Green protest
People rise against cement plants — five more are in the works — that are damaging the fragile eco-system of the state
Ravinder Sood

The decision of the state government to go head with five more cement plants in the state has attracted widespread resentment not only from environmentalist groups but also from the general public. In the Karsog, Chopal, Sundernagar and Chamba areas where these plants are to be set up, the residents have protested against the decision of the government. 

Various environmental organisations, panchayats and local bodies have criticised the government and alleged that the government was pleasing the cement companies at the cost of ecology of the state. 

The Himachal Welfare and Environment Protection Forum has reminded the government that it had not learnt any lesson from its past experience with the Ambuja and ACC cement plants, who had played havoc with nature, environment and hundreds of km of green hills had gone barren in Bilaspur and Solan districts. 

If five more cement plants were allowed to come up in the state it would result in a large-scale environmental degrading in the state. Besides, the government had to allow felling of 20,000 green trees for the installation of these plants. Karsog and Chopal will be worst affected, as thousand of acres of land covered with dense forest will be used for mining and extraction of limestones by these companies. 

It is a well-known fact that the plants have already done irreparable damage to the human environment, particularly in Solan and Bilaspur districts. 

The Darlaghat valley in Solan district is an example where environment laws were openly flouted and the state remained a silent spectator. T

he valley at one time was covered with lush green forests and was rich in flora and fauna has now turned into barren hills because of reckless mining, large-scale deforestation and vast industrialisation. Poisonous gases, dust from industrial plants and automobile exhaust are polluting the area. 

Majority of the population living in these areas have been suffering from various diseases like asthma, skin disease and TB. Even the state pollution board has failed to take cognisance of repeated public complaints in this respect. It is a sad state of affairs that the new BJP government which, is well conversant with the situation, has also become a mute spectator to the issue. The new government is yet to declare its policy regarding the setting up of these plants in the state.

The recent statement of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal that it would press the cement companies to maintain the eco balance in the state. it seems to be supporting the cause of big industrial houses.

In the past, the Congress as well as the BJP government had failed to implement the directions of the state pollution control board and the Ministry of Environment.

The cement plants set up here have been enjoying complete tax holidays granted by the government causing loss of crores of rupees to the state exchequer year after year.

The state do not expect any tax from these plants for the next 10 years as per the agreement signed with these industrial houses.

At the rate the dense forests are disappearing, there may not be any forest cover in the next 20 years. The reckless and unplanned industrialisation in the state are responsible for the shrinkage of the forest cover in the state. The destruction of forests, particularly in the Darlaghat has led to the extinction of many rare species of wildlife and turned land into fallow wasteland.

The data provided by the US spacecraft Landsat, is quite alarming. It has revealed that India’s forest cover declined from 16.9 per cent to 14.1 percent in the early eighties. The deforestation has already resulted in the change of rainfall pattern in Himachal Pradesh. Besides, continuing long spells of dry weather in the past four years, the state has also witnessed flashfloods in which over two hundred persons died and property worth crores of rupees were also destroyed. 



Feline Fear
Dharam Prakash Gupta 

As the human-leopard conflict continues to rock Hamirpur district, wildlife experts have come out with a long-term solution to this problem. They have suggested that humans learn to co-exist with the beast. 

The reports of leopard attacks on domestic animals and human beings are quite common in the district as a large part of its terrain is the habitat of the beast and other wild animals. 

Sujanpur and the Toani Devi area under the Hamirpur forest range and the Bhareri area of the Aghar range have a large number of leopards in the area and the people living near the forests complain of leopard attacks. According to a census report of the Forest Department, 30 leopards have their habitat here. 

The leopard attacks are reported throughout the year, but they increase with the onset of winter, when the villagers venture in forests and grasslands to fetch grass or firewood. As such, 130 cases have been reported in the past three years. 

The villagers have been raising the issue with the administration, whenever there has been an attack on human beings or cattle. But so far, there has been no long-term solution to this problem. 

