Project Damned
S.R. Pundir

Renuka Lake
Renuka Lake
photo by S.R. Pundir

After the Haryana government recently raised hackle in the construction of much publicised Renuka Dam Project, residents of the Renuka area have now constituted the Renuka Bandh Jan Sangharsh Samiti to fight against the construction of Renuka Dam on the proposed site, adjacent to ancient Renuka Lake.

At the first meeting of the sangharsh samiti, which concluded at Mohtu village, the residents said Renuka Dam authorities were advised not to construct Renuka Dam at the proposed site as it was close to Renuka Lake, which is a place of worship for Hindus. Explosive to be used for the construction of tunnels on the proposed site could damage Renuka Lake.

The resolution says that due to geological disturbances caused by the proposed heavy blasting just in the radius of less than 300 m from the lake, the lake would disappear. Residents say that they have just come to know that three tunnels were to be constructed on the Giri bed close to Renuka Lake. Construction of these tunnels would pose great threat to the biggest natural lake.

The Samiti has proposed that the dam should be constructed near Mohtu village, around 3km from Dadahu. This site is safer and would pose no danger to Renuka Lake. Change of site would also save big portion of Renuka wildlife sanctuary from submerging in the dam water.

The samiti had decided that until oustees do not residential and agricultural area of their choice with all basic amenities for their rehabilitation they would not vacate their villages.

Yoginder Kapila, convener of the Renuka Dam Jan Sangharsh Samiti, said they had demanded that every affected family must get at least 10 bighas of agriculture land at the new settlement.

He said the compensation must be decided by taking the samiti into confidence. He also warned that if their grievances were ignored they would launch an agitation.

The residents of the area to be displaced from their villages had several unanswered questions in their minds regarding the security of their families and uncertainty of their future.

These residents were living in the areas spread over 12 villages of Renuka valley, including Seiun, Sheou, Bagh, Banol, Khech, Anu, Khurkana, Malan, Mathana, Mand Bagh , Jaincha Majhai, Chaminana, Motu, Lohara, Tikkri and Tanoshi. These villages would be submerge under the Dam water.

They said the state government had not decided about their rehabilitation. “We really do not know where what would be our future and where would we go after being dislodged from our native villages. How will we earn our living for our families after our agriculture land, houses, forests and orchards are submerged in the water”, R. N. Sharma of Mohtu village said.

A spokesman of the Renuka Dam project said that rehabilitation process was to be processed by the district administration Sirmaur. He claimed that the electricity board had furnished all requisite documents years back to the administration.

After several amendments, the Central Government has approved an estimate for Rs 2,100 crore for the dam. Sources said the first estimate approved in 1997 was of Rs 1252 crore.

The sources said as per the decision of the previous state government, the government would invite global tenders for the commencement of this project, which had been placed under the Pabbar Valley Power Corporation for speedy execution.

Clouds of uncertainty is looming large over the prospect of the much awaited Renuka Dam Project, which was to be constructed to fulfill the drinking water requirements of Delhi. Haryana has surprised Delhities by putting a big question mark on the construction of the dam by demanding an equal share in water and power to be generated on the dam site. Experts feel that it was a big blow to this project and now it was almost certain that Delhi will not get Giri water from Renuka before the commencement of the Commonwealth Games to be organized in Delhi in 2010.

The Congress government of Haryana has rejected the agreement signed by its Chief Minister Bhajan Lal. Haryana has demanded Lion share in the project at the crucial stage when the Delhi government had spent more than Rs 15 crore on the initial survey and preparatory work.

Rejecting the 1994 agreement, Haryana has demanded that the project must be made as a shared project between the co-basin states and Haryana was ready to pay for its share. Haryana irrigation Minister had openly announced that Haryana would not allow passing of any pipeline or canal from Renuka to Delhi if its demands were not met.

Himachal government has already made it clear that there should not be any controversy at this stage as the agreement is for providing drinking water to Delhi. Himachal is ready to provide the water as per the agreement and if the project is delayed due to hackle raised by any state, Himachal is not at fault.

Experts says that even if every thing goes on smoothly and strictly according to time frame of the detailed project report, preparatory activities and execution would take at least six years for the completion of the dam work. “So in nutshell, it is almost certain that in the year of 2010, players and guests from Common wealth countries would not get the Giri water.’, says experts.



