Cemeteries a victim of neglect
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

Erstwhile summer capital of the British Raj — Shimla — had many Englishmen and their families who spent their entire lifetime here. Subsequent to their deaths, many were buried in various cemeteries here itself. Sadly, now their graves are in a state of utter neglect.

Thirty-eight-year old Andrew Campbell, a professor whose forefathers had once served here, came all the way from Ireland to know about the bye-gone era. However, he was shocked to see the pathetic state of cemeteries. “It is really painful to see all this. The graves are in such a bad state that I could not even click a photo to show my family back home. I am leaving Shimla with a very heavy heart,” he lamented.

And he is not the only one; there are many others who leave with such feelings. Unfortunately, all graveyards in Shimla have been reduced to either grazing ground for cattle or playgrounds; many tombstones have gone missing; the areas have become a safe haven for drug addicts and dating couples, informed a Nepalese chowkidaar, Sher Bahadur, who resides close to a graveyard and does his best to protect the place but all in vain.

Meanwhile, an official of HP Tourism Department said the Tourism and Culture ministry had sometime ago asked all states to renovate and maintain these burial sites. While agreeing that ‘cemetery tourism’ can help fetch high-end tourists, he said the state government is planning to document all the cemeteries in Shimla soon.

Info on Shimla cemeteries
Near Oakover

This burial ground was opened in 1828 and the first grave dates back to 1829. However, as the town started growing, it was found to be too close to habitation and was thus closed. The last grave of this cemetery is of Captain Mathew William Ford, which dates back to March 17, 1841. This cemetery has about a dozen graves and monuments.

Barrier, Boileauganj

This cemetery of Shimla’s Muslim community is believed to have been in use since the mid-20 century. This was brought into use once the older one at Boileauganj, which is just below the mosque, was filled to capacity.


Dating back to 1850, the earliest grave in this burial ground is of Joseph Anderson. As Shimla grew in both size and importance, this burial ground was repeatedly extended till it become what, historically, is the town’s most important cemetery. Here lie graves of some of the most influential people of those times. The cemetery was closed during 1920s. While the cemetery was created in phases, today it is recognizable by a division created by the highway that has cut it into two sections. The older one lies above the road.


Once the cemetery at Kanlog was filled, need for another area was felt. The land fell under the domain of the Rana of Koti, who granted it on a ‘perpetual lease’. This cemetery is still in use and was dedicated by the Bishop of Lahore on July 29, 1921. The earliest grave here is of Joseph Multani, an Indian Christian who was buried here on May 12, 1921(before the formal dedication). This ground holds over 600 graves.


This private cemetery was opened in 1870s for nuns of the Convent of Jesus and Mary. Some nuns of the Loreto Order are also buried under the shady deodars here. The memorial on the gate is dedicated to Colonel Parker, who died in 1837. However, his body was not buried here and the cenotaph was placed here at the behest of Colonel Tapp, then Superintendent of the Hill States. 



A close battle, indeed
Rakesh Lohumi

Despite a strong anti-incumbency factor the electoral battle turned out to be close affair in most constituencies.

The margin of victory was less than 1500 votes in as many as 13 of the total 68 segments. In another 10 segments it was between 1500 and 2500 votes. BSP and rebels played spoilsport for the two main contenders in many constituencies.

The margin of defeat was less than 500 votes in Bharmour, Banjar, Bhatiyat, Pragpur and Jaswan and between 500 and 1000 votes in Sulah, Gangath, Nadaun and Nahan.

The Congress candidates were relegated to the third position in seven seats, in Arki, Bilaspur, Jwalamukhi and Thural because of the strong party rebels while in Shahpur and Kulu the BSP severely dented its votebank.

Similarly, the BJP candidates slipped to the third place in five segments. In Theog ,Kumarsain, Nurpur and Shillai strong Independents, mostly Congress and BJP rebels, overwhelmed the party while the BSP got the better of both parties to win the Kangra seat.

The BJP won the Jubbal-Kotkhai seat in the heart of the apple belt for the first time. However, it could not improve its tally beyond two seats in Shimla district.