With every attack on human beings, the villagers demand killing of the beast but keeping in view the wildlife concerns, the department has its own reservations. 

Hamirpur DFO Sanjay Sud said, “We take all measures to check the human or cattle loss from leopard attacks by laying traps and have even killed a man-eater. We also give compensations to victims, but we cannot kill all leopards”.

“Learning to co-exist with them and having awareness about them are the most important factors that will help in finding a long-term solution to this problem” wildlife experts said. 

Sud said a study was also being conducted to find a long-term solution to the problem by researchers of the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun. 

Awareness about the habits of leopards and methods of protection from them is of utmost importance the experts said.

As a precaution, the people should not provoke the beast, or let children venture near the forest areas, especially at dusk or dawn, move in groups and carry long sticks and torches, while moving in the dark, they added further.



Will it be R-Day blues?
Rakesh Lohumi 

The people of the state will have the first glimpse of the new uniform, which the state police propose to introduce by replacing the traditional “khaki” during the Republic Day Parade.

The mounted police and the cops handling the dog squad will be seen in blue trousers and white shirts in the parade. 

The Police Department for over five years had been working on various colour combinations to replace the “khakis” of the British era and finally it had selected the blue and white combination, which is in vogue the world over.

The government had so far not approved the proposal for the change of uniform though it had been under consideration for the past quite sometime. The participation of the mounted police and the dog squad in the new uniform was purely on an experimental basis. The objective was to gauge the response of the public and those who matter in the government. A positive response will help expedite things and the government may finally give its nod to the long-pending proposal.

The change will be carried out in phases depending on the approval from the government. The final aim is to have a uniform, like that of the Army, for the entire police sight from head of the department to the constable, says director general of police Ashwini Kumar. 

e distinction will be in the stars, which indicate the rank. Also there is a proposal to replace the khaki jackets of the gazetted police officers with blue jackets made from waterproof material. For women police the khaki cap is to be replaced with a blue cap. The state government is competent to approve the new uniform for the state police service and non-gazetted staff. However, an approval from the Centre will have to be obtained for changing the dress code for the Indian Police Service Officers. The move to change the uniform was initiated in 2002 but with trial display of new uniform at the Republic Day the proposal seems to have reached the implementation stage.



Calendar of adventure
Choose from snow slopes, seascapes, whitewater and more to make 2008 an activity-filled year! 
Yana Banerjee-Bey

IF you want to adopt adventure sports as a lifestyle or even if you can only manage to squeeze in an activity or two at intervals, you will get the most out of your time, energy and money if you plan well in advance. So here’s a ready reckoner on what happens when and where in India, and the best season to learn if you are a novice. I am listing only the most popular adventure activities – because the infrastructure is already in place and you have more options when it comes to choosing locales, instructors and accommodation. Be adventurous and have a great year!

Skiing & Snowboarding

THESE are winter sports and the best months are January-March though some years there is adequate snow till mid-April. The season then begins again in November-December. The best places to learn are Solang (Himachal) and Auli (Uttarakhand). Solang has a great atmosphere and you get to know many of India’s top skiers. But there is only one slope and the ski lift is not as efficient as the one in Auli. Once you have learned, Gulmarg (J&K) is the best place to practise with its many slopes of varying difficulty. To upgrade ability, you need new slopes because after running a slope three times you can anticipate its dips and bumps and the surprise element is lost.

Best season to learn: January-February

Snorkelling & Diving

THESE activities can be done from January-April and again from October-December. The interruption in the middle is due to the monsoon when the sea is rough. You can learn to snorkel and dive in Goa, Lakshadweep and Andamans. You can also go to Pondicherry, where the best times are October and March. Other months are not recommended due to poor visibility and undercurrents. Goa is a sensible choice for learning because it costs less to travel there and there is always the chance that you might find the activity not to your liking. However, visibility is not as good as in Lakshadweep and Andamans. After learning, do visit Lakshadweep considered among the world’s top ten diving destinations.