Wild for herbs
 Govt wakes up to illegal extraction of medicinal plants
Rakesh Lohumi

Though late in the day, the Forest Department has now decided to focus on the ever-depleting reserves of medicinal plants and herbs some of which are on the verge of extinction due to over exploitation.

The residents of Shimla have been extracting these high-value plants, which grow wild in the forests. However, with their increasing economic value had led to indiscriminate, unscientific and excessive exploitation in recent years.

The demand for herbs has been increasing with the growing popularity of the traditional ayurvedic system of medicine. However, in the absence of any measures to replenish the reserves, the natural wealth has depleted to such levels that the villagers in most areas no longer find collecting the herbs from the forests, a remunerative proposition.

They have to trek for long hours in the high -altitude areas without much reward. Due to the abject lack of a proper marketing network, the villagers have been totally dependent on middlemen, who exploit them to the hilt, as a result of which they get 
negligible returns.

The Himalayan region has been a treasure house of medicinal and aromatic plants. The varied agro-climatic zones support a unique assemblage of medicinal herbs. It is estimated that the flora of the hill state consists of nearly 3,300 plant species out of which about 150 species, including a few exotic ones, have medicinal value.

In all, about 35 plants of medicinal value are regularly extracted from the forest and marketed annually. The state had in collaboration with the Government of India launched a number of schemes for the propagation and cultivation of medicinal plants and the Ayurveda Department had also set up herbal gardens. But the efforts have not yielded the desired results due to legal and administrative bottlenecks.

Even NGO like the Himalayan Research Group, which has been providing know-how to farmers for propagating medicinal plants on agriculture land, are facing problems in routing the produce to the market under the existing forest transit rules.

It had tied up with the medicine manufacturing units within the state, but the farmers still have to take transit permit and pay fee even after the herbs have not been collected from the forest and have been grown on private revenue land.

The creation of the state medicinal plants board for propagation of herbs has not helped in overcoming the policy problems. While the board functions under the Ayurveda Department, the rules, regulations, policy matters, transportation and conservation of medicinal plants are all under the purview of the Forest Department.

The department did try to address the different aspects related to medicinal plants but practical problem have not been resolved, particularly at the grass-root level. Of late, the Horticulture Department has also entered the field of medicinal plants under the horticulture technology mission, further adding to the confusion. There is every possibility that if plants are cultivated on agriculture land, the Agriculture Department will also step in.

Under these circumstances, there is need to assign the propagation of medicinal plants to a single nodal agency, which should take care of all aspects right from the development of nursery to cultivation, quality control certification, transportation and marketing of produce.

Attempts have been made to cultivate medicinal plants by involving farmers, but at a very small scale.

Any worthwhile effort to replenish the natural reserves of medicinal plants has to be made on the forest land which accounts for almost 63 per cent of the total geographical area.

Obviously, the Forest Department has to play the role of a nodal agency for implementing any such plan.

Additional principal chief conservator forests Vinay Tandon, who is the nodal officer, says that the prime concern of the department will be to make the collection of herbs from forests sustainable by ensuring that extraction matches the natural regeneration, which is not the case at the moment. The focus will be on carrying out enrichment plantation to restock the forest areas where the natural resources have depleted due to over exploitation.

Principal chief conservator of forests Pankaj Khullar says that an integrated plan will be formulated to take care of all issues and efforts will also be made to involve non-government organisations in the formulation and implementation of the plan for which the funds will be sought from the Centre. 



  Heritage status of Shimla to be maintained
Tribune News Service

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has said that all basic civic amenities and tourism promotional activities will be undertaken in the state capital so that the heritage status of the erstwhile summer capital of the British can be maintained.

Dhumal said: “Providing clean drinking water, better roads, parking facility, cleanliness and boring tunnels would be the priority of the government so that the state capital can be promoted as an international tourist destination,” he stated.

The Chief Minister said the water woes of the capital would be redressed with the execution of the Giri water supply scheme. “A detailed project report is being prepared so that the civic facilities in the town are improved and tourism promotion activities can be given a boost,” he said.

