Spotted waterless
With the summer round the corner, many areas around Kasauli have started suffering pangs of thirst
Ambika Sharma

— A Tribune photograph
…We have to trudge long distances in search of water. — Saroj, Housewife

I will look into the problem and if any staff member is found wanting in his duty, an action will be taken.
— Ravinder Ravi, Irrigation and Public Health Minister

The indifferent attitude of the Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) Department towards proper maintenance of some schemes has created inconvenience for the public in the surrounding areas of Kasauli.

A population of nearly 1,200 belonging to various villages, including Garkhal, Tickethatti, Badah, Sanawar, etc., have been forced to remain without water for nearly days together with the Ladah drinking water scheme developing frequent snags.

Problem arose when the pumping site located near Ladah village sunk in causing problem in the pumping of water. Instead of making alternative arrangements or speeding up the restoration work, all officials did was to sit over the problem.

The department chose to show some movement only after the public raised some hue and cry. A week down the lane and the work still appears to be moving at a snail’s pace with the people continuing to suffer.

“We have little choice but to fetch water from bouris which lie several kilometres from Garkhal. Even though the IPH Department has failed to supply water for nearly days at a stretch, we have no excuse for not preparing food and so are forced to trudge long distances in search of water” Saroj, a housewife, rued.

The lackadaisical attitude of the officials in addressing the problem has worsened the situation. Though the executive engineer had directed the field staff to make an alternative arrangement in pumping more water from the nearby scheme, but the direction remained unattended. This explains how non-serious the department is towards the problems of the common man.

Even when an arrangement was made to lift water from a nearby scheme it was used to supply the same to marriages and private function making the public at large to suffer.

SDO V. P. Kainthla appeared to brush aside the query and said he was not aware of the latest situation. He however said the digging work had been initiated and the requisite machinery was being brought to restore the scheme.

The field staff had their own tale of woes. They confided that the land where the pumping machinery was installed had been sinking for the past several days. They had duly informed the senior officials but there was little that was done to check the problem well in time.

It was now when the problem had worsened that officials paid some heed to it and that too after mediapersons made inquires. The dilly-dally attitude of the department was further manifest in the faulty compliance report being sent to the executive engineer by the field staff.

Executive engineer Dharmender had to cut a sorry figure as he said, “I had given them directions to draw more water from the Gorti Scheme so that people got some relief yesterday.”

Expressing ignorance about the water supply remaining affected for days at a stretch he said, “I will check as to why my directions were not abided by”. This was not the first time that this crucial scheme had developed a snag.

Earlier too, the water supply had remained paralysed for months together due to lack of coordination between the electricity and the IPH departments.

Though the IPH Department is now working to complete the Rs 60-crore much-hyped Giri Water Scheme which is slated to be functional in April but it remains to be seen whether Kasauli and its surrounding areas are able to get its benefits now.

It still remains to be seen if the crucial tourist spot of Kasauli and its surrounding area gets adequate water this summer. Minister irrigation and public health Ravinder Ravi, who visited the district recently, has directed the field staff not to show any laxity in repair and restoration works.



Study loans a boon for poor students
Balkrishan Prashar

The interest-free study loan scheme launched by the Himachal Pradesh Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development Corporation has yielded encouraging results. It has proved a ‘godsend’ for the poor but intelligent students, enabling them to find suitable job opportunities.

In Chamba district, the corporation has so far helped 82 such students in completing their studies and finding good jobs. These SC\ST students belonged to far-flung areas of Pangi tribal subdivision, besides other parts of Chamba district.

According to district manager of the corporation S.K. Verma, seven students were pursuing the MBBS course while Raj Kumar, a tribal student of Huddan village in Pangi subdivision, had joined as a doctor in the government civil hospital, Manali.

Another student, Kajal of Seri village in Pangi, had joined as a doctor in the Veterinary Department. Hem Raj, a student belonging to Killar village, did engineering and then joined a multinational software company.

“Under the study loan scheme, the corporation provides Rs 75,000 as financial assistance without interest. Anybody needing more than that can get a total loan up to Rs 2.5 lakh at an interest of just 4 per cent on the amount above Rs 75,000. Many of the beneficiaries are undergoing the degree courses in medicine and engineering, besides vocational diploma courses in various government and other recognised universities and institutions within and outside the state,” Verma said.



Punish them: Saurabh’s family
Ravinder Sood

Dr N. K. Kalia, father of martyr Captain Saurabh Kalia, who died fighting for the country in the Kargil War, seven years ago, has been moving from pillar to post and has approached several national and international organisations to pressurise Pakistan to identify, book and punish those who tortured him brutally, as they kept him in captivity for three weeks.

It was evident from his body, which was handed over by the Pakistani army to the Indian Army. But his earnest efforts had yielded no fruitful results.

