Lone Warrior
While the BJP left no stone unturned during campaigning, chief minister Virbhadra Singh single-handedly spearheaded the Congress show
Pratibha Chauhan

High-pitched campaigning for the Himachal assembly polls saw almost the entire top brass of BJP descend on the hill state, despite the fact that Gujarat is far more politically significant for the saffron brigade. In sharp contrast, its virtually been a one-man show by chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

Despite their busy schedules, top brass of BJP leaders, including Prime Ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, national party chief Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Venkaih Naidu, Yashwant Sinha and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi ensured that they devoted at least three to four days for campaigning in Himachal.

There was not a single day when BJP was not organising rallies and press conferences of national level leaders, practically all over the state. They even had fair amount of glamour thrown in with ‘Dream Girl’ of yesteryears Hema Malini addressing election rallies in several places. Shatrughan Sinha also ensured his presence.

On the other hand, barring a day each given by All India Congress Committee chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, no other Congress leader of national repute bothered to visit Himachal. Minister of state for External Affairs Anand Sharma, however, did devote some time for campaigning to boost his party’s prospects.

“Had some other senior leaders like former chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Digvijay Singh and Ashok Gehlot, and Sheila Dixit come here it would have boosted the morale of workers and attracted crowds,” admitted party workers. Contrary to this, BJP had its chief ministers and senior leaders from other states campaign in Himachal.

Chief minister Virbhadra Singh had to literally campaign alone for his party candidates in various assembly constituencies. Having taken off the campaign on November 30, he addressed three to four rallies daily besides the unscheduled meetings along the route. He has not even had the time to visit his own constituency, Rohru, after filing the nomination.

Although AICC general secretary and in charge of Congress affairs in Himachal, R.K. Dhawan, spent quite a few days in the state but he maintained a safe distance from the press as well as party workers, meeting them occasionally.

However, his counterpart Satya Pal Jain, National Convener of the BJP Legal Cell, freely interacted with party workers and media. He also toured the entire state.

In fact, even BSP supreme Mayawati made three to four trips to Himachal, notwithstanding the fact that her party is for the time being only making its presence felt in Himachal in such a big way. Lok Janshakti party chief Ram Vilas Paswan also visited the state for a brief period. 



Nahan & Pacchad residents express anger over establishment of firing range
S.R. Pundir

The proposed Narayangarh-Mandlahan heavy artillery field firing range of the Indian Army is under heavy fire from the residents and politicians. People of more than 30 villages are opposing the establishment of this range. The issue has also emerged as a big election topic in Nahan and Pacchad constituencies.

It got more importance after it was raised in a big way in Union Minister for Steels Ram Vilas Paswan’s election rally held at Nahan last week. The residents were assured that the issue would be sorted out after the election in the state.

Former minister and BJP candidate Shyama Sharma, former MLA and Congress candidate Kush Parma from Nahan and other leaders of both the parties of Pacchad have promised the residents that they will solve the problem by perusing the ministry to select some other site for the purpose.

As per the state government’s notification on the land for the establishment of proposed firing range, 30 villages of six gram panchyats of Nahan and Pacchad including Palion, Verma Papri, Kolanwala Bhood, Kayari, Rajyon and Bajga Panchyats would be affected. As per Action Samiti of local residents, nearly 20 villages of Narayangarh will also be affected due to the firing range.

Former Block Development Committee chairman Nahan Viney Gupta said that establishing the range as per government notification would affect the agricultural land of over 20,000 residents of 30 villages. The state government has till now not announced any plan of rehabilitating these families.

Further Gupta said that the state government in the past 20 years had failed to make any rehabilitation plan for the residents of over 12 villages who were displaced due to the construction of Renuka Dam project. Bhakra and Pong Dam projects too are still waiting for rehabilitation even after three decades. “In such a scenario, what can the residents of Nahan and Pacchad expect from the government?” he questioned. The residents’ views were not sought before the issuance of notification for the firing range.

For the past one year residents led by presidents of the gram panchyat Mukhtyar Singh (Palion), Hem Raj(Burma Papri), Maya Devi (Kolanwala Bhood), communist leader Viney Gupta, Jasmat Singh and many other office bearers of Panchyati Raj institutions had launched a mass agitation against the proposed firing range.

Sangharsh Samiti formed by the residents too has sent resolutions on the same to the Defence Ministry, Union and state governments. They even organised big protest marches in Nahan and other areas to press hard for the acceptance of their objections. The residents were perusing the governments to ask the ministry to establish the firing range at a barren or a thick-forested land, where there is no population.  



HP Votes
Close fight in Shimla district
Rakesh Lohumi

Barring Rampur and Rohru, the remaining six seats in Shimla district are witnessing close electoral battles.

