A brush with art
Sobha Singh brought Kangra on the world map by remaining associated with Andretta village in Palampur for about four decades
Ravinder Sood

Art and culture are indeed the most valuable and important assets for any nation. Artists in India have chosen paintings as a medium to express and preserve the rich cultural heritage of the country. Rising above the narrow consideration of religion, caste and race, these artists have shown us the path of peace and tranquility.

One of them who depicted Indian culture on big canvas and gave the country its due place on the international art platform is Sobha Singh. It is he who brought Kangra on the world map by remaining associated with Anderata village in Palampur for about four decades where he also set up an art gallery.

Born on November 29, 1901, at Sri Hargobindpur in Gurdaspur (Punjab), Sobha Singh was the youngest of the four children of Deva Singh.  At the age of 18 years, he joined the Indian Army as draftsman and left for Iraq. In 1925, he was attracted to Lahore since at that time it was a premier centre of education and art. Sobha Singh established the Echo School of Arts in Lahore and thus began his real journey into the world of arts. In the pursuit of better career prospects, he shifted to Delhi and established his own studio. With sheer dent of hard work and dedication, he not only succeeded in establishing himself as a successful artist but also earned critical acclaims. But the hectic city life never fascinated him and he started looking for a place that could match his creative self. For sometime he also stayed in Ambala, but here again the city life disillusioned him. 

The Himachal sojourn of this legendary artist started in 1942. The snow covered peaks of Dhauladhar, the enchanting view of lush green Kangra valley and sprawling meadows so fascinated this great artist that he decided to settle here permanently. 

Most of the masterpieces of Sobha Singh such as “Sohni Mahiwal”, “Her grace the Gaddan” and “Kangra Bride” were created at Anderata. During his 40 years stay in this small village of Kangra valley, Sobha Singh painted over 1,400 paintings. Many of his paintings depict the rich cultural heritage and natural scenic beauty of Himachal Pradesh.

He mainly focused on Sikh Gurus. His portrait of Gurus was a manifestation of his devotion to the divine souls. Sobha Singh also painted Hindu gods and goddesses with equal reverence, zeal and perfection. The painting of “Murli Manohar”, signifying Lord Krishna and the portrayal of Lord Rama with bow and arrow are considered as masterpieces. This reflects the real secular approach the saint artist.

The paintings of Sobha Singh have a deep-rooted message within. These are not merely physical portrayal of personality, but they have a hidden message for the viewer. Regarding his paintings, Sobha Singh used to say,  “My art is my religion and my duty is to transform invisible to visible”.

Paintings of Sohni Mahiwal and Sikh Gurus brought Sobha Singh at the center stage not only in Punjab and Himachal but also throughout the nation.  Nobody would believe that Sobha Singh never learnt painting from any school or teacher but the inner creative self was his greatest teacher and critic and he learnt and mastered painting by self-practice. He always believed that to be successful in life, one has to be honest, sincere and hardworking. It is indeed a great honour for the state that this legendary artist chose Himachal Pradesh for his artistic pursuit. 

Recognising the contribution of Sardar Sobha Singh, it has been decided to celebrate this year as the birth centenary year of this multifaceted personality. In addition, a postage stamp has also been brought as a mark of respect to this great artist on his birth centenary.



Making life worth living
Rajiv Mahajan

Here is a gram panchayat that has set an example in community participation in developing infrastructure in their area.The Kuther gram panchayat in Jawali  subdivision of Kangra district now seeks the status of model panchayat. This area has a population of about 2,500 people and a visit to the place reveals the change brought by the people of the area.

A view of conference hall in the village
A view of conference hall in the village

The panchayat has undertaken a number of development works to strengthen the basic infrastructure by initiating the “vikas mein jan sahyog scheme”. This programme has played a vital role in the facelift of this area. It has built 10 classrooms at a cost of Rs 18 lakh, spent another Rs 5 lakh in constructing a community hall and a new panchayat bhawan. As many as Rs 14 lakh are being spent on roads and beautification of village pond under NAREGA scheme. 

