Little check on overloaded vehicles
It has been observed that majority of the commercial vehicles carry load much more than the prescribed norms and in violation of the directions of the apex court
Ambika Sharma

With little check on overloaded vehicles on roads, commercial vehicles are having a field day. It has been observed that majority of the commercial vehicles, including trucks, canters, etc., are not only found carrying weights much more than the prescribed norm, but are also violating directions of the apex court.

Interestingly, the trucks had been debarred from carrying more load than the prescribed limit of 7.5  tonnes and the cement manufacturing units directed to hike their freight charges. On the other hand, other commercial vehicles are seen carrying excess weight. What is interesting is the fact that even though the light commercial vehicles are often found overloaded, the police does not challan them.

The officials in the transport department, while agreeing to the prevailing laxity, said the department had no weighbridge, which could check the weight and bring the culprits to book. Tenders had however been floated to install 11 weighing bridges in the state, with three being earmarked for district Solan. They will be placed at the crucial barriers of Parwanoo, Baddi and Barotiwala. Though tenders were floated once but since only one party, which could meet the specifications came forth, the process has to be repeated. The tenders were likely to be called again so that the bridges could be put up at the earliest.

In the absence of any check by either the transport authorities or the policemen, these overloaded vehicles lead to wear and tear of roads. It is surprising as no one bothers to even challan them. 

Even the excise department conveniently overlooks them. Though a light utility vehicle was authorised to carry 1 to 1.5 quintals of load, it was seen carrying load almost double this capacity. A medium goods vehicle could carry about 7.5 tonnes while a heavy goods vehicle was supposed to carry about 12 tonnes of load.

Officials of the transport department, while cutting a sorry figure, however, said things would improve once the weighing bridges were put in place. Ideally, a vehicle carrying an excess load would be weighed and the excess load removed before letting a vehicle enter the state, confided officials. 



Varsity plan to help 9,000 organic farmers
Lalit Mohan

Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University has launched a drive to bring organic farmers of the state on a common 

Dr Tej Pratap, vice-chancellor, told The Tribune that about 9,000 farmers carrying out organic farming had already been identified. As a first step, the university planned to form an association of organic farmers.

The Palampur Agriculture University wants to adopt Maharashtra’s model for promoting organic farming in the state. In Maharashtra, such farmers have formed an organisation. They complement one another not only in technology but also in marketing the produce.

The farmers of Himachal, especially in the higher reaches, are already practising organic farming. The basic problem is that the state has fewer organic farming experts to guide them. Moreover, there is no institutional infrastructure available for promoting organic farming.

As a first step, the association of organic farmers would provide a platform to the farmers for exchanging their experiences. They would be given knowledge about soil health care and about the certification required for selling the produce as organic.

As per international norms, the government cannot form an organic produce certification agency, as it is perceived as a vested party. It has been created by a third party that can be a university or an independent association or organisation. The certification for forming an organic produce certification agency is given by the Agriculture Produce Export Development Agency (APEDA), which functions under the Ministry of Commerce.

There are currently just 11 organic produce certifying agencies in the country. Hiring them for getting the produce of Himachal farmers certified is unviable economically, the VC said.

The farms in Himachal are small. Organic farming can increase the income of farmers if their produce is marketed properly. The organic produce from the state is already being marketed at a high cost in the metros. However, middlemen are pocketing the profit margin. If an association is put in place that provides farmers with a platform for marketing, the maximum benefit can go to the farmers.

Recently, the agriculture university produced organic tea under the brand name of Dauladhar Tea. The tea farms of the university were kept without any chemical fertiliser or pesticide for five years before the university certified these as organic. However, what remains to be seen is if the organic tea produced by the university is able to find an appropriate place in the market and act as a model for other tea farmers of  Kangra or not.



Man of the moment
Vishal’s selection underlines his calibre as a player and speaks volumes for his hard work.
Lalit Mohan

Vishal Bhatia has got what he has dreamed of-he has been selected for India-A team. This was confirmed by the officials of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Board (HPCB). He would be playing his first match for the country on July 10 in Israel.

The left-hand spinner is the second player from the state to be selected in a national team. Earlier, Sangram Singh had represented the nation.

Vishal has played 42 Ranji Trophy matches, 25 ODIs, seven Duleep Trophy and two Deodhar Trophy matches.

