Singularly Needy

Single women in HP lead a miserable existence with no financial or family support

As per the 2001 census, there are 2.29 lakh widows in Himachal, with 1.44 lakh out of these being above the age of 60 years. In most cases, these women are leading deplorable lives with children not fending for them.

We are aware of the problems being faced by them and I have tried to give them some relief immediately.

— P.K. Dhumal, Chief Minister

Even today, a large number of women above the age of 60 are not getting pension and many of those enrolled for it are not getting it regularly.

— Nirmal Chandel, president, Ekal Naree Shakti Sangthan, Pratibha Chauhan

With procedural wrangles and certificates from pradhans and other formalities required, many women are not even getting the social security pension from the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.

So far only 68,000 widows in Himachal are getting the social security pension which, has now been enhanced from Rs 200 to Rs 300, says Nirmal Chandel, president of the Ekal Naree Shakti Sangthan.

She says women have to take loan to manage their homes as pensions at times are given after three to four months. Single women, face a lot of problem in getting help under various government schemes as their divorce cases are still in the courts.

“Since our status is still undecided, our children are not given benefit under schemes like the Mother Teresa scheme, where financial help is given for studies of children,” points out Radha from Baijnath.

She pleads that divorce cases should be dealt by a fast track court so that they are disposed off fast and women are entitled to various benefits.

The Ekal Naree Shakti Sangthan rather than lauding over the success of its ‘pad yatra’ is busy working out the details of further struggle as they feel this is just the beginning.

Having succeeded in getting their main demands accepted by the government, they feel a lot more is yet to be achieved in their struggle for individual identity and dignity.

Over 2,500 women from all over the state undertook a 30-km pad yatra from Dhami to Shimla, which concluded outside the state assembly. In the coming days the sangathan wants to impress upon the elected representatives to take up their cause at various levels, including the assembly.

They want that the government should accept their demand of giving those women, who are interested in agriculture, two acres of land.

“Since our demands are genuine and all that we are seeking is our right, there is no reason as to why we should not succeed in our mission,” says Yashoda Sharma from Jagjitnagar near Kasauli.

Having worked against social evils like female foeticide and fighting for the rights of single women, she says even an infant is fed by the mother only when he demands milk so the women will have to come out of their homes to seek their share, which is rightfully theirs.

Many of them, who have been deserted by their husbands have been forced to live with their parents, where they are not given a separate identity by issuing a ration card. “If we get a ration card in our name, we can get subsidised ration and many other facilities,” points out Nirmal.

They hope that the announcements made by Chief Minister P. K. Dhumal about issuing them a separate ration card and free medical facility would be implemented in letter and spirit.

“We are aware of the problems being faced by single women and I have tried to give them some relief immediately,” said chief minister P.K. Dhumal.

He said other issues like grant of land and other demands would have to be looked into and all the formalities worked out before taking a decisions.

He said the government was committed for the welfare of widows and destitute women and it is for this reason that social security pensions had already been enhanced from Rs 200 to Rs 300.



Ghagas, Barmana left out
Tribune News Service

Photo by S. Chandan

Even as tall claims are made about ensuring planned growth and check on the haphazard construction activity, the Cabinet has turned down the proposal for declaring Ghagas-Barmana as a planning area, which is witnessing a lot of ribbon development.

The matter was discussed in one of the Cabinet meeting held last month and even though approval was granted for declaring Beri as a transport nagar, the proposal to bring the entire stretch between Barmana and Ghaggas under the planning area was rejected.

The Town and Country Planning Department had prepared the proposal, which would have brought 39 villages under the ambit of Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act. This would have ensured regulations on construction activity and haphazard growth of the area, which is witnessing a lot of industrial activity and transport activity.

In fact, concern has been expressed on the trend of urban development and the stretch between Ghaggas and Barmana has been found to be one of the most active zone. The entire area is witnessing a lot of industrial growth and bringing it under the planning area would have ensured restrictions on the construction and strict industrial regulations. This in turn would have helped keep the area free from congestion with pollution and plantation norms.