The BJP, which drew a blank in the Congress stronghold last time, may wrest a few seats in the apple belt, including the Congress bastion of Jubbal-Kotkhai from where late Ram Lal never lost any election. His grandson, Rohit Thakur, won the last elections from here. Former BJP minister Narender Bragta is posing him a stiff challenge this time.

In Chopal, supporters of Joginder Chand are backing BJP candidate Radha Raman Shastri.

In Shimla sitting Congress legislator Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Bhardwaj (BJP) and Sanjay Chauhan (CPM) are locked in a triangular contest.

Kusumpti constituency is also witnessing a triangular contest among sitting Congress MLA Sohan Lal, Tarsem Bharati (BJP) and rebel Roop Das Kashyap. In Kumarsain, Bhagat Ram Chauhan is posing a stiff challenge to Congress stalwart Vidya Stokes. A Congress rebel Pramod Sharma is also in the fray as an Independent. Theog is also witnessing a triangular contest between sitting legislator Rakesh Verma, Rajinder Verma (Cong) and Daulat Ram Verma(BJP)

In the past the BJP has on its own never won more than two seats in the district, remains to be seen if it could break the barrier this time. 



Campaigning at what cost?
Kulwinder Sandhu

Campaigning in the 65 non-tribal constituencies in Himachal ended on Monday evening, with all political parties and individual candidates having given their best shot. However, even amidst all the hectic activities surrounding a poll campaign one could barely miss out on the mindless spending of the taxpayers’ money — something that could have been used for upliftment of the masses in general.

A visit to various places during the campaigning period revealed that money was not only wasted on the pomp and show of various parties, but also on police machinery that was mobilised for the security of VVIP’s and to manage smooth flow of traffic. Around 25% people in Himachal live below the poverty line; this money could certainly have been used for upgrading their socio-economic status.

Further, due to the entire hullabaloo, government officials were not able to do their routine work and movement of the common man was stymied. For example, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s public rally at Palampur, Palampur-Baijnath road was closed for normal traffic for many hours. Top civil and police officials of the state and district administration were busy on VVIP duty, even as personnel from the SPG, military and paramilitary forces were already deployed on duty. Shyam Singh, a Palampur resident, said: “Campaigning is a democratic right but public money should not be wasted in this manner. The taxpayers’ money should be better utilised.”

During Rahul Gandhi’s public appearance in Mandi and Kullu districts, real issues were sidelined by his road shows. Issues like poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and regional disparities were hardly discussed. Even the road show of high profile Congress leader GS Bali, who was recently in trouble over his ‘birthday bash’, left the crowds on the Nagrota-Bagwan road stranded for more than two hours on Monday.

In addition, advertisements published by major political parties in the print media seemed to be only an exercise in fooling the voters. For example, one of the advertisements released by the Congress refers to government jobs on recommendations by former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, allegations of corruption charges against the BJP government by its own legislators, involvement of former Lok Sabha MP Suresh Chandel in ‘’cash for question’’ scam and involvement of BJP leaders in illegal human trafficking.

The advertisement further says that the State Subordinate Services Selection Board at Hamirpur had become a den of corruption under the BJP government. On the other hand, BJP’s advertisement in the form of cartoons accused the state chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh of minting money out of various projects initiated in the state. Last but not the least, the role of electronic media was also not up to the mark, just like the flurry of abuses and counter-abuses hurled by politicians at each other during the entire campaign.  



Sabha alleges neglect of Sirmour
S. R. Pundir

Several times in the past, residents of district Sirmour have cried foul over the apathetic attitude of the state government as far as ushering in developmental works in the district was concerned. Some problems of the residents here have been hanging fire since independence!

Keeping this in mind, Nahan Nagrik Sabha has adopted resolutions urging the state government to declare a future development plan for the district. The Sabha has alleged that many developmental projects and public demands were pending since the past 60 years, including declaration of trans-Giri area as Scheduled Tribe Area on the pattern of Jonsar Babar. There is also a demand that development in trans-Giri area should be brought at par with other parts of the state by promoting eco-tourism and declaring the area as a Special Economic Zone [SEZ], besides launching other employment and income generating programmes.

Referring to the resolutions, president of Nahan Nagrik Sabha Digvijay Gupta has demanded that the long pending demands of residents of Sirmour district should be catered to immediately.

He said agriculture in the district was in a bad shape. There are no buyers for sugarcane from Paonta valley and ginger, which is the main cash crop of the district, was being destroyed by a disease since the past 30 years. Gupta added that other cash crops in the district were also suffering in the absence of any support price and marketing system.