Best season to learn: November-March

Rafting & Kayaking

WHITEWATER sports are done from January-June and September-December on the Ganga, Bhagirathi and Alaknanda. On the Beas, the best months are May-June and September-October. When the monsoon swells these rivers, the action shifts to dry Ladakh’s Indus and Zanskar during July-August. Rafting is a team activity while kayaking is solo. So see where your inclination lies. The adventure tour operators who run commercial trips also organise kayaking courses on the Ganga and you can join one. However, few people want to sign up for rafting courses so they are not held regularly. Usually, tour operators teach only those people who join them as river guides. But they are happy to organise a course for anyone wanting to learn rafting as a hobby. Sports institutes hold courses in flat water kayaking on reservoirs and lakes but these courses will be of no use to you if you want to learn whitewater kayaking, so beware.

Best season to learn: May-June

Mountain Biking

THERE are no formal courses for this activity. If you didn’t learn to ride a bicycle as a child, then you will first have to go through the tumbles and scraped knees before you can enjoy riding a many-geared bike that lets you climb and descend grassy hillsides, muddy paths and boulder-strewn terrain in a jiffy.

There are short as well as long itineraries with trails of varying grades in Himachal, Uttarakhand and Ladakh offered by adventure tour operators in Manali, Shimla, Rishikesh and Leh.

You can also choose to stay in tents or in hotels. Do the trails around Rishikesh during January-March, the Himachal trails during April-June and the Ladakh ones during the monsoon months. During September-December, the Uttarakhand and Himachal trails can be done until the snow arrives.

Best season to learn: March-May

The writer has authored India’s first handbook of adventure sports and is available at 



Ski Resorts
It’s all about thrills, frills and chills
Kuldeep Chauhan

After experiencing about 2-3 feet of fresh snow this week, the ski resorts of Solang in Manali and Narkanda in Shimla offer thrills, frills and chills for the skiers and the walk-in tourists from across the globe. The main skiing action this year is at the Narkanda ski resort, which is hosting the juniors and subjuniors national winter games championships from February 4 to 7 this year, for visitors if all goes as planed by the winter games association.

The tourists have already started zeroing in on the Solang Ski Resort near Manali to get a detour down the ski slopes there. The Solang resort has been braced up for the amateurs and thrill-seekers as skiing has caught up the fancy of youngsters.

“It is an experience of a life time to run on the skis kicking up fresh powder,” says Anirudh Singh, a business executive from Jaipur, who comes every year for skiing at the ski resort and at the Skiing-cum-High Altitude Trekking Centre, Narkanda, about 55 km from Shimla.

The skiing is a harbinger of not only thrills, for the tourists and professionals but it also provides seasonal bread and butter to locals, who provide horses, ski boots, and snow gears and other snow equipments to tourists in otherwise a élan winter tourist season in Manali.

Apart from skiing, the Solang resort offers an array of special snow sports, snow sledges and snow scooters for children and women and those on the 800m-long ski run.

“We earn our bread from tourists in winter, who are attracted to this place just because of snow”, says Dolma and Radha, who offer ski boots and snow gears to the tourists at Solang. “The tourists arrival drops in winter drastically, but after snowfall it picks up a bit”, they add.

The ski resort at Narkanda in the Shimla tourist circuit is thronged by snow lovers and learners, who learn skiing at the institute and private trainers also help them train.

But the main attraction at the Narkanda resort is the winter games. The skiing teams from Himachal, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana are participating. The budding skiers will compete for the slalom and giant slalom, including the cross country and other snow races.

The HP Winter Games Association is holding the games. Its secretary Rupesh Kanwal said, the championships would be held from February 4 to 7 provided the resort had enough snow available at that time. “As of now we have about two feet of snow available at Narkanda and hope the place gets more snow in the coming weeks. Arrangements are being made to host the championships”, he added.

