It couldn’t be worse
Kuldeep Chauhan

High on poor services

Poor emergency services
No dedicated staff for intensive care unit and casualty
Crowded and congested corridors where over 600 to 1,000 patients come at the OPDs from all over the region every day
No proper seating arrangement in the paediatric and gynaecology OPDs
Just 32 doctors, whereas the sanctioned strength is 45
It has just one anaesthetist
Only four technicians; 330 beds but only 40 nurses
Patients being referred to the IGMC or PGI, when the doctors go on leave

Things could’nt have been worse for Chetna Kumari from Pandoh, who was in the advanced stage of pregnancy and delivered her baby in a toilet instead of in a labour room in Zonal Hospital, Mandi, on February 10.

The staff there was keener to finish hospital formalities than looking into her worsening condition. Her family members even had an argument with the staff, but all in vain her labour pains mounted and in hopelessness she went inside a toilet and delivered there.

In another incident, an anganwari worker, Himachali Devi from Gadnal
village, in Mandi Sadar, fell from her chair while on duty at a pulse polio camp on Saturday. She was rushed to the zonal hospital, where the doctor referred her to the IGMC, Shimla, for treatment.
A patient being taken from Zonal Hospital, Mandi, to IGMC, Shimla, in a private Maruti van as there was no ambulance available.
A patient being taken from Zonal Hospital, Mandi, to IGMC, Shimla, in a private Maruti van as there was no ambulance available. — Photo by Jai Kumar

She was semi-conscious and was taken in a private van to Shimla. She was holding her mother-in-law inside the van and travelled a distance 160 km, which takes four to five hours to reach Shimla.

“We are in a hurry and could not get an ambulance as nobody guided us. We hired a van to take her to Shimla, her tense uncle, Uttam Chand, said before they left for Shimla on Monday.

The gynaecology ward and labour room on the ground floor of the hospital presents a pathetic picture. As many as 15 women patients, including mothers, who have delivered their babies in the past two-three days almost, shiver in the corridor as extra beds are laid there. They have no heaters and newborn babies are not cosy enough, complained patients.

On going inside the labour room, one can find just four tables, which look unhygienic, as they have outlived their life. The room needs eight tables but it has just four old ones.

Sometimes there are eight deliveries at a time and it is almost unmanageable, the doctors on duty said.
Patients and attendants stand in congested corridors of the paediatric and gynae OPDs.
Patients and attendants stand in congested corridors of the paediatric and gynae OPDs. — Photo by Jai Kumar

Mothers along with newborn babies share the same ward with other women patients, exposing them to the risk of hospital-acquired infections. There are just few nurses in the ward to handle over 70 to 80 patients.

Roop Lal from Sarkaghat faced an ordeal like other patients. His wife was operated for an
ulcer at the operation theatre located on the 
top flour of the new hospital building on Saturday. He carried her on a stretcher through a flight of steps and crossed crowds of people before she was brought to the bed located on the ground floor of the old hospital building. “There are no ward boys and we needed four persons to bring her here,” said Rup Lal.

In fact, patients who undergo surgeries are carried on stretchers to different floors of the hospital as there is no ramp and the lifts in new building goes out of order when there is no electricity,” the patients complained. Even laboratory tests are closed after 11.30 am and the patients, who reach there after the official timings are referred to private diagnostic labs, which charge hefty charges and in turn they are doing brisk business. “The private tests cost more and the hospital timings are as per the convenience of the staff and not according to the convenience of the patients,” rued Kishori Lal, an attendant.

In fact, the 330-bed zonal hospital, is ailing. It faces shortage not only of the technicians and nurses but also of the specialists. There are four technicians and not more than 40 nurses, hospital sources said. Over 600 to 1,000 patients, who come at the OPDs from all over the region everyday for treatment are crowded in the congested corridor of the old building.

The male OPD in the new building has come as a relief for the doctors and patients but it has no toilets attached to it and the doctors have to come to the old building for washing hands. These conditions speak volumes about the faulty infrastructure exposing chinks in the hospital engineering.

In the paediatric and gynaecology OPDs, the patients keep standing in the corridor for hours, as there are just four benches to sit on. “It is difficult to stand for hours carrying kids before your call comes, rued Mahender, who was standing among many attendants, holding his grandson in his arms.