Significantly, every house is linked with a pucca path. The panchayat has also installed 25 power-operated hand pumps in the area. The natural water resources are given a facelift under the watershed development project. 

The panchayat bhawan here is no less than a mini-secretariat where a conference hall, primary health centre, veterinary dispensary, community hall and a fair price shop, all are functioning under the same roof. 

Panchayat pradhan Veena Devi, however, says the villagers have a complaint with the government as it has sanctioned a number of rural development works under the mid-Himalayan project but no funds have been released to undertake the same.

She asserts it is only with the support of her family and cooperation of the residents that has helped the panchayat in developing the area. She says they are trying to develop this place under the newly introduced village tourism scheme. 

Meanwhile, president of the gram panchayat association, Tilak Rapotra, has urged the state government to provide assistance and technical guidance to encourage other panchayats so that they could also make life better in the rural areas.



Ripon’s heritage
Din Dayal’s gain
by Shriniwas Joshi

Shimla’s first hospital was proposed by Lady Ripon and the foundation stone was laid on October 20, 1882 by Lord Ripon (the Viceroy and Governor General of India). The subscriptions for the hospital were raised by A.O. Hume (founder of the Congress party), and designed in rambling Swiss-Gothic style by H. Irwin (gaiety’s architect). It was constructed by Campion and Learmouth, and conceived by Sir Benjamin Franklin, director-general of medical services in India in 1882.

The Din Dayal Hospital in Lower Bazaar, Shimla.
The Din Dayal Hospital in Lower Bazaar, Shimla. Tribune photo: Amit Sharma

The hospital was ultimately dedicated in 1992 to Din Dayal Upadhyaya, who was born in Rajasthan in 1916 and found dead in mysterious circumstances at Mughal Sarai railway yard in 1968. Praising his genius, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee had said, “If I had two Din Dayals, I could have transformed the political face of India.”

Lord Dufferin declared the Ripon Hospital, near Lower Bazaar, open on May 14, 1885, which to date is situated on a spur on the southern slopes of the hills about the middle of the town. Bombay Gazette had then written, “Neither European nor native need remain sick or sorry for the want of proper attendance and accommodation, and the ancient style which has hitherto done duty for an hospital may be devoted to its original pigs.” The Ripon Hospital has been built on the ashes of many a building. Government Central Branch Press was established here in 1872. It got burnt in 1879 and shifted to Clarefield and two cottages here, Briars and Glen, were blazed up in 1881.

The medical facility prior to the Ripon has been described by the Gazetteer of Shimla District of 1888-89, “the charitable dispensary is the only medical institution in Simla. It was established in 1844. It is situated in Lower Bazaar, but is an ill-constructed building and unsuited in every way for the purpose for which it is used.” The Gazetteer of 1904, however, reported that Ripon till 1902 served both the natives and the Europeans when Walker Hospital (near Sanjauli) came about exclusively for the Europeans. Indigent Whites, however, were still admitted in Lady Collen’s (wife of General Sir Edwin Collen) free ward at the Ripon where two beds were reserved for them.

It further adds, “The female wards of the Ripon were converted into separate Hospital styled ‘The Lady Dufferin Hospital’, and were put under the charge of a qualified Lady Doctor in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.” It was a Municipal Committee’s institution getting a grant of Rs.1500 only per annum from the Government. It was designated as one of the best hospitals in Punjab in 1920s. John Alton Price, living in Kaithu, recollects the high standards of nursing care then,” Doris Adley was one of the kind nurses who saw me through a bout of typhoid at the Ripon Hospital in 1923.” Many may not know that this building sheltered the Muslims running to Pakistan during the communal riots here in 1947. Nasim Hassan, a nephew of Ismael Bux, the then known clothiers on the Mall, has written an account of how they bade farewell to Shimla and concludes it with,” in August 1947, we moved to Ripon Hospital with the help of a doctor friend (Dr. Pamrey) and stayed there till we could catch a train for Pakistan”.