Talking tough on numerous problems faced by residents of Nahan, he alleged that once in power every government tends to forget the town. Decade old problems such as scarcity of water, sewerage, poor health facilities and traffic hazards had aggravated further.

Gupta demanded that Nahan should be declared as an educational hub and a university, a medical college and an engineering college should be opened here. The Sabha has also demanded re-opening of the public path in cantonment area, curbing of the monkey menace in the district and establishment of eco-friendly industries along Nahan- Renuka and Nahan–Shimla roads, which would generate employment avenues for residents of Nahan and adjoining areas.  



Conquest of fear
India’s foremost woman skydiver was once so terrified she nearly crashed the plane!
Yana Banerjee-Bey

MANY youngsters say they would like to try a tough adventure sport but “feel scared”. Well, I would like to share with you the fascinating story of how skydiver Rachel Thomas conquered fear.

In 1979, as a 24-year-old mother of two and army wife in Agra, Rachel met a Mrs Shamsher – a French skydiver married to an Indian Army officer – at a dinner. The Shamshers had set up a club (the present Skydiving Federation of India) and were starting its first skydiving course the next day. “Mrs Shamsher complained there were no women; so three of us said we’d report at 5.30 a.m.,” remembers Rachel.

“The course ran 15-20 days. During the ground training, we rolled onto the ground from a bench to learn how to land safely. Skydivers used round canopies then and the landing would be very fast. So she taught us how to roll to spread the impact over the body and to tuck our chins in tightly so the head wouldn’t hit the ground. We practised by rolling with a hankie between chin and chest. You couldn’t let the hankie drop.”

Then came the time for the first jump in the sky. To prepare, the students jumped through a mock door onto a slanting nawar bed. “Of the 45 students, I was the only one who never did the mock jump. So when it came to the actual jump, I couldn’t do it,” recalls Rachel.

To top it, the first jump had to be a freefall jump rather than the customary Static Line Jump. An SLJ involves jumping with a two-metre tape attached to your parachute container. The other end of the tape is clipped to a rod inside the aircraft. Once you jump out, the tape unfolds to its full length and then detaches from the container – after pulling the pin that releases the parachute. Learners usually begin with an SLJ. “We had a civilian pilot flying a Beaver. He was horrified when the doors were removed. He’d never flown a plane minus its doors before. Then he heard that people would be jumping out and still be attached to the plane. He flatly refused to allow it. So the students did freefall jumps with Mrs Shamsher pulling the pin to release the parachute as she shouted, ‘Go!’.”

Standing at the door, Rachel was petrified. “Usually, you come out of the plane, hold the strut (the wing prop) and then jump. But the pilot was too nervous to allow it; so we were supposed to jump straight out of the door. As I left the door, my body flew ahead and I was able to grab the strut. And I just hung there for dear life. But I was so frightened that my hands were sweating and they slipped after a second. That was my first jump. The second jump was a repeat. On the third, I got a better grip because now the pilot was allowing people to stand on the step and hold the strut. But the pin of my chute had already been pulled so it would have opened and got entangled with the plane. The plane would have crashed.”

Risking her life, Mrs Shamsher leaned out of the door and pushed Rachel off the strut.

Back on the ground, Rachel cried, apologised and asked for one more chance. “She agreed, but on condition I jump facing the tail of the aircraft. That meant I would face a dive, going head down. She told me what to do to correct it. That fourth jump was okay. But it was the next one that I enjoyed, that was the one on which I lost my fear totally. And after that I became addicted,” laughs Rachel, over a quarter of a century later.

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



Style made affordable
Pratibha Chauhan

Anyone would love to dress in the top international brands and when they come at an affordable price then why not be chic and stylish. The opening of the second Style Check store in the region offers an opportunity to the label conscious to pick up Gucci, Ralph Lauren, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani and Diesel garments at almost half the price. Neatly stacked with chic western outfits, the outlet has separate sections for men, women and kids.

The clothes are just perfect for the season as there are a whole lot of jackets, woolen trousers, sweat shirts and other winter clothing. “We are selling almost all original top-of-the-line brands at the most affordable prices,” says Bhavan Thakur, store manager. If you are already impressed with what is there at the store, wait for the next arrivals that will include stylish long coats, just perfect for Shimla’s winter.

With Levis and GAP denims and trousers priced at about Rs 800 there is no dearth of customers. For those fond of check and striped trousers, there’s lots to choose from.

“I thought I could only afford a GAP or an Armani trouser if I earned millions but that myth has got busted,” says Ankush, a college student. It is for this reason that the store is being thronged by the college crowd who can now saunter around in outfits they thought were completely out of reach.  