The government would implement the tourism slogan of ‘Himachal for All Seasons and All Reasons’ in letter and in spirit. Dhumal said his government would accord top priority to the exploitation of the identified hydel potential since it was the single largest sector which could bring in revenue.



Burglars make merry in Solan
Ambika Sharma

With the town witnessing a spate of burglaries in the past two months, an atmosphere of fear has gripped the residents who are now hesitant to leave their houses unattended even for a few hours.

The manner in which some houses were burgled during daytime only within a few hours of these being left unattended has surprised the residents. A house located on the Tank road was burgled last Thursday in broad daylight and those occupying other floors of the house did not even come to know about it. The family members have gone out for only two hours and the thieves made away with cash, jewellery and other valuables.

In yet another case, a resident found his house looted after it was left unattended barely for a few hours. According to the police, though four such cases were reported in December and an equal number in January, no breakthrough has been achieved in pinning down the miscreants. Sources maintain there may be many more such cases as several cases often go unreported.

What has baffled the residents is the fact that miscreants are constantly watching the activities of residents and are on the look out for an appropriate opportunity. Earlier, burglars used to strike at houses of families that had gone out for winter vacations.

Additional SP Ajay Bodh said they had enhanced day patrolling. Men in plain clothes keep surveillance in sensitive areas. Areas like Sunny Side, Khaleen, Tank road, etc., had been identified as some of the sensitive places. They were encouraging people to verify antecedents of their domestic servants, but the reluctance of the people at times proved dear, he added. 



  All they need is love
Pratibha Chauhan

Seeing them enjoy life as they dance with gay abandon to the tunes of pahari songs with snow flakes touching their gentle and innocent faces one cannot help think of giving them the best life can offer.
Tamil Nadu’s special squad in Shimla
Tamil Nadu’s special squad in Shimla

It was one of those rare occasions when these special children enjoyed every moment forgetting their limitations and handicaps, which hinder normal existence and makes life difficult. About 700 special children from 21 states all over the country are participating in the six-day National Winter Games Championships, being held here for the first time.

For 15-year-old Vignesh Raja, these are rare moments of joy, which he will cherish and share with his family members back home in Trichapalli in Tamil Nadu.

“It is for the first time that he is seeing the hills and when the snowflakes came down, he thought it was cotton that somebody was showering on us,” Selvi, the coach who is accompanying the 19 special children from Tamil Nadu said.

It was a similar experience for these special children from Orissa, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, who are enjoying every moment of their stay in Shimla.

Notwithstanding the cold that they are just not used to, these children are enjoying the outings, games and cultural activities, as they feel loved and cared for here.

For 16-year-old Subhash Khatiwara from Gangtok and Jiwan Mishra from Namthang in Sikkim, being on the ski slopes will be a lifetime experience. “Though they can do roller skating but alpine skiing and snow showing will be an altogether experience for them,” says N.K. Chettir, the head of the delegation from Sikkim.

The two boys from Sikkim are fortunate enough to be attending an institute being jointly run by the Rehabilitation Centre of India (RCI) and the Spastic Society of Sikkim at Gangtok.

Thanks to the awareness and sensitivity towards the problem of these special children in the society, more and more institutes have come up all over the country, which can cater to their needs and channelise their abilities in the best possible manner.

The parents too have come to realise that getting the right kind of training and guidance can help their child greatly to lead a normal life as far as possible.

“Till only a few years back, we would very often come across special children tied to a piece of furniture and confined to the four walls of the house, leaving them to a deplorable existence,” Sister Sabina from Ashadeepam, a school for the mentally challenged children in Trichi district of Tamil Nadu said. She said, now the scenario had completely changed as the people have become more aware and facilities are being extended.

She says there is no dearth of specially trained staff, that are committed and able. However, the scene is not all that rosy in Himachal, keeping in view the geographical constraints lack of trained staff and institutes.

“It is only with the whole hearted support of the government and society that we can offer a better life to these special children, who yearn for love and care,” says Mallika Nadda, chairperson of the Special Olympics. She says though the laws have been enacted but it is the implementation part which needs to be looked into.

She adds that having a separate disability commissioner can go a long way in giving a much better life to these special children, for whom we need to do much more than what is being done presently.