Even the Institute of Mountaineering, Adventure Sports, Manali, offers ski courses for learners at reasonable prices. “One batch has already learnt the courses. The next bout of ski courses will start as and when the institute will get over 40 learners. The ski courses continue till March”, officials said.

The institute offers two types of courses - basic and special courses - for learners. The basic course last for 14 days while the special course lasts for seven days.

The snow instructors impart training in skiing, ski exercises, sliding on skis, straight running, side-slipping, snow plough, ski turns, falls and recovery.

The institute charges Rs 3,150 per person for the course that includes boarding and lodging and other expenses for the learners. 



No buyers for Paonta sugarcane 
S. R. Pundir

In the absence of any purchaser for their produce, sugarcane growers of Paonta valley are literally fighting to make two ends meet. Doiwala Sugar Mill in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh is not purchasing sugarcane from the valley any longer.

And even when that is done sugarcane remains in the collection centres of the mill for months together. Worse, payment to farmers is also delayed for months.

Despite registration of 1,400 farmers of Paonta valley with the mill, the latter is not showing much interest to buy sugarcane from them. This has discouraged the production of sugarcane, the area for which has squeezed to 9,000 bighas now.

However, the recent announcement by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati during her visit to Paonta that Doiwala Sugar Mill would start purchasing again and make instant payment to farmers has brought some hope to the beleagured community.

During the seventies, when government owned Khandsari factory was functional, over 3,000 farmers from Paonta valley were producing around 12-lakh quintals of sugarcane per annum. But after the factory was shut, largely due to embezzlement of funds, sugarcane production of the valley was reduced to seven lakh quintals per year. The number of farmers also dipped to 2000.

“After ginger, sugarcane is the main cash crop of the region. It is sad that due to sheer negligence of state government the crop and its producers are being ruined,” alleged S. S. Gill, state president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Himachal Pradesh.

He said around 6,000 farmers from Paonta valley have been demanding establishment of a sugar mill here for the past 20 years, but their voice has fallen on deaf ears. The issue is raised only during election campaigns to garner votes of sugarcane farmers, but conveniently forgotten once polls are over.

Gill informed that at present local crushers were purchasing sugarcane at a very low price of Rs 70 per quintal, which does not even recover production costs of farmers. Doiwala Sugar mill had declared a purchase price of Rs 170 per quintal, but the purchase has not take place till the date. Last year, only 3.5 lakh quintal sugarcane was purchased by the mill.

The leader added that BKU had several times written to the state government that if a sugar mill were established in Paonta valley, sugarcane production would cross 30-lakh quintal per annum within three years. This would also help increase the number of producers to five thousand and over 20 thousand bighas of land would come under sugarcane production immediately.



Develop Dalhousie the modern way
Balkrishan Prashar

Dalhousie is going through a period of rapid change and the people living in this hill town feel that it should be developed as a modern tourist destination.

The first engineer was sent here from Lahore in 1851 to map out a town in the wooded forest of the Chamba hills and level its three malls.

“We are at a tuning-point in the new millennium and need new ideas and money to develop Dalhousie in an exciting way. We also need people or institutions with a vision to give a new direction; otherwise, we will end up being merely a dormitory for people from the plains who want to sleep for a few nights without fans. Let us see why this is so”, this is in fact the thinking of intellectuals living here who have emotional attachment for the green hill station.

Let us look at the past. The British planned Dalhousie as a sanatorium where soldiers and civilians from the plains of Punjab could come and restore their health in summers. Officers bought the plots that were marked out and auctioned by the government. They built their own summer homes, which changed hands fairly frequently. For recreation, they made tennis courts, a squash court, assembly rooms, a club and a pub. On Sundays, they went to worship in the beautifully built churches in the centre of town, which still keep records of all baptisms, marriages and burials that took place at that time.