In the 2003 poll it drew a blank in the district and its candidates ended up third in four of the total eight segments. This time it was relegated to the third place only in two seats. The Congress managed to win five seats while one went to a party rebel. The only time that the Congress lost a majority of the seats in the district was in 1990 when the BJP and the Janata Dal had contested the poll in alliance. It could win only the Rohru, Rampur and Theog seats, while the BJP emerged victorious in Chopal, Kumarsain, Shimla and Kusumpti. The Janata Dal won the Jubbal Kotkhai seat.

The BSP won only one seat but managed to secure 7.26 per cent votes which was quite significant. It polled more than 4500 votes in 13 seats. The constituencies where it secured a sizeable number of votes included Kulu, Banjar, Shahpur, Dharamsala, Balh, Nadaun, Doon, Una, Nurpur, Paonta, Nadaunta, Mandi and Baijnath. In Kangra it mostly hurt the BJP, while in Kulu it damaged both parties. It is a good beginning and the party could build on and further consolidate its gains in future elections.  



Saving environment was her passion
S.R. Pundir

Courage and honesty were the qualities that differentiated Kinkri Devi from other women of the area. Because of these qualities, she became known as an environment activist and social worker of international repute.

This illiterate woman, who hailed from a Scheduled Caste family of the Renuka area, waged a lone battle against the powerful mining mafia operating in the area. She fought to save environment by putting a curb on illegal and unscientific mining in the area.

She filed a petition in the state high court. Her struggle bore fruit in 1987 when the high court passed an order on her petition imposing curbs on illegal and unscientific mining in the state. The high court again constituted a high-power monitoring committee to watch mining operations in 1992.

On several occasions, Kinkri Devi had to face the wrath of strong mining lobby, but this never hurt her determination. She never really got whole-hearted support from the people of the area but she kept going all alone. It was a struggle between ‘arabpati mining lobby and a khakpati women’, says Yoginder Kapila, president of the Sangrah Beopar Mandal. She had to work day and night to make both ends meet, but she never compromised with her mission, he adds.

When an agitation was launched under his chairmanship for the opening of a college at Sangrah, Kinkri Devi extended full support to the agitation. She also sat in dharna on the main road along with hundreds of other villagers and faced police and court cases for the agitation.

She always stood with local people on various social issues, but she had a grouse that nobody helped her in her fight against the mining lobby.

Kinkri Devi was born in a poor Scheduled Caste family in Ghaton village of the Renuka area. She was married to Shayamu of Sangrah village at very young age. Her husband died at a young age. Despite social pressures, Kinkri Devi did not marry again and concentrated on bringing up her only son, Ghal Singh. She worked as part-time sweeper at the tehsil office at Sangrah. Some villagers, however, used to help her to run her day-to-day life.

Her iron will fetched her the prestigious National Maharani Lakshmibai Mahila Shakti Award in 2001. The award was given to her by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi. She also got the honour to inaugurate the international women conference in Beijing (China) in 1998. Hillary Clinton herself took the initiative to invite illiterate, innocent and simple woman of the Renuka area of Himachal Pradesh to inaugurate the summit by lighting a lamp.



Substandard drugs flourish, courtesy docs
Ravinder Sood

The sale of substandard drugs has posed a serious threat to human health not only in Kangra district but also in the entire state as the state government had failed to come out with stringent legislation to deal with this menace. In the absence of any check from the state government this trade has flourished over the past five years.

Though a number of drug samples collected from chemist shops had failed, the Health Department had not initiated any steps to streamline the system of sale of medicines. A drug mafia involved in this racket had high political connections.

The Health Department conducted raids all over the state after a report on sub this effect was carried by The Tribune a few months ago. However, the persons involved in this trade had prior information of these raids.

A senior officer of the Health Department admitted that over 100 brands of substandard drugs were selling in the state. It was a matter of serious concern that even after the samples collected from various chemist shops failed no action was initiated. It is learnt that the orders of the Chief Minister in this regard to all CMOs were also not implemented .

