with lush green surroundings of pine and deodar trees and is acknowledged as the most sought after tourist destination in Himachal Pradesh. This is the rosy side of the hill town that is the home of the Dalai Lama and the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
But this vivid picture is fast becoming a thing of the past in the lower areas of the town. Most of the areas have no underground drainage system, poor garbage clearance system, poor road conditions, stray cattle roaming on the streets and many such woes which the locals face daily.
Sanitation is the biggest problem of them all. Most people dispose their household waste in the numerous nullahs (drains), which form a natural garbage dump flowing through the town, as the people believe that flowing waters wash away the garbage.
But the garbage eventually collects on the banks of these nullahs creating a big problem.
The garbage disposal bins, within the municipal limits of the town, are limited. Monitoring the collection of garbage from these bins is improper and on most occasions it is set ablaze sending the residents gasping for breath. Riding through smoke is common experience.
What initially appeared to be a mere civic problem has now acquired the proportions of a major health hazard. But nothing much is being done to end the menace. The safai karamcharis seem to be accountable to none but themselves.
The President of the senior citizens forum of the town, R. L. Mahajan, alleges that on most occasions the garbage, thrown in the fixed cemented bin kept outside the centre point building on the main road in the civil lines, is burnt and harmful toxins are released.
The problem is not limited to the civil lines but is spread in almost all areas. The MC workers can be seen in broad daylight setting the garbage on fire but the local body’s president Randhir Sekhri denies this saying that the nearby shopkeepers or residents burn it. Contrary to this, the locals allege that the garbage is burnt in blatant violation of the Supreme Court guidelines on the matter.
Although the municipal committee president has denied the allegations, the smoke from the bins is thick enough to point the lapses. It appears that the civic body is shielding its workers rather than hauling them for causing serious health problems for the old, children and people suffering from respiratory diseases.
Moreover, the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules- 2000 with regard to the door-to-door garbage collection are not being implemented properly in the town.
The municipal authorities give more stress on the upper areas of the town particularly McLeodganj and hardly think of the lower areas inhabited by the locals.
What if Virbhadra doesn’t return to power? Early election sends Sirmour residents in a tizzy
Preponing of the state assembly elections has hit the hopes of Sirmour district’s rural people. Development schemes worth ten crores, a degree college and ITIs and up gradation of over two dozen educational institutes announced by chief minister Virbhadra Singh during his recent visits to the district remain unfulfilled in the wake of election code.
The district villagers are running from pillar to post to get the implementation orders of the announcements for which the state cabinet has already given a nod and issued notifications. A deputation from Banaur village led by Guman Singh Thakur revealed that the up gradation notification of Shidi Khatwad School was issued in September but the education department refused to issue functioning orders. The department has sought a clarification from Director Education that is awaited since one month. Similar is the fate of the degree college, two ITIs, one primary health centre and many primary, plus two, high and middle schools.
On September 24, at Sarahan, the CM announced the opening of a government degree college and ITI at Sarahan, PHC at Naina Tikkar and GNM educational institution in private sector in the Sarahan area. It is worth a mention that the Pacchad assembly residents were struggling for the last 40 years for a degree college and ITI. A primary school (GPS) at Patta Kuffar and Saroj, up gradation of GPS Kuffar Pal, Kala Ghat and Cheola to middle schools (GMS), besides Government High School (GHS) Chalki to Government Senior Secondary School (GSSS) and construction of a helipad in Sarahan were also announced.
An ITI at Kafota and up gradation of the Kamkrou sub tehsil, up gradation of GHS Katwal, Chandni to GSSS, GMS Poka and Kando Shagawa to GHS, medical college at Mandi and private sector medical college in Hamirpur district were announced at Kafota in Shillai area on October 3.
On October 4, at Neghata in Shillai, improvements at CHC, Rajpur, were promised by constructing additional accommodation and posting five doctors. The CM also announced up gradation of GMS Sunog to GHS and GPS Shidi- Khatwa to GMS. He allotted Rs 60 lakh for the construction of a science block in GSSS Bechar Ka Bag and up gradation of GPS Chaknal, Sheetla, Narnoti to GMS, GMS Nehar Sabar, Panyali and Mollar to GHS and GHS Panar to GSSS at Nahan. He even gave nearly ten crores for various development schemes. All announcements are lynching in the absence of implementation orders. Amazed at the ‘negative behaviour’ of the officers holding key posts and considered close to the CM Shillai’s leading social worker J. S. Tomar commented, “They are not even ready to listen about these announcements.”
He said after assuming power in 2003 the Congress government rejected all notifications issued by the BJP government before the elections including opening of a degree college at Rajgarh in Sirmour.
Upgrade of several educational institutions,a degree college, two ITIs, one primary health centre, scores of primary, plus two, high and middle schools, development schemes worth Rs 10 crore...
Pinegrove School, Subathu celebrated its 17th annual day. The children put up a commendable display of gymnastics, parade with brass band, dandia, band music and other cultural items. Hindi play Bade Log, and science, arts and crafts exhibitions won the particular appreciation of the guests. The children trooped the school flag in a smart parade with the school brass band playing tunes like Sham bahadur and Sare jahan se accha. Akanksh Sen, Sifti Bajwa and Shikha Aggarwal of Class XII got a gold, silver and bronze medal, respectively, while Chirag Dawar, Pallak Sharma, Darpa Sehgal and Urvashi Shekhawat of Class X got gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, for topping the boards.