The haphazard growth along the national highways is a matter of great concern and is being felt that the Town and Country Planning Act, 1977 should be extended to all left out 27 towns of the state. So far, the TCP Act is applicable only in 22 townships, which covers the main towns and the district headquarters. “At a stage when the focus was on bringing all major towns under the TCP Act, turning down the proposal for declaring Ghaggas-Barmana as a planning area was quite surprising,” said a senior bureaucrat. The regulations of the TCP Act are not applicable in Kasauli, Dagshai, Jutog, Yol, Dalhousie, Bakloh and Sabathu. The state at present has 20 planning areas and 34 special areas. “The areas which are witnessing a lot of growth and construction activity must be brought under the planning area now.” said an official.



by Shriniwas Joshi

Shimla school back-benchers were taunted by the teachers, “Your three R’s are not reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, but Regal, Rivoli and Ritz - the cinema halls.” Shahi was added to this list in the 50s’ and Regal was shut after a fire engulfed it. The story of Rivoli (Ranzor Hall) is interesting. Ranzor Singh of Nahan royalty emphasised upon the secretary, Municipal Committee (MC), Shimla, in February 1929, the need of a theatre hall in the town because of the growing number of amateur dramatic clubs (ADC) and failure of the Gaiety Theatre in accommodating all these, viz., Shimla, Edwards, national and Indian ADC, besides oriental, Madras, Bengali and Garhwali clubs. He further wrote, “ The busiest month in Simla is that of September, when the capital is full with the largest number of visitors, including members of the central legislature, officials from provinces, lawyers, students, besides non-officials and businessmen.” He added that during the month, all clubs wanted to perform and the demand on the Gaiety was pressing when Shimla ADC itself, as controller of the Gaiety, wanted to present shows leaving the other clubs starving for want of a hall.

He presented a plan for a theatre at Hill View, which was rejected by the MC on April 19, 1929. One of the grounds for rejection could be a note by J. W. Hamilton, superintendent, Fire Brigade, written on April 2, 1929, “The nearest fire hydrants are some distances from the site and in case of fire during a performance, the Brigade will not be able to get anywhere near the building owing to the narrow approaches being filled with the escaping audience and the precipitous ground at the north side of the proposed structure.” Had there been Hamilton- type officers in Delhi then, ‘Uphaar fire’ tragedy would not have occurred!

A fresh proposal for the construction of a theatre hall was again sent through a renowned engineer Felix Von Goldstein in May, 1929, and the MC gave sanction in 1930. That was the time when talkies had sprouted and so A. A. Rozalla, a civil engineer, prepared a revised plan for a cinema hall in May, 1932, making an interesting observation, “I may point out that the name of the house given as Hill View on my site plan is a misnomer, but has been designated as such to conform to the name on the Simla Survey Sheet. The real name, I’m informed by the owner, is Tunnel View.” The Lower Bazaar tunnel built in 1905 had, by then, become a popular pedestrian bypass. Ultimately, Roxy Cinema Hall was inaugurated in 1933. S. Prithi Singh, as agent of the owner, then got the north exit passage covered and got it glazed in 1935.

It was Roland Hotz, chartered architect, who designed ‘the special box for use of H.E. the viceroy and other patrons of note’ in Roxy. The name Plaza Theatre replacing Roxy appeared in a letter written by the agent from Greensfield on September 5, 1938.

Prior to independence, it was christened as Rivoli Theatre, when Badri Prashad Seth of the Seth family that owned Ritz, Novelty and Jagat Cinema Halls in Delhi took it on hire in 1945.

On the pretext of ‘Shimla sinking’ and danger to the building Raja Jagat Bahadur Singh of Nahan, who had stepped into the shoes of Ranzor Singh, wanted to take it back from the tenants and filed a case in 1974 through his attorney, but withdrew it in 1975.

The senior Seth managed the affairs till 1989 when his sons Vijay and Vinod jointly entered in to the family business. They have installed the latest gadgets to have digital projection and Dolbi sounds with improved picture and sound qualities.

The picture is downloaded via satellite and the licence obtained from the distributor for 28 shows per week. Vinod recollects that Raj Kapoor’s ‘Sangam’ still carries the crown for 12-week longest run in the cinema hall and replicas of Godzilla made to attract the cine-goers during the movie run are pieces of attraction even now for the children in CJM school museum.


