Pvt transporters have a field day
Commuters from Kasauli are the worst hit
Ambika Sharma

The virtual free hand given to the transporters in plying private buses at their whims and fancies has made a mess of the transport system mooted primarily to facilitate the common man.

The number of private buses plying on the roads has far surpassed the fleet of the Himachal Transport Corporation buses and the absolute lack of check and accountability on these transporters has created more inconvenience than facilities.

The private transporters ply buses only in peak tourist season of summers and keep away their buses for seven months in a year from certain lean routes. A survey of the transport system revealed that the key tourist destination of Kasauli suffers the most.

The situation is more pitiable in the winter months from September to March, when most of the buses deliberately skip routes. With crucial organisations like the Air Force, the Army, the Central Research Institute, the Doordarshan Kendra, etc., being located in Kasauli, the rush of commuters to this place is immense.

With limited employment opportunities available to the locals they generally commute to Solan, Parwanoo as well as Shimla for their jobs on a daily basis. Buses to Kasauli were being run by the HRTC on the popular demand and they continued to ply for several years until the private transporters came forward to ply their buses.

This led to the phasing out of at least two HRTC buses in the evening, giving way to private transporters. But instead of plying buses on a regular basis, they have adopted tactics, which are putting the common man in trouble.

There are five private buses that have availed route permits to ply buses between 6.30 pm to 8 pm., but barely one bus plies regularly while the others ply at their whims and fancies.

Despite several pleas of the daily commuters to check this high-handedness, the regional transport authority couldn’t go beyond pursuing all buses to ply on occasions, when they conduct surprise checks.

A section of commuters, however, rued that it was unfair to let them off without any punishment even when they don’t ply buses for as long as seven months.

Ideally their route permits for the routes, which they skip should be cancelled so that at least state transport buses can be allotted those timetables.

Worst still, the district administration is unable to check the menace of three-wheeler drivers, who not only indulge in overloading but also put to risk the lives of the commuters.

Further, they are reluctant to return change and also over charge the passengers. Further, the situation in the industrial area of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh requires a special mention as buses here not only indulge in rash driving while competing with their counterparts, but also encourage roof travelling, where often it is the school children, who bear the brunt. With little check, the system appears to be going from bad to worse. Making mockery of the system, the staff doesn’t even care to put on uniforms as laid down by a court direction. They are rarely challaned.

RTO Yashpal Sharma said the route permits of habitual defaulters, who desisted from plying buses of specific routes, could be cancelled but it was difficult to check them everyday. But, whenever field visits were made it was ensured that discipline was enforced in the transporters.

With a majority of the transporters being close to politicians, it was difficult to take action against them, confessed a senior official.

Decrying the lack of control on these erring transporters by the department, Deepak Kumar, who daily commutes between Kasauli and Solan and is employed in a public sector enterprise says, “It is shocking why such glaring disobedience fails to attract any action from the authorities. It appears the department is here to serve these transporters and care less about the common man.”

“Whom are the laws meant for? These transporters care too hoots for any law whether it is the one concerning running of blaring music systems or the one pertaining to wearing of uniforms by the drivers. How can authorities turn a blind eye to all these irregularities? It is surprising, Roshan Lal, a government employee, who commutes from a remote village near Kasauli said.

Interestingly, most of the transporters are habitual tax defaulters, who tax penalties worth several lakhs and the department waits for a nod from their political bosses before cracking the whip to impose some discipline.

Transport minister Kishen Kapoor said “I have specifically directed all RTOs as well as the director, transport, to ensure that private transporters ply their vehicles as per routes availed by them, but in case such problems are brought to the notice of the department through public complaints, a suitable action will be taken after the conduct of a proper inquiry.”



Road snap II
Kulwinder Sandhu

Black carpeting on a nine-km stretch of the road leading to Dharamsala town from Gaggal (Kangra) side was done twice in the past six months and yet again it has been damaged, probably due to poor quality of the material used to construct the road and lack of proper monitoring by the engineers of the Public Works Department.

This road was first upgraded and repaired through a local contractor in May-June last year, at an estimated cost of Rs 3 crore but within two months it started developing cracks.

When the local people began criticising the PWD and the issue was highlighted promptly in the media, an inquiry was ordered into it, which was conducted by the superintending engineer of the department posted in Una.

A senior officer of the PWD told The Tribune that the inquiry officer in his detailed fact-finding report found that the concerned officials of the department under whose supervision the work was done by the contractor had not properly monitored the work and they resorted to only writing letters/reminders and giving notices to the contractor rather than practically going to the spot and asking the contractor to construct the road as per the specifications.