For civilians, the summers were meant for family holidays and there were picnics and long walks through the forests to the rest house like those of Cheel Bangalo or Kala Tope. There was golf course at Khajjiar and a horseracing course at Banikhet. For those who fell sick, there was a civil hospital and for those who did not recover there was a large cemetery, again a source of interest to social historians. The military had their own programmes in the Dalhousie Cantonment.

Quite suddenly with the Independence in 1947, Dalhousie’s barracks and houses became deserted. The few elite Indian families, who owned summerhouses alongside the British invited Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to come and see what he could do for the ghost town.

In 1952, Nehru came and stayed with Raizada Hans Raj Sondhi at his home, Ashiana, on Bakrota Hills. He liked Dalhousie and felt that it was a pity that the town should be empty. He urged the Indian Army to occupy the barracks and saw to it that some government offices were established in the town.

Dalhousie began to change from a summer resort to an all-the-year round town. The lack of summer visitors was filled up in the 1960s by an influx of Tibetan refugees and by hippies in the 1970s, who wanted a cheap place to stay.

Personalities of paramount enterprise were able to buy up adjoining houses and founded the Dalhousie Public School (DPS) in the 1970s and this brought in a large number of pupils from Punjab. The Canadians too, who came to build the Chamera Dam in the 1970-80 added to the town socially and materially, building homes throughout the year. Dalhousie was no longer primarily a favourite holiday destination, though the youth hostel and Punjab University still maintained their hotels.

Then in the late 1980s came, what the people call, “Maruti Revolution”. Middle-class families packed off with their families for a holiday to Dulhousie. They couldn’t own and maintain hill houses, and their idea of a holiday was very different from the British. They wanted to see as much of the country as possible. They wanted restaurants where their wives could enjoy meals and hotels as a base from which they could go and see different sights.



Time’s Old Chariot
by Shriniwas Joshi

The most photographed venue here is the Clock Tower that Shimla has and is attached to the Christ Church on The Ridge.

The cornerstone of the church was laid in September 1844, but the project remained in the icebox amidst the coldness of men, who mattered for quite a few years and could only be consecrated on January 10, 1857, the ceremony being performed by the Right Reverend Thomas Dealtry, Bishop of Madras.


* Clock Tower was erected in 1860 and the porch built in 1873

* The three-faced clock was gifted for the tower by one Colonel Dumbleton in 1860

* It was a mechanical clock driven by weights working under the force of gravity through a motor

* The Big Ben of London was constructed a year earlier

* The two clock towers were designed by eccentric architects

The grandeur of the church was enhanced when the Clock Tower was erected in 1860 and the porch built in 1873. The three-faced clock with each face having about 17 feet circumference was gifted for the tower by one Colonel Dumbleton in 1860. It was a conventional mechanical clock driven by weights working under the force of gravity through a motor.

There are six pipes of varying sizes attached to it that used to give sonorous sound from hour to hour when a wooden hammer struck the pipes under the automatic mechanical action. The clock can be reached through 54 steps inside the tower. It worked well during the British period but could not withstand the departure of its makers from India and has been behaving waywardly since then.

When the Clock Tower was being constructed in Shimla, the largest chiming clock of the world, commonly called the Big Ben, was also in process of being erected in London. This four-faced clock in the tower became operational on. September 8, 1859, hardly a year earlier than the one at Shimla.

Another coincidence is that the two clock towers were designed by eccentric architects - the Tower at Westminster, London, under the overall charge of Charles Barry was designed by Augustus Pugin, who immediately died of madness. Shimla design, in Tudor style, was done by Colonel J.T. Boileau, who along with his brother once stood on his head (Shirshasan Mudra) to receive the viceroy at a dinner-party.