Shimla theatre down the ages
by Shriniwas Joshi

File photo

Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association is credited with staging Kursi at Kalibari Hall in Shimla, immediately after independence. Directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Bhishm Sahni had acted in it. Incidentally, Bhism wrote his last play Alamgir (on Aurangzeb) as a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Shimla in 1995-96.

Shimla, as the capital of Punjab, hummed with Punjabi theatre till close of the fifties. IC Nanda’s Lily da Vyah directed by Champa Mangatrai established Harbans and Agya Gandotra as actors of merit. Deewa Bujh Gaya, Bunder da Panja and a Hindi musical Yashodhara further confirmed Agya’s histrionics. Rai da Pahar and Kanak di Balli by Balwant Gargi and Dr. Palta and Parohan directed by RC Pal, a teacher in Pune Film Institute were the other Punjabi plays. Amrik Singh, former Vice Chancellor of the Punjabi University, directed Ret te Patthar with Prem Chopra, the cine-star as an actor who inadvertently slept on the stage and had to be stirred.

Little Theatre Group founded by architect Prem Lumba, known for acclaimed productions in Delhi, began with Kya Karega Quazi staged at The Gaiety theatre. Ramesh Gaur and Sudershan Gaur contributed to Hindi theatre, the former is known for Kabuliwala and the latter for founding All India Artists Association that has been organising all India performing arts competitions since then. Dean Brothers — Claudius and Ambrose — have continuously been staging plays with patriotic themes.

G.R. Sud of BM College, veteran theatre-person, had directed and acted in Lakshmi ka Swagat and Kaumudi Mahotsav by Ram Kumar Verma. Shimla ADC’s first Hindustani play was Ramesh Mehta’s Under Secretary, staged in the fifties. The State Public Relations Department also produced plays, with Sunni Bhunku being the best.

The Amateurs’ Evening in the sixties flushed the Hindustani theatre with plays like Kshudhit Pashan by Tagore and Ben Bijori by Kartar Singh Duggal. Gadhok, Jaswal and Advani sisters, Joshi brothers, Raja Tikkoo, Anand Prakash, Ramesh Sabarwal and others contributed towards its productions. Manohar Singh directed a play Hatya Ek Akaar Ki by Lalit Sehgal in the sixties and also mesmerized the audience by doing a major role in it.

The Art, Culture and Language Academy’s only laudable production is Hina Dundup, Nati Sherjang. Vijay Saraswati 
and Malti Mathur, under the direction of KK Nayyar, also did stage plays.

An organization Paridhi lifted the theatre in Shimla to a higher pedestal during the last half of seventies and early eighties. Paridhi staged many plays under the direction of Deven Joshi and drew unqualified praise (see photograph — Ashadh ka ek din).

During 1985-86, a theatre workshop organised by the Language and Culture Department in collaboration with the National School of Drama opened avenues for Rohitashva Gaur, Vijay Sharma, Mohit Chauhan, Ravi Kaushal, Pawan Sharma and Bhupendra Sharma as artistes. Agra Bazaar at Kalibari, with workshop trainees under the direction of Devendra Raj Ankur, the present director of National Repertory, was an inspiring production. Narendra Chauhan wrote, staged and directed awesome plays including Aur dauro Jijivisha.

The decade of nineties is dedicated to Amla Rai and her organisation Abhivyakti. She performed Swadesh Deepak’s Court Martial, Bhishm Sahni’s Kabira Khara Bazaar Mein and other plays with gusto. Bhupendra Sharma, specialising in giving Karyala folk style to the plays, Ala Afsar and Thunianama for instance, and his organisation Samanvaya performed regularly.

Praveen Chandla’s Dhruv Shikhar, Sanjay Sud’s Natyanukriti, Natyakar of Ashok Hans, Abhilasha of Neeraj Parashar and Dayal, Mohan Joshi’s Natraj, Munir Cultural Forum of Pravesh Jassal, Surendra Gill’s Prerna, Acting Space of Rajendra Sharma, Vijay Sharma’s Himnatyanubhava, and BR Mehta and Arvind Ranchan are other names that have added to the local Hindustani theatre. Because of them several memorable plays have been staged here.

Abhilasha unknowingly created history because Talghar, adaptation of The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky, in October 2003 was the last at the Gaiety theatre before it was shut down for restoration. Sankal, started in 1992, was buoyed up when Kedar Thakur, a graduate in dramatics, joined it in 1998. Line, Line aur Line and Giddh by Vijay Tendulkar are its major productions. Saroj Vashisht along with Amla and Shekhar Bhattacharya staged plays in the nineties with inmates lodged in Kaithu Jail, thus taking dramatics to a different field. Kedar did the same when in 2001 he trained 20 prisoners of Kanda jail for six months in dramatics. Sangeet Natak Academy organised a theatre workshop here that year and Abhinaya Darpan formed by the trainees did four plays including Oedipus.

