A tale of woe 
The fate of tribal women continues to be the same despite education, modernisation & improvement in economic status
Kuldeep Chauhan

Education and economic well being of the people in the snowbound tribal belt of Lahaul-Spiti-Kinnaur-Pangi-Bharmour may have brought a slight change in the lives of tribal women, but their lives continue to be dictated by the male-dominated mindset. The lives of these women continue to revolve around activities like collecting fuel and fodder and sowing seeds.

Constituting half of the population in Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, the women do not enjoy equal rights in wealth and property as their partners, because their rights are not registered in the Riyaze Aam i.e. tribal local laws. In contrast, their male counterparts enjoy freedom, absolute wealth and property rights, even when their contribution in the generation of income by working on the field is much less. On the other hand, the women even knit and spin wool at khatis and also contribute in the cultivation of potatoes, peas and apples.

The local administration is trying to educate the tribal women about their rights by organising seminars and workshops. However, the level of awareness is still poor as women still hesitate in voicing their grievances, physical illness and mental agony. They find these official-sponsored programmes distrustful for their modern trappings and formalities.

An increasing number of tribal women remain unmarried for life, for various reasons including not being able to find a life partner, poverty or because of the presence of suitable suitors in the Pattan valley. In the Buddhist-dominated Gahar, Tod, Mayar valleys in Lahaul, Pooh subdivision and interiors of Kinnaur, tribal women even share their husband-brothers, as the custom of polyandry is still prevalent there. Exposure to the outside world via media, modern education and development have brought a positive change and the employed tribal are now choosing non-tribals as their life-partners. They are also showing a preference to settle down in non-tribal towns like Manali, Kullu, Solan, Shimla and Dharamshala.

Chairperson Zila Parishad-Lahaul-Spiti Pushpa Devi says, “It will take a lot of time for the tribal women to shed their virtual but voluntary bondage at home and in fields. At present, they feel shy in even sharing their physical illness or other problems.” Pushpa has been involved in spreading awareness on women rights in the tribal areas for the last three years. Efforts to reach them through Mahila Mandals’ seminars and workshops invite objections from the males, on the grounds that they provoke women against the men. Tell the tribal women, “Majority of the women, be it single or widows suffer silently trapped in the single rooms of their parents. They feel shy in discussing their physical problems with male doctors.” There is no female gynaecologist at the district hospitals in Keylong, Recongpeo and Killar.

“An Ekal Nari project started in the Tindi-Mayar belt, in lower Pattan valley, to help the destitute and neglected tribal women is yet to extend to other parts of the belt,” say women leaders. There should be 33 per cent reservation for women in panchayats and assemblies. “All this remains just on paper, as most of the political parties have not fielded any tribal woman candidate in this assembly elections,” rue tribal women. They add, “The best of the women too end up being pardhans or panch only on paper, while their husbands wield actual power.” “The belt lost Lata Thakur, a tribal Congress woman leader from Lahaul, in an accident way back in 1980 and since then there has been no woman to speak for them and the belt has remained a male bastion like the rest of the state,” comment tribal writers. They suggest that the government and political parties must work out ways that don’t disturb the tribal harmony yet women get their due in growing the tribal prosperity and economy. A local writer aptly summed up the lives of the tribal women in these lines, “They are like branches of local willow trees (Biunsh ki Tahanai). They adorn the cold desert, the hearth and walls, and then fade away without being honoured in the winter of their lives”.



Renuka fair gets a boost
S.R. Pundir

For devotees planning to visit the ongoing Renuka fair, here is some good news. The Renuka Development Board has decided to leave more open space and erect additional tents to accommodate the large number of devotees. The decision of the board came after the issue was highlighted in these columns on November 14.

As per ancient traditions based on Puranik culture, devotees spend the entire night of Kartik Dashmi on the Renuka Tirtha and leave for their homes after taking

holy dip in the Renuka lake on the occasion of Devprobodhini Ekadashi the next day. The fair is being held from November 20 to 24.

Though purely religious, the fair has been marred by crass commercialisation during the past three decades. Despite strong opposition from the local residents, the mela ground is leased out to businessmen and there is no space left for lakhs of devotees who wish to spend the night on the Tirth. The matter was raised in a meeting comprising of board members following media reports.