The officer further said the specifications of the design made by the engineers of the department were not implemented by the contractor and to some extent the prevailing rainy season at the time of the construction of the road had also played the spoilsport.

Another senior officer of the department on the condition of anonymity said that this design of deracinating and resoling was faulty, which had failed everywhere in the area where it was implemented by the department. Lack of monitoring at the department level had also added to the problem, the official added.

After the inquiry the payment of the contractor was stopped and a notice was also issued to him to re-carpet the road at his own cost. The job was done following which, the payment was released to him.

Now again, the road is damaged and the workers of the PWD are busy repairing the patches for the convenience of the Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his ministry, who have here on a winter sojourn.

No one seems to be concerned about the public money being wasted on repairing this road time and again. The engineers of the PWD are trying to save their skin while the contractor has already managed to get his money.

It was learnt that the contractor who under took the construction work of this road allegedly had good political connections, due to which no action was being taken against him.

Prakash Mishra, SE (design) of the department said that the pressure of traffic on this road is very high due to the manifold increase in number of vehicles passing through it. Heavy motor vehicles were allowed to pass through this road soon after resoling and black carpeting without waiting for it to dry up, he added.

Admitting that the earlier existing road was first deracinated and resoling was done again before the black carpeting, he said that it was done as per the design and specifications, he said.

The residents had also brought this matter into the notice of PWD minister Gulab Singh Thakur last week, he said, “I will inquire into the matter, the issue was not in my knowledge but I will surely inquire into it and take appropriate action. Nobody will be spared whosoever found guilty,” he added.



Parking place for portraits
by Shriniwas Joshi

George Ade thinks that a stamp is a parking place for portraits of bygone personalities. The policy of the International Postal Union is that, a stamp cannot have a living person on it; it has to be a person who is dead.

The skepticism stems from the uncertainty about their unblemished ‘hero-like’ behaviour after the stamps are issued. The personalities of the state that figure in the stamps and the year of release of the stamps are Nicholas Roerich, the Russian artist and philosopher, who made his home at Naggar, Kullu, in 1974; Pahari Gandhi Baba Kanshi Ram, social worker and freedom fighter, in 1984; Dr Y.S. Parmar, first Chief Minister of the state also called the founder of the state, in 1988; both Master Mitrasen, poet and Gorkha folk artist, and Shobha Singh, renowned artist mostly admired for Sikh Guru portraits, in 2001 and again the twosome Yashpal, Hindi author and patriot and the flaming magnificence of patriotism Major Som Nath Sharma, P.V.C. in 2003.

Having stood out in their respective fields when alive, they were witness to the ceremony of the release of stamps on them from heaven. With the past-personality policy still on, India awaits eagerly on the outcome of the loud thought of the minister of state for telecommunications on issuing stamps on very much living Shah Rukh, Sachin and Sania with a view to use their ‘pull-factor’ to attract youth towards philately.

The United Kingdom introduced the stamp called the Penny Post on May 6, 1840, with the head of Queen Victoria on it. The queen’s head decorated 100 more designs that appeared in the next 60 years, including those issued in ‘anna’ denominations by the Indian Postage System that started operating from October 1, 1854 under the East India Company.

The princely state of Chamba had a convention with British India in 1887 and issued Indian postage stamps with an imprint of Chamba state. These stamps ceased to be valid for postage on January 1, 1951, when replaced by those of the Republic of India. George Herpin, who had started the first philatelic society in France in 1865 would never have thought that philately — stamp collection — would, one day, be so popular.

Though it has lost some sheen now, yet the first day covers and the stamps are always the prized collections. The latest special cover issued by the HP Postal Circle, Shimla, on October 25, 2007, is that of Barnes Court (Raj Bhavan) building, when it completed 175 years of its existence (see photograph). A stamp on that occasion could not be released.

The first stamp of Independent India with the national flag and words ‘Jai Hind’ on it was released on November 21, 1947.

These days non-conventional themes on environment, local flora-fauna and cultural heritage are being reflected on the Indian postage stamps. Himachal had its the then state bird Monal’ in 1975 on a two rupee stamp, but 90s onwards, the themes on Himachal stamps varied.