In the recently played group matches, he impressed the selectors with his bowling prowess by taking 38 wickets. His performance helped him secure a place in the national team.

President of the HPCB and MP from Hamirpur Anurag Thakur congratulated Vishal on his selection. “The players of the region have been making a steady headway towards the national squad lately and have been training hard,” he said. In order to promote the game in the region, the MP also announced the construction of an indoor stadium in Dharamsala for the sports enthusiasts. 



shimla diary
On the right “trek”
Pratibha Chauhan

As part of this year’s All India Girls Trek, over 1,000 girl cadets from all over the country embarked on a 100-km-trek to experience the rugged terrain.

The Governor, V.S. Kokje, flagged off the expedition from the Kalyani helipad here. Commonly referred to as ‘Punjab Trek’, this year the cadets were from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Col Ram Avtar, the man behind the show, said the trek was divided into three stages besides the base camp. During the trek the cadets would be trained by way of lectures and demonstrations on Art of Living, yoga, unarmed combat and fitness, he added.

Week-long cultural bonanza

It was a week packed with dance, music and drama as ‘Nritya Pratibha’, a festival of dance, was held in the Himachal Pradesh University.

Organised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, the festival was a riot of colours showcasing practically every classical dance form of various part of the country. It was on of those rare occasions when classical dancers excelling in kathak, odissi, bharatnatyam, pung cholom, kshtriya, kuchipudi, chhau, mohiniattam, basanta ras came together on a common platform.

An exhibition on Kangra miniature paintings “Strokes of Kangra” was also held at the state museum here. Organised by the Kangra Arts Promotion Society, it aimed at conserving and protecting the Kangra miniature art form by popularising it amongst the younger generation.

Recruitment with a difference

This is recruitment with a difference and that too an important one as it involves seeking services of six more dogs to join the all-important dog squad in the CID wing of the state police.

The CID has added six more dogs to its squad and the new recruits are undergoing training for specific tasks. Five of them are undergoing specially designed training for acting as “trackers” in getting to the thieves and other criminals in various cases.One of them is being trained in detecting narcotics. Since the Kullu-Manali and Chamba areas of the state are notorious for drug trafficking and illegal cultivation of opium and cannabis, their services is undertaken.

The CID wing already has five dogs in its squad. Two of these are trackers; two are explosives experts while one is a narcotics expert. The police officials admit that the services of these dogs are crucial in helping solve criminal cases, be it murder or theft.



Making a difference
Kuldeep Chauhan

Here is an eco-club which has become a role model for the rest in the state. In this eco-friendly institution, over 100 students have volunteered to learn the “green lessons” and then go out as ambassadors to villagers, encouraging them to say “No to chemical pesticides and fertilisers”.

Not only this, the Monal eco-club has come up with an eco-friendly way of conserving and recharging water sources in the villages. They teach farmers to turn weeds into useful bio-fertiliser and use dried burgundy leaves to store food grains for years, thereby shunning the use of harmful chemicals.

This has been happening at an unlikely place, the nondescript Government Senior Secondary School, Makreri, Jogindernagar subdivision in Mandi district.

The club has been in the limelight since 2003. Students of this club have represented the National Junior Science Congress thrice held at different cities in the country.

Recently, the club bagged the first prize for protecting environment on World Environment Day held at Shimla in which the Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was the chief guest. As many as 1,700 eco-clubs functioning in the state had participated in the event.

The volunteers also dug up two trenches at Choh and Kamared. “We go to different villages, demonstrate the use of pitcher technique and dig up trenches to preserve rainwater for recharging water sources,” said Vandana, convener of the club.

Prem Singh, a farmer from Lakhol and Roshan Singh Verma from Bari Makreri are happy with the newfound knowledge. “Now we dry burgundy leaves, powder them and then use it to preserve food grains. The uprooted weeds are spread on the ground, which help to preserve moisture and act as manure,” the farmers said.

The club aims at creating environmental awareness and inculcating scientific temperament among the school students and villagers.

What sets Monal eco-club apart is the devoted attitude of Tek Chand Parmar, a devoted environmentalist-cum-science teacher and the man behind the show.

“I personally met Sunderlal Bahuguna and MC Mehta, the two towering apostle of environmental movement, and took some tips from them,” said Parmar. And the results are here to see.