According to Purans, the Renuka Tirth is the birthplace of Lord Parshuram, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Maharish Yamdagni and his wife Bhagwati Renuka meditated for a long time at a hillock known as Tape Ka Tiba near Renuka lake. With the blessings of Lord Shiva they got Lord Parshuram as their son.

Lord Parshuram eliminated 21 times, cruel and atrocious rulers from the earth. He also killed king Sahastrabahu and his army as the king had attacked Tape ka Tiba Ashram in his absence and killed Maharishi Yamdagni. Lord Parshuram’s mother Bhagwati Renuka jumped in the Ram Sarovar and took Jal Samadhi. Purans narrate that Ram Sarovar immediately took the shape of a lady and since than it is known as Renuka Lake.

After eliminating Sahashtrabahu in a fierce battle, he gave a new life to his father with his divine powers and came on the bank of the lake and prayed for his mother to come out. He bowed to her feet after she responded by coming out. She said she will permanently live in the lake, but on the request of Lord Parshuram she promised that she will come out of the lake on the occasion of Devprobodhini Ekadashi every year to meet her son. Bhagwati said all the people gracing this pious occasion graced by mothers affection and sons devotion would be showered with divine blessings.



Voters mean business
Farmers, businessmen & journalist groups talk tough: Fulfill demands or forget votes
S. R. Pundir

As the election is approaching, different section of society are becoming vocal, making politicians to listen to their long-pending demands. After businessmen and farmers, now journalists are forcing politicians to include their demands in the election manifestos.

Businessmen have already made clear that if their demands were ignored by the political parties, state Beopar Mandal would not hesitate to field its own candidates. The mandal has even threatened to boycott the parties.

It’s taxing 

state president of the Beopar Mandal Madan Lal Khurana alleged that the business community has always been ignored by different governments. In place of addressing their grievances, the government had added to their woes by adding taxes.

The main demands of the community include the implementation of a uniform tax system nationwide, introduction of a single window system for issuance of licenses and introduction of welfare schemes for the community among others.

He said the mandal has forwarded a charter of 18 demands to the political parties with an appeal to put these demands on their election manifestoes. He said some of taxes are which are levied only in the hill state, should be abolished. These include market opening rules, Profit of Margin Act and Vat input credit policy etc.

Do or Pay 

The Bharatiya Kisan Union has raised the farmers’ demands. The BKU has clearly stated that if the demands did not get prime position in the election manifesto of a party, the party would face rough weather.

Making this announcement state president of the BKU Sukh Dev Singh Gill made it clear that for the first time in the political history of the hill state, any organisation had issued directions to the farmer community asking them not to vote or support parties or candidates who did not put their problems on priority basis.

Referring to farmers’ demands in the state Gill said the union wanted assurance from the political parties to solve problems faced by farmers of the state. He charged that government had completely failed to address the problems faced by the farmers in every sector — production, marketing and unemployment.

Citing figures, he said during the past five years the state government had provided jobs to only 1388 person in the government sector and 4739 in the private sector out of over 8 lakh registered unemployed persons. Farmers want assurance of jobs besides making farming profitable.

Elaborating the alarming condition of farmers in the country, he said during the past five years 1.5 lakh farmers had committed suicide and 80 lakh young farmers had migrated to cities to work in construction projects.

Trouble in paradise

The Dev Bhoomi Himachal Union of Journalists (DBHUJ) has expressed deep concern over the behaviour of different governments, which have done nothing for the welfare of journalists working in the state.

The union has asked the political parties to clear their stand in their election manifestoes regarding the welfare of over 1,500 journalist families in the state who are leading a hard life in the absence of adequate facilities and wages.

The union has demanded that an emergency fund should be created in the state for the welfare of journalists, which should be managed jointly by the government officers and journalist representatives. The government should bring out a media policy in consultation with journalists to provide complete security cover to the journalists.

A contributory pension scheme should be launched with compulsory contribution of government and the employer. The families of journalists should be brought under social security cover and every member of the family be ensured for Rs 10 lakh. Attack on journalists be made a non-bailable offence. Rules of accreditation be liberalised so all journalists in the state are benefited. Free medical facilities should be provided to all the journalists and their families.

Giving details of the decisions taken in a meeting chaired by its state president Gyan Prakash Sharma, members of the union said the journalists deserved benefits of welfare schemes like other section in the society. The decision of the union has been conveyed to all presidents of the political parties.