Undeterred by the quote “there is nothing useless in the world, even the still clock gives right time twice in 24 hours”; the church management had been making attempts to bring the vintage clock at Shimla to the right time-track. An electro-mechanical device was replaced by mechanical system and a master digital clock (MDC) controlling its three faces through a motor manufactured by Perconta, Germany, was installed by Asea Brown Bovery, Zurich, Switzerland, in 1997. The Swiss experts are acclaimed in matters related to clocks and watches, although they are often ridiculed for this.

“In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock,” is a dialogue in a film -’The Third Man’. Despite their expertise and only 10-year-old MDC running on a nine-volt battery; having time, date and day arrangements; zone and type settings and a mechanism to check on the chiming system, the clock on the tower remained a showpiece.

Commander V.K. Chanchalani (retired), managing director of HIMCON, observed that a clock of the type, again about 100- year-old, was being properly managed by The Chief of Materials at the naval dockyard in Mumbai. He was contacted, and he sent a team of experts headed by P.C. Mathews to remove the cobwebs on the clock here so that it could start working again.

The team visiting Shimla twice in 2005-07 regulated it and it started ticking for a short period but soon it was back to square one. Their suggestions to cover the faces of the clock by unbreakable glasses to check pigeon and monkey menace and to install an uninterrupted power supply system to check the loss of the least count of a minute due to signal transfer to the motor from the MDC whenever there is an electricity trip up are in the wish-basket of the management. Their transfer from the wish-basket to the will-basket is awaited. The more the trip ups, the more the bad time for the clock.


During the British period, Jawaharlal Nehru had announced that there would be no place for corrupt politicians and officials in Independent India and that all such people would be hanged from the Clock Tower at Chandni Chowk. The tower waited for years to watch the spectacle but when none of the corrupt was brought there, it collapsed.



Malana is alive but only on celluloid
Rakesh Lohumi

The fire God has swallowed a major portion of the historic Malana, famous for its world’s oldest surviving democratic system, unique culture and autonomous administration. Much of the valuable heritage preserved over centuries due to the inaccessibility of the secluded ancient habitation has been lost, but the people can relive the memories of the bustling village captured in celluloid by film maker Vivek Mohan, a decade ago.

Vivek Mohan
Vivek Mohan

The first and the last film on the village has now become the most important document which can help recreate the destroyed heritage and the original ambience. It was his debut film which earned him the coveted President’s National Award in 1999.

It took a lot of effort, time, determination and tactics to film the life of a village that had been averse to joining the main stream and where outsiders were unwelcome.

Vivek trekked the village located at an altitude of around 10,000 ft nine times over a period of four years to make the 73-minute film. He started the project in 1994 and it it could be completed only in 1998.

The people were initially hostile to the very idea of making a film and did not allow him to get anywhere near the village with his camera and other equipment. It was sheer perseverance which enabled him to befriend some villagers, some of them even came all the way to Shimla to see for themselves what the film was all about, he recalls.

He somehow managed to convince the village elders that the film would do no harm to them but would only help preserve their rich cultural heritage. He explained to them that “all of us” would perish in due course of time, but the video film he intended to make would remain always.

This philosophical approach did the trick but it was only after the approval of the Upper House of the village, the supreme decision-making body, granted the permission with conditions.

Call it providence or a coincidence that the fire-devastated village is alive only in the celluloid today, he says with a sense of loss and grief. He plans to screen the film at the international Dasehra festival at Kullu this year.

His team had to play hoax with the villagers to shoot some of the prohibited structures. In all, he spent about 100 days in the village and managed to have a total footage of over five hours. However, he kept the trust of the villagers and showed them the entire footage. All shots which the villagers found objectionable were edited.

Looking ahead, the tragedy could well be a turning point for the village, which has resisted joining the mainstream all these years. All built up heritage is indeed perishable like the human body and what needs to be preserved is the “spirit of democracy” for which the village has been known, he says.