Saurabh’s parents are a harassed lot today. They have not been able to forget what happened to their son seven years back. Their wounds have not healed yet, they are still struggling for their cause.

Capt Kalia was the first officer to detect and inform about the Pakistan intrusion while on patrol duties in the first fortnight of May, 1999. He along with five jawans were captured alive on the Indian side of LoC on May 15, 1999.

While interacting with The Tribune disappointed and disheartened Kalia couple said that the Pakistan army tortured soldiers burnt bodies with cigarettes, pierced ears with hot iron rods, removed eyes before puncturing them, broke most of the bones and teeth, chopped off various limbs and private organs, besides inflicting unimaginable physical and mental tortures.

Kalia said his son fought the real battle for 22 days, undergoing the worst possible ordeal. The enemy gave in but these valiant soldiers did not break down while being tortured. Pakistani soldiers had to shoot them ultimately.

The detailed postmortem examination conducted by the Indian Army reflects all this, which a common man would shiver just to think of what had happened to these soldiers.

Kalia said, “Capturing and being captured was a part of every conflict. But they were captured alive and their PoWs status was not intimated to India. They were subjected to inhuman and brutal treatment that violated the Geneva Convention to which both India and Pakistan are the signatories.”

The postmortem report confirms that injuries were inflicted ante mortem (before death). Becoming sentimental Kalia, argued “Sacrificing oneself for the nation is an honour, every soldier would love to do but no parents can accept what happened to these soldiers. He further added that,“ If the government fails in its duty to safeguard its prisoners of war, parents will think twice before sending their wards into the armed forces.”

“This may set a disturbing trend. This must be understood that this is not a problem of the Kalia family only but a national issue”, he added. Kalia feels if Pakistan is allowed to go unpunished in this case, it would get emboldened to strike more dangerously in future.

Dr Kalia said when the bodies of these martyrs arrived in New Delhi in 1999, a lot of statements were made from various ministers, including the Prime Minister and other high-ranking officials, but over the time all initiatives have evaporated.



Organic manure from mushroom abstract
S.R. Pundir

Himalaya International Ltd of Paonta valley has a plan to contribute in a big way in the development of agriculture sector in the valley. The export oriented company started its business in 1992 in Paonta valley by exporting mushrooms of international standard in frozen conditions to the USA.

After fighting for survival in the past one decade, due to poor infrastructure in the country and stiff international competition, the company has opened new avenues for the farmers of Paonta valley by starting export of baby potato, Jabpenoes, Basil (Tulsi) and Thyme, produced by the local farmers.

Due to no buyer of sugar cane in the market, which is their main traditional cash crop, farmers of Paonta valley were quick in adopting the production of these produces on contractual basis and getting good return, says Daleep Singh, a progressive farmer of the Bhugarni area.

The company has established mozzarella cheese plant in the valley, which produces Italian mozzarella cheese. The plant is first of its kind in India. The plant is a boon for the milk producers in the valley.

Chairman and CEO of the company Man Mohan Malik, while talking to The Tribune said the company had planned to link over 500 more agriculturist families with its extension plan, in the first phase.

Over two hundred farmers of the Paonta valley were already linked with the company and selling their produce to it, which is being exported to USA.

The company has played a big role in promoting organic farming in the valley by supplying them spent mushroom subtract (compost) on a nominal price or free of cost. The manure is useful with over one-and-a-half per cent nitrogen, Mallik said.



Blakey continues to live in hearts of destitute kids
Kulwinder Sandhu

Parents and friends of late Michael Blakey, a British charity volunteer, had raised a sum of 22,585.87 pounds in UK for setting up a centre for destitute children here at Dharamsala to fulfill their son’s dream.

The 23-year-old graduate from the University of Wales, Swansea, with a first class honours degree in Development Studies, Michael was brutally murdered here in November 2006. A police case was registered under Section 302 of the IPC in the local police station.

Michael was staying in a monastery near the main temple and residence of the Dalai Lama at McLeodganj. His body was found in the forest area adjoining St. John’s Church situated in-between Forsetganj and McLeodganj.

Unfortunately, even after 15 months, the investigating authorities have failed to solve this murder case of and nab the culprits.

His last dream was to buy a piece of land and build a good hostel accommodation for the destitute children of the Kangra valley.

His parents and friends living in UK had collected 22,585.87 pounds under he ‘Michael Blakey Memorial Fund’ as on date, which would be donated to the Tong-Len Charitable Trust that provides schooling and hostel facilities to the local poor children.

The local people associated with the trust still remember Michael and say that in his short stint here, he had done a lot of work for the poor children. The trust now looks forward to fulfil the dreams of Michael and set-up a centre here.



shimla diary
Is govt suffering from inquiry mania?
Pratibha Chauhan

With the BJP regime ordering probe into decisions taken by the previous Congress regime every now and then, it is literally raining inquiries with complete ‘inquiry mania’ hitting the state these days.