Despite the load of patients, the hospital has soared manifold over the years, but the State Family and Health Department has yet to construct the new OPD block catering to a large number of patients. The department was yet to specify the number of staff needed in the hospital, the doctors said.

Even against the sanctioned strength of 45 posts, a decade ago for the hospital, now it has only 32 doctors. This in turn has been hitting patient care in the hospital over the years.

Most of the accident victims from the region are referred to the hospital here daily from the National Highway-21, which is clogged with traffic due increase in traffic, said the doctors there.

The patients suffer, as some times surgeries here are postponed as the hospital has just one anaesthetist. This happens when the anaesthetist is on leave, rued patients.

The patients are referred to the IGMC or PGI, when the doctors go on leave, as the hospital has no critical care for them. 



Solan Panchayat nattiest
Gets Best Sanitation Award
Ambika Sharma

It was the firm resolve of the villagers of the Nauni-Majgoan Panchayat led by pradhan Baldev Singh, which has transformed this rural habitation into a total sanitation- cluster today. This panchayat has not only bagged the national award for total sanitation, but the pioneering efforts of their pradhan Baldev Singh has led him in getting a life time achievement award by a social organisation, Nepal-India Dalit Friendship Organisation at Kathmandu recently.

Recognising his social work to uplift the panchayat, he was granted this award for carrying out exemplary developmental work in his panchayat. Comprising eight villages has not only won the Panchayat Nirman Puruskaar worth Rs 2 lakh but has now been chosen for receiving the national award in the first week of May. The president will confer this award to the village panchayat.

Being a new panchayat, which came into existence on January 23, 2006, developmental works and new schemes were in its nascent stage here. The villagers were dependent on agriculture and a few did local jobs to supplement their income. The absence of toilets in the village forced people to use open fields and the forest area for defecation.

It was an opportunity to attend a three-day workshop organised by a voluntary organisation called the ‘Knowledge Links’ on total sanitation, which for the first time gave the people an insight into the ill-effects of lack of sanitation. Advocating its campaign on the community-led total sanitation (CLTS), Knowledge Links motivated the panchayat representatives to adopt total sanitation.

“What motivated me to adopt total sanitation was a talk by Dr Kamalkaar, convenor of the CLTS, on our prevailing unhygienic system of defecating in the open. His bitter comments on our prevailing system made me sit up and think,” said Baldev.

He said it was an illustration given by him on how the system, which was adopted by a small country like Bangladesh, had brought about a mass change.

“It really motivated me to become a part of this project. When a country having lesser literacy and still lesser resources could manage to adopt total sanitation why not we?” Baldev asked. He then further educated the whole panchayat and together they decided to adopt this programme. Men and women lent equal support.

“We have no sweeper in the village as each of us ensures no garbage is thrown in the open. The biodegradable one is added to the soil and the rest burnt.”

A small beginning was made when Budh Ram made a temporary toilet with the help of available material, including wooden basket and old tent. The effort was laudable since it was the first step towards adopting sanitation. It benefited him as it enabled his two handicapped children to use the toilet with ease. Earlier, the two children had to be taken to the forests by another family member.

Devi Singh Thakur was another man, who used an old rubber equipment to construct a makeshift toilet. These two men acted as motivators and their efforts were emulated by others.

The duo soon came to be called engineers in the local parlance and they assisted many others to make toilets with locally available material. The panchayat soon adopted a resolution to fine those found defecating in the drains or other public places.

“A fine ranging from Rs 5 to Rs 500 is imposed on anyone violating this norm and even the landlords are strictly directed to check their tenants. Even farm labourers working in the nearby Dr Y. S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry have been directed to keep the village clean.”  



Man with magic fingers
Shubhash Sharma

Abhishek Jain from Goraya village in Punjab began fiddling with the keyboard of an old typewriter at the tender age of seven. He became the state champion in speed accurate typing at the age of 10 and a national champion at the age of 12 in 1987 and 1989 respectively.

He then represented India at the age of 13 at the World Speed Typing Championship held at Brussels and won the gold medal for India. Abhishek created a world record (still unbroken) and became the ‘Youngest and Fastest World Typing

Jain has made India proud by winning three gold medals at the world Speed Typing Championship consecutively and two gold medals in the International Electronic Speed Typing and Computer Championship held at Bonn in Germany in 1996.