  Leave them alone
Balkrishan Prashar

Taking into account the proposal for rationalisation of the wildlife sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh, including two in Chamba district, expected to be finalised by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests would go a long way in hammering out the problems of local inhabitants living around the sanctuaries, thereby removing the serious handicap coming in way of their development activities.

The rationalisation on the other hand may prove disastrous for the wildlife sanctuaries.

According to authoritative sources, a high-powered central environment committee (CEC) accompanied by the chief wildlife warden of the state, had inspected various wildlife sanctuaries and the inhibited areas on the fringe of these habitats last year. The CEC also inspected all four wildlife sanctuaries - Kugti, Tundah, Kalatop-Khajjiar and Gamgul Siyabehi except the Sechu Tuwan Nala in Pangi tribal valley of Chamba district.

The committee, which took stock of the situation around the sanctuaries, had an interaction with the locals residing along the sanctuaries and held discussions with the representatives of panchayati raj institutions with regard to their problems arising out of the destruction caused by wild beasts and impediment in development activities.

This exercise was mooted by the state government to hammer out the day-to-day difficulties being faced by the residents and even the state government in respect of the development activities around the sanctuaries as a result of the violence by wild animals and various stringent laws pertaining to wildlife habitats.

Under the rationalisation of the wildlife sanctuaries in the state, 57.3 sq. km. out of 69 sq-km. area of the famous Kalatop-Khajjiar wildlife sanctuary in Chamba district had been proposed for exclusion. As a result, hardly 11.7 sq-km area would be left for the sanctuary.

But at the same time there are apprehensions that the rationalisation may pose threat to wild animals, as this habitat would become an open green cover for the tourists to saunter and could prove harmful to them.

Moreover, the world famous picturesque tourist spot of Khajjiar, situated amidst the sanctuary, is visited by lakhs of tourists every year may also become a nuisance to the wildlife.

Likewise, in the Gamgul Siyabehi wildlife sanctuary, 15.6 sq-km area had been proposed for exclusion and 15 sq km for inclusion in the wildlife sanctuary. After rationalisation, if approved, 11.7 sq-km area would be the left out area of Kalatop-Khajjiar wildlife sanctuary and 108.4 sq km of Gamgul Siyabehi wildlife sanctuary.

The only wildlife division based in Chamba started functioning in June 1984. The jurisdiction of this division was spread over three districts - Chamba, Kangra and Hamirpur. After creation of the wildlife division, Hamirpur, the jurisdiction of this division was restricted only to Chamba district.

The famous Pong Dam and habitat of thousand of multi-birds species and Gopalpur Zoo were transferred to the newly -created wildlife division, Hamirpur.

Chamba is rich in terms of flora and fauna as compared to other areas of the state. Irrespective of the sanctuaries, other forests have adequate number of rare, endangered species as well as a variety of colorful animal life of the state.

The beauty as well as distinction of each of the wildlife sanctuary in Chamba nourishes wild animals like thar, ibex, musk deer, barking deer, black bear, brown bear, leopard, snow leopard, goral, serow and the pheasants such as snowcock monal, koklas, kaleej and chukor. 



Far From The Madding Crowd
by Shriniwas Joshi

Two fine-looking cottages, hardly 5 km from the main town amidst sylvan surroundings, connected by vehicle-worthy road, lying vacant is enigma to anybody visiting the north of Shimla.

The story of these buildings begin with one Felix Adolph von Goldstein, who was an engineer, contractor, estate agent, valuator, cabinetmaker, an agent to UK-based Ruberoid building products and was one of the three Goldsteins in the list ‘Residents of Simla, 1898’.

The other two are Felix von Goldstein, a professional musician, bandmaster to the Viceroy, and a commoner Robert von Goldstein.

The Goldsteins had their origin in Germany and Adolf or Adolph in old high German meant ‘noble wolf’; Felix Adolph in Simla probably did not like to be called a wolf so preferred to drop Adolph from his name and shortened it to Felix von Goldstein.

The two Felix von Goldsteins of the then Shimla have given opportunity to local chroniclers for unwittingly putting hat of the one on the head of the other. ‘Heritage of Shimla’ by the Town and Country Planning Department assigns ‘Benmore’ to Felix von, the estate agent instead of Felix von, the musician.

