Solan: Cleanliness limited
Ambika Sharma

Solan, August 12
Tall claims of the government regarding the success of its community-led cleanliness campaign promising total sanitation, notwithstanding the scheme having failed to have any mass impact with only a handful of villages showing a positive inclination towards adopting sanitation.

The centrally funded scheme, which motivates rural folks to switch over to cleaner and hygienic toilets, has even failed to make the state scavenger-free surpassing the deadline of March 2008. While success has been limited to a few villages, it is worth mentioning that the government agencies instead of making it a mass campaign have been harping more on the few successful villages.

This has led to a situation where some villages located in the interior areas have adopted sanitation while others located right next to urban dwellings are far away from sanitation. An illustration in point is an example of Shaktighat  panchayat  in Dharampur block where a woman pradhan, Leela Devi, has made her area sanitation-free while another panchayat Garkhal-Sanawar, located en route the scenic Kasauli and barely few kilometers from Shaktighat,  is yet to even have toilets for all its households.

The situation is so bad that despite the union government having banned scavenging, this Garkhal-Sanawar still has dry toilets with scavengers continuing to work even as this has been made a punishable offence. It leads to the worst pollution where the human waste finds its way into public drains.

Panchayat representatives have not only conveniently overlooked this problem but it has also failed to enforce the basic norm of having a hygienic human waste disposal system in place.

This waste finds its way into the irrigation schemes further threatening the outbreak of an epidemic in the area. Still worse, an attempt to cleanse the existing sewage systems only led to the dumping of the entire sewage right above some villages located on the Jagjitnagar road less than a week back. This wastewater polluted the traditional water sources, including bouris and created the problems for a number of villages located downhill, rues a villager. “After protest by the villagers, the erring people promised that they would bear the cost of medicines in case anyone falls sick after consuming polluted water,” narrates a woman.

What has however come as a shock is the abject lack of sensitivity among those polluting the water sources.  They not only pollute the environment but also cause air, water and soil contamination of the worst type.

This has exposed the total ineffectiveness of the Panchayati Raj institutions in creating awareness about hygiene and still further of the district administration which has been content with mere identifying few sanitary sensitive panchayats in the entire district.

It may be mentioned here that according to this scheme, each district can get up to Rs 20 crore in the first phase to be utilised as per the project proposal put forth.

The programme aimed at bringing about an improvement in the quality of life in the rural areas by accelerating sanitation coverage. It further generates demand for sanitation facilities through awareness creation and health education.

One of its key aims was to encourage cost-effective and appropriate technologies in sanitation so as to eliminate open defection to minimise the risk of contamination of drinking water sources and food.  This could be achieved by converting the dry toilets to flush ones to eliminate manual scavenging practice.

Although awards have been constituted where villages obtaining open defecation-free status are awarded nirmal gram puruskar.

Several district and block level awards are also given but the exercise appears to have remained confined to a few villages. It is not hard to see how ambitious centrally funded schemes fail to utilise the funds and end up surrendering their sanctioned budget as well.

What is needed is the enforcement of accountability among the panchayats to not only create an awareness but also to enforce the minimum sanitation in every village.

A long way to go

n The centrally funded scheme fails to make the state scavenger-free, surpassing the deadline of March 2008.
n The situation is so bad that despite the union government having banned scavenging the district still has dry toilets with scavengers continuing to work.
n Various panchayats have failed to enforce the basic norm of having a hygienic human waste disposal system in place.
n This not only pollutes the environment but also causes air, water and soil contamination of the worst type.



Tibetan Showman
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, August 12
Lobsang Wyangal is unlike many other Tibetans living in exile here. Having average height and supporting a ponytail, Wyangal is friendly towards local people. He always bears a smile and speaks good Hindi.

Wyangal has dared to defy the orthodox traditions of Tibetans here, though not with much success.

He created a stir among the Tibetan community by organising the first Tibetan beauty contest in 2002. Though no local Tibetan girl participated in the contest, it attracted the attention of the world media. Since then he has been organising the contest every year.

The contest despite entering its sixth year has not been recognised by the Tibetan government-in-exile or their spiritual leaders. Due to the lack of patronage from leadership, Lobsang has managed just few contestants every year.

Last year, he could get only six contestants. However, this has not dampened the spirit of Lobsang, who is also named Tibetan showman by his chums.

Lobsang says the beauty contest is taken as the influence of western culture on the Tibetan way of living. However, in this changing world scenario the Tibetan youth cannot stay aloof and isolated, he adds.