Jain, got through the IAS examinations in 2002 in his first attempt. He is presently posted as DM-cum-DC in Kullu.

He is also heading a social movement- “Know Thyself” to inspire and chisel the overall personality of students of government schools and colleges in remote villages. Till date he has guided more than 13,000 students through 35 workshops in various parts of North India.

For Jain typing is a hobby and keen to represent the nation in any forthcoming typing championship at the national and international level. 



Yana Banerjee-Bey
Diving into the depths

Now is a nice time for adventure activities in the sea. Not only will you get a respite from the cold in North India, but the tourist hordes that descend on beaches for Christmas-New Year and mid-winter holidays have thinned and adventure tour operators can give you more slots. Room rates are also lower, and shops and restaurants less crowded! Diving is a hardcore adventure sport that is very rewarding because it takes you into a world as different from ours as outer space! 

The underwater world is rich and strange, populated with weird and lovely creatures. The growth of coral and its many varieties is so fascinating that in some places recreational divers actually sink old cars in the sea so that coral grows on them after a while!

In India, thanks to the old maritime trade, we have plenty of ships lying off our coasts. One of the most popular shipwrecks, at a diving site in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Goa, is Suzy’s Wreck. Like rafters and kayakers, who are highly creative in naming rapids, divers too come up with intriguing names for their favourite spots. Another Goa site is called Lobster Avenue and no prizes for guessing why! You can learn diving in Goa, Lakshadweep and the Andamans. Before you go, you will have to decide whether you want to do a PADI or CMAS course. Of the world’s many diver training organisations, only these two run courses in India. Most people like to do PADI courses, because you can find a PADI dive centre nearly everywhere around the world and dive with them after showing your certificate. However, many other people prefer the methods and guidelines of CMAS. The minimum age for diving with CMAS is 12 years; for PADI it is 10 years.

Dive Operators

Lacadives (CMAS)
E-20 Everest Building
Tel: (022)66627381/82
Diving location: Lakshadweep
Samudra (PADI)
6th Floor, Sitakunj
164 Maharishi Karve Marg
Mantralaya, Mumbai-400021
Tel: (022)22870729
Diving location: Andamans

My column on snorkeling

( mentioned the Goa dive operators (both PADI), so the details of only the Lakshadweep and Andamans dive operators are included here. You don’t need to be athletic or supremely fit to learn recreational diving. Only if you progress to advanced levels will you need above-average strength and fitness. Even if you are fat and paunchy, you can enjoy diving at the basic level. However, you must not have heart problems, asthma or claustrophobia.

You must be a decent swimmer. This means that you must be at ease in the water. If you have learnt to swim but your comfort level is low, then work on it before you set out to learn diving. Dive operators also run programmes to help people over this stage. They are held in swimming pools or shallow lagoons. Many people do an introductory dive before signing up for the course. You will be taught to use the scuba gear in a swimming pool or lagoon. Once you are comfortable breathing with it, you will be taken for a dive in the sea (called an open water dive). Each first-timer has his/her own partner who is an experienced diver. Your partner will be beside you throughout the dive and many first-timers hold their partner’s hand until they begin watching fish and forget to be scared! Diving is safer than most adventure sports, due to state-of-the-art equipment. However, the cost of this equipment yanks up prices! Introductory dives cost Rs 1200-2400 while the first-level course costs Rs 17,000-20,000.

Water pressure causes temporary physiological changes so certain safety rules are observed. Before a dive, do not eat gas-producing food and after it do not travel by air for half a day. If you have a sinus problem or cold, wait for it to clear before going diving. 

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



Eco-tourism will boost employment
Kulwinder Sandhu

Highlights of the project

1. Promotion of environment-friendly tourism activities for socially and economically backward people
2. Income generation through tourism promotion
3. Providing basic units in the form of tourism-related activities to the self-help groups
4. Creating infrastructure enabling them to attract more tourists
5. Develop modern skills of hospitality
6. Provide employment to the unemployed youth
7. Develop entrepreneurship skills among the tribal people 

Kinnaur is one of the most scenic but a less known district of the hill state of Himachal Pradesh situated on the Indo-Tibetan border and mainly inhabited along the mighty Sutlej. The economy of this district like other districts of the state is mainly dependent on horticulture and need-based agriculture. 