The sale of sub-standard drugs has been flourishing at the behest of medical officers posted in various government hospitals. Most of the sub-standard drugs were selling on the prescriptions of medical officers posted in hospitals and primary health centres who had patronised particular substandard companies. The patients are specifically directed by doctors to buy medicines from particular shops. These doctors had been receiving a handsome commission from these companies.

The records of various hospitals revealed that doctors were repeatedly prescribing particular brands of substandard medicines to their patients. It is most unfortunate that all these facts were already in the knowledge of senior officers, including the Secretary, Health, but nothing was done to improve the affairs.

A representative of the H.P. Chemists Association said the sale of standard drugs had come down in the state. Another leading chemist said though medicines of good companies were much cheaper, doctors did not prescribe these medicines as these firms did not pamper them much. As the margin of profit on substandard medicines ranges between 200 and 500 per cent, part of it goes to doctors. Besides, cash, gold, costly gifts, foreign tours and cars are also given to doctors by such companies if they fulfil the targets.

Most of the companies manufacturing substandard drugs are located at Amritsar, Mohali, Delhi, Haryana and western UP. These medicines are supplied and transported through buses, railway and couriers to avoid sales and income tax as no proper purchase vouchers are given to the buyers.



‘White hopes’ dashed to the ground
Rakesh Lohumi

The weather god once again disappointed the throng of winter revellers that descended on the Queen of Hills to experience the thrill of snowfall. Until two decades ago, a white Christmas and a white New Year was the norm. However, with the once-green hills turning into a veritable concrete jungle, snow has been eluding the famous hill resort year after year.

This year, hopes were raised when the region had snow in the first half of December after more than 15 years. In fact, the unexpected snow and inclement weather severely affected campaigning for the Assembly elections. However, the weather god was in no mood to oblige the winter revellers. Instead of snow, they had to content with relatively warm Christmas and New Year with the Sun shining brightly in azure skies all through. What to speak of snow, there has not been a trace of cloud in the sky for the past fortnight.

Nevertheless, the revellers from adjoining states enjoyed a warm winter Sun that provided them much respite from the cold wave sweeping the plains. They could bee seen having fun on The Ridge and The Mall and having pony and yak rides in Kufri.

It’s cool with ice-skating

After a dismal start with only three sessions taking place in the first two weeks of December, ice-skating has picked up. The oldest natural ice-skating rink of Asia has been abuzz with activity. Much to the delight of winter sports enthusiasts, favourable weather has ensured 30 sessions without interruption over the past fortnight. The annual winter carnival also went off well with newly elected legislator Suresh Bhardwaj, chief guest, promising to give funds for the development of the rink.

Ice-skating coach from Hungry Okosh also arrived belatedly to impart training to the skaters attending the national camp being conducted by the Shimla Ice-Skating Club in collaboration with the National Ice-Skating Federation.

Honorary, secretary of the club Bhuvnesh Banga said if the weather god continued to smile, the annual gymkhana would be held on January 12 or 13. The ice-skating season has over the years reduced to just two months from four months in 1960s due to change in the micro-climate. These days, the total number of sessions seldom reach the three figure mark as evening sessions are not held regularly.

‘Terrific’ jam

Traffic jams are unheard of on The Mall, a sealed road on which only few vehicles are allowed. However, this actually happened early this week and a long queue of vehicles was seen right in front of the Oakover, the official residence of the Chief Minister. It was the crowd of BJP supporters which were headed for the residence of P.K. Dhumal located nearby. It was virtually a free-for-all in the state capital as the police did not make any serious effort to enforce the traffic restrictions during the changeover from the Congress to the BJP regime.



Harbingers of progress in Chamba
Balkrishan Prashar

Even till as late as the seventies, people in far-flung corners of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh lived in a world almost devoid of any modern facilities. Chruah ravine of the district was the most backward area and it was quite difficult to travel the entire Churah tehsil, including Salooni (now tehsil), stretching for several miles due to absence of a road network.