Pradeep Kumar, Vyajantimala starrer Nagin’s been (snake-charmer’s flute) was so mesmerising that spectators hearing it used to hurl coins on the celluloid danseuse. This opened a ‘silver-mine’ for the sweeper, who prayed to the God that the film might never go off-screen. His prayers did work for 11 weeks.



Suhi Fair
Quenching thirst for generations
Balkrishan Prashar

Photo by writer

A three-day long legendary Suhi fair in Chamba gets off to a colourful start tomorrow. The fair is held in the memory of of Rani Sunayana, who sacrificed her life to bring water to Chamba town. The fair will conclude on April 12.

It is a rare saga of a Queen’s sacrifice, as she valiantly sacrificed her life for her subjects. The fair is being celebrated on the premises of a palanquin-shaped Suhi temple, located on a hillock above Chamba town. The commencement of the Suhi fair, in fact, symbolises the ‘foundation year’ of the Chamba state.

All arrangements for the annual fair have been made, Kartar Singh Jaiswal, executive officer of the municipal council, Chamba, said.

Suhi Mata shrine at Chamba is an inseparable part of Chamba’s cultural heritage. The temple was erected in the memory of Queen Sunayana. The Fair coincides with Vaishakhi.

As the legend goes, Queen Sunayana was responsible for bringing drinking water to Chamba town, at a time, when there was an acute shortage of water in the town.

King Sahila Varma of Chamba was worried as there was no water available. He then had a watercourse made from the Sarota stream round the shoulder of Shah Madera Hill, behind the town. The priests said some supernatural power was at work and felt that the stream must be propitiated.

They asked the king to either sacrifice Queen Sunayana’s life or their son’s. The queen is said to have convinced the king that she would be sacrificed and not their son.

So she walked up the hill to the spot near the Balota village, where the watercourse left the main stream. The trench was dug there and she was buried alive. The legend goes that when the trench was filled, the water began to flow and has flowed ever since.

In her memory, her husband, where she is said to have sat down to rest, afterwards erected a small shrine. A fair began to be held annually. Only women and children attend the fair. They are all entertained at the King’s expense on this occasion.

In memory of the queen, the women and girls decked in their finest and traditional costumes, sing an elegy called ‘sukraat’ during the fair. Sukraat symbolises the very night when the water of Sarota burn (nullah) reached the town. The actual description of the epithet ‘sukraat’ is ‘sukh ki raat’ (night of the bliss) and simultaneously, it also stands for ‘shok ki raat’ (mournful night).

Meanwhile, the elderly citizens of the town have urged the Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal to declare Suhi fair as a ‘district-level fair’.



Lack of staff, facilities leave patients sour
Dharam Prakash Gupta

Female patients wait for their turn at the gynaecology OPD
Patients in front of the CT-scan room.
Female patients wait for their turn at the gynaecology OPD, and (below) patients in front of the CT-scan room. Photos by writer

Though District Hospital Hamirpur is the main government run hospital providing health facilities to people of this region but lack of staff and resources here has left the patients’ sour many times when they have to go to other places for the treatment.

The hospital which is catering to the health needs of over 4 lakh people in the district has only 29 doctors, who are supposed to provide treatment to 200 indoor patients and on an average 500 outdoor patients daily, besides emergency cases like accidents etc.

The availability of specialists is a big problem for the referral patients in the district hospital since only one specialist is posted in Medicine and Ophthalmology Department while 2 specialists each are posted in Gynaecology, Surgery and Orthopaedic Department. Only one anesthetist has been posted, who takes care of surgical operation in all departments.

The patients and their attendants failing to get immediate attention from a specialist in the hospital have to shift to other places like Shimla, Chandigarh, Dharamsala. The large numbers of patients have to wait for long hours and the condition in Gynecology and Children Department is quite bad. The OPD in many of these departments give a look of despair and chaos.

Pawna Devi, president of Booni Panchayat, who has to visit the hospital quite often being a public representative told The Tribune it is very disturbing when doctors are not available and patients are referred to Dharamsala or Shimla since it leads to huge expenses and big harassment.

“Poor patients are a big sufferer and the government should post enough specialists at least in the district hospital,” she adds.