Mandi’s historic stadium turns into venue for political slugfest 
Tug of war
Kuldeep Chauhan

Mandi’s Paddal stadium that has been a bone of contention for two rival lobbies of the District Cricket Association has now emerged as an important political venue. The stadium recently witnessed rivalry both between the cricket bodies and a strength show of political parties.

On Sunday, the stadium saw over 22,000 participants of the BJP’s Yuva Garjana rally paint the stadium saffron with banners and flags. A show of strength between the supporters of two former CMs Shanta Kumar and Prem Kumar Dhumal, it saw people from all parts of the state. The rally was essentially a show of strength by the BJP to bully the Congress in the central region. Addressed by BJP chief Rajnath Singh, BJP HP incharge Satpal Jain, co-incharge-OP Dhankar, BJP president Jai Ram Thakur, Yuva marcha chief Amit Thakkar, BJP general secretary Kushi Ram Balnata and former speaker Gulab Singh thakur, it accused CM Virbhadra Singh of corruption and highlighted the controversial audio CD and Bali’s birthday bash issue.

Shanta Kumar’s supporters were in an upbeat mood and his massive support sent worrisome signals to his rival Prem Kumar Dhumal. Both are BJP contenders for the post of CM in the state. Keeping the rival party supporters busy now is a comparison of the crowds gathered in the recent rallies addressed by Congress leaders like Sonia Gandhi and BJP leaders like Atal Behari Vajpayee. 

BJP supporters are upbeat over the large crowd gathered at the rally and hoping that they would stage a comeback by defeating the Congress in the coming assembly elections. Dismissing their claims, the Congress supporters are claming that most of the people who formed the crowd were ticket seekers and not actual voters.  Congress general secretary Anil Sharma termed the rally as one of BJP ticket seekers, without any programme for the youth of the state. The Congress would hold a bigger rally in the comings days here. “For BJP, Delhi is far away and it is the assembly results on December 29 that would bare the truth, when the counting starts,” claims the rival party.

Interestingly, the residents are comparing the tug of war between the parties with the war launched by rival cricket lobbies, led by Anurag Thakur, son of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, who is the president of the State Cricket Association, and other led by forest minister Ram Lal Thakur and his supporters. Anurag has charged that the stadium was not made available to them for holding international matches as Congress dominated the show at Shimla. Claims Ram Lal, that the association belonged to them and Anurag’s lobby had distorted the cricket board constitution during his father’s term.

As of now, Anurag has won the battle due to the court’s direction and has even conducted a few matches at the stadium. But, what remains to be seen is whether the Congress can out smart the BJP’s Garjna rally. 



 Bold Talk
Yes, Minister
Kulwinder Sandhu

Senior  BJP leader Shanta Kumar once again has taken the centrestage of state politics. Born on September 12, 1934, he served the hill state as the chief minister twice and also as a minister in the Union government. He has also written many books.

He was barely 19 in 1953 when he courted arrest during Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s Kashmir Andolan. With a political career spanning more than five decades, he was one of the founder members of Bharatiya Jana Sangh and member of its national working committee. In 1977, he became the first-ever non-Congress chief minister of the state. Presently, he is the national vice-president of the BJP. His first tenure as chief minister is remembered as paaniwala mukhya mantri and for the innovative antyodaya yojna.

His second tenure as chief minister was marked by his campaign to introduce the private sector’s participation in hydro-power generation and tourism in the state. He had succeeded in getting 12 per cent free power to the state in lieu of the hydro-power projects established here.

He talks to Himachal Plus at length about certain political issues, his party and the state as a whole. Excerpts from the interview:

  • How do you view your re-emergence as a contender for the chief minister’s post after a gap of 15 years?

Personally speaking, I am not a contender for the post of the chief minister. It is the party to decide on this issue. I will accept every challenge given by the party.

  • Critics say you are a hardliner with the RSS background. How will it help?

By being active in the RSS, I had learnt to live a disciplined and honest life. I am also a writer and had always looked for the truth. When people in politics have nothing to say against me, they project me as a hardliner.

  • On what grounds the party high command should project your candidature for the CM before or after the elections?

I can’t say anything on this. I am working for the party and want my party to come into power. It is up to the party high command to decide the rest.

  • People say that this could be your last election...