The Ripon Hospital, after independence, changed hands from the Municipal Committee to the Punjab Government and then, on reorganisation of States, to Himachal Pradesh Government. It is housed in a declared heritage building today and with 123 years old history in its bosom, it has to retain that character. Such buildings need to be conserved and PWD understands only one measure for their maintenance – a measure unsuited for the conservation of time-tested structures. Conserving skills have to be developed within PWD to raise an independent circle for conservation work only. There is also a hexagonal letterbox with a floral cap within the Ripon complex. Cochbane and Company of Dudley, Worcestershire, England had moulded it. It is operative; the Postal Department has to take extra care of this heritage piece.


How did Shimla get its second hospital? General Franklin, Inspector-General of Civil Hospitals in Punjab, visited Ripon Hospital in May 1899, and found that the native patients had been ousted from their wards to make room for European patients. He immediately suggested to the Punjab government the name of Gorton Castle (AG’s office) as another hospital building. That was not to be but Walker surfaced in 1902.



Degree colleges sans faculty
Education deptt resorts to stopgap arrangement
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service 

The government’s mission to make higher education accessible to the rural youth has hit a major roadblock. Most of the rural colleges across the state are facing acute shortage of teachers. Besides lacking in infrastructure, they also lack proper and regular teaching faculty as prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Worst sufferers are the students of newly opened degree colleges at Lambathach, Bassa and Paddar in Mandi district and Banjar, Haripur and Haripur (Ani) in Kullu district. 

In Banjar, students locked college principal in a room recently in protest against the shortage of teachers in the college.

The situation is similar in degree colleges at Sarasvatinagar, Seema (Rohru), Nerwa in Chopal in Shimla district and Keylong and Udaipur in Lahaul, Recongpeo. 

Besides, more than 750 posts of lecturers remained vacant in different government-run colleges. Instead of advertising the posts, the government decided to recruit retired teachers in colleges that amounts to injustice to the candidates who have qualified the state eligibility test (SET) or national eligibility test (NET) conducted by the UGC from time to time. 

According to available figures, there are more than 10,000 trained qualified PhDs and postgraduate candidates awaiting recruitment as lecturers. But the government has been recruiting lecturers through parent teacher associations (PTAs), and now it is resorting to stopgap arrangement by appointing retried teachers to overcome the shortage. 

“There is a large number qualified unemployed manpower awaiting recruitment in the education department. Hence, it is injustice to our qualified degree holders. Retired teachers had their innings, but we cannot provide them jobs at the cost of our youth,” asserts J.C. Sharma, former deputy director-cum-educationist. 

Director education O.P. Sharma says, “The government has sent requisition for over 634 posts of lecturer to the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (HPPSC). And it is according to the UGC guidelines that we are hiring the services of the retried teachers so that students do not suffer”. 

Sharma says that the government has yet to hire the services of the retired teachers. “It is only a stopgap arrangement till the posts are filled by the commission.”



Hydel projects pose threat: Expert
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

R.L. Justa
R.L. Justa

Though largely believed to be an environment-friendly proposition, micro and mini hydroelectric projects, unless implemented with proper planning and due discretion, could have serious implications on the environment and the local populace, cautions social activist and expert R.L. Justa.

The manner in which a large number of projects have been proposed on small streams without any concern for the ecological-fragile hills and the local villagers, who are totally dependent on them, does not augur well for the state. The indiscretion of the authorities can be judged from the fact that five to 10 projects each are proposed to be set up on small rivulets and nullahs.

“If so many projects are allowed to come up, these rivulets, which are vital to the ecosystem, will be virtually wiped out from the landscape. The people will lose their traditional sources of water, which cater to their need for drinking, irrigation, livestock and even running the water mills,” he explains.

He cites the example of the Neogli Khad in Shimla on which nine projects are proposed and Chanju khad in Chamba on which six projects are planned.