With the former civil Ssupplies minister, Singhi Ram and his daughter being the first victims in the forged certificate case, the Congress leaders are getting sleepless nights. The BJP government has even handed over the chargesheet, prepared by the party against the Congress leaders to the Vigilance Bureau.

A case has also been registered in the construction of Drabla road in Shimla district, allegedly involving swindling of huge amount of money. One gets to hear rumours even about impending inquiry against a bureaucrat and his wife even though nothing concrete has emerged so far.

Even though all this is quite normal with the change of regime, but the only question on everybody’s mind is whether all this is for mere political impact or will these inquiries reach a conclusive end with the guilty being punished.

Young talent at their best

An exhibition of paintings depicting nature and human emotions by young up coming artists has been put up at the Rotary Town Hall.

The exhibition with paintings by three artists Neha, Divya and Rajesh was inaugurated by secretary language, art and culture, B.K. Aggarwal. He appreciated the paintings by the artists and said efforts must be made to encourage young talent by providing them opportunities and a platform to display their work. The paintings by Divya show nature and landscape in its different forms.

The people appreciated the paintings by the young artist portraying a woman in different roles and moods. Similarly, paintings by Neha also pay a tribute to womanhood as she plays every role be it of a mother, daughter, wife or sister to perfection against all odds.

Will he? Will he not?

The former chief minister, Virbhadra Singh has ensured his absence from the assembly session for one or the other reason till now but it remains to be seen if he will make himself available for the district-level public meetings that the party has decided to hold over the next one month.

Peeved over the issue of being sidelined by the party high command, who chose to make Vidya Stokes, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader, he is keeping himself aloof from the session. With the central leader, R.K. Dhawan scheduled to address the first public meeting in Nahan on March 23, it will be clear if the former Chief Minister will involve himself in the party affairs.

The Congress intends holding meetings at all district headquarters to make the people aware of the pro-people decisions taken by the UPA regime. HPCC chief Viplove Thakur and Vidya Stokes would certainly ensure their presence at all these meetings but nobody, not even Virbhadra loyalists have any clue about Virbhadra’s mood.

Not enjoying too great a rapport with Stokes, who made a statement that it was the defeat of the government and not the party in the assembly elections, he might choose to stay aloof and convey his displeasure at being ignored.



Himalayan Brahmo Samaj
Shriniwas Joshi

Walking towards the Vidhan Sabha in Shimla, one finds huge deodars and green patches of land on the left and right by the side of Gorton Castle that houses the accountant-general’s office. The patch on the left is in safe hands of the central government but that on the right, adjacent to the ugly, monstrous structure of a newly built hotel, is thankfully with the Himalayan Brahmo Samaj Trust (HBST) that has not succumbed to the ‘filthy lucre’ and is maintaining it as it was in the year 1886, when the Brahmo Samaj temple was consecrated here.

The temple, with a prayer hall where about 100 persons can assemble. It has retained its old architecture barring the cemented walls that have replaced the dhajji ones. A conference, called at the behest of the Central Khilafat Committee, on September 7, 1927, was held here, where the leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities had listed out the points of differences to avoid the unfortunate situation created by the growing tension between the communities. ]

A woody and kachha path goes to the temple where one is in the company of Byron saying, ‘I love not man the less, but Nature more’. Vijay Pandit, a member of the HBST, recalled that the entire property earlier belonged to the royalty of Cooch-Behar, which either donated it to or was purchased by the HBST, whose first trustee, builder and minister was reverend Bhai Kashi Ram, who died on December 16, 1925, at the age of 71 and has a samadhi in the complex.

His three sons, the Suris, are the trustees today. Yet another samadhi in the complex is of Rita Chamanlal, a staunch Brahmo. Cooch-Behar got interested in the samaj because its reformist king Nripendra Narain had on March 6, 1878, married Suniti Debi, the daughter of Keshub Chunder Sen. Both bride and the bridegroom were below the marriageable age at that time and the marriage was performed according to the idolatrous rituals of the Hindu religion.

It had shattered the ideal of Brahmo Samaj rejecting such rituals and its belief in emancipation of women because of the bride’s age. The marriage led to schism in the samaj, when the followers of Raja Rammohun Roy, who had founded it in 1828, and Debendra Nath Tagore formed ‘Sadharan Brahmo Samaj’ in 1878 and Keshub Chunder Sen and his followers formed ‘Nav-Vidhan’ or ‘New Dispensation’ in 1880.

Keshub had visited Shimla in 1868 before the break-up and had stayed at Taraview in Kasumpti to deliver a lecture on the aims of the samaj. The audience, among others, comprised Viceroy Sir J. Lawrence and commander-in-chief, Sir William Rose Mansfield.