There was only kuccha and narrow roads from Chamba to Tissa and Salooni. These link roads were also mostly damaged due to rains and normal life was paralysed for several days. People had to tread several miles on foot to reach their destinations.

The inaccessibility of these areas was the primary reason for the utter state of poverty of people here. Their living conditions were so unhygienic that they suffered many diseases, particularly tuberculosis (TB). Locals used to depend on small land holdings, which yielded poor returns.

However, Chamba had a wide scope for hydroelectric power (HEP) generation, but that too remained untapped for years. Finally, during the seventies, the Union Ministry of Power started construction of 198 megawatt(MW) Baira-Siul project at Surangani.

With the coming up of this project, radical changes took place in the region. Construction of new roads from Chamba to Tissa and Bathri to Surangani via Chaurah changed the life of local people. The unemployed got jobs and some opened their own shops, tea-stalls, dhabas etc near the project site. Many people became contractors for the project and employed local people as labourers.

People started adopting modern ways of living and medical and educational facilities improved.

Subsequently, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) ushered in further development in the area. Construction of the 540 MW Chamera hydroelectric project (stage-I) was initiated in Dalhousie-Banikhet-Khairi-Churah-Sundla duringh eighties early nineties. The commissioning of 300 MW Chamera hydroelectric project (stage-II) three years ago, now on Chamba-Bharmour road axis, has opened up a new era of development in this region.

Besides, 231 MW Chamera project is under construction and Rs 60 crores have already been spent on it. The Pathankot-Banikhet road has been double laned. Earlier there used to be hardly any access to areas like Khairi, Simbleu, Baggi and Sherpur etc, and even during investigation stage of project helicopters were used for transshipment of men and material. Today, these areas have excellent roads!

For Chamera-I, NHPC has constructed around 50 km of new roads, besides widening the Pathankot-Bathri road. For these projects, NHPC has constructed five bridges over river Ravi, besides building many small bridges on tiny streams. Baloo bridge on Ravi was the first to be constructed for Baira Siul project.

For Chamera Project (Stage-II), the first-ever bridge over Ravi on the Chamba-Pathankot highway was constructed with an estimated cost of Rupees 5 crore. Two other major bridges have also been constructed; besides the roads from Baloo to Hardaspura and Chamba to Garola have been widened. 



Literary genius to the core
Ashok Raina

D.D. Shastri
D.D. Shastri

Durga Dutt Shastri, a doyen of Sanskrit language who wrote 16 books, passed away on December 29. Ninety-one-year Shastri was born in village Naleti in Dehra subdivision of Kangra district on August 28, 1917.

Shastri belonged to a poor family and his father passed away when he was a month old. He completed his schooling from Hoshiarpur in Punjab. His son Shesh Bushan informed that Shastri joined a Sanskrit school at Nadun and was collecting one anna each from 13 shopkeepers as his remuneration. He married Ram Rakhe Devi in 1942 and left for Chood Munda in Sialkot, Pakistan. After partition he shifted back to Kangra and joined the DAV school. Later, he was appointed as a teacher at government school Rait, district Kangra.

For his contribution to Sanskrit, Shastri was awarded the Vidya Alankar Award. He received the best teacher award on the national level from V.V.Giri, former Vice-President of India, on December 18, 1968 along with a commendation certificate. R. Venkat Raman, the then President of India, also awarded Shastri in 1991. Besides, former Presidents of India Dr. Zakir Hussian and Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma also showed keen interest in his works. The Uttar Pradesh government honoured him with the Bhan Bhatt Puraskar twice in 1987 and 1991. He was

Varisht Vidvan Purskar by the Himachal Pradesh government. Three of his famous works include Mudhu Vershana that focusses on the Chinese aggression in 1962; Prehat Saptpati, a book on eradication of social evils like untouchablity and dowry; and Yog Balri. He wrote both poetry and prose, and all his 16 books have been translated into Hindi language. Shastri’s first book was titled Rashter Paath Pradershnum.

In 1991, his play Trinjatkum was staged in Delhi by artistes of Sanskrit Vishwa Vidyalaya. Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Kurukshetra Universities have introduced his books in their curriculum.