“As far as I am concerned, I am just concentrating on bringing to the fore the artistic talent of young Tibetan women through beauty contest,” he says. About the opposition to such contests, he says many young Tibetans are appreciating his efforts. However, due to the fear of their elders they are not coming forward openly, he says, adding that such contests will help the Tibetan youth come together and provide them with a platform to air their voice.

Besides the Miss Tibet contest, Lobsang has also organised Tibetan olympics and Tibetan music awards competitions. He said by organising such contests he is finding ways to promote the cause of Tibetans-in-exile.

He adds it is high time that the Tibetan leadership adapts to the fast changing scenario around the world. The next 10 years are very crucial for the Tibetan struggle. Lobsang also admits that though he was born and brought up in India, he still longs for going to Tibet. He was born in a Tibetan settlement in Orissa in 1970. His schooling is from Central School for Tibetan in Mussorie and he graduated from Government College, Shimla. He started his carrier as a photojournalist in a Tibetan newspaper. “I feel like a helpless guest. I have no passport, no voting or other rights here”.

Lobsang now represents a new generation of Tibetans who were born in India. The generation has slowly starting to express itself and daring to differ from strong setup of Tibetan traditions.



Paradox about Dufferin’s Lodge
by Shriniwas Joshi

It is paradox that the Viceregal Lodge at Shimla where Viceroy Dufferin, as the first occupant, hardly stayed for four and a half months in 1888 is shown as Dufferin’s Viceregal Lodge in several write-ups. Peterhoff was his former abode 1884 onwards. The other 12 Viceroys up to Lord Mountbatten, with longer stays in the lodge, fall in the category of ‘they also stayed’.

Dufferin stepped in here on the July 23, 1888, as a shrewd administrator who had advanced the cause of Indian nationalists by backing up the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 and Imperial Service Corps, the forerunner of the present Indian Army.

His so-called Dufferin Report on the conditions of the lower classes of population in Bengal (1888) disclosing the financial state of peasants and workers has a mark in its exhaustiveness.

As a successor to Lord Ripon, popular with natives and not with Anglo-Indians, Dufferin played his cards ably to gain support of the Indians without antagonising the conservative whites.

The people still are not aware of the scholar that he was. In 1856, he had set off on a journey around North Atlantic and, on return, wrote Letters from High Latitudes. It was an extremely successful book with its irreverent style and lively pace.

Dufferin willingly killed author in him by being a diplomat, the position in which too he excelled. His other books are Irish Questions and Speeches in India.

He became the president of the British Geographical Society on his retirement from public life and a few know that he was awarded the degree of the Doctor of Oriental Learning by Panjab University. His wife also published two memoirs, Our Viceregal Life in India (1889) and The Canadian Journal (1891), though her contribution in providing medical aid to the women of India is better known.

When Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, former President of India, assigned Rastrapati Niwas (Viceregal Lodge as called after the independence) in 1965 for establishing here the Indian Institute of Advanced Study as a residential centre for research in the humanities and the social sciences, the scholarly Dufferins, in graves, must have been elated.

Many a scholar from India and abroad, including Burmese Nobel Prize winner Aung San Sun Kyi, a fellow here in 1986, has illuminated by the intellectual sheen that it provides.

The style of architecture of this historic building is inspired by English Renaissance, the masonry of the walling is light blue limestone and the wrought stonework is done in sandstone in a delightful light gray tint.

Spread over an area of 330 acres, it covers the entire Observatory Hill, has magnificent lawns with liriodendron tulipifera, a heritage tree of 1895. Montague, secretary of state, referred to the lodge as scotch hydro, ”The same sort of appearance, the same sort of architecture, the same sort of equipment of tennis lawns and sticking courts and so forth. Inside it is comfortable with suites of apartments comparable to those of Canton or Ritz.”

Even then Lady Dufferin’s goldfinch was “frozen to death in her bedroom” a strange phenomenon for a cold climate British bird. To Rees, “the house looked as English as possible, and it might be England but for the presence of the grinning little Gurkhas, the Viceroy’s Guard of Honour.”

It was the first house in Shimla with an electric system in 1888, and about 1,000 bulbs of 16-candle power were installed here. Lady Dufferin was thrilled and she writes, “…and the lighting up and putting out of the lamps is so simple that it is quite a pleasure to go round one’s room touching a button here and there.” The complex has the distinction of having the oldest playable “sticke tennis” court built in 1888; the only other two in the world are at Wiltshire (1904) and Devon (1907) in England.