The main occupation of nearly 80 per cent of the tribal population is horticulture and the district has made significant progress in the development of this agro-sector by producing one of the finest qualities of luscious apples.

Other than apples, the varied agro-climatic conditions in the district are congenial for growing all type of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, the horticulture has played a vital role in improving the socio-economic condition of the rural population.
Tents in Banjara camps in Sangla valley
   Tents in Banjara camps in Sangla valley
Bhabha Valley at Kafnu village
          Bhabha Valley at Kafnu village
Nako Lake in upper Kinnaur
             Nako Lake in upper Kinnaur

The climate of the district is charming and beautiful, which attracts thousands of tourists every year. Its high snow bound mountain peaks, rich tribal culture, temples and Buddhist monasteries, lush green agriculture fields and apple orchards are the main attraction for the tourists.

Due to the prevailing disturbance in Jammu and Kashmir and congestion in Manali and Shimla the tourists are thronging this district more and more every year. Hydro electricity projects like Nathpa-Jakhri, Sanjay Vidyut Pariyojana, Baspa Project and Tithang Project are also becoming centre of attraction for the tourists.

Keeping this in view the District Rural Development Authority has come out with an eco-tourism project mainly aimed at income generation exclusively for socially and economically backward people by providing them quality tents and other required infrastructure.

The agency through the block development officers has introduced this scheme in the whole of Sangla valley, Sungra-Nichar valley, Bhabha valley, Kalpa, Gaibong-Ropa valley and upper areas of Leo and Nako. The main activities of this tourism project will be camping, trekking, adventurous activities etc.

The increase in number of foreign and domestic tourists during the past few years in the area has put pressure on the existing accommodation and other hospitality facilities in the Sangla valley, Kalpa and Nako.

No matter, many hotels have come up in Kalpa, the heritage village of the hill state, Reckong Peo the district headquarters of Kinnaur and the Sangla valley but until recently no efforts have been made to boost eco-tourism with the participation of the local people.

On an average, the district attracts more than 50,000 tourists between April and November every year. But most of them do not prefer to stay for days except in the Sangla valley due to the bad condition of the roads and poor hospitality.

In other words one can say that for most of the adventure lovers, the district has just become a stopover to go to the Spiti valley.

Local MLA Tejwant Singh Negi says spending nights in tents is expected to provide a rustic ambience to the visitors. Local tribesmen can be roped in as guides for tourists, which will provide a fillip to the rural economy.

“In order to propagate eco-tourism, we have planned to provide financial assistance to local people for purchasing modern tents and other required facilities for night halts of the visiting tourists,” he added.

Presently, only Banjara camps and a local entrepreneur are providing the facilities of tents in the Sangla valley from April to October months.

He said eco-tourism activities are profit making, provided these people get the right kind of financial/technical support and all inputs well in time. The interested people can be given proper training in their selected fields. Initially, these activities can be started on pilot basis in the selected panchayats so that maximum people can see for themselves the profit likely to be generated by pursuing these activities.

There is also a proposal under this project to provide salary support for first two that will be given by the agency so that the beneficiaries do not draw any money from their earnings enabling them to develop a “Business Development Corpus”. They can, however, share the earnings out of the canteen and trekking facilities provided to the tourists. Loan repayments will be done out of the corpus right from the beginning of the project. 



Four govt-aided colleges reeling under financial crunch
Kuldeep Chauhan

Four ‘95 per cent government-aided’ colleges are reeling under an acute financial crisis for the past one year as these colleges have not received a single instalment out of the pending Rs 5.64 crore due from the state government under the grant-in-aid rules for the current financial ending on March 31.

The four colleges are - MLSM College Sundernagar, DAV College Kangra, DAV College Kotkhai and St. Bede’s College Shimla, which are governed by grant-in-aid rules framed by the state government in 1994.

Though the government is charting ‘new grant-in-aid rules’ following the direction from the HP High Court, but these colleges continue to be reeling under acute financial crisis as no grant has been released to them.

Even the lecturers and staff are not getting their salaries on time as the college managements are meeting their expenditure from the funds raised from the self-financing on-campus schemes by these colleges.