“The village has opened up a bit to the world in recent years and its people have also been exposed to the modern society. If they prefer to build modern houses rather than the traditional hill structures let them do so as modernisation has to come sooner or later”, he said. The temple structure could be recreated but animal trophies and other items of great sentimental value to the residents which adorned their walls have been lost for ever.

The concern of the government should be to preserve “the oldest functioning democratic system” which has earned Malana its present status. It should be developed as a hub of eco-tourism to showcase the unique culture. The tourists should be shown the meetings of the Upper House and the Lower House and functioning of the court for which necessary infrastructure should be created. A meeting hall with a visitor’s gallery from where tourists can witness proceedings should be built in traditional architecture.

Destruction and creation are integral part of the lifecycle, the end of the old era should lead to a new beginning, he asserts. His film also ends on a summary note from Bhagwad Gita which says “nothing is permanent except change”.



Geharwin to become model area
Jai Kumar

Geharwin would be developed into a model area and all efforts would be made to ensure that problems relating to roads, drinking water, irrigation and staff in the health centres and schools were solved at the earliest. BJP MLA Rikhi Ram Kondal declared this while addressing a series of village meetings at Salassi, Sundhadu, Chwamb, Kheda, Siru and Bery Darolan yesterday in connection with his public contact programme after his victory in the election.

Kondal declared that Rs 40 lakh would be spent on augmentation of the Salassi-Geharwin-Jangla drinking water supply scheme and Rs 2 lakh would be spent to provide drinking water in the Scheduled Castes basti of Siru.

Kondal said the supply of LPG cylinders would be extended up to Salassi village which was earlier being done up to Geharwin village only. He said Bilaspur-Thuran via Salassi HRTC bus service, which was stopped during the former Congress regime, had also been resumed .

Kondal assured that he would take up the matter of construction of Bery Darolan-Khairiyan bridge with the Chief Minister . Present on occasion were BDC chairman Sarla Chandel and prominent BJP leaders Krishan Singh Chandel, Multan Singh Chandel, Kishori Lal and Sunita Soni, among others.



shimla diary
CM keen to break ‘Oak Over’ jinx 
Pratibha Chauhan

Being the only Chief Minister, who has completed a full term in the official residence of the Chief Minister, ‘Oak Over’ P. K. Dhumal moved in for his second term into the sprawling bungalow with the hope of completing another five years.

Despite having assumed the office on December 30, last year, he moved in only now on January 18, as nine is his lucky number. Keeping in view his faith in astrology and numerology, he made it a point to move in at the most auspicious time so as to ensure that this time too he is able to break the jinx as no other Chief Minister being able to complete five years stay in the ‘Oak Over’.

In the past Shanta Kumar, was unable to complete five-year stay in the ‘Oak Over’ on two occasions. The five-term Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh never lived in the ‘Oak Over’ as he preferred to stay at his private residence ‘Holly Lodge’, in Jakhu.

Keeping in view the fact that no other Chief Minister got to stay in the official residence for full five years, Dhumal is hoping that this time too he will make an exception by completing his tenure and break the jinx for all times to come.

Met words not true for Shimla

Despite all higher reaches and tribal belts getting heavy snowfall, the weather gods are once again ignoring the ‘Queen of Hills’ as there has been practically no snow this year too.

The nearby famous tourist resorts of Narkanda, Kufri and Mashobra too have had snowfall this winter but locals as well as tourists are still awaiting to see the town under a white blanket. It was only on December 10, that there was a short spell mild snowfall. Even Manali, Dalhousie and other hill stations have had heavy snowfall except Shimla.

The prediction of the met office here that there would be snow in most parts of the state turned out to be true except for Shimla. Surprisingly, even thought the minimum temperature has touched zero yet there has been no trace of snow.

“It is probably the excessive urbanisation coupled with haphazard construction activity which has led to such a situation. Over the past few years, there has been so much of construction activity along with deforestation and increase in pollution level that the temperatures are not low enough to induce precipitation,” Manmohan Singh, in charge of the local meteorological office said.