Formation of a Shimla Federation of Theatre with 18 clubs as its federal units augurs well for the theatre to come here. A week-long fiesta of plays organised by the Federation at Kalibari during Shimla festival this year was a grand start in which 15 clubs presented 15 different plays. Theatre lovers in Shimla are awaiting the opening of Gaiety, eager to don the grease paint with zest. 



Preserving priceless pheasants
Rakesh Lohumi

The Himachal Pradesh wildlife department is all set to expand and strengthen its ongoing programme for conservation and breeding of highly endangered pheasants.

Besides initiating captive breeding of two more important endangered species — the Monal and the pure blood Red Jungle fowl — the department has plans to remodel its aviaries at Sarahan and Chail, where captive breeding of Western Tragopan and the Cheer pheasant will be carried out.

A team of scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India will soon visit the state and collect blood samples of the Red Jungle Fowl — widely believed to be extinct — from the interior pockets of Himachal. Morphological studies conducted by the forest department have revealed that genetically pure Red Jungle Fowl is present in the interior of the state. The team has also identified pockets in Chail, Renuka and Sarahan where the specie is likely to be found. Blood samples drawn from these areas will be subjected to DNA fingerprinting for final confirmation of the genetic purity.

The tail is carried horizontally in both sexes of the Red Jungle Fowl and the females have no comb. They also have an abbreviated call, unlike the domestic fowl. The clutch size is six to eight eggs as against domestic fowl that lays up to 265 eggs in a year. Preservation of the specie is essential keeping in mind its importance in pharmaceutical research. Genetically pure fowls are required for developing drugs for various diseases, as they are resistant to disease-causing organisms.

Conservation breeding of Monal will be carried out in Manali and a detailed project is being prepared for it. Monal recently lost its exalted status when the government designated Western Tragopan as the ‘state bird’ in its place. However, that has not undermined its importance as a Himalayan pheasant that is high on the endangered list.

Recently, the wildlife department sent a team to China to attend a three-week conference-cum-training programme organised by the World Pheasant Association. This was to apprise experts engaged in conservation breeding of pheasants across the world of the latest technological advancements in the field.

The three-member team comprising Dr Lalit Mohan, Sat Pal Dhiman and Alam Singh also visited Dauchang as part of field training, where a project for conservation breeding of blood pheasant and wide-eared pheasant is being implemented. They learnt about technical aspects of egg development, use of brooding hen and incubators for hatching and principles of re-introduction into the wild.

The team also presented a research paper regarding techniques used by them to achieve successful breeding of the Western Tragopan at the Sarahan pheasantry for the first time in the world.

Conservation breeding experts from Austria, Germany, Canada and China will also be visiting the state to gain practical knowledge about the pheasant-rearing programme.

Meanwhile, experience gained by experts in China will be put into practice in Himachal. As a first step, the pheasantry at Sarahan will be remodelled to increase the area of aviaries from the existing 40 square metres (sq m) to about 250 sq m.

Having received the necessary training, these experts will be able to use the incubators already acquired for the breeding of Western Tragopan more effectively. Notably, it is the only pheasantry in the world that has four pairs of the rare bird in captivity. The new aviaries at Chail and Manali will also be designed on the same pattern. 



Common Man’s Man
Neelmani Upadhayay will be remembered for his interpretation of the Bhagvad Gita
Kuldeep Chauhan

Neelmani Upadhayay, who died after suffering a massive heart attack last fortnight in New Delhi, was a great Sanskrit scholar, proponent of Aanandvad of Bhagvad Gita, an educationist, a bi-linguist, traditionalist and a humanist — all rolled into one.

Born into a humble family in the temple town of Mandi, Upadhayay, a self-made man, led a simple life. He got married at an early age and had four children and attained master degrees in Sanskrit, Hindi and English. He did his Ph.D in Hindi from Panjab University, Chandigarh.

With many honours and awards to his credit, Upadhayay served as the principal of Post-graduate College, Mandi.

Recalls Veer Singh Chauhan, a retried professor and his close friend: “He was a great human being, an educationist, philosopher and a great scholar. He stood for great human values. His sudden death in Delhi where he had gone for publishing his book on temples is a great loss to the state. I have lost a friend.”

Upadhayay had penned many books, essays, research papers and articles in journals, magazines over the years. His best-known books are translations of Bhagvad Gita and Aanandmay Jivan (2002), Hindi Shikshan Vidhi, Kamyani Ka Anandvad, Mandi Ke Mandir (both in English and Hindi), Biography of Pt Bhawnaidut Shashtri, Jivan Niksh, Language and Education, New Trends in Indian Education. His book Hindi Shiksha Vidhi is being taught as a subject in the B.Ed colleges all over the state.