The traditional tribal dance ‘kayang’ of Kinnaur district stepped in a Rs 4 stamp in 1991. Two renowned teaching institutions of the state, the Lawrence School, Sanawar and the St. Bede’s college, Shimla graduated to the stamps in 1997 and 2004 respectively. Tabo Monastery at Spiti on completion of its 1,000 years etched itself in Rs 5 and Rs 10 stamps in 1999 and the Kalka-Shimla railway chugging the iron-path for the past 100 years till 2003 was seen on a Rs 5 stamp that year.

The proudest moment for the state, however, was when Phuhar Uppal in 2000, then a third standard student won an all-India competition with a drawing showing a child hugging ‘best friend’ elephant, and thereafter release of a stamp on the Bal Divas of that year depicting the awarded painting.

So much for the postage stamps – they surely are the silent ambassadors of the national taste. 


What lesson does a stamp give to you?
Stick to a subject and do not leave it till the destination is reached. 



shimla diary
Catch me, get Rs 400
The state government has come out with a new solution to combat monkey menace and provide employment to the youth. 

The ‘monkey business’ could well become an attractive source of earning for the youth in the state, if the scheme announced by Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal takes a practical shape.

The Forest Department has been asked to frame a scheme under which, the villagers will be given Rs 400 for catching a monkey. It will be an expensive proposition considering the fact that so far the department had been taking the services of professional monkey catchers from outside the state, who were paid just Rs 45 per monkey.

The entire expenses, including transportation of the trapped monkeys to the Tuti Kandi rescue centre for sterilisation and feeding, will come to Rs 100.

Moreover, catching a monkey is not an amateur job it requires specialised skills. Even if the government had to come out with such a scheme for the benefit of the locals, it would have to ensure proper training of youth.

The government plans to set up two primate protection parks at Shimla and Nadaun to provide an attractive habitat for the urbanised simians, who have been a big source of nuisance in places like Shimla, Rampur, Hamirpur and other towns.

Besides, it also plans to set up eight centres for mass sterilisation of the monkeys, whose population in the state had already reached 3.20 lakh.

To begin with, two centres are proposed to set up in Mandi and Hamirpur districts. The government had already prepared an action plan for the purpose, which will be submitted to the centre for funding.

Secretariat on a transferring spree

With the government away to Dharamsala on the annual winter sojourn, the babus in the state secretariat are having free play.

In the absence of ministers and senior officers, they are not answerable to anyone. The heavy rush of visitors, who throng the seat of the government, particularly after a new government has come to power, is nowhere to be seen.

It is not surprising that the Ellerslie, which houses the secretariat, looks somewhat deserted as the legislators along with their supporters, political workers, employees leaders and transfer seekers seems to have all moved to the winter camp of the government.

But surprisingly there is no let up in transfers and every other day a list is released from the secretariat, mostly late in the evening. The government has been, indeed, preoccupied with transfers and some of the state administrative service officers have been shifted repeatedly.

Large-scale transfers have been ordered towards the close of the financial year and on the eve of the Budget session, which is not the right time for shifting officials. What will happen after the Budget session when the transfer season actually gets underway?

Stability, need of the hour

After the record–breaking tenure of Mohan Chauhan, who lasted for two years and nine months as commissioner of the local municipal corporation, there has been a frequent change of incumbents.

The corporation has seen more five commissioners in as many months. Shekhar Gupta, who replaced Mohan Chauhan made way for Devesh Kumar after few months. After the announcement of assembly poll, he was sent as the deputy commissioner of Bilaspur and Shekhar Gupta was once again given chafed of the post.

After elections, the new BJP government posted a senior IAS officer A.J.V. Prasad, the municipal commissioner. Within a week, state administrative service officer Amitabh Awasthy has replaced him. One only hopes that the game of musical chairs will end with Awasthy in the seat and he will have a reasonable tenure to attend to the pressing civic problems of the state capital.

Three years is the normal tenure for any incumbent in key positions like that of the commissioner of the Shimla Municipal Corporation.  



Imported varieties will help hop production go up
Pratibha Chauhan

Hops growing in the Lahaul-Spiti area
Hops growing in the Lahaul-Spiti area — A Tribune photograph

With the introduction of the imported high yielding and aromatic varieties of hops from the USA, the production is now likely to go up in the tribal district of Lahaul Spiti, which is the lone area of the country, where hops are being cultivated.

The cold desert of Lahaul Spiti might have a complete monopoly in the country as far as hops cultivation, used in making beer is concerned, but despite the increased demand, the production has failed to increase substantially over the years.

The problem of marketing and monopoly by a single company, which made delayed payments, had proved a deterrent in promoting the hop cultivation in the valley.