Anyhow, estate agent Felix von Goldstein’s letter dated the November 7, 1912, to the secretary of the municipal committee (MC) written from Chislehurst, where he was living then, started his quest for a personal house in Shimla. He submitted the drawing of the site in Kanena village of Kiar Koti state, purchased from a local landlord Ramdayal seeking sanction of the government ‘showing the way I wish to utilise them (sites)’. He also applied to the MC for providing ‘sewer septic tank and dilution arrangements’ for the proposed buildings plus the outhouses numbering eight in all.

The secretary, MC, on November 29, 1912, rejected the request for installing the sewage system in an area beyond its jurisdiction and also his appeal for reconsideration of the decision on January 15, 1913, while the sanction of the government for the construction work had already been granted on November 23, 1912.

The Bromley Estate comprising three main buildings and outhouses built of wood and dhajji walls, with its own sewage system, near the suburb of Bharari in Simla was constructed in the year 1913. Felix von following his profession named it Bromley Estate, after the famed Bromley Estate agents in Canvey Island, Essex. Away from the din of the town, it is still a peaceful place where Felix von had planted alien creepers, shrubs; exotic bamboos; a rare European oak and eucalyptuses; one of those is dimensionally the numero-uno of Shimla.

Felix von lived with his family in this country-home and used to horse-ride daily to his office. Herr Felix von survived her husband, who died in the 1940s and Bromley Estate was rented out to one Mr Wright, who started pork-trade from here by constructing four pigsties.

The screams of pigs being slaughtered in the mornings were heart-rending and disturbed the calm surroundings of the village.

Of the offspring of Felix von, R.K. von Goldstein remained associated with Shimla for long. His last appointment was as the Headmaster of Bishop Cotton School from 1963 to 1976. Bromley Estate in the 1950s had been bought by Tika Sahib, a Bedi Sikh gentleman from Patiala, in the name of his wife, Rani Sahiba.

The new owner of the estate led a cheery life with soirees held in the radiance of gas lamps in Bromley's open compound. The village had no electricity till the 1960s. A fire engulfed one of the main buildings then. P.C. Multani, deputy commissioner of Shimla, fascinated by its aura purchased Bromley from Rani Sahiba in early 60s and developed its open grounds into non-profitable apple orchard and added a couple of outhouses for hiring on pittance rent.

In March 1980, Sanjay Gandhi drove to Bromley to strike a deal with Multani for purchasing the estate. It did not materialise otherwise this corner of Shimla would have been the talk of the country.

Multani’s son Colonel Surinder Singh (retired) converted it into a guesthouse that failed to click. His interest has sapped and barring occasional visits to the cottages, Multanis are permanently settled in Chandigarh. Bromley having Swiss chalet features, stands striking in solitude here - far from the madding crowd.


A ballad on the houses of the British in Shimla reads: “The houses of the Godlings are built of wood and mud; some are built on mountain tops, others down the khad.” 



  Big B on the sets of Shoe Bite
Kuldeep Chauhan

The arch lights of tinsel town heated up an otherwise bone-chilling snowscape in the valley of gods early this week. On the sets was none other than the Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, supporting his grey beard and hairstyle that synced with the snow-white landscape of Manali.

He had painted the town red with his admirers zeroing in on at Van Vihar, Nature Park and other shooting locations in this tourist town since January 23.

Figuring as a leading character, Bachchan in the gaze of archlights beamed like an elderly backpacker seeking nirvana amidst the stately deodar trees of the Nature Park.

The cooing pheasants protected in the Van Vihar were equally stunned as the archlights beamed around, scanning the surroundings.

Bachchan was in Manali in connection with the shooting of a film, ‘Shoe Bite’, a freak title, given by its director Sujeet Sarkar.

Big B could be seen in many moods in the film, he was at one time in a joyous mood playing in the snow with hill children, in another, a serious don meaning serious business.

Joining him were four Tibetan school children- Tenzing Karzang, Tenzing Larzang and two others. They played in the snow with Big B.

The scene warmed up an otherwise chilling environs of Nature Park. The scenes were repeated till the director okayed the shots.