Says Satish Dhar, deputy director, public relations, who himself is a writer and poet: “Upadhayay’s book on Bhagvad Gita is a best-known attempt to interpret the holy text in a simple language for the common man. He believed that an individual, society and the nation run on the pillars of process and tradition. There are five fundamentals — Guru-Shishaya relation, self-actualisation on karma, traditions, capability and spirituality and self-knowledge, which shape all of these.”

He was a member of the academic council, HPU, Shimla, advisor of the HP Education and Cultural Board’s standing committee and member, convener of the HP Language Art, Culture Academy.

He was awarded with the Hindi Seva 100 Honour by the President of India in 2000. His essay on Suniyojit Parivar: Samasyayan and Samadhan Prabhand got an award by the USA-based Good Parents Group. Upadhayay traveled in Europe, Canada, Malaysia and other countries and incorporated their cultural elements in his works. He was a humanitarian to the core and worked for the downtrodden as a member of the Dinsahayak Trust, Mandava Balika Anathalya and Hirdyayavasi Seva Trust in Mandi. He is survived by his three sons and a daughter.  



Karyana shops dying slow death
Kulwinder Sandhu

There is a marked decrease in the sales of karyana shops in Kangra district since the last few days and shopkeepers have attributed it to the subsidy on ration being given by the state government through fair price shops.

The state government had given a subsidy of Rs 100 crores on essential commodities during the current year, apart from the subsidy given by the Union government through the public distribution system.

The idea was to provide cheap ration to over 14 lakh ration cardholders, including the Antodaya, below poverty line (BPL) and above poverty line (APL) families. However, opposition parties had linked this subsidy with the political agenda of the Congress government keeping in view the assembly elections.

Most of the petty shopkeepers in the rural areas here alleged that their business had come down by over 50% during the past three days. “I have invested more than Rs two lakh to keep items of daily needs in my shop and at this stage I cannot even switch over to some other business,” said Ram Singh, a small-time shopkeeper from Dhameta village in Kangra district.

Sunder Pal, another shopkeeper from Shahpur, alleged that all types of essential commodities and items of daily need that were not listed in the list of subsidy were also being sold by owners of ration depots. This had affected the business of petty shopkeepers. “Departments concerned of the state government have failed to put a check on the sale of non-subsidy items,” he alleged.

Meanwhile, in a majority of the total 912 fair price shops in Kangra district, extra items have been kept for sale which has badly affected sales in karyana shops.

Pulses, including Malka is being sold at a fixed price of Rs 20 per kg and Dal Channa and Urd at Rs 25 per kg in the fair price shops. Notably, rates of these pulses are almost double in the prevailing market. One kg of these pulses each was being provided to every family per month, which is enough for the monthly consumption of a normal family.

Besides, mustard oil is being provided at Rs 45 per litre and refined oil at Rs 40 per litre, while iodized salt at Rs 4 per kg per family per month. These rates are also cheaper by over 30 per cent than the open market. If the subsidy on essential commodities other than those under the PDS system continues unabated, the day would not be far when most of karyana shops in the rural areas would have to be shut down.

These shopkeepers are also keeping a close eye on the assembly elections, with a hope that the new government would find a solution to their problem.



shimla Diary
Heading for doom?
Rakesh Lohumi

In the years to come, there will be more Pareechu lakes and all major rivers originating from the Himalayas will become increasingly flood-prone. Reason: Melting of glaciers, thanks to global warming!

Rivers like Sutlej and Ganges will experience frequent floods during the next 15 to 20 years and the discharge will become irregular due to erratic patterns of precipitation. The variation in maximum and minimum temperatures will also keep on increasing. However, once a major part of the glaciers melt the discharge in rivers will start declining. By 2080, the volume of water in Ganges will be reduced to one-fourth of the current levels.

Scientists disclosed these startling facts during the one-day consultation on “Climate change in the mountains” which was organised in Shimla by the Mountain Forum Himalayas earlier this week. The participants called for a strong government policy to effectively deal with climate change that would spell doom for the countries dependent on Himalayan rivers. They also underlined the need to motivate people at the grassroots level so that they contribute their bit in reducing the impact of climate change.

Scientists called for making a collective effort after ascertaining how every individual could help in taming the menace. They opined that a data base should be created for accounting the impact of climate change and an awareness campaign be organised to educate people, particularly the school and college students.

On the occasion, Himachal governor V.S. Kokje released a souvenir brought out by the Forum containing scientific articles that highlight various aspects of climate change. Consultant of the Forum Devinder Pirta said they were working on hilly regions and mainly concentrating on ecologically fragile states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. In all, about a dozen non-government organisations from the two states are associated with environment-related activities.