— Ambika Sharma
Renuka Fair is once again making news. This time the high court has come forward to save the ecology, religious and cultural sanctity of one of the biggest tirth of the North by ordering to stop all non-forest activities in the area.
However, this biggest cultural and religious fair will start on November 20, on the eve of Devprobodhini Ekadashi, and will conclude on November 24 after Purnima Sanan in the holy lake as per tradition.
Local residents say Renuka is losing its charm due to the commercialisation of the tirth and fair by the authorities. It is purely a religious fair, which has totally been marred by the crass commercialisation for the past three decades.
The history of Renuka Fair is more than 5,000 years old. We find references regarding religious assembly at Renuka on the occasion of Dev Probodhini Ekadashi in four Purans. The Purans emphasis on the religious sanctity and spiritual importance of Renuka Lake.
On this occasion, the palanquin of Lord Parshuram is brought to Renuka from the ancient temple in Jamu Koti village in a traditional procession on the Devprobodhini Ekadashi. The palanquin departs after performing Purnima Sanan in the holy lake. Around 12 lakh of devotees across India visit the fair to pay obeisance to Bhagwati Renuka and Lord Parshuram.
For the past 30 years people and sages have been fighting to save the religious and traditional sanctity of the tirth. Leading saint Mahant Dayanand Bharti had even sat on a month-long fast. Thousands of residents of 12 Panchyats, six NGOs and environmentalists of the area under the banner of the Renuka Tirtha Bachao Samiti had launched an agitation against disruption of religious sanctity, environmental degradation, promotion of concrete culture, commercialisation of the fair and entry tax imposed on the devotees. But nothing came out of it.
The samiti in a number of resolutions had pleaded to save Renuka Lake, which had been declared wet-land area. It also challenged the notification of Renuka Dev Board and an order to allow constructions in the area, which violated the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972. The Act bans all non-forest activities in the sanctuary area, which was further strengthened by the Supreme Court by an order on February 14, 2000. Now the matter is in the High Court.
Chairman of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), appointed by the Supreme Court for monitoring of wildlife sanctuaries, had visited Renuka last year in connection with the Renuka dam project. Taking serious view of non-forest activities, he directed the deputy commissioner of Sirmour to stop non-forest activity in the area.
Sanjeev Awasthi, a social worker and environmentalist of the area, said the space in the fair ground is being leased out to traders, leaving little space for the devotees.
He also suggested that since the entire area is a wildlife sanctuary, the wildlife department should be authorised to manage the fair. He also condemned those who were demanding that this centuries-old fair should be stopped.
President of the Renuka Tirtha Bachao Samiti Rajender Raju said the fair is an assembly of devotees, which should be made free from the clutches of politicians and bureaucrats. He said instead of providing facilities to the devotees, the authorities had created hurdles and failed to respect the Wildlife Protection Act. He demanded that the Renuka Development Board, which had always been a facilitation centre for ruling politicians, should be abolished.
Dharampur cries for bus stand
The lack of a bus stand at Dharampur has become a major problem as over 500 passengers travel by bus between the town and places like Shimla, Solan, Kasauli, Subathu, Kunihar and Arki daily.
In the absence of a proper bus stand, the buses and other vehicles que up on the highway, posing a threat to the pedestrians. The private taxis have to be parked along the highway for proper space. The traffic snarls are a routine thing in the town. The heavy traffic on the highway makes the area further accident-prone.
A few years back there were plans of converting the MES yard site, lying virtually unused, into a bus stand. The yard being the only suitable place along the highway to set up the bus stand. The Dharampur panchayat even agreed to give a piece of land to the Army in lieu of yard. However the idea failed as the Army could not oblige.
Due to lack of space at the make-shift bus stand the task of boarding a bus becomes an ordeal. Women are the most affected lot who in the absence of sufficient place for sitting find it difficult to wait for the buses in the open. The HPPWD (NH) rain shelter is insufficient to accommodate the passengers. During the rains the situation worsens, as the passengers have to run for shelter to the nearby shops. Moreover, the public toilet at the bus standpoint is in a mess as it remains uncleaned for days altogether.
NIT to join hands with IBM
In order to promote long-term collaborative research, National institute of Technology (NIT), Hamirpur is all set for collaboration with IBM.
The partnership between the two has been proposed under University relation programme
Recently, the department of computer science and engineering organised a workshop at NIT on the topic ‘High performance computing’ in which details about this collaboration were discussed in the presence of faculty members of the department and IBM resource person Sudhir Dhawan.
Dhawan, IBM engineer, who is currently on an assignment to India, is engaged in chip development for the I/O subsystem, memory and cache subsystem.
Elaborating on the collaboration, head of the department of Computer science and Engineering, Lalit Kumar Awasthi said, “It aims to establish long term technical collaboration with top E-schools, increase research opportunities for the students and faculty, develop skills, help academia align with the curriculum keeping in view the needs of the IT industry and and imparting lectures in technology innovations across America”.