(Smiles) I can’t say anything about tomorrow. At the age of 19, I first went to jail during the Kashmir Andolan and started my political career. Ever since, I have never had this feeling that I am tired. I hope to continue to work till the last breath of my life.

  • You never compromise on principles. Do you think you should be a little flexible?

Practically speaking, I do think I have to change myself according to situations. But I will never compromise on issues of corruption. My aim is to root out corruption form the state.

  • Certain people within the party are against you for your ‘attitude’. Please comment.

I don’t think so. My opinion is that politics must be value-based to root out corruption and push the nation on the road of development. I feel ashamed that even after 60 years of Independence, more than 20 crore people in the country do not get a square meal. The biggest problem is that our politicians, irrespective of their parties, have lost their moral values. Therefore, I think everybody should have good principles in life.

  • The BJP is sure of a win. Do you anticipate a tough fight?

I do not think it is going to be easy for the BJP. I am worried about the over-confidence of our workers and leaders. Confidence is necessary, but over-confidence is dangerous. I am telling my workers everyday to cautiously fight the elections.

  • Does the BJP have an edge over the Congress when it comes to the anti-incumbency factor?

Yes. Of course, the situations are in favour of the BJP. For the first time in the electoral history of the state there are so many issues against the Congress. No chief minister in the country has ever faced corruption charges with proofs. That will definitely go against the Congress. Overall, the wave is strongly in favour of the BJP.

  • How do you think the BSP is likely to do?

The two-party system is permanently evolved in the state. The BSP will damage the Congress’ hold in certain areas. But there is no place for any third force in the state because Himachal Pradesh is not Uttar Pradesh, where people have multiple choices.

  • Do you think the money game will dominate?

Money game affects bit but I don’t think in our state it matters a lot. People of this hill state don’t get swayed by money.

  • And lastly, have you decided on your constituency?

I have left this issue to the party high command. They had asked me to give options. I had given my options. Now it is for the party high command to take the final decision.



Ode to the potato
Ever thought how the popular aloo came to India? Trace the history of the tuber which is a fave of the masses and classes alike 
by Shriniwas Joshi

The United Nations dedicates next year to the tuber that is a delicacy in the plates of the rich and the thalis of the poor alike. It shall be the International Year of the Potato. Potato existed in Chile and Peru in 500 B.C. The Incas called it ‘Papa’ and so Peruvian potato dishes start with this word, e.g. Papa relina. Potato has been the favourite of many a writer and artiste. If Shakespeare says in The Merry Wives of Windsor, “Let the sky rain potatoes”, a character of Charles Dickens in Great Expectations says, “Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all good words for the lips”, the Chilean Pablo Neruda calls it, “unending treasure of the people” in his Ode to Potato and Vincent Van Gogh’s first great work of art completed in 1885 was The Potato Eaters in which four females and one male have been shown eating potatoes.

The story of potato in India started from the year 1780 when the Dutch presented a basket of potatoes to the then Governor General, Warren Hastings. He shared the unusual gift with fellow council members in a dinner. Pushkarnath in Potato in subtropics mentions of a dinner given in Ajmer by Asaf Khan to Sir Thomas Roe in 1615 in which potato was served as a dish. K.T. Achaya argues in A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food that the tuber grown in Karnataka and Surat and served in that dinner was sweet potato (shakarkandi) and not potato. He gets support from other historians too. It is, therefore, deduced that Potato’s journey started from the year 1780 in India. It marched into the gardens of affluent from the dinner table of Hastings. Lord Amherst, another Governor General got it sown in the fields of Barrackpore in 1823. Immediately, it became a food item of high repute with the commoners. It traveled to the hills of Dehradun in the year 1830 through the efforts of Captain Youns and Shore claims Achaya.

Shimla hills were already growing potatoes by then. Captain Godfrey Charles Mundy had come to Shimla in 1828 and had stayed with Captain Kennedy. He writes in Pen and Pencil Sketches, “Many of the Shimla householders have already cultivated small spots of ground for cabbages and potatoes, and other vegetable esculents – the last named valuable root thriving well in these climates. Captain Kennedy is liberally disseminating it through his district and the poor natives.”