A classic tale of supernatural is associated with Lord Dufferin. He was sleeping at his friend’s house in Ireland. He got up at midnight, came near the window and saw on the ground an ugly man carrying a coffin box. The man melted away in the darkness. Years later, as ambassador in France, he recognised the same man as elevator operator. He stepped out of the upgoing elevator. Soon he heard a terrific thud sound. The elevator had fallen three floors to the basement killing many. The operator was hired for just that day.



Mining, cement plants wreak havoc
Ravinder Sood

Palampur, August 12
Albeit rains have been good this year, the Govindsagar and Pong dam in the state are yet to fill up. According to experts, this is the upshot of largescale unscientific mining, quarrying, construction of big power projects, cement plants, roads and buildings.

A report based on a latest study by a private NGO, Himachal Pradesh Welfare and Environmental Protection Forum, reveals that over 25,000 hectares of land has been affected by mining and other construction activities in the state. The report says that Kinnaur, Solan, Shimla, Kullu and Bilaspur districts, which fall in the catchment areas of Sutlej and Beas rivers, are worst affected and reckless mining has played havoc here.

The report has put a question mark on the future of the Bhakra and Pong dams as no steps have yet been taken for largescale plantations in the catchment areas of Sutlej and Beas as recommended by various government and non-government agencies. Capacity to hold water in these two dams is falling year after year because of heavy siltation caused by destruction of forests, mining and other activities in its catchments areas.

Unless these activities are stopped large amounts of silt would continue to flow into these dams every year. The report says that the bed of both the dams has risen by five to six metres and nearly three times more sediments have entered these dams in the past five years, reducing their life to one third.

While mining and quarrying is going unabated, installation of half-a-dozen cement plants has further deteriorated the situation. Dust and smoke emanating from these plants has become a major environmental hazard. Besides, around five thousand trucks with these plants have become a major source of pollution.

Despite stiff opposition from various environmental groups and the media, two years ago the state government granted sanction to axe 10,000 trees for setting up a cement plant. Recently, a nod for setting up two more cement plants in Shimla and Mandi districts has been given.

This would further uproot thousands of people and create environmental imbalances in around 20,000 hectares of land.



Shimla diary
Colourful start to Olympics
A silent protest in Shimla
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, August 12
While China dazzled in the glittering opening ceremony of Olympics in Beijing, the hapless Tibetans who have been reduced to minority in their own homeland used the occasion to highlight their cause.

Various Tibetan outfits in exile like the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Tibetan Women Congress organised a series of events, including protests, peace marches and candlelight vigils, to draw attention to the plight of the Tibetans in Tibet under the Chinese rule.

In fact, the hill state has had more than its share of activities for the past more than a year mainly because the headquarters of the Tibetan government–in–exile is located in Dharamsala and it has large number of Tibetan refugees.

Some Tibetan protesters even tried to cross over to China from the state’s borders but their attempt was foiled.

On the day the Olympics got off to a colourful start amidst pyrotechnic fireworks, the Tibetan women took out a silent procession to express solidarity with their counterparts who were being persecuted and facing execution in Tibet. Similar protests were organised by the community elsewhere in the state.

Endless wait

People, particularly fruit growers of Shimla district, are eagerly waiting for the opening of the Dhalli-Sanjauli bypass that was to become functional by the revised deadline of May 30.

However, the 4 km stretch of the new road that will provide respite to the motorists from unending traffic jams at Sanjauli and Dhalli is still complete.

Originally, it was to be opened by October 20, 2007, but that did not happen and a revised deadline of May 30, 2008 was fixed.

However, this time the weather played the spoilsport, as it did not allow engineers of the public works department to spread the black carpet on the surface.

The road is almost complete and only tarring work is left. The department had planned to carry out the job in May during peak summer, but failed to do so due to early rains. Normally, monsoon breaks over the region around third week of June and the state receives most of the rainfall during July and August.

But this season, highest ever precipitation of 537 mm was recorded in June. Not only the bypass road, surface renewal and annual tarring work could not be carried out in many parts of the state due to incessant rains. The engineers hope that weather will relent and provide them opportunity to make up for the lost time during September and October.

Politics and sports bodies

During the congress rule, the state cricket association, headed by Anuraag Thakur, the elder son of Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal, faced the wrath of the government.

Now, when the BJP is in power, the state olympic association, headed by senior congress leader and former minister Ram Lal Thakur, is at the receiving end.

The sports bodies in the state have been thoroughly politicised. The cooperative department has termed the meeting convened Ram Lal to elect the office-bearers of the state Olympic association as illegal on the ground that it was not convened as per the laid down procedure.

The congress had enacted a law to tighten control over the sports bodies, mainly to target Anuraag Thakur.