College lecturers association of these government-aided colleges have urged Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and education minister I.D. Dhiman to consider the problem of lecturers and other employees working in these colleges on priority basis.

The association informed that more then 7,000 students are getting higher education in these colleges. The tuition fees collected from the students in these colleges is credited to the government account as per the grant-in-aid rules.

Commenting on the issue, principal secretary, education, P. Mitra said, “The grants to these colleges wait clearance from the Finance Department. The new grant-in-aid rules have been framed as per the high court order and will be cleared by the cabinet in the near future.” 



Kitchener of Khartoum in Shimla
by Shriniwas Joshi

Posters, till 1914, were used as commercial tools. Kitchener’s poster designed by Alfred Leete during World War I with the slogan —‘Your country needs you’— was the beginning of creating sense of a common goal, building morale in wartime and encouraging young men to enlist in the military.

The poster has been revamped time and again, since then, showing different faces for different users’ products. After 1914, the next popular one on ‘country’ comes in 1961 from John F. Kennedy’s speech ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’. Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener did well for his country by winning the two-year long battle in Sudan and was laced with the title Kitchener of Khartoum (KoK).

Reputation always travels faster than the man and he arrived in Shimla in 1902 as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army with a reputation that ‘he sits in a chair as if it were a throne’; has dignity of mind developed into a distinct kingliness by exercising almost autocratic authority; has never leaned on another man for consultation and seeking advice; his blue eyes with a mild squint, penetrating and full of judgment, are terror for people coming in his contact.

He stayed here till 1909 and because of his traits, was in constant tug-of-war with Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, and lost chance of being the Viceroy of India, which he tried for, because Curzon’s words against him mattered with the authorities in London.

KoK had an official residence ‘Snowdon’, as the Commander-in-Chief of India, but he also had on lease a cottage called ‘Wildflower Hall’ that had 23 acres of land attached to it. He was most human when gardening. Wildflower Hall was the venue that satisfied this urge of his. It was sold to Robert Hotz in 1909, who demolished it to make a three-storeyed hotel there in 1925.

When a fire engulfed it in early 1990s, Oberoi built a hotel there with a suite named after Lord Kitchener, thus kept his memory alive.

Two things have beaten Lord Kitchener, a woman and a pond. Of the woman, his first love was Hermione Baker, he wore her photograph bearing medallion around his neck, Mary Helen Theresa and Catherine ‘Skittles’ Walters but could marry none.

He was keen to improve Snowdon and succeeded in making this trivial building a very fine and handsome palace.

Of the pond, Harold Begbie wrote that he wanted to have one in the midst of Snowdon garden, which was a difficult task as a pond in the hills was unheard of. But under KoK the impossible was attempted. Every effort failed.

Kitchener surveyed the wreck. “Send for a buffalo,” he commanded. A buffalo was brought that walked round and round in the embryonic pond, puddled the soil. It then fell over the khad and gave up the ghost. “Send for oxen,” said KoK. Oxen came and tramplled the resisting bottom of the obstinate pond till winter came and they died of pneumonia. Snowdon had to go minus the pond.


Kitchener, once, wanted a certain bridge to be built by a certain date. The engineer expressed his doubt on finishing the job in such a short period of time. Kitchener left the place not paying any heed to what the engineer was saying. 

The young, devoted and ambitious engineer worked day and night, did incredible things, and on the due date everything was ready for inspection. When Kitchener arrived, he advanced to him, saluted, and said with a smile, “Sir, we’ve just managed to do it in time.” Fixing his dreadful eyes upon him and with a voice cold with authority, Kitchener said, “Yes; but you ought not to appear before me unshaved.”

Another crazy action credited to him was that he got angry at the working of the government and ordered to get the files of the military department pound up into papier -mache to be used as mouldings on the ceiling of the new dining hall at Snowdon.

His collection of books, chinaware, swords and innumerable plants was a gift to Shimla, while he carried from here a permanent limp in his gait after an accident in the Sanjauli-Dhalli tunnel. His death in 1916 reflected Byron’s lines in Childe Harold, “He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, unknown”, when he with his cruiser HMS Hampshire struck by a German mine drowned near a Russian port. 