Shastri was member of Board of Text Books, member of Himachal Pradesh University Court and member of Himachal Pradesh Art, Language and Culture department. Shastri is survived by his 82-year-old wife and two sons. A prayer meeting would be held at Naleti in his honour on January 5, 2008, at 11.30 A.M. 



The muse rises in Shimla
by Shriniwas Joshi

Deuteronomy, in the early 19th century, wrote in Views of Simla, a verse on the town, “A good land, / A land of brooks of water, / of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills: / A land of wheat and barley, / and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; / a land of olive oil and honey.” Most of the adornments are missing in the present day Shimla, but it is true that when the clouds come down the sky and caress you, when snow flakes fondle your face, when greenery below and azure sky above greets you, when the bracing sunlight gives you the warmth on a cold day, the muse rises in you. Samartha Vashishtha, visiting Jakhu, was struck by the muse and wrote a beautiful nugget in 2001, “On the ban (Himalayan Oak) / sits the ape / and wonders / ‘Who coloured the sky / and pinned it / to the Jakhu peak?”

Shimla had been a city where almost all art forms made inroads during the Raj. Troubadour’s songs, a creation of the 13th century having a disputed etymology, French linguists finding its roots in ‘trobar’ meaning ‘to invent, compose, or devise’ and the Arabians seeing its origin in the word ‘tarrab’ signifying ‘to sing’, were being composed here too.

All over the world about 2,500 troubadour songs were written; out of which only 300 survived. These are generally monophonic and have been categorised as Canso, the love songs; Danso, the dance songs; Pasterolla, a knight’s song for her beloved shepherdess, Alba, where the watchman warns a couple that morning has set in and that their spouses may see them in compromising position plus seven other categories. O.C.Sud in The Simla Story has given Shimla’s troubadour song, a taunt on one Lady Browne, who had an affair with Don Gavaroni-Macaroni of Chaura Maidan: “Ladye, ladye, tell me who you are, / Do you come from sunny land afar? Or were you born in Simla town, / And have you dropped the name of Browne / For Don Gavaroni-Macaroni, Pride of Chaura Maidan!” A person exceeding the ordinary bounds of fashion in clothing and displaying fastidious eating and gambling habits was called Macaroni.

There was a lyricist with pen-name of Adrian Ross, who had described Shimla as ‘Over the Mountain Passes, / Under the Peaks of Snow’. Born at Lewisham in 1859, Arthur Reed Ropes was a brilliant academician. He wrote lyrics for 60 musical comedies, including those staged at The Gaiety in Shimla. He had adopted the pseudonym assuming that writing lyrics for stage comedies might jeopardise his academic career. But his anxiety was unwarranted because the opening verse, declared as the work of Rudyard Kipling, prior to a play on June 9, 1887, gave Shimla stage a lofty status, “As tribute to your taste,/ WE CERTIFY THE SIMLA STAGE IS CHASTE./ Mellowed by age and cooled by tampering time,/ We find it venerable and sublime.” Ross died in 1933.

The lifestyle of the British in Shimla is described in a four-liner as also the awe of Ms Grundy to which they stood. Ms Grundy was an imaginary character in Thomas Morton’s play Speed the Plough (1798) and typifies the censorship enacted in everyday life by conventional opinion. The force of the character was so strong, like Gabbar of Sholey, that people had started believing that Ms Grundy did exist in flesh and blood, “They dance and dine and sleep and plod, / And go to Church on Sunday. / And many are afraid of God. / But more fear Ms Grundy.”

Rudyard Kipling introduced Shimla to the entire English speaking world, which embraced the opening. The Old Song reflects his fancy to the city along with the love for his beloved,”So long as Tara Devi sees / The lights o’ Simla town, / ………If you love me as I love you / What pair so happy we two?”


During Raj, many men had to stay back on duty, while their wives came to the hills. The Simla Story captures the scene in a popular poem as,

Jack’s own Jill goes up the hill

To (Simla) Muree or Chakrata;

Jack remains and dies in the plains

And Jill remarries soon afta (after). 