It is not only the shortage of doctors and specialists which is affecting the medical services in the district hospital but inadequate strength of lab technicians, radiographers and other technical staff is also hampering the routine diagnosis and emergency cases.

Two radiologists are doing on an average 200 x- rays daily putting them under constant radiation threat and many times patients have to go to private diagnostic centres for x-rays and other laboratory tests.

Seeking a date for ultrasound, CT- scan requires long wait forcing patients to get them done from private clinics in emergency. The lack of resources adds to availability of medicines, equipments, inputs for diagnosis and medicines etc.

District president of Gyan Vigyan Samiti Anant Ram Verma talking about the problem of shortage of doctors says, “Due to shortage of doctors and other staff the hospital has become a referral hospital since serious patients are referred to Shimla or Chandigarh and it takes many days even for a simple test while there is long wait for tests like ultrasound and CT- scan.”

Many patients also complain about non-availability of ambulances and medicines to them in the district hospital. The district hospital has a total of three ambulances and one is operated by the Red Cross society.

President of the Mahila Swasthya Sangh Saroj Kumari says, “We have to shed a huge amount on taxis for taking referral cases to Shimla and Dharamsala since ambulances are not available and every patient should get free medicine too in the district hospital.”

Chief medical officer Dr P.L. Poonam on being asked about the above problems in the district hospital said there is a shortage of doctors in the district hospital and there should be at least two or more specialists in every department, besides two radiologists and other staff; doctors are working round the clock, besides attending all other routine jobs.

Medical superintendent of the district hospital Hamirpur Dr Wattan Singh says, “There is need of more resources to improve the medical facilities in the district hospital but still we are trying to provide better medical facilities here.



No one cares for Kala Amb Lake
S.R. Pundir

The natural lake at Mein Thapal village, which is spread in a radius of nearly two km is becoming a new destination for tourists and home for thousands of birds, that have been camping here for the past three years.

But in the absence of any care by the authorities, the place may be destroyed during the rainy season. The place requires protection against landslides and silting, says an engineer engaged in a private firm in the area.

Actually four years back, a disaster took place near Jatanwali village in the Kala Amb area during the rainy season. The Jatanwala Nulha was blocked due to dumping of huge quantity of mud and debris in the centuries old Nulaha by the industrialists. Panic was witnessed among the residents of the Kala Amb area and the administration had deployed the Army to monitor the situation and to handle and disaster.

But nature converted this disastrous act in to a natural gift and now a beautiful lake exists in the Mein Thapal village near Jatanwala village.

The main source of water for the Lake is Jatanwala Nullaha having its origin in the nearby forest.

As per the information, in the Kala Amb industrial area, 28 hills have been reduced to plains with the help of heavy machines, causing huge loss to lakhs of valuable plants and trees recently.

On the one hand devastation of hills still continue on a war footing at several places in the Kala Amb area but on the other hand the nature has gifted a water lake out of this disastrous act, which has become the home of thousands of birds camping on the site.

The area falls under the Kala Amb Panchayat, which has no idea of developing it as a new tourist destination under any scheme.

Roshan Lal, an environment worker of the Kala Amb area says in this industrial belt no body cares for the development of such beautiful tourist spots.



Projects must have peoples’ approval, pleads samiti
Jai Kumar

The State Himalyan Neeti Abhiyan Samiti (Himalayan Policy Campaign Committee) has criticised the policy of the state government regarding the setting up of big hydel projects, cement plants and special economic zones (SEZs) without taking the local population into confidence and also without ensuring that these projects did not destroy the environment.

Addressing mediapersons here recently samiti’s state sommittee convener Ghuman Singh said that earlier the Congress Government had decided to set up six cement plants in Himachal Pradesh and now new BJP Government had declared that it would setup at least four cement plants, one of which is proposed to be set up at Sundernagar. This project is being opposed by the local people there. Ghuman Singh said the government should reconsider the Sundernagar cement project and take into consideration the objections of the people before giving a green signal to it and should abandon the project if the people do not want it there.

Ghuman Singh pleaded that the samiti was not against the developmental projects but it was really worried and concerned about the hostility these projects were creating in the areas in which these projects were being proposed to be set up. The concerned companies which were setting up these plants were insisting that these plants be set up at that very place.