Till 1909, no systematic study was carried out and degenerated pahari stock of Numbri, Dhankri and Sathu continued to be grown here. Then started an era of Scottish varieties like Kerr’s Pink, Factor, and Majestic for Shimla Hills. A mix of English and Scottish varieties was tried here, at Palampur and also in Kullu, 1929 onwards. Hilly farmers were introduced to Up-to-Date, President and Windsor Castle. By this time, potato had become a staple food and recognising it the Imperial Agriculture Research Institute (now Indian) at Delhi established a Potato Procreation Centre at Shimla and Seed Production Farms at Kufri, Shimla and Bhovali, Uttarakhand in 1935. It was followed by the establishment of Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) at Patna, in 1949, under the directorship of S. Ramanujam. The happy results of Kufri cultivation (see photograph) led to the transfer of the institute to Shimla in 1956 with Pushkarnath as director who continued till 1969.

CPRI has developed 45 varieties of potato till date, all starting with word Kufri, the first being Kufri Kisan in 1958 and the latest being Kufri Girdhari released this year. The two directors of Patna and Shimla have been honoured by the CPRI by installing the bust of the former and naming a block of the institute building as Pushkarnath block. Politicians were restrained from hogging the limelight. Hail CPRI! Kufri Chipsona variety developed by the institute is good for making chips. Potato products could be soup thickener, frymm, custard with any fruit essence, cubes, flour, flakes or baree - all these are displayed in the CPRI’s museum. Lastly, it disclaims the myth that potato is fattening, if not fried it has more water and fewer carbohydrates, so eat it and stay slim.


Akshay Kumar dances around Shalu promising to love her till there is ‘samose mein aloo’ and coolest of all cricketers Inzamam gets unruffled when a spectator monkey-chants ‘aloo’. Uttering aloo pleases; also displeases.



She’s done it!
Shimla girl Shreya Sharma’s film Mahek wins the best feature film award at Arpa 
Pratibha Chauhan

After having made her mark as a child artiste in Blue Umbrella, Shreya Sharma’s second film Mahek has won the best feature film award at the Arpa International Film Festival, 2007, Hollywood.

Currently busy with her class nine final examinations, Shreya’s happiness knows no bounds as she couldn’t have asked for a better start to her film career. Notwithstanding the fact that she hails from a small town like Shimla and has not even the remotest connection in Bollywood or Mumbai, she has featured in two award winning films.

Her debut film Blue Umbrella, directed by Vishal Bhardwaj of Omkara and Makdi fame, won the national award for the best children film, 2006. In both the films, Shreya is the central character around whom the entire story revolves. Mahek is directed by Kranti Kanade and has been produced by the Children’s Film Society of India. It is a film that looks at the world through the imaginative eyes of children and examine their rights.

“It was on November 12 that Kranti uncle called up to inform us that our film had won the best feature film award at the Arpa,” says a beaming Shreya. She became the first choice for the film Mahek as Vishal Bhardwaj recommended her name to Kranti Kanade, who approved of her in the first meeting itself. The film was shot in Pune over a period of 45 days in March last year.

She says Mahek is based on the story of a child, who is under tremendous pressure to perform and do well in every field of life — be it studies, computer, sports, art and culture. “The film shows how a child should be allowed to pursue whatever interests him the most and give full encouragement and support, and then see the marvelous results,” she says. In fact, she says it is like her own story. “My parents have always encouraged me to do whatever I enjoy and wish to do and that certainly happens to be acting,” she says giggling. Any other good offers coming her way would be welcome, but she would want to continue with her studies side by side.

Having already earned a considerable fan following, especially among school children, she says she loves the adulation and attention as people recognise her as the Blue Umbrella girl.

If her debut film got her national recognition, Mahek has taken her to the international level. The film was screened at London Film Festival in the first week of November and was amongst the four Hindi films selected for the event.

The film got good reviews at St Louis Film Festival, USA, held on November 13. “I never thought Shreya would be able to make such a mark in such an early stage of her career, but with the right kind of directors and guidance, she is really shaping up well,” says Abhay Sharma, the proud father.



Paint me red...
An unwritten law during the Raj days, painting rooftops a uniform colour is an arduous job for the Shimla MC now!
Pratibha Chauhan

The initiative to restore the lost glory of the ‘Queen of Hills’ has once again become victim of legal and procedural wrangles. Despite the court directives large number of rusty rooftops in the town have still not been coated with fresh red or green paint.

It was following a public interest litigation (PIL) that the High Court had some time back directed that as a beautification measure and to have some uniformity, roof tops of all buildings should be painted red or green. Though majority of the central and state government owned buildings have been painted, large number of private properties still bear that rusty and shabby look.