Shimla Diary
Cong loss is BJP’s, too
Pratibha Chauhan

There are many BJP MLAs, who are now cursing their own party’s stand on moving the high court against the appointment of chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS) and parliamentary secretaries (PS) during the Congress regime. “Had it not been for the stand many of us too could have got the opportunity of serving in the government, but unfortunately today we feel we could have avoided this stand,” said an MLA.

It is only now that the BJP legislators have been able to understand the plight of their colleagues in the Congress, who had lost their appointments after a short stint.

Though most of the bureaucrats and other senior officers close to the ruling party have been given the much sought after plum postings but it is the MLAs and other BJP leaders, who are eagerly awaiting their reward.

Though filling up the two vacancies in the Cabinet seems to be the last thing on the Chief Minister Prem kumar Dhumal’s agenda, but the MLAs and other leaders are hoping that they will soon be appointed chairman of important boards and corporations.

Though there are some MLAs, who have not lost the hope of being inducted into the Cabinet, but it seems unlikely that Dhumal will want to deal with the ticklish issue as it will leave more people dissatisfied than happy.

178 IGNOU students get degrees

A student receives degree at the 19th convocation of IGNOU held in Shimla recently.
A student receives degree at the 19th convocation of IGNOU held in Shimla recently. 

The 19th Convocation of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) was held here last week in which 178 students received their degrees.

It was in the year 1989 that IGNOU had opened its 11th regional centre in Shimla, with a view to promote open and distance learning education in the hill state. The regional centre has 20 study centres, 17 programme centres and three special study centres in the state.

With difficult terrain and educational institutions being located at a distance, more than 7,000 students from within the state are enrolled with the IGNOU. It was last year only that IGNOU set up four new centres for B.Ed at Shimla, Solan, Sundernagar and Una and a centre for dairy farming technology in Shimla.

IGNOU also started diploma in civil engineering at Sundernagar. Special courses have been started to encourage regional manpower development and promote professional and skill-based programmes.

While 37 students were awarded masters degree, 92 were given bachelors degree and 49 got diplomas in post graduate programmes.

Lights please, leopard is on prowl

With Himachal having a sizeable leopard population, the fear of the predator comes to haunt people every now and then. It is mostly in the winter months that the leopards move down to the lower areas and at times venture into the inhabited areas in search of food.

These days it is the residents of the Shankati area near Summer Hill and Badash, below Lakkar Bazar, who are living under constant fear of being attacked by leopards, while on their way to home. There have been instances when some of the residents returning home in the evening have been attacked by leopards on the prowl.

Fortunately, till now there has been no casualty, but the people say that that they have spotted the animal, especially in the evening. They have also requested the wildlife wing of the Forest Department to lay a trap so that the animal, which is attacking human beings, cattle and other pets can be caught.  



It doesn’t snow like the good old days
Rakesh Lohumi

  • The people stocked ration, coal, kerosene and other necessities well before the onset of winter. The administration also braced up for the winter in accordance with the snow manual
  • A good snowfall early in the season disrupted life and the city was cut-off from the rest of the country. It took weeks to clear the roads and frequent spells of snow ensured that the region remained under snow most of the time. 

Every winter residents and tourists eagerly await snowfall even though it brings along both cheers and miseries. Indeed, it has its own charm as it transforms the landscape dramatically. The snow weaves its own magic as the soft feather–like flakes deposit on trees, bushes, sloping rooftops, power lines, roadside railings, terraced fields and on everything around. It virtually transforms the landscape into a fairyland.

Excitement and thrills apart, snow is essential for the sustenance of life in the mountainous region. The perennial snows in the high reaches sustain the water sources like springs, streams and rivers throughout the year. Lack of timely snow affects discharge in the sources and many of them even dry up completely during summer, causing severe water crisis in villages.

Further the crop in the middle and higher hills is totally dependent on snow. It is considered as white manure for the apple orchards. Above all, snow helps in keeping the hills free from disease as most of the harmful bacteria are killed in extreme cold temperatures.

Snow is not an unmixed blessing it also adds to the woes of the people, already reeling under severe cold. A heavy snowfall throws life out of gear as roads are blocked and one has to trudge through snow for carrying out the daily chores.

At times, the people have to go without the daily necessities like newspapers, milk, vegetables and bread. Taps remain dry for days together due to freezing of water in the supply pipelines. It is the worst time for the elderly people, who are virtually confined indoors for weeks together. Patients have to go without medical treatment. Heavy snow usually disrupts power supply and telecommunication links.