Ghuman Singh said there was no paucity of land where these cement factories could be set up without any objections or without causing much damage to the environment and ecology of the area.

Ghuman Singh asserted that the government should reconsider its policy of setting up of such big projects and should not allow these projects including proposed SEZs at Gagrat, Bakna Ghat and Kullu-Manali to come up.

These are being opposed by the local population as land of the farmers is being acquired without their consent and some industrialists are stooping to employ totally questionable means to grab precious land of the farmers. He said that Samiti was determined to ensure that projects were pollution free and did not destroy the environment. He further added these projects must have the approval and support of the local people and they should also provide them employment.

He said the government should encourage clean tourism projects and industries, based on horticulture and agriculture produce.



Kalka-Shimla Highway
Chaos rules here
Ambika Sharma

With the Haryana government failing to find any solution to the chronic traffic problem on the Kalka-Shimla highway, travelling has become a driver’s dilemma.

Though the tourist season is still to begin, huge traffic jams right from Kalka uptil Pinjore have become a problem.

Peeved at Himachal being given a Central industrial package in 2003, the successive Haryana governments had failed to find any solution to this traffic problem. It creates undue hassles for the commuters travelling to Chandigarh from Himachal and for others who commute between Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial area to Chandigarh and its satellite towns.

The blatant lack of will of the Haryana government to repair any road connecting Himachal is in miserable condition. Though the road had developed several potholes and the concrete material had worn away, the district administration had cared little to repair it. A commuter had to go through the hassles of a wobbly drive where tyre punctures were common.

Commuters who enter Pinjore from Baddi road face similar situation. Not even a single day goes without a traffic jam lasting from half-an-hour to as long as three hours. Not only does the long queue of trucks create additional traffic on the road but also the smaller vehicles find it difficult to wade through the traffic.

In an unfortunate incident last week a Maruti car was virtually swept aside by a truck whose driver failed to see the small vehicle in the traffic chaos near Pinjore railway crossing in the evening. It was the vigilant crowd, which managed to avert any tragedy by helping the car driver get aside. Such instances have become a routine for daily commuters.

“It takes almost three hours to reach Chandigarh from Parwanoo at times and with summers having set in there will be no respite in the traffic problem for the next couple of months. It is really shocking as to why the Haryana government has failed to take steps to bring some relief to the commuters,” quipped Ajay Kumar who has a small-scale industry at Parwanoo.

Though the Punjab and Haryana High Court had initiated some measures like widening of the stretch of road lying in Pinjore by removing encroachments but it has failed to solve the purpose.

Though the Himachal government has managed to widen its Parwanoo barrier by converting it into a four lane but till its Haryana counterparts takes some measures to address the traffic problem will continue to bother commuters. This chronic problem has also become a headache for the officials posted at Solan and Parwanoo as they often encounter problems when VIPs get struck in the traffic for hours and they ring up officials to bale them out.

There have been instances when the patients, who were rushing to the PGI, Chandigarh, in emergency, have been made to wait. Apart from these traffic snarls the existence of restaurants at Dharampur, Jabli and Sanwara further adds to the traffic problems when tourists park their vehicles on the road. Apart from educating the tourists about such avoidable hassles, it has become imperative that the Haryana government should wake up to find a solution to the traffic problem.



Shimla diary
Tibetans draw sympathisers
Rakesh Lohumi

The weeklong campaign of the Shimla Tibetan Solidarity Committee to draw the attention of the global community towards the attitude of the Chinese Government towards Tibetans in Tibet has been a great success.

Over 25,000 persons participated in the signature campaign to express their solidarity with the Tibetan people. A majority of them were tourists, including foreign nationals, who held the temporal head of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, in high esteem.

They all disapproved of the Chinese action and wanted the issue settled through negotiation at the earliest. The camp set up on the Mall by the committee for the purpose saw streams of sympathisers all through the week.

The clippings of news reports regarding atrocities being committed on the hapless Tibetans appearing in the international media, photographs and eyewitness accounts provided by foreign tourists and victims, who managed to escape from the troubled land displayed at the camp generated a lot of sympathy for the Tibetans.