However, he fought a protracted legal battle against the government and managed to survive the Congress rule. Now, it is the turn of Ram Lal Thakur, the then sports minister, to face the music.



Hamirpur girl bags US scholarship
Dharam Prakash Gupta
Tribune News Service

Hamirpur, August 12
Aushima, a Hamirpur girl, has not only brought laurels to this place but for the entire state by winning the prestigious Fulbright scholarship of the US government for 2008.

For an unruffled girl from this small and sleepy town, bagging this scholarship is like a dream come true since she had always longed to win this scholarship.

As a cultural ambassador of India she would be studying the culture and life of American people and share Indian culture with them.

During her 10 months stay in the US, Aushima, who is pursuing her PhD in English from Panjab University, Chandigarh, would not only take few courses related to her studies but also teach Hindi language there.

Her father, Dr D.S. Thakur, is presently posted as deputy director in the animal husbandry department in Mandi.

Her mother, Dr Saroj Thakur, who herself has been a keen academician and is working as assistant professor at the National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, in the department of applied sciences.

Fulbright programme is sponsored by the US department of state bureau of educational and cultural affairs. It was established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between the people of the US and other countries through exchange of persons, knowledge and skills.

There are 150 participant countries under this programme and nine candidates have been selected from India this year.

A delighted Aushima said, “I had heard a lot about Fulbright scholarship that it is one of the most prestigious exchange programme and I am really very glad to go to the US as cultural ambassador of my country.”



Kullu hospital in dire need of specialists
Subhash Sharma

Kullu, August 12
The regional hospital here is facing shortage of specialist doctors and paramedical staff for the past three years, leaving patients at the mercy of private clinics. Non-availability of a paediatrician, gynaecologist, orthopaedician and an eye-surgeon is adding to the misery of patients.

The regional hospital here is catering to the entire Kullu district and parts of Mandi, Chamba and Lahaul & Spiti districts. Chief medical officer S.K. Malhotra said the doctors were overburdened due to excessive indoor patients. He said the hospital did not even have a single specialist in paediatric and eye departments. However, there was one specialist doctor each in the departments of medicine, surgery, orthopedics, ENT and gynaecology. He lamented that the policy of the government was not to consider specialists’ appointment but just to fill the posts.

In addition, under the national health programme, doctors have to go to Ani, Nirmand and parts of Kullu and Lahaul & Spiti districts to attend several camps pertaining to family planning, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, pulse polio etc and to hold board meetings to issue certificates to the handicapped.

The hospital requires at least two specialist doctors in each department. Unfortunately, the government transfers the specialists to small hospitals where they have to work as general doctors. This is the reason as to why so many OPDs of the specialists remain closed.

The hospital is also burdened with the emergencies caused in various hydro-electricity projects under construction in the district. On an average, three to four emergency vehicles of these projects drive in everyday with serious cases of accidents or illness. The total capacity of the hospital is 200 beds but usually the number of patients is around 300.

Another engagement of the doctors is attending on postmortems almost every third day. These cause inconvenience to the general public. The hospital management has already submitted a request to the government for posting more doctors, including specialists, here.

The final phase of the hospital building is nearing completion and with that the capacity for indoor patients would be increased to almost double. The government should also take up the matter of sponsoring of specialist doctors with the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) so that the additional burden on the hospital could be shared.



Traffic jams choke national highway
Rajiv Mahajan

Nurpur, August 12
Jassur and Nurpur are two important towns of the Kangra valley and both are without proper bus stands. Jassur, situated on the situated on Pathankot-Mandi NH-20, is a prominent wholesale trading centre and parking of vehicles is a big problem here.

The parking of private as well as passenger vehicles on the roadside is leading to frequent jams.

Over two decades ago, the government had built a bus stand on panchayat samiti land on one end of the town. However, it was opposed by the traders who had their business establishments on the other end of the town.

As a sequel, this bus stand fell prey to the opposition of the traders with vested interests. At present, there is no bus stand in the town. The buses use to halt on the Jassur-Dhameta chowk to board passengers, causing traffic bottleneck on the NH-20. The haphazard parking of passenger vehicles on the chowk adds to the traffic woes.

Similar is the situation in subdivisional town Nurpur where persistent demand of residents for proper bus stand has not been met.

The town has three temporary bus stops i.e. Niazpur, Dakki and Chogan on the NH-20. Thousands of people from surrounding villages use to visit here for shopping, government offices, and judicial courts for their daily works.

The town has a number of long route bus services like, Nurpur- Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Gharsana (Rajasthan) and Haridwar. Apart from this, the town also provides junction for Chamba district at Chogan. In the absence of a proper bus stand, the buses use to strand on the NH-20 to board and leave passengers.