‘Weather’ or not

Having advanced assembly elections in Himachal by more than two months in the face of stiff opposition from the state government, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswmi is now concerned about the weather. He arrived here a week before the polls scheduled for December 19, only to find widespread snow and rain grounding him.

Interestingly, the first thing he did at the press conference was to request scribes to pray to the gods for clear weather. He was also quite aware of the fact that last time some journalists had expressed apprehensions that weather could play spoilsport if elections were held in December.

Surprisingly, Gopalaswami maintained that cancellation of rallies of national leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and Rajnath Singh will have not have any impact on voters as people in the hill state were well aware of prevailing issues.

The weather has since improved, but the fact remains that it could snow anytime and one will have to wait until the last vote has been polled.

Unique feat

Ghumarvin assembly segment of Bilaspur district has the unique distinction of having the maximum number of elderly voters. Out of the total 838 voters in the state who are more than a 100 years old, as many as 30 are in Ghumarvin. Similarly, those aged between 90 and 100 years totalled 8,005, with Ghumarvin accounting for 249 out of them.



Experts talk on latest in biotechnology
Dharam Prakash Gupta

A US expert being honoured at NIT.
A US expert being honoured at NIT.

A week-long course on “Current Inclinations in Bio-technology” organised by NIT, Hamirpur, from December 11 onwards was a special occasion for participants and the faculty as they got the opportunity to hear international and national experts on latest trends and findings in this field.

Dr. Pamita Awasthi, coordinator of the course, said the overwhelming response could be gauged by the fact that though originally the course was designed for 30 participants, at the end more than 70 participants registered. The participants were from various technical institutes such as NITs, engineering colleges (Modi Institute of Technology, DAV Engineering College, Jalandhar) and IIT Roorkee, H.P. University, Shimla, Y. S. Parmar University, Nauni, Krishi Visva Vidyalya, Palampur, PAU, Ludhiana, JNU, Delhi and from research organisations like CSIR laboratories.

Seventeen experts from USA and India presented research papers on several aspects of biotechnology. Dr. Parminder Mehta, associate professor, department of biochemistry and molecular biology, University of Nabraska Medical Center NE, USA, discussed how the trafficking of cannikins and their assembly into gap junctions are regulated by e-cadherin, a protein that mediates cell-cell adhesion.

Prof H.C. Trivedi, Vice Chancellor of Bhavnagar University, spoke on the synthesis, characterisation techniques, importance and application of sod-salt of partially carboxyl methylated Gaur Gum. 
Dr Parteep Bhattacharya, director Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, Huntington Medical Research Institutes, CA, USA and Pasadena, assistant professor, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, talked about vivo application of a novel NMR based methodology known as a hyper polarization.

Dr Edward Lammer, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, CA, USA, explained how human bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) libraries have played a critical role for construction of physical maps and genome sequencing for the human genome project.

Dr Kamlesh Asotra, Biomedical Sciences Research Administrator, Cardiovascular Disease and General biomedical Sciences, Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, University of California Office of President, talked about bradykinin mediated drug delivery, a chemical modulator which opens up the blood-brain barrier selectively for drug delivery to brain.

Dr Lara Gundel, staff scientist, Lawrence Berkeley, National laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA in his paper threw light on inventing solutions to environmental problems as a path to sustainability, with an emphasis on techniques and smart tools used in conjunction to detect air borne pollution. Dr Peter Liederman of J.D. Law Offices of Liederman Berkeley, CA, USA, appraised about different views of countries on patentability in biotechnological field. He compared the US, Indian and European patent laws.

Prof H.S Daliwal from Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, discussed the history of plant improvement and various challenges and constraints in the production of good variety of rice in Punjab, Haryana and UP.

Dr Manu Modgil, associate professor from department of biotechnology, Dr. Y.S. Parmar University, Nauni, Solan, explained the tissue culture technique in order to produce disease resistant plant varieties. Dr. R. Kishore, a scientist from the Institute of microbial Technology (IMTECH), Chandigarh, delivered an informative talk on bioactive peptides, their importance and industrial application. Dr Gosal from department of biotechnology, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, explained the importance of tissue culture and micropropagation technology.

Dr P. K. Khosla, former Vice Chancellor of Krishivisavidylya, Palampur, discussed the present scenario in the biotech industry and its future prospects. Dr. Lalit Awasthi of the biotechnology department of NIT said the short-term course was organised by National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, with an objective to start a center of excellence of biotechnology and provide an exposure to students and faculty members regarding latest trends in this area. 