Sharing his views is Sita Ram Shastri of Galma High School, Balh valley in Mandi, which has also earned laurels for spreading the message among students and villagers. “We encourage villagers to use bio-fertiliser, vermicompost, herbs and other plantations that has multiple use,” he said.

State Council of Science Technology and Environment, which monitors the eco-clubs, gives Rs 2,500 as grant to each club. “We organise awareness camps, poster and slogan writing competition and for that we need more funds,” felt the organisers. 



Mohit croons his way to stardom
Rakesh Lohumi

Exactly a decade after the release of his award-winning album “Boondein” under the banner of Silk Route, Mohit Chauhan has finally established himself as an accomplished playback singer in the highly competitive Bollywood music world. Indeed, the runaway success of his latest number “Tumse hi…” from the blockbuster “Jab We Met”, which has been dominating the popularity charts for the past one year, has finally earned him the kind of recognition he deserved and has placed him in the league of top playback singers.

His debut album was a big success and the number “Dooba dooba rehta hoon..” earned him a huge fan following in no time. It won several prestigious awards including the best under-water video, best Indian band and best song. However, he had to struggle hard for almost a decade to find a footing in the cine world.

The Silk Route band he formed with four other musicians to experiment with fusion music has since been disbanded but not before giving him the much needed impetus. His soulful rendition of the song “Tumse hi” earned him compliments from maestro A.R. Rahman. In fact, Rahman gave him a break in the film “Rang De Basanti” with the song “Khoon chala..”. If “Tumse Hi” is the favourite number of Rahman, “Dooba dooba” is the one which Hritik Roshan has been humming all these years as lullaby for his son.

A recent feather in his cap is the rare opportunity to compose and lend voice to the poems penned by the great scientist and former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. It was quite a daunting task as, unlike film lyrics, the poems were not meant to be sung. Transforming poetry not penned in metre into melodious songs was a tough asking. The most satisfying moment came when Dr Kalam, after listening to the audio CD titled “Kala:m”, comprising six of his poems, appreciated the work. He has been in touch with Kalam ever since.

Hailing from Nahan in Sirmour district, singing was just a hobby for Mohit. He started his career as the lead singer for the Dharamsala-based band “The Hijackers”, performing stage shows. He mostly sang popular English tracks or self-composed Hindi songs. It was at this juncture that he seriously thought of taking up singing as a career even though he had obtained a postgraduate degree in Geology. His mission now is to popularise pahadi folk music, which, he feels, has still not attained the place it deserved on the national music scene. He makes it a point to sing a couple of pahadi songs at every stage show. “The effort has been worthwhile as more and more people have started appreciating the folk music and songs like “Morani” have gone down rather well with non-Himachalis,” he says.

Born and brought up in the verdant hills, Mohit is very concerned about preserving the environment. The natural beauty of the hills, the perennial snows, the alpine meadows and the depleting green cover must be protected at all costs, he feels. 



Beas spells charm for visitors
M.C. Thakur

The 13,050-feet-high Rohtang Pass, 51 km north of Manali and the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti, is not only famous for its scenic splendour and snow-clad mountains, this pass is also the source of river Beas.

This place is a favourite holiday spot for tourists who visit the place from all over the world.

The Beas emerges from a cavern at the Rohtang Pass and assumes different identities as the seasons go by, from a clear blue easy-flowing mountain river to an awesome torrent during the monsoon.

The name Rohtang is a new one, the old being "Bhrigu Tung". On the south is Kullant (Kullu) while in the north is the desolate and barren area of Lahaul and Spiti. There was a time when both these areas were not connected. Legend has it that people prayed to Lord Shiva to make a way, who, with his trishul, cut the "Bhrigu Tung" mountain and made a path that is now known as Rohtang pass.

On the right of Rohtang Pass lies the source of the Beas also known as "Beas Rishi". This is where the great thinker and writer of the Mahabharata, Maharishi Vyas, meditated. To the south of this is another source known as Beas Kund. Both these mountain streams meet at Palchan village, about 9 km from Manali, to form the Beas.

This place is now known as Vashisht village. Manali is situated on the right banks of the river. From Manali, the river, after passing through dense evergreen forests, reaches Kullu town. The Beas has many tributaries; Manalsu, Sarwari, Parvati, Thirthan and Sainj are some of them.