Mercifully, places like Shimla no longer experience such heavy snowfall. The last heavy snowfall, which paralysed life for more than a fortnight, was during the winter of 1990-91. Till the early 1980s’ such heavy snowfalls were a normal feature and the residents and the administration were well prepared for the annual ordeal well in advance.

The people stocked ration, coal, kerosene and other necessities well before the onset of winter. The administration also braced up for the winter in accordance with the snow manual, framed by the British, and kept manpower and machinery ready for prompt clearance of snow.

A good snowfall early in the season disrupted life and the city was cut-off from the rest of the country. It took weeks to clear the roads and frequent spells of snow ensured that the region remained under snow most of the time.

The winter vacations in schools and colleges extended almost up to one hundred days and a majority of the residents shifted to plains to escape the ordeal.

Even monkeys migrated from Mount Jakhu here to the lower areas of the city to avoid starvation. The duration of vacations has been reduced to half and the residents no longer feel the need to move to warmer plains.

The children here took out sledges from the stores at the sight of first clouds and sledging on the snow-covered streets and roads was the favourite winter past time in the hill station. The temperature remained below freezing point for days together and in 1960s it even plunged to -3 degree C. The sun-shadowed parts of the town remained under snow till the end of March.

It hardly snows these days and even if the weather God obliges the white sheet melts away rather quickly. Over the past few years, even the nearby resort of Kufri is not getting enough snow, an indication of the fast receding snowline. Indeed, the construction boom in the capital and the surrounding areas, over the past two decades, has taken a heavy toll on the environment, severely affecting the microclimate.

With the government not keen to contain the concrete jungle from spreading to environmentally sensitive belts like Mashobra, Kufri, Fagu and Chail, the situation is worsening with each passing day. The day is not far off when snow-less winters will become a routine feature.



They go by celestial navigation
Ducks and geese constitute about 85 per cent of population of the migratory species
Vishal Gulati

The Pong Dam and its surrounding areas these days are home to more than 96,000 birds, including a large number of migratory. Most of these have winged their way to the cool environs of Kangra district by covering thousands of miles from trans-Himalayan region.

Over the years the Pong area has the distinction of being one of the important wintering grounds for some of the rare species. Some of the migratory species preferred to stay at Pong wetlands even after the winter.

According to a survey conducted by the state forest department, the majority of birds roosting in the Pong area are waterbirds. The birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding are called waterbirds.

According to a book written by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India, ‘Handbook on Indian Wetland Birds and their Conservation’, every year nearly 350 species are migrating to India after crossing national and international boundaries. The most abundant winter migrants are ducks and geese. Both constitute about 85 per cent of population of the migratory species.

But what mechanism do the birds follow to cruise beneath the Pacific and Atlantic oceans for years? The book says the birds go by celestial navigation. The birds possess sensory objects that can trace the waves generated by the earth’s magnetic field. The migration starts when the winds are favourable, mostly at dusk.

The Western Himalayas and Indus Valley are major migratory routes into India. Different species uses different routes depending upon their ability to climb over the Himalayas. Some species are keeping to lower passes and river valleys, while others like the bar-headed goose and the demoiselle crane cross higher passes.

The demoiselle crane migrates to Gujarat from Russia after traveling more than 4,000 km. The bird crosses the Himalayas during its sojourn. Similarly, great cormorants ringed at Qinghai in China have been spotted in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

One of the most common techniques used by scientists to study the bird migration is “banding” or “ringing”. Studies conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society show that birds ringed in India have been found in 14 countries, including Australia and South Africa. During the past four decades, the BNHS has ringed more than 4 lakh birds in various parts of the country, including Pong wetlands.

Michael J. Crosby, research and data manager, BirdLife International Asia Division, BirdLife International, UK, writes in the book: “India is a wonderful place for waterbirds. Species such as the spot-billed pelican, the greater adjutant, the black-bellied tern and the Indian skimmer were formally widespread in tropical Asia, but have declined drastically in South-East Asia and southern China, leaving India and neighbouring countries as their main stronghold.”  