The location and focus then shifted to the Mountaineering and Adventure sports Institute, Manali, where Bachchan came as a trekker. He carried a megapixel camera and the tourist guide was escorting him.

Those Tibetan children are feeling elated to have shot the film with the Big B. Friends and schoolmates are admiring them.

“We have seen Amitabh in movies and ads, but to play with him in snow was an unbelievable experience, a beaming Tenzing and his friend said.

After shooing in Manali, Bachchan and the shooting unit shifted to Naggar, a heritage village. It has the international Roerick art gallery and Naggar castle and quaint old houses.

The other locations under the arch lights were Kalath and 15 Meel on the national highway near downstream from Manali along the rushing River Beas.

Sarkar and film’s local coordinator Anil Kayastha have kept the story of the film a closely guarded secret. For Amitabh, Himachal is a paradise, Bachchan admirers quoted him as saying.

Kayastha told The Tribune that shooting was complete in Manali and unit would shift to Shimla for another round of shooting. Apart from Amitabh, other actors are expected to be in Shimla in a couple of days. 



 Builders Flouting Rules
Tourism projects end up as real estate pursuits
Ambika Sharma

Notwithstanding, stringent revenue laws in the hill state, the builders have found a novel way of pursuing the real estate business in the garb of tourism projects.

It is not just the short-staffed departments which fail to detect such flaws, but even when detected little coordination between concerned departments hamper action against the violators.

With a steep rise in the number of flats coming up in all prime places like Kasauli and its vicinity, Chail, Kumarhatti and its periphery as well as newly developed roads like Karoro-Kainthri, Solan bypass, etc., the place is slowly transforming into a jungle of concrete.

Exploring the law are the powerful builders, who not only wield a sizeable influence in the successive governments, but have managed to get away with all sorts of irregularities.

As per the HP Land Reforms and Tenancy Act, 1972, an outsider is supposed to seek permission under Section 118 for pursuing a specific commercial activity, but this provision has become a tool in the hands of the builders. It has been observed that permissions obtained for tourism projects have ended up in real estate pursuits.

This flagrant violation had led the Tourism Department to undertake a survey to detect such projects in 2005. It has proved to be a mere eyewash, where, despite a lapse of nearly two years, no action has been initiated.

The number of such projects in Solan and Kasauli area alone was found to be in dozens but the department conveniently given such reports a go-by. Ideally, an essentiality certificate issued by the Tourism Department binds an investor to complete his project within two years. But this condition is being flagrantly violated here in about a dozen cases.

These cases include M/s Jasmine Motels, M/s Birds View Country, M/s Chander Mukhi Resorts, M/s Zoom Resorts, M/s Green Height Resorts, M/s Pinewood Resorts, M/s Gagan Resorts, M/s Chandratal Motels, M/s Enzen Enterprises and M/s Kaithal Resorts.

While the department has failed to cancel such permissions, this has emboldened others, who have made it a tool to pursue real estate ventures.

Since no action has ever been initiated against any such violator, the number of such offenders is on the increase.

What makes matters worse is the lack of water availability in this fragile hilly area. Since these projects fail to assess the water requirements, they end up drawing large quantities of water thus straining the existing water resources. Every summer, the region faces the worst water crisis where an average man suffers the most.

An interesting fact about such deals is that buyers don’t hesitate to buy such flats as they feel the cost would be reasonably less. Sources felt it made little difference to these buyers, whether such houses fulfilled all legal formalities or not as often such deals were rarely registered.



 shimla Diary
Husbandary Dept sings the flu tune
Rakesh Lohumi

The tableaux taken out as a part of the Republic Day parade to showcase the achievements of various departments are a routine affair. Not much thought goes into their making and similar themes focusing on horticulture and power are presented year after year. It was thus, good to see the Animal Husbandry Department selecting the most relevant issue of bird flu as the theme. It came out with a tableau educating the people on the burning problem.

It was indeed a worthwhile effort which not only warned the people about the dreaded disease, but also about the dos and don’ts to be followed for its prevention.

The Horticulture Department for a change looked away from the apple topic and focused on diversification and presented floriculture as a lucrative self-employment alternative for the youth. Disposal of urban waste has been a major problem in the environmentally fragile hill state. The tableau on the theme depicted how the garbage could be converted into useful manure and other products using appropriate technology.