Vashisht, Bhrigu, Jamdagni, Narad, Vishwamitra, Bhardwaj, Vamdev, Kapil, Gautam, Shringi, Vyas, Prashar, Kanav and Parshu Ram came here on different occasions, meditated on the banks of the river and decided to stay back. Even today, their temples exist in this valley of the Beas.

Many places, which are symbols of ancient civilisation, have dwelled and prospered on the banks of the river. Beas has changed its course many times due to change in weather conditions, but its charm still attracts both domestic and foreign visitors to the Kullu valley. 



A slice of Rajasthan in Bhagsunag

No other region in the country assembles the many paradoxes of India as does the desert land of Rajasthan. The state represents an unusual diversity in all its forms-people, culture, customs, costumes, cuisine, dialects and music. But the traditional artists are looking for places like Dharamsala to sell their art, far from their home.

Rajasthan, with a treasure of history, picturesque architecture and bewitching landscape, is an unparalleled destination on the tourist map of India, a destination that spells Art. It’s a pity that traditional and folk art has to be sold by travelling hundreds of kilometers.

The traditional art of Rajasthan has many takers in Dharamsala. The artists from rural areas of Rajasthan are selling their art and artifacts to Indian and foreign tourists in Bhagsunag, a tourist place two kilometers from McLeodganj.

Dhushyant Kumar Prajapati and Panachaya hail from Pisagan, a remote village in Rajasthan, and descend from a family seeped in traditional art. Rajsathan has many schools of painting having their own distinct styles, well known among them being Marwar, Mewar, Hadoti Kishangarh, Dhundhur and Alwar.

“We learnt the craft from our father. There was a time when the paintings of Gods and kings were much in demand. However, now there are not many art connoisseurs in rural areas of Rajasthan. We are therefore forced to move out to different tourist destinations across the country in an effort to sell our art,” they rued.

Dhushyant said he came to Dharamsala about two years ago. Initially, he used to sit along the tracks near Bhagnunag and made efforts to sell his paintings. While some of the tourists bought his painting, others got their sketches and portraits drawn. He did sustainable business in the first year.

Now Dhushyant has taken a shop on rent which houses a small gallery of his paintings. Tourists who throng the place in summers also become his students for a short duration and learn the traditional art of Rajasthan from the artists. Foreign tourists spend good time with them to learn the intricacies of the art.

The painting workshop and gallery of Rajasthani artists remain functional in Bhagsunag from March to September, which is a peak season for the tourists. By October the business becomes less lucrative.

Now comes the time for these creative entrepreneurs to move to Goa in search of new market. These artists admit they are facing stiff competition from cheap paintings and posters being imported from China. “Taking into account the time and money we put into creating a piece of art, we sell a painting for about Rs 400. However, the posters and Chinese painting are generally sold between Rs 50 and Rs 100. The government should take some steps to protect the traditional art from unhealthy competition,” says Prajapati with a heavy heart.

However, till some constructive work is done in this direction, the tourist spots of Dharamsala will keep providing a refuge to the endangered art form of Rajasthan and the tourists will also get a taste of Rajasthan in Himachal.



Residents support panel report
Tribune News Service

Residents have come out in support of the technical committee that has recommended the taking over of the Damdama Palace and Baba Kot as heritage buildings, demanding immediate eviction of tenants from these buildings.

Convener of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA) Lawan Thakur, president of the Progressive Writers Association Dinu Kashyap and president of the Citizens’ Council, Mandi, P.C. Bisht said the government should take over the buildings as recommended by the team. They pointed out how the tenants had ruined these buildings over the years.

Lawan Thakur said Damdama Sahib, Babakot and Darbar Hall should be acquired by the government under the Ancient Monument Protection Act. 



Road needs repair

The Banuti-Pahal road, 15 km from NH-88, was constructed under the centrally sponsored NABARD scheme way back in 2004. A stretch of 6 km of this road is full of potholes, causing much trouble to the daily commuters. Stretches from Dido to Paughghat and Chauranti to Pahal are in tatters. The sorry plight of this patch calls for immediate attention. Besides, haphazard stone mining along the roadside should stop at any cost. Since the digging often triggers nasty slips, it results in unending traffic jams. The government must come to the aid of a common man without much delay.

Dr Himender Bali, Shimla





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