National general secretary of the RSS Madan Dass Devi, who was in the city, also extended support to the Tibetans. He said it was not an internal matter of China as being made out by the left parties, it was an issue closely linked with India’s security.

The Tibetan community, which has agood presence in the city, organised a series of protests, which included demonstration, processions and candlelight march.

The once rich Tibetan culture and heritage has been reduced to a shambles in its native land and Tibetans are living in fear under the shadows of the gun-totting Chinese military force.

Vice-president of the solidarity committee Ngwang Yonten said the issue of Tibet could be solved only if the international community brings pressure on China to initiate dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Since the Beijing Olympics were fast approaching it was the most opportune time to draw the attention of the world community to the plight of Tibetans.

Keeping Indian culture alive

The initiative taken by the Sanskriti Utthan Manch in organsing “anandutsav” to mark the advent of the Vikrmi Samvat 2065 has been appreciated by one and all.

The overwhelming response, as evident from the number of organisations, which readily agreed to take part in the celebrations, clearly indicated that the people of the hill state were still deeply rooted in their culture and keen to celebrate the new year in the traditional style.

The idea is to make the new generation realise that the kind of celebrations — drinking, dancing and merry-making — the country witnesses on the New Year these days, is not a part of Indian traditions, says, Rajiv Kuthiala, convenor of the manch, and the man behind the event.

Next year onwards, the event will be organised on a much larger scale. The aim was to bring about a cultural renaissance and make the people realise the importance of the most important day of the year. The people have all but completely forgotten the significance of the day due to the over-riding influence of the western culture over the years.

Sanjauli residents relieved

The Sanjauli bypass road, which has been under construction for the past over six years, will be opened to traffic after a final coat of tarring this summer.

The 4-km road built at a cost of Rs 12 crore will provide an alternative to the single-lane Dhalli tunnel, the main traffic bottleneck, which hampered smooth vehicular movement.

The residents of Sanjauli will get the much-needed respite from the endless traffic jams once it becomes functional.

The importance of the road for the state capital was recognised by the 12th Finance Commission, which made a special dispensation to ensure that it was completed expeditiously.

The PWD is now finalising the detailed project reports for widening of Circular Road from Victory Tunnel to Sanjauli and Barrier to Bamloe, which will ensure free flow of traffic in the main city.



CM reaching out to people
Rakesh Lohumi

Chief Minister P. K. Dhumal, who completed 100 days in office yesterday has been virtually on the move all this while, travelling 8,119 km by road to reach out to the people in the remote corners of the state.

He said taking the government to the people and having a first hand knowledge of their problems was on the top of his agenda. During his tours he travelled more by roads than by helicopter to ensure that the aircraft was readily available for those living in the tribal areas during the winter months, as these areas are cut-off from rest of the region due to snow.

He held 73 camps to listen to the grievances of the people and spent 50 nights away from the state headquarters. He laid foundation stones of 19 development projects and met 3.5 lakh people individually.

He also went to Delhi frequently and visited 13 union ministries, met the concerned ministers to pursue various matters pertaining to the state.



Illegal trade practice

The prices have gone to an all time high, so have the road and travel charges. They have been increased by 25 paise per km due to the hike in the prices of petrol and the spare parts of vehicles. The bus conductors still do not bother to give you a ticket in return of the money you pay them. This frequently happens in the private buses in the state capital. When the one who is travelling is willing to pay the increased amount then why shouldn’t they issue a ticket? And now seeing them, the government buses too are going their way.

Isha Katoch, Shimla

Upgrade school

Government High School of Tatehal, Panchrukhi Tehsil, Palampur, Kangra district, is one of the oldest schools of this area and covers 12 to 14 villages. Mostly defence personnel live here. The school has ample space and adequate facility, but it is only up to class X. If the Directorate of Education upgrades it up to class XII then it will benefit a large number of students in the area.

Mast Ram Sharma, Ladoh village, Kangra

Readers, write in

Make Himachal Plus your very own forum and do yourselves and your neighbours a good turn. Here is an opportunity to highlight civic and other public issues, and air your grievances about government negligence and ineffectiveness and the apathy of the officialdom. Send your views, not exceeding 200 words, to Himachal Plus, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh.





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