“If allowed, these projects will lead to large-scale construction activity in the highly sensitive alpine areas close to glaciers. It will not only hasten the melting of perennial snows but also render the streams prone to flashfloods”.

In countries like Sweden and Norway, which he visited for training under the transfer of technology programme, 20 per cent for total hydroelectric potential has been kept on hold as an environmental safeguard. The state should come out with a similar policy and ensure that not more than three small projects are allowed on a stream.

Besides being an experienced civil engineer, Justa is also an apple grower and as such he is fully aware of the adverse impact of large-scale construction activity in high hills, which, he says, is already visible in the receding snowline.

“While orchards are being starved of the ‘white manure’, tourist places like Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie hardly get any snow. The discharge in the natural water sources is dwindling with each passing year and more and more areas are facing water scarcity during summer. In such a scenario the future of small hydroelectric projects will be uncertain”.

Justa blames the cumbersome procedure for obtaining various clearances for the slow pace of work on small projects. The government must put in place a mechanism to ensure prompt clearance from various departments. At present, the independent power producers (IPP’s) have to obtain no-objection certificates from 11 departments, which takes a long time. Besides electricity board, the pollution control board and the local gram panchayat, clearances are required from forest, environment, wildlife, irrigation and public health, public works, fisheries, tribal and revenue departments. This cumbersome time-consuming process invariably delays implementation of projects.

The state should adopt the Gujarat pattern, where a high-powered committee takes care of all clearances. It sends the requirements of each project to the departments concerned with the stipulation that clearance be accorded within 30 days. The progress is monitored by the committee on monthly basis and the IPP’s do not have to run from one agency to the other for obtaining clearances.  He suggests that for projects up to 5 MW, all clearances should be granted at the district level for which single window authorities should be constituted under the respective deputy commissioners.

Another reason for the delay is that most of the projects have been allotted to outsiders who have no rapport with the local people and they usually faced problems in acquisition of land. The government should cancel the allotment of all projects given to outsiders, which has not achieved the milestones as per the MoU. These projects should be assigned to the Himachalis under the new policy.



Expert tips for future managers
Ambika Sharma

Perseverance, sincerity, hard work, conviction and devotion towards one’s goal are some of the key ingredients which a future manager needs to excel in his career. While it’s not an easy job to make it to the top what matters the most is one’s belief to succeed.

These were the key points of deliberation which emerged during a one-day seminar on labour laws organised at the LR Institute of MBA where human resource officials from the industry shared their experience with MBA students.

Labour Commissioner B.R. Verma, who was the chief guest on the occasion, while sharing his experiences said, “It is crucial to explore our potential and then opt for a discipline in which we can perform to our optimum level. While a wrong choice can mar a career, a right decision can bring out the best from an individual.”

He said, “The department of labour and employment endevaoured to bridge the gap between skill requirement and its availability in the state. While it is not easy to enforce the norm of mandatory intake of 70 per cent Himachali youth in the industries, they are trying to upgrade the skills of the youth to match the industry needs.”

Replying to queries from the students, he said Himachal Pradesh ranked third after Delhi and Haryana as far as minimum wages were considered and it fared much better than the neighbouring Punjab. Further, they were trying to bring the construction workers under the purview of Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1966, which would ensure that they were not exploited by contractors. He added that had the Act been in force in the state they would have charged 1 per cent cess from all construction projects that could enable them to safeguard the interest of workers employed in such projects.

Human resource managers, Manohar Tekta from Nicolas Piramel and Y.S.Guleria representing TVS Motors, dwelt on the skills of a successful manager. Involving the students in their presentation both conveyed the significance of interpersonal relations, personality development, presence of mind and the significant art of saying no in the most graceful manner amidst trying circumstances. They also helped the students to analyse what options suited them the best and the factors that they should weigh before opting for any alternative.

Institute director Brig B.D.Dogra (retd) also addressed the students.