Chintpurni Temple Offerings Skyrocket
Ban on pujaris in garbh griha a boon 
Ravinder Sood

The decision of the Chintpurni Temple Trust management to ban the entry of hereditary pujaris inside the temple (garbh griha) in November last had proved to be a boon for the temple management as it has led to the increase in the offerings (by Rs 40 lakh) made in the temple in November and Rs 28 lakh in December.

Official sources said here that the total receipts of the temple in October were only Rs 84,90,829, while these touched new highs of Rs 1,20,45,720 and Rs 1,11,50,085 in November and December, respectively. On an average, there was an increase of over Rs 1 lakh per day. Though there was Navratra fair in October, over five lakh additional devotees visited the temple, even then the receipt of the temple remained only to Rs 84,90,829, whereas, November and December were considered as the lean period because of severe cold conditions in the region, inflow of devotees was reduced in these two months, even then there was a steep rise in the receipts.

Now with the abnormal rise in the temple receipts in the past two months after the ban of entries of pujaris inside the temple (garbh griha), it had now been established that there was a large-scale pilferage of temple money that was going on unchecked for the past many years.

Besides, loosing Rs 1 lakh in cash daily, the temple was also losing foreign currency and gold ornaments offered to the deity by the pilgrims.

The main question being asked today in Chintpurni was, as to who pocketed the huge amount of money in the past?

Earlier, The Tribune had carried a story on November 2, highlighting the theft of a valuable gold necklace from the temple. After this news item appeared in The Tribune, the Una DC, who was also the commissioner of temples, banned the entry of all hereditary pujaris inside the main temple and they were not allowed to touch the cash and other offerings. Residents of Chintpurni are hurt over the failure of the Una police in not solving the theft of the gold necklace stolen from the temple in October last.

Though the police had registered a case but the persons allegedly involved in this case were bailed out by a court at Una, as the police had failed to produce any evidence.  



Pangi Valley wedded to Jukaru
Balkrishan Prashar

‘Jukaru’ in pangwali means to greet and wish the well-being of one another; says Geet Singh Thakur, a resident of Pangi. ‘Jukaru’ is the most important festival of pangwalas in the snowy tribal valley of Pangi in Chamba district. Jukaru festival begins on the next day of ‘amavas’ at the fag-end of January or early February and continues for consecutive 15 days.

This year, Jukaru will begin on February 8, and will conclude on February 22, says J. S. Pathania, the resident commissioner of Pangi.

The state government has entitled pangwalas to a local holiday on the occasion. The fortnight-long festival is an inseparable part of the pangwalas’ culture and those who have settled outside, come and join their relatives here to celebrate.

Preparations for this distinct festival start several months before. The tribal residents fondly store butter, ghee, sattus, honey and pater (locally made liquor) well in advance for Jukaru. The houses are cleaned and white washed. Jukaru has four important local ceremonies namely, Sil, Pareed, Panahie and Uyaan.

On the eve of amavas, people worship their family deity (Ishta Devta) and draw sketches of sun, moon, stars etc on the beam (dai) of the roof of kotha. Special local recipes are taken in dinner. This ceremony is called as Sil.

People get up early in the morning and worship their family deity. They offer local recipes like mandays, pinni, luchi, ghee and milk in worship. Family members hug each other and pay respect to elders.

Then the people go across the village enquiring about the well-being of their near and dear ones.

On the occasion of pareed which lasts for four days, a feast of butter, sattus, mandays, honey, and meat is exchanged. The members of a family feast together

Panahie ceremony is celebrated on the fifth day of Jukaru. People prepare ‘bakrus’ and pyramid of ‘satttus’ called ‘totu’. Small models of implements used in ploughing the fields are also made of atta and are called ‘hatloo’. Before sunrise, the tribals get together at a common place. The elder person of the family carries ‘dhoop’ in a big iron ladle called as ‘dhoon’ and worships these models. Dhoon is not brought out of the house except on this day. This ceremony marks the restarting of all agriculture activities, which had been suspended due to heavy snowfall during the winters.

The pangwalas celebrate each day of Jukaru singing and dancing on the beats of dhols’ and drums. Ladies perform the traditional rhythmic folkdance called ‘ghurei’ on the roofs (sarna) of houses. The atmosphere is enchanting.

Jukaru hence marks the occasion of leisure and pleasure in chilly winters. The festival ends with Uyaan fair. 





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