Since the matter is still pending in the High Court, the local Municipal Corporation (MC) will soon file a reply about the course of action it would adopt to ensure that the rooftops of all the buildings are painted. The MC has already provided a list of over 100 house owners who have still not complied with the directive of painting the houses.

It was an unwritten law during the British regime that all houses would have red or green painted roofs. This would not only make the structure stand out in the hills but would also add to the beauty of the town, which during those days was the ideal resting place for the sahibs and memsahibs, who would get a feel of the cool climes of England.

Interestingly, 31 blocks of houses made by the Himachal Pradesh Urban Development Authority (HIMUDA) in New Shimla and Vikasnagar have still not been painted. HIMUDA has already sold the houses but the issue of as to who would bear the expenses is yet to be settled.

Large number of old disputed properties, most of them owned by the Wakf Board and in occupation of tenants, are the biggest eyesores especially on the Mall Road and the Lower Bazaar. This area has maximum old disputed properties and is the most conspicuous when one approaches the town.

The first impression one gets on seeing the hub of the town is that of a shanty town with rusted roofs and old dilapidated buildings. The motive of the PIL was to beautify and restore the lost glory of the historic summer capital of the British. “The town today looks more like a slum with unregulated haphazard construction all over and the old rundown buildings literally falling to pieces, presenting a sorry state of affairs,” says B.S. Malhans, state convener of the INTACH. 

People point out that the MC is to be blamed for the not being able to effectively implement the High Court directive. “Under the MC Act the authorities can get the roofs painted on its own and then make the recovery by way of taxes from those who are not following the court directive,” admitted a senior official.



Poor show at Lavi 
Rakesh Lohumi

Sans political VIPs, the International Lavi Fair was a low-key affair this year. The assembly elections and a delayed Diwali seems to have affected both the turn out and volume of trade at the largest traditional fair of the region. While the Kinnauri section, where raw wool, pashmina wool, kala jeera, dry fruits and traditional items are sold, was fully occupied but the stalls for traders from plains who carry out roaring business during the fair went abegging. About 30 stalls remained unoccupied for a greater part of the four-day event.

Trading of the world famous Chamurthi horses was also discouraging. As against 450 horses every year only about 340 were brought to the fair for sale. However, the Equine breed, demanded for its sure footedness in the precipitous hill terrain, fetched an all time high price of Rs 34,000.

The fair revealed the growing political awareness among the tribesmen most of whom went back to their native places in Kinnuar and Spiti for a day to exercise their franchise. Thus, the decision of early elections in the tribal constituencies did not effect voter turnout much, but it did take away some sheen from the fair as ministers and other politicians, the main attraction at such events, had to stay away owing to the model code of conduct.

Moreover, many traders from the plains could not attend the fair because of Diwali. Some arriving after the fair was officially over as trading continues till November 20 and the real business takes place only after that for the prices come down.

Where do we stay?

While the main political parties, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and the Congress are having a hard time in allotting tickets for assembly elections; the General Administration Department in the state secretariat is facing a different kind of problem. The department officials have been under pressure to arrange accommodation for ministers, MLAs, ex-MLAs and other aspirants camping in the national capital, accompanied by their supporters, to lobby for tickets for the past one week.

The state government has only two rest houses in Delhi, the Himachal Bhawan and Himachal Sadan, which do not have enough rooms to accommodate hundreds of leaders. The officials had to accommodate up to three MLAs in one room and yet they felt obliged. The situation will ease only after November 22 when most of the tickets are likely to be decided.

Not a great idea, Sirjee

It was not a great idea of a cellular firm to organise the classical musical concert featuring renowned singer Suresh Wadkar and emerging Hindustani classical vocal music artistes Ritesh Mishra and Rajneesh Mishra at a school in the faraway suburban locality of Bhatta Kufer, off the main city on the bypass road. In a hill station like Shimla it’s not easy to reach such peripheral areas particularly in the evening. It was hardly surprising that very few lovers of classical music made it to the concert.

Wadkar and the singing brother–duo were quite disappointed to see a large number of chairs empty. The organisers maintained that they could not find any other suitable place within or closer to the city. Whatever may be the reasons a laudable effort to promote classical music was wasted.