A gush of freshness
Bhagsunag waterfall
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bhagsunag waterfall in Dharamsala is at its pristine glory during monsoons. The water in the fall increases manifold that converts the thin stream into a mass of gushing water. The view of unsullied water gushing out of the waterfall and the mist emanating from the fall of about 20 ft is indeed a delighting experience.

The tourists enjoy tiny water drops rising in air as a result of fall, taking form of a light drizzle, and relieving bath in water down the stream.

The attraction of the natural waterfall is motivating even big bellied tourists from plains to trek uphill about 1 km to reach in the vicinity of the waterfall. The panoramic view near waterfall makes tourist forget the gasping trek they had to undertake to reach the destination.

Several small huts brought up by locals near the place add to the charm of milieu providing all kinds of snacks and drinks to tourists. The cold drink and beer bottles chilled in ice-cold water of fall are also available adding spice to the environment. A few tourists with good stamina climb further up to Shiva Café. The café is housed in a small hut constructed from local stones and covered with lush green creepers.

The trekkers in the area revealed that the height of popular waterfall of Bhagsunag is just 20 feet. However, if one climbs up the Baghsu waterfall at almost the end of it is another stream is another water fall. It water falls from about five time height in that area. The area is picturesque. However, since no track has been developed in the area, trekking is dangerous especially in monsoon when the water quality in stream is unpredictable. If proper track is developed to upper water fall it would add another feature to the tourist destination.

However, the tourism department has failed to exploit the gift of nature for attracting tourists. If compared with Kempty water fall located in Uttaranchal near Mussoorie, the Bahgsunag water fall is much bigger and located in more panaromic surrounding. Despite that Campty fall attracts more tourists and is more popular due to better marketing and facilities created by the government.

Along the track to Baghsunag the government can allot spots for café’s to attract tourists instead of allowing haphazard development. The spots upstream water fall can be developed. In addition to that the water fall can be promoted as USP for Dharamsala region.

Presently the water fall is facing the problem of litter and plastic spread by tourists in the area. The Dharamsala municipal council has failed to provide dustbins near fountain area. There is just one rusted dustbin the area that is not sufficient for litter being produced. The result is that the litter and plastic waste scar the natural beauty of fountain area.

Some local youth take the onus of clearing the area of litter spread by tourists. On September 14 this year they once against carried the cleaning in the area. They demand support from local authorities in the task so that beauty of the area can be maintained.



shimla diary
Monsoon Misery
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Torrential rains which battered the “Queen of Hills” and other parts of the district for almost 60 hours left a trail of devastation and misery. More lives were lost and property was damaged in two days than the three months of monsoon rains. Out of the total 60 rain-related deaths, as many as 36 took place between September 18 and 20 during which the state capital received 247.7 mm of rain, including 177.1 on a single day which was highest in 46 years.

(From left to right) Damaged vehicles in rain-related mishaps, mess on the Mall and a view of the BCS-Khalini road which was closed due to slush and landslides. Tribune photos: Amit Sharma
(From left to right) Damaged vehicles in rain-related mishaps, mess on the Mall and a view of the BCS-Khalini road which was closed due to slush and landslides. Tribune photos: Amit Sharma

The estimated loss on account of damage to public and private property was over Rs 300 crore as against Rs 250 crore assessed during the entire season. Roads and other infrastructure in the city suffered damage to the tune of Rs 14 crore during the season, half of which occurred during the three days of downpour. The green cover also took a battering as about 80 trees fell in landslips and another 400 were declared dangerous.

Power and water supply, and telecom services were severely affected as uprooted trees snapped transmission lines and landslips damaged pipelines and underground cables.

The maximum damage had been caused to roads and the entire upper Shimla region was cut-off by landslips. The administration had a hard time restoring the main highways. The link roads will take days for clearance. The roads which are open to traffic are also in a bad shape as the block topping has made way for potholes. In the Kotkhai and Rohru areas, apple orchards have vanished in landslides.