Earlier in the summers of 1857, another exponent of Brahmo Samaj Debendra Nath Tagore had visited Simla, Dagshai and princely states of Rampur and Bhajji. The honour of consecrating the ‘Nav-Vidhan’ temple here, however, fell on Babu Protap Chunder Mozoomdar, one of the four adhyapaks that Keshub Chunder Sen had appointed to study various religions to cull out the best from those.

Vijay Pandit informed that the number of the Brahmo Samajis was declining and that the Sunday prayer was attended by mostly the residents of Lakshmi Niwas, Sheela Kutir and Ashram, the three buildings in the complex belonging to the HBST.

He recollected that Abdul Majid Khan, India’s consul to Mashad, Gurdial Mallik, a quaker and author of ‘Divine Dwellers of the Desert’ and Sant Gulab Singh from Rawalpindi remained associated with the HBST and that the years 1953 to 58 were its hey-days when C.P.N. Singh was the governor of Punjab who, when in Shimla, visited the temple often. The 122-year-old Brahmo Samaj here needs a renaissance. Come forward.


Birbal Sahni, the world famous palaebotanist, belonged to a Brahmo family and, in Shimla, lived at Lakshmi Niwas sharing it with another family, jointly rearing a kitchen garden there. The cucumbers and the maize cobs were almost ready when, once, the Sahnis had to leave for plains. It was a big blow for the child, Birbal, and so, one night, he got the roots of the plants just below the stems cut off with a large pair of scissors. The plants began to wither slowly, steadily and mysteriously.

His erstwhile neighbors watered the plants amply. The more they watered, the faster the plant withered. The truth dawned upon the neighbour, years after when a grown up Birbal confessed having done the mischief.



Bee safe
Yana Banerjee-Bey

Yana Banerjee-Bey Doing an outdoor adventure sport often involves exposure to natural hazards such as insect stings and bites that are far more dangerous than the actual activity. Low-altitude rock climbing, trekking, hiking and camping are activities during which you might come across bees and snakes.

Rock climbers in boulder-strewn areas in the plains are sometimes exposed to bees and, rarely, snakes. Sometimes, rock climbers begin tackling a rock face and come upon a hive somewhere in the middle, which was not visible from the ground.

The lead climber must then decide whether to abandon the climb and descend or whether it will be safe to continue. One or two persons might be able to climb past quickly without disturbing the bees but if it is a larger group, then it might be in the interest of the later climbers’ safety to abandon the climb.

In one instance that I know of, a sudden nor’wester made the bees in a hive swarm out very close to a pair of climbers on a ledge in the middle of a rock face. They followed the cardinal rule when in danger of being attacked by bees – becoming motionless. They escaped without a single sting.

Bee poison is highly toxic and there are precautions as well as treatment for stings. First, avoid exposing your skin as long as you are in an area where there are trees and rocks that may harbour hives.

Bare shoulders and thighs a la foreign trekkers are best avoided, no matter how humid the climate. Second, if a bee attack does occur, try to get the stings out of the victim’s skin by squeezing them out between two fingers or with a tweezer from your first aid kit.

Third, carry 100 mg vials of hydrocortisone and 25 mg vials of Avil in your first aid kit. The first is for treatment of shock and the second for allergy, which develops as a reaction to the bee poison. If you do not have a doctor with you, at least two members of the group should know how to give injections. These injections can be intramuscular or intravenous; the latter is preferable.

The injections will give you breathing time ranging from eight to 12 hours to get the victim to a medical centre. It is best to carry the victim on a stretcher (you must know how to make one with a climbing rope and walking sticks, ice axes or branches) or on your back. If the victim walks, his blood circulation will speed up and the poison will travel through the body faster. During the long haul, check pulse, blood pressure and breathing. As long as they seem normal, you needn’t worry.

Snakebites are rare on mountain trekking trails and camping sites for the simple reason that snakes do their best to avoid us! But it is worthwhile to know what to do if a bite does occur.

First, you should be able to recognise cobras and kraits – the two poisonous species in our part of the world – to avoid becoming panic-stricken after being bitten by a harmless snake. Second, suck the snakebite wound so that much of the poison is extracted.

Third, tie a tourniquet to stop the blood circulation from the limb to the rest of the body. Both these have to be learned from doctors beforehand otherwise you can end up doing more damage than good. Fourth, carry the victim as fast as you can to a medical centre.

(This column appears fortnightly.)

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



Apple dues

In August 2007, a hailstorm damaged the apple crop in the Kotgarh and Mehlan areas. The growers were forced to sell their produce to Himfed\HPMC and tonnes of produce were purchased.

But the procurement agencies have failed to make the payments of the produce. The growers of the area are reeling under a severe cash crunch.

Most of them fall under the small and marginal category. The new BJP government should ensure these farmers are paid by the procurement agencies.

Dheeraj Bhaik, Shimla

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