Reviving natural dyes
Kulwinder Sandhu

Realising that chemical colours are slowly but surely elbowing out the wonderful tradition of natural dyes in the state, forcing many communities of traditional weavers and dyers into unemployment, serious efforts have been initiated in Himachal Pradesh to revive the same.

A three-day workshop to train traditional weavers and artisans was organised at the Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University at Palampur last week. Inaugurating the proceedings, Vice-Chancellor of the university Dr Tej Partap underlined the importance of natural dyes in world market. He said handloom and handicraft products in the state needed orientation on these lines.

The younger generation should to be trained in designing and e- marketing, as this would generate self-employment and more income for the farming families. Partap said climatic conditions in Himachal were like many European countries, therefore handloom products like shawls, caps, mufflers, blankets, etc, coloured with natural dyes, could make a huge market in such countries. Since synthetic yarn has harmful effects, it was imperative to produce clothing with natural dyes, he added.

The VC exhorted young weavers to learn traditional systems of dyeing from locally available plant material. He added that no individual could succeed in the cottage industry unless self-help groups were formed and the produce was marketed collectively. Internet marketing also could fetch good business for handicraft and handloom products. The university was willing to help weavers and the farming community in general for such activities, he added.

The Shivalik belt of Himalayas is not only rich in biodiversity, with many sources for making natural dyes, but also supports wool producing animals that support traditional livelihoods based on weaving, he informed.  



Image makeover
With the media gaining in power, police authorities in the state have decided to give a fillip to relations between the two
Ambika Sharma

Faced with the challenge of maintaining good media relations in the wake of a virtual media revolution, with scores of dailies, both national and regional, as well as electronic channels coming up, the police headquarters (PHQ) in the state have woken up and decided to spruce up their image.

Not only have detailed instructions been dispatched to all districts, specific issues like dress code to be maintained while addressing mediapersons, officials that are authorised to interact with them, activities of the police for which publicity may be given or may not be given, use of official websites, form of press releases, etc, have also been dealt in detail.

In a bid to ensure better interaction and co-ordination, the PHQ has advised specially instituted Police Media Officers to maintain names, telephone numbers, e-mails as well as fax addresses of mediapersons.

The Police Media Officers have been directed to have these details readily available for any situation that may arise. The most interesting instruction is, however, the dress code for addressing mediapersons.

A Police Media Officer would now have to wear a suit with a tie or a neck scarf, a serious attempt at an image makeover!

While officials are supposed to give detailed information about convictions they have made, they have also been advised to highlight the role of their department by means of features as well as through radio and TV shows.

Meanwhile, collecting information about heinous crimes especially those committed in the industrial belt of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh has become an extremely tedious job for mediapersons.

On more than one occasion reporters have not been able to collect information due to the apathetic attitude of police officials.

Taking care of such complaints, the PHQ has clearly instructed senior officials to ensure that they revert back to the media queries with proper information.

It remains to be seen how much is done on the ground though! 



Honey Delight
Gobble up junk food without guilt as all these are prepared in healthy honey
Pratibha Chauhan

IF you think that junk food like burgers, pies and popcorn is all too harmful think again. There is a place where all eatables, be it muffins, burgers or popcorns have a scoop of pure honey, considered most healthy for its many medicinal properties.  Honey Hut, the latest eating joint in town has been a big hit from day one. The joint, a venture of Khadi Gramudyog, is selling pure honey flavoured with medicinal and herbal plants. The eatables like muffins, burgers, pop-corn and of course tea and coffee which have the quintessential honey in its purest form are selling like hot cakes.

And those not particularly fond of honey can consume it with any of these eatables. The place sells scrumptious preparations like honey strawberry tea cooler, honey cream cheese tea sandwiches and fruit smoothies all with liberal quantities of honey, to make you feel less guilty as you gobble up these delicious preparations. Interestingly, you don’t just get a taste of the yummy treats made exclusively in honey but also get beauty recipes. The joint gives you tips on using honey as a conditioner for your hair and skin, for that soft, shining and supple glow.

Manager Honey Hut, Navin says, “Our objective is to encourage people to use the valuable honey which not only makes the preparations more delicious but also makes them more healthy.” The joint has honey tomato soup, honey chocolate milk, honey masala tea and other preparations in which one can’t ever imagine to have honey.

The honey being sold here is from various states like Jammu and Kashmir and Utrakhand. There is honey flavoured with saffron, tulsi, lime, herbs, neem, amla and ginger. A deliciously interesting concoction in which all nuts are honey flavoured is also available.

Khadi Gramudyog now intends opening more such honey huts in places like Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Bangalore. Within the state too there will more such joints at tourist places like Manali, Dalhousie, Kasauli and Dharamshala. 





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