The signing of an agreement between the Lahaul Hop Growers Union and the Baddi-based Aromatic Flora Private Limited is likely to encourage farmers to take to cultivation of hops.

The industry has placed a demand of up to 500 metric tonnes even though the production in Lahaul has barely been able to touch 50 metric tonnes.

Though hops have been growing in Lahaul Spiti since 1983, but the area under its cultivation has not increased much despite the efforts of the government. The area where hops are being grown is mainly in Pattan Valley, Darcha and Satingri.

The Horticulture Department has introduced high yielding varieties like hybrid second, harmukhi and nugget, which give a higher yield as compared to the earlier varieties of nugget.

Some of these are aromatic varieties, which have a higher content of alpha acid, which is used in making beer. “The government has also announced a subsidy of Rs 25 per kg on hops so a grower will receive Rs 175 per kg from the company and Rs 25 from the government,” D.C. Sharma, deputy director, Horticulture, posted in Keylong said.

High quality hops have been exported to USA, England, Germany and many other foreign countries, but hops cultivation has not seen much increase even though it is a high return crop.

It is for this reason that two of the four processing plants set up by the government are not even operational. Since the production is less, only two plants at Shansa and Bering are being run.

Had the efforts made to increase hops production borne results, the farmers of the tribal area could have made a lot of profit.

“The main reasons for too many farmers not taking to hops cultivation is the problem in marketing and delayed payments by the companies,” said Sharma.

He said that there have been occasions when the farmers received payments after three years. With the introduction of high yielding varieties with better alpha acid essence it is expected that the cultivation of hops will pick up in a big way. 



Flowers are the way to go, but first equip farmers
Rakesh Lohumi

Carnations being grown in polyhouse in the form of cut flowers in the Churah area of Chamba district.
IT’S CARNATION TIME: Carnations being grown in polyhouse in the form of cut flowers in the Churah area of Chamba district. — A Tribune photograph

Diversion from traditional agriculture to floriculture has of late emerged as an attractive proposition for the farmers of the state, but certain inherent constraints are holding them back from exploiting its full potential.

Areas under the floriculture cultivation have increased from 300 hectare to 510 hectare over the past five years. A large number of farmers have set up poly greenhouses and are cultivating wide variety flowers, including chrysanthemum, marigold, carnations, tulips, lilium and gladiolus.

However, the total production so far is a meagre Rs 19 crore, which is only a fraction of the vast potential. With the country’s economy growing at a healthy rate of around 9 per cent, the income of the burgeoning middleclass is increasing and its lifestyle changing fast.

According to estimates, the total potential of the country’s floriculture market, including exports, is conservatively assessed at Rs 10,000 crore and with all its inherent advantages, Himachal Pradesh could tap a share to the tune of Rs 500 crore. With varied agro-climatic conditions and temperatures ranging from -40°C to 40°C, Himachal Pradesh is most suitable to grow almost every kind of flowers. The state could thus supply different kinds of flowers round the year. Further, the produce could be transported from any growing area to the terminal market in Delhi by road within 18 hours, which is a big advantage.

There are success stories from districts like Chamba, Solan, Bilaspur, Kullu, Shimla and Mandi, but it is not a vehicle for economic emancipation of the marginal hill farmers, whose small land holdings make agriculture an unrewarding exercise.

After the launch of horticulture technology mission, under which a host of incentives and subsidies are being provided, mostly big farmers and other financially well-off persons are taking floriculture as an industrial enterprise.

The small farmers, due to lack of knowledge and awareness, still feels that growing flowers in poly houses is a cost-intensive and highly technical venture, well beyond his means and capabilities. The Horticulture Department has incentives to offer but it lacks trained manpower that could impart technical know-how to the farmers and guide them in setting up these floriculture units. There are other reasons like lack of indigenous planting material, high cost of poly houses and absence of required infrastructure like cold storage, transportation and marketing hub for farmers in cities like Chandigarh and Delhi.

Himalayan Research Group director Dr Lal Singh underlines the need to bring down the cost of poly house by using maximum local manpower and materials. His organisation has developed a holistic model for growing lily through networking of poor and marginal farmers under Gohar subdivision with a 100 sq m poly house fabricated at a nominal cost Rs 300 per sq m with the help of local artisans and material. The normal cost with steel fabrication comes to from Rs 600 to Rs 700 per sq m.

A special cell to take care of all matters pertaining to floriculture, including organising marginal farmers, importing plating material, and marketing infrastructure should be created to provide assistance to marginal farmers.

Community leadership is necessary for networking of the farmers.  





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