They remain stranded for a long time waiting for passengers, which leads to prolonged traffic jams. These jams have become eyesores on the national highway.

According to local MLA Rakesh Pathania, following persistent demand he had submitted a proposal for constructing a well-equipped and proper bus stand in the Chogan area in the town. He claimed that the proposed bus stand was in the final stage of approval.



Awareness key to reducing infant mortality: Experts
Dharam Prakash Gupta
Tribune News Service 

Hamirpur, August 12
While the world breastfeeding day is being observed in India for quite some time and awareness campaigns have been launched, but it is yet to achieve its goal i.e. to bring down infant mortality rate.

Though breastfeeding has always been considered lifesaver and an excellent food for infants, ignorance among women has failed to utilise this simple measure to save lakhs of children every year.

According to a recent study, around 10 lakh children below the age of five can be saved worldwide if they are breastfed during the first hour of the birth. In India, 2.5 lakh children could be saved by this simple measure.

Ignorance about breastfeeding and various misconceptions in the society are major hindrances in curbing child mortality rate. A little awareness could check the problem of malnutrition and underweight among the newborns.

In Himachal Pradesh, the infant mortality rate is quite high and according to the health department, it was 60 children per 1,000 in 2005. Not only this, about 25 per cent infants are born underweight due to malnutrition, which can be cured simply by breastfeeding.

Besides ignorance, other factor is the lack of time for breastfeeding among working women and housewives.

Health activist Satish Shukla says the practice of providing wrong food especially feeding ghee and related products which lack in iron to women at the time of delivery affects the ability of a mother to lactate an infant.

“Our age old traditions are also responsible for not patronising breastfeeding. An easy approach of feeding a child from bottle has crept in every family,” he says, adding that among the urban women, the misconception about disfigurement of physique through breastfeeding acts as a dampener.

“Mother’s milk contains cholesterol, which is very useful in the first hour of birth for an infant besides being a complete food for the baby. It has 88.6 per cent water, which can fulfill the water requirement of a child for six months after the birth”.

Pediatric consultants suggest nothing else is required for a child for six months, not even water, if he is breastfed. Doctors say breastfeeding even controls hormonal problems among females if they feed their child during the first week of the birth of the child.

The health department has started a special drive to educate lactating mothers about the efficacy of breastfeeding. But still a lot more is required to be done in this direction.



Go for eco-friendly industries: Experts
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

Kumarhatti, August 12
While forming the public policies, the government should look out for people with experience, education and vision. There is a need to have a broader vision. Eco-friendly industries like software, health, education, service sectors could be better choice then the projects related to cement industries. There is also an urgent need for a long-term strategic planning.

These were the conclusions summed up in a debate on the topic, “what is better for Himachal’s improvement?” by an NGO, MyHimachal, here recently. The participants felt that unfortunately the people who formed policies lack requisite qualification.

“When it comes to framing a policy, the administration prefers to copy it from somewhere else. The Himachal Factories Act is one good example of it. Instead of framing its own legislation, the government just copied it from the Act applicable in Mumbai and made it the Himachal Factories Act even though the topography of both regions is entirely different. Besides, the state is till using the Central Factories Act of 1948 to regulate all factories in state”. 

The participants also opined that the quality and quantity of job creation should go hand in hand to provide maximum number of jobs to the people of the state.

A participant in debate suggested that to keep the state beautiful, it should go for multi-polar economy. “There should be tax on polluting industries while rebates should be given to eco-friendly industries”.

Educational institutes should be a key part of any development programme. Jobs in services sector should be encouraged, and the government should concentrate on governing only, the participants felt. “The problem with the state is that it encourages bi-polar economy that is only tourism and horticulture,” pointed out a participant. Both have subsidies that were not available to other industries.

“A good economy is multi-polar. We should prefer new fields like software, education and services”. We have been pleading to the successive state governments that these should be the priority areas, but political compulsions and ground reality dictates otherwise, lamented most of the participants.



NH 21— the killer road

The national highway no. 21, which connects Chandigarh to Manali brings the image of a killer highway. Particularly risky is the stretch between Kiratpur and Barmana that is ruled by truckers. Accidents due to rash driving by truckers are frequent in this area. Besides, the road is full of potholes. Pollution caused by the overloaded trucks, most of which have outlived their lives, compels us to curse the authorities. Traffic jams, caused by haphazard parking of vehicles, is also a common sight. The government must take steps to solve the traffic and pollution problem in this area.

Anshoo Kanotra, Bilaspur





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