The locals are still hoping that with another two months of winter still left, the town may witness a heavy snowfall. Those associated with the tourism industry too are keeping their fingers crossed as they do good business in winters, which otherwise is a lean season for them.

No kids at functions, please

The decision of he Chief Minister banning presence of schoolchildren at official functions has been appreciated. This will save them from hours of agony as they were usually forced to sit in the scorching heat or chilling cold while the arrival of the chief guest was awaited, especially during the official functions attended by chief ministers, who are usually late.

The presence of the schoolchildren at functions was a way to ensure better crowd presence, even if it amounted to inconvenience for them.

Besides, this Dhumal has also directed that no official function would be held on the school premises on a working day, as studies of the children is bound to be affected. 



Fund crunch makes sanatorium ill
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

TB Sanatorium at Dharmapur is lying incomplete for want of funds. The future of state’s first TB Training, Research and Demonstration Centre looks bleak as the state TB authorities have refused to allocate more funds for the setting up of required infrastructure for the training centre. Rs 18-lakh budget was earmarked for the setting up of infrastructure for the training centre that included conversion of the female patient ward into a hostel and a lecture hall. However, nothing concrete has taken place so far expect the halfway conversion of the female ward into a hostel.

A culture lab, the first of its kind in state, was planned to be set up in the sanatorium. It would house requisite infrastructure to demarcate the multi-drug resistance cases from the normal TB patients.

The lab needed equipments worth Rs 30 lakh. The deputy director, General Central TB Division, New Delhi, along with other senior officials had visited the sanatorium twice. The equipments were to be arranged by the central TB division. But till now no equipment has been received. 



Policy change: Pharma companies cry foul 
Ambika Sharma

With a virtual tug-of-war-like situation between the pharmaceutical manufacturers in the excise-laden and excise-free states the efforts of the former to dilute the tax holiday by imposing duty on loan licensing have once again become strong. Sources in the industry said efforts were afoot to get the tax benefits annulled for those engaged in loan licensing from the Ministry of Finance.

This move, if implemented, would ruin the prospects of hundreds of such units engaged in loan licensing. Earlier too, pressure created by the non-incentive states had made the central government to moot a proposal to withdraw central excise benefits from the loan licensees. With a view to counter this move the Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry (small scales) had sought a clarification from the Ministry of Finance on July 31, 2006. The reply given by the ministry had clearly stated that “the exemption under the notification is for a manufacturer manufacturing the goods in the specified area and is not dependent on the fact whether such manufacturer produces these goods for himself or on job work or a loan licence basis.” Now with the issue again coming to forefront the Himachal Pradesh Drug Manufacturers Association (HPDMA) had decided to pursue it at the highest level.

It met recently to deliberate over the issue, said they would plead its case on the basis of clarification sought by them. As per this letter P.No. 102/3/2006-CX.3, dated July 31, 2006, issued from the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue, the exemptions were meant for manufacturers and it was not dependent on the fact whether such manufacturers produced these goods themselves or on job work or loan licensee basis.

The investors rued that this abrupt move would not only offset the economics of all these units but would also lead to unemployment. “Since a majority of the units in Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area manufactured drugs under loan licensees the move would adversely affect them. The chunk of renowned companies who manufactured their own products were few, while a vast majority comprised those who worked under loan licensees. The proposed move would lead to their exodus from these incentive states as there would be no benefit available for them and logistics alone led to 2 to 5 per cent price rise,” confided a leading drug manufacturer of Baddi. HPDMA president R.K. Arora said: “They would stand up for this cause and take it at the highest level since it was grossly unfair to discontinue excise benefits to the loan licensees at this stage.

These units established their operations after investing with the Centre’s excise benefits and any sudden move would offset their finances leaving hundreds unemployed. If the government backtracks on it’s promise of providing benefits and succumbs to the pressure it would be losing it’s own trust among the investors.”





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