Brain Power

Students from the state proved their mettle by their outstanding performance at the national brain championship the result of which was declared early this week. Organised by Imatrix Worldwide in association with the India Book of Records in which students from more than 50 schools across the country participated.

Ashrayae Tamarkar of local Bishop Cotton School secured the first rank in level 1 while Devrattan Sharma and Suman Gupta of the local Chapslee School bagged the top rank in level 2 and Building Baby’s Brain B, respectively.

Tina of Auckland House secured the top rank in Building Baby’s Brain and Suchali Sharma and Kashish, both from the same school, bagged 2nd rank in level 2 and Building Baby’s Brain B, respectively. The test was conducted for different age groups and categorised into different levels.

Imatrix has launched its total brain development programme at Pinegrove School in Solan and local Gurukul International School. It is working in more than 300 leading schools across the country.

Delayed planning

Two precious lives could have been saved if the plans to rebuild the “Sood Janj Ghar” near the Rivoli Theatre had approved. The dilapidated structure which served as community centre for decades had been closed for public functions more than 15 years ago and members of Tulsi Ram Rattani Devi Trust, which manages the property, have been trying to get complex reconstructed ever since. However, the building plans were not approved by the corporation and now the old structure lies buried underneath debris brought down by a landslide. Asha, a 16-year-old girl, and her grandfather died in the mishap.

A member of trust, V.P. Sood, lamented the negative attitude of municipal authorities which refused to approve the building plan which required special consideration in view of the requirement of site and the purpose of the complex. Since it was primarily meant for organising marriage ceremonies, a big hall and some rooms were essential which required a three–storeyed structure.

The building plan fulfilled the FAR (floor area ratio) requirement but the corporation refused to allow more than two-storeys. This was despite the fact that a multi-storeyed bank building and girls hostel have been built in the vicinity. The corporation had itself built multi-storeyed complexes in the area.

As the entire belt from Tibetan market to the government girls school falls in the sinking zone the government should come out with an integrated plan to stabilise the area. It should also ensure its proper utilisation for commercial purpose and creating basic amenities and widening of the road after shifting of the Tibetan market.



Something’s fishy
Balkrishan Prashar
Tribune News Service

Residents of Bharmour subdivision in Chamba district are desperate over the utility of trout fish farm at Holi, which was established by the government for the promotion of trout fish farming in the area.

A visit to the place reveals that the farm is not meeting the necessities of inhabitants of the people of Bharmour and Holi. The fish farm has become a lame duck as it is facing pecuniary difficulties for the past some time.

The department of fisheries has established the farm with a view to encourage anglers in the region to adopt trout fish farming as a means of livelihood. Though the anglers are showing their interest, the department, which is first supposed to provide trout fingerlings and later on procure the produce from them, failed to play its part. The department, however, blames the government for not allocating sufficient funds.

Trout was introduced in Chamba during 1923 for the first time when a consignment of 2,000 eggs after procurement from Kashmir were transplanted to a hatchery at Silagharat, 25 km from here. After hatching and rearing to fry stage, they were stocked in the Ravi and later regular stocking was made an annual practice. However, the devastating floods of 1947, and in subsequent years adversely affected the stocked fishes and catches kept getting depleted each year.

With the evolvement of successful trout farming technology under a foreign-aided project and decrying needs to revive the trout fishery in the Ravi and its tributaries, the government initiated work on the construction of the Holi trout farm, 80 km from Chamba.

If put on fast track, the farm is expected to play a crucial role in development of fisheries vis-à-vis tourism in the district. Besides promotion of sport fishery, the department also plans to promote trout farming in the area in private sector and provide facilities to anglers.

The capacity of the farm is two lakh fingerlings and two tonne of table-sized trout fish. Official sources claim that the farm during the last fiscal year produced 74,400 trout eggs out of which trout seed were sold to the public for Rs 16,200 while the trout fish was sold for Rs 85,117. 





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