Wadkar could not hide his anguish and said that he would still try to give his best, which he did in his second visit to the ‘queen of hills’. He first visited the city 42 years ago as a budding singer with his guru. He was quite shocked to see the lush green hills, which were dotted with isolates houses then, virtually transformed into a concrete jungle. He even noticed its impact on the climate and observed that it was quite warm for November. 



Making a mark 
Dharam Prakash Gupta

From a naughty girl keen on making it big in playback singing to International Woman Award winner, famous playback singer Hema Sardesai has come a long way.

Singing for films was her dream, but born in a family of doctors it was difficult for her to convince the family about her intentions to sing in films, as her parents and other family members were staunchly opposed to it.

Even then she didn’t lose heart and kept her passion alive by singing at school functions. She started singing at the age of nine and always bagged first prize in school functions. During college she got a chance to visit South Africa as a member of a cultural team.

Her first opportunity in playback singing came when she got an offer to sing Sama-sama for the film Goonj. But her talent was acclaimed when she sang the melodious and famous My heart is beating for Julie.

From there, Hema never looked back and sang hundreds of popular songs in dozens of Hindi films. Some of her popular songs include hits like Kudi anjanee from Jor, Badal pane ke liye from Chak De India, Punjabi munda from Salakhen etc.

After coming in contact with Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the spirited Hema has decided to sing more for a cause and work towards world peace.

Inspired by her guru she chose to campaign against girl infanticide and sang Aawara bhawren jo hole hole gayen for the film Sapne to highlight the issue.

Presently, Hema is concentrating on her new albums Sajna, Aarjoo and Hindustani Gudiya.

She was recently awarded the International Woman Award by International Women Conference. 



Musical Treat
Dharam Prakash Gupta

It was a cultural extravaganza at Hill Fair 2007, an annual cultural festival, organised by National Institute of Technology (NIT) campus Hamirpur, which concluded on November 4.

The engineering students, with their performances mesmerised the audience, which included fellow students from different engineering colleges of the state and from Delhi and Srinagar.

Director General of Police, Himachal Pradesh, Ashwani Kumar was the chief guest on the 

The students tapped their feet on the sounds of popular pop albums and traditional folk dances like Bhangra and Himachali dances.

Competitions like jam (one-minute-talk), dumb charade, treasure hunt, rangoli, face painting were there to add colour to the festival.

Enactment of plays provided ample opportunities for the actors to display their skills. Short skits, duets, solo singing and dances kept the audience enthralled till late nights on the three-day festival.



Over 100 scientists, industry representatives
& progressive farmers emphasise the need to devise
eco-friendly plant disease control 

Save crops, switch to biopesticides
Ambika Sharma

Emphasising the need to devise eco-friendly disease management approaches Jagmohan Chauhan, vice-chancellor Dr Y.S.Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry Nauni, said there was a need of alternative approaches for disease diagnosis and control. He was delivering his inaugural address at the annual meeting of Indian Phytopathological Society and symposium on eco-friendly disease management approaches for organic farming in horticulture crops.

The event, attended by more than 100 scientists, agricultural officers, industry representatives and progressive farmers, saw as many as 122 papers on physical, cultural, biological and genetic methods of plant disease control. Jagmohan Chauhan said that from intensive agriculture using large amount of inorganic agrochemicals to the latest organic farming the disease situation is fast changing.

The need of the hour is to dwell on sustainable agricultural practices that will contribute to increased productivity. Over use of chemicals has led to destruction of food and its resources.

Earlier while addressing the delegates, J. N. Sharma, the organising secretary and zonal president, introduced the society to the audience and brought out it’s achievements. Set up in 1947 the society was established at Agricultural Research Institute New Delhi and now ranks third in the world with more than 2,000 members and subscribers from 32 countries. Sharma highlighted the role of the society members in combating serious plant disease problems ravaging Indian crops.

The technical sessions were organised for the conceptualisation and development of organic farming, physical and cultural methods of plant disease control, biological control and biopesticides, novel approaches, disease resistance and other related issues.

Best poster presentation award was given to I. M. Sharma of the regional horticulture research station, Seobagh, Kullu and P. N. Sharma of CSK, Palampur. In the plenary session the chairman Y. P. Sharma emphasised the need for identifying specific areas for organic farming and developing nutritional and pest control modules accordingly without hampering the food production and food security of the people.





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