The extremely cold conditions failed to dampen the spirit of the people, who turned out in large numbers for the function. The weather God also obliged them on the auspicious occasion with a light snowfall towards the afternoon. It lasted just for about an hour but left the hill-escape draped in white.

Wanna be Shimla Mobike Champ?

Famous for adventure sports like skiing, paragliding and river rafting, the state is gradually emerging as a destination for motor sports. After “Raid-de-Himalayas”, was acknowledged as the highest and one of the toughest motor sports in the world, the state saw the launching of a unique serial-motorbike rally.

Shimla Motorcycle Challenge-2008, the first event of its kind in the country comprising a series of motorcycle races in the mountains evoked good response with as many as 26 bikers participating in the rally.

The championship has been granted a ‘challenge’ status by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India.

It will be organised in a series of 6-single day events spread over a year with the event taking place on the second Sunday of every alternate month with the final race slated for November 9, 2008. The winner will be crowned ‘Shimla Motorcycle Champion’.

“The idea is to promote, train and provide exposure to motorcycle riders of the region. It will be an opportunity for motorcycle enthusiasts to test and develop their riding skills in a controlled and safe environment on a regular basis,” Team Avalanche chairman Manoj Biswas said which it organising the event.

A 7.70-km long circular road providing a mix of tarmac and dirt, uphill and downhill stages near Shogi was selected for opening the race. Each individual event will carry championship points for the first 8 classified riders on the basis of which the winner will be declared. There will be a special category run exclusively for the riders of the state to promote the motor sport.

Competition has been divided into a total of six classes based upon the cubic capacity of the vehicle and their levels of modification. The organisers have included two special classes to promote riders from Himachal Pradesh.

Snow, snow, fall again

There seems to be no end to the water woes in the state capital. During summer, the residents had to put up with the shortage due to the increased consumption on account of rush of tourists and low discharge in natural water sources.

However, this time round, taps went dry during the winter, curtsey the weather God, who refused to oblige the residents with adequate snowfall. This time he ensured that the mercury remained well below the freezing point to make life difficult for them.

The sub-zero temperature caused water in the supply pipe lines to freeze. Water expands in freezing pipes so it burst or cracked at many places. Even the water flowing in drains froze. The natural springs and other surface sources of water were also frozen. Only a good spell of snowfall could give respite to the residents from the extreme cold conditions.



Railway projects in limbo
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

The proposed railway projects in the state are in limbo, thanks to the failure of successive state governments, who have failed to take up the matter seriously with the central government, so far.

In fact the state has failed to find any favour in the railway budgets over the years. Even in the last budget the only consolation came in the form when it got a principle nod for the Chandigarh-Baddi rail link.

Other than that, the state has got Rs 25 lakh provision in the budget in which Rs 24-lakh was earmarked for the extension of the Nangal-Talwara rail line and rest for the 4-km long Kalka-Parwanoo rail link.

There was no mention of the Bhanupalli-Bilaspur -Rampur rail link in the Rail Budget. The survey on this project was done long back, but unavailability of funds has kept the project virtually in an abandoned condition.

Ironically, the survey on the Nangal-Talwara broad-gauge rail link was carried out by the then railway minister, Lalit Narain Mishra in 1971. The project was to connect Una and Amb with the railway network. The viability and demand of the project was enhanced after the Amb area in Una district had witnessed influx in industrial activities due to the efforts of state industries minister Kuldeep Singh.

There was also a plan to set up a coaching terminal at Amb. The Railway Ministry has tried to revive the unviable Kalka-Parwanoo rail link, sources said. The Parwanoo rail link was planned a long time back in order to facilitate timber supply outside the state. The idea was to save the sales tax for the state traders, who had to pay the same, while transporting the material through roads.

Moreover, all engines deputed on the Kalka-Shimla and the Pathankot-Jogindernagar narrow -gauge sections are outdated but yet no initiative has been taken to replace them and improve the situation.

During his visit to the state in May last year, railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had assured to grant more funds for the state. He had also assured to take positive steps for the opening of the closed Jabli railway station in the Kalka-Shimla rail section, when a delegation of local people had met him in this regard at Barog railway station. 





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