Cabinet Formation
Dhumal faces a herculean task
Pratibha Chauhan

Having already taken the stand that the BJP would not appoint chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS) and PS, it is the Cabinet formation which is proving to be the most difficult task for chief minister P.K. Dhumal for the moment.

Back from Delhi, Dhumal is expected to expand his Cabinet on December 9. With a large number of senior party men, many of whom have remained ministers in the past having won the elections, accommodating everyone would be a near impossible task. At the same time the Chief Minister is learnt to be keen to give a chance to new faces, especially the youth.

It is expected that the list of probables will be finalised by the high command in consultation with Shanta Kumar. The newly elected MLAs have already started lobbying for inclusion in the Cabinet.

Striking a balance between regional and caste factors would be another challenge for Dhumal. Added to that is the problem of giving a fair share to Shanta loyalists, many of whom, especially from Kangra district, have won. Similarly, this time the party has done exceptionally well in the middle belt of Kullu and Mandi.

The party has won nine seats in the biggest and politically significant district of Kangra and it is expected that three ministers could be made from here. The names of Krishan Kapoor, Ramesh Dhawala and Rajan Sushant, all former ministers in the Dhumal regime, are doing the rounds. The name of Ravinder Ravi, a Dhumal loyalist, is also being taken but it remains to be seen how the Chief Minister strikes a balance.

Mandi is another district from where a maximum of three ministers could be appointed. However, the list of contenders is long as there are former ministers, Gulab Singh, Roop Singh Thakur, Mohinder Singh and Jai Ram Thakur. There is a possibility that Gulab Singh is once again made the Speaker while under the one man-one post principle, Jai Ram Thakur could be left out.

With the BJP making a clean sweep by wining of all five seats in Solan and all three in Kullu, one minister each will be made from here. The choice will have to be made between Harinarain Saini and Rajiv Bindal, a Dhumal loyalist.

From Bilaspur, J.P. Nadda, former health minister, could be the obvious choice. Similarly, besides the Chief Minister, Hamirpur could be given another berth to accommodate I.D. Dhiman, who till now was leader of the opposition in the House after Dhumal was elected MP.

One of the four women MLAs is sure to be elevated. It remains to be seen whether selection would be made on the basis of seniority or caste and regional factors would hold good. 



Farmers write to PM, seek soft loans
Rajiv Mahajan

Farmers and fruit growers of lower Kangra district have submitted a representation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding soft loans on four per cent per annum interest to the farmers and growers in Himachal Pradesh.

According to Manoj Pathania, the state delegate of the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), a letter has been submitted to the Prime Minister in this connection demanding simplification of the procedural formalities in according loans to the farming community.

He said the government should exempt registration fees while mortgaging land in getting loans, revenue and service tax.

He also demanded exploitation of water resources for the farmers and growers and the union government should earmark a separate budget to this state for this purpose.

The ATMA delegate also underlined the need of providing venues on the pattern of Andhra Pradesh for vegetable and grain mandis so that the growers could sell their farm produce on their own and escape from economic exploitation of commission agents, market committee fees. 



Academy honours artist
Our Correspondent

The Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata, a famous institution of India, recently honoured Vijay Sharma for his contributions to pahari paintings on the concluding day of a weeklong workshop in Kolkata, earlier this month.

Sharma who belongs to Chamba (Himachal Pradesh) is also a recipient of a National Award for his paintings. Both the artists were given a rousing reception on their return to Chamba recently. 



Death mourned
Our Correspondent

The Himachal Pradesh State Journalists Federation, Bilaspur, has expressed shock and grief over the death of former Himachal director of public relations Hemender Lal Vaidya and expressed sympathy with the bereaved family. President Jai Kumar said here that Vaidya was an honest and upright officer who always kept his duty above everything else and had a record of having very cordial and affectionate relations with journalists of the state. The federation has also mourned the sudden death of Ashok Plato, a news editor in a daily newspaper at Jalandhar. 





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