Renuka wrecked
While the popular Renuka fair is expected to attract lakhs of visitors, 30-year-long struggle of environmentalists and NGOs to save the ecology and religious sanctity of Renuka is at a dead end
S.R. Pundir

Nahan, November 4
As the six-day long state-level Renuka fair begins on November 8, the core issues of saving ecology, cultural identity, traditional fervor and religious sanctity of Renuka remain unaddressed even after decades.

The construction of Renuka Dam adjacent to the biggest natural lake of the state has raised concern of environmentalists and NGOs, who have been fighting to save the existence of the Renuka Lake and the sanctity of the pilgrimage for long.

Meanwhile, Renuka Dam Jan Sangharsh Samiti convener Yoginder Kapila and Swami Dayanand Bharti, head of Brahamchari Ashram Renuka, has renewed their pledge to save the lake. They have once again warned the authorities that blasting would not be allowed at the dam site.

They say the three tunnels to be constructed at the site using heavy blasting would cause geological disturbances posing threat to the existence of lake situated at an aerial distance of mere 200 m. They have also rubbished the version of some "hired geologists" in this regard.

The lake is also facing threat from the environmental hazard caused by tourists throwing waste material into the water body. Besides, the lake is being continuously and heavily damaged by debris coming from the surrounding hills where three roads are being constructed that has already converted one fourth of the lake area into a barren land.

For the past 30 years, fight has been going on to save the religious and cultural sanctity of Renuka under the banner of the Renuka Tirtha Bachao Samiti. As many as 12 panchyats of the area and six NGOs have written to the government several times to stop promoting concrete culture, commercialisation of the fair and boating in the lake, which is worshipped as "sakshat swaroop" of Bhagwati Renuka, but to no avail.

Sanjeev Awasthi, a social worker and environmentalist, and Rajender Raju, president of the samiti, say Renuka is losing its charm due to the commercialisation of the pilgrimage and fair by the authorities. Though it is purely a religious fair, it has been marred by politics and commercialisation during the past three decades, despite strong opposition from local residents.



A peep into the past
S. R. Pundir

Every year, on the occasion of "devprobodhini ekadashi", traditional Renuka fair is organised on the banks of the Renuka Lake in Sirmour district. Over 15 lakh devotees come from different parts of the country to take part in the religious congregation.

On this special occasion, the palanquin of Lord Parshurama is brought to Renuka from the anicient temple in Jamu Koti village. The palanquin departs after performing the holy dip in the lake.

The history of the fair is more than 5,000 years old. Several references regarding religious assembly at Renuka on this day have been found in Puranas, which speaks volumes about the religious sanctity and spiritual importance of the Renuka Lake.

As per ancient tradition, devotees who spend the preceding night of "devprobodhini ekadashi" here and take a holy dip in the lake the next day are showered with divine blessings of Lord Parshurama and Bhagwati Renuka.

According to Puranas, the Renuka is the birthplace of Parshurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Maharishi Yamdagni and his wife Bhagwati Renuka had meditated for long time at a hillock known as “Tape Ka Tiba” near Renuka Lake. With the blessings of Lord Shiva, they got Parshurama as their son.



No tabs on drug industry
Ambika Sharma

Solan, November 4
The manner in which a question mark has been put on the quality of drugs manufactured in the region by various agencies, including the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) of the US, has brought manufacturers as well as the drugs department under scanner.

In the most recent case, the FDA has banned the entry of 30 medicines manufactured by Ranbaxy’s Poanta Sahib-based unit. The FDA has also decided not to grant any new approval to drugs manufactured here to be sold in the US.

In its warning letter to Ranbaxy, the US drug regulator has cited improper maintenance of inspection records at the Paonta Sahib plant as the immediate reason for this action.

Earlier, drug samples of a Baddi-based unit were declared not confirming to the standard quality by an analyst of the Andhra Pradesh government. In another case, injections manufactured at a unit here had been mislabeled attracting violations of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. In yet another case, a cough syrup Genadryl manufactured by yet another unit here was recently found containing foreign particles in Rajasthan.

While all these cases have put a question mark over the drug regulatory system, local drug manufacturers feel these are isolated cases. President of manufacturers’ association Sanjay Guleria while terming these as isolated cases says an investor who has invested crores cannot commit such mistakes deliberately but at times such problems do crop up. A couple of cases in the 300 to 400 industrial units here cannot raise a question mark over the entire industry, he asserts.

Meanwhile, the laxity in the drug regulatory system is apparent as the department lacks the requisite staff. In a recent revelation, two private persons were found working in the Baddi-based office of the authority. What is alarming is the fact that they were being paid by manufacturers. This means the manufacturers had access to all vital information about the authority’s working, which is not a healthy practice indeed. It further means that cases like the ones mentioned above can get away with little regulation in place.

Though the state government has got about nine posts of drug inspectors sanctioned early this year, not even one post has been advertised till today which shows their lack of seriousness to address the issue. One wonders how a lone drug inspector could conduct inspections in over 300 units in the BBN area even in one year and what regulation could be exercised in this manner over the erring units bypassing quality. Even more surprising is the fact that even a crucial issue like drugs is not a priority area for the government although such laxities could prove fatal for the larger masses.



In the light of LEDs
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 4
The state government is distributing 72 lakh compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) free of cost to facilitate complete switchover to energy-saving domestic lighting. A non-government organisation has gone a step ahead and taken the initiative to introduce far more energy-efficient LED (light emitting diode) bulbs.

Hailed as the next generation lighting device, the LED bulbs would render all the existing bulbs obsolete over next few years.

The environment conscious countries are already opting for the highly durable and mercury free new lighting device. More importantly, LED lights could be manually fabricated by imparting a little training and as such offer a huge scope for self-employment.

Thus, the initiative of the Himalayan research group (HRG) that is organising a 3-day programme for assembling LED bulbs, from November 7 to 9, is laudable and holds much promise.

“A scientific research organisation has to think in terms of future technologies and plan its activities accordingly. Precisely, for this reason we decided to work on LEDs when everyone was obsessed with the CFLs”, says director of the HRG Lal Singh.

As the LEDs were being manufactured on a small scale at present, as they were costlier than CFLs, he decided to train local youth in fabricating these devices. The union department of science and technology had identified popularisation of LEDs as one of the main programme and was providing funds for the purpose to reputed non-government organisations.

The national coordinator of the programme is none other than SP Gon Chaudhuri, who had been honoured with Ashden award, UK, and euro solar award, Germany, for his contribution towards energy conservation. 

Rural electricians from Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, students of electric trade from local industrial training institutes (ITIs) and nominees from various state government departments would undergo training in fabrication of LED lights and maintenance of solar devices during the 3-day programme.

LED lights could be easily fabricated by electricians and electronics mechanics using normal tools like nose pliers, stripper, cutter and a soldering gun without any capital investment.

Bulbs of different wattage could be made using arrays of LEDs of different sizes.

They are resistant to shock and vibration and their low operation voltage eliminates sparks. They are even repairable and if any LED in the array fuses, it could be replaced conveniently.

Environment protection agencies across the world were increasingly coming round to the view that LED, though costly at this stage, is a better option than the mercury-laden CFL, the safe disposal of which is a problem.

Each CFL contains about 4 mg of mercury, the most toxic and harmful metal, without an effective recycling mechanism.

Moreover, those already using the CFLs are not aware of the long-term dangers posed to the environment and to the health of human beings in case it bursts.

Environmental safety apart from the most attractive feature of the LED bulbs is the minimal energy consumption and durability compared to CFL. It consumes less than 10 per cent of energy compared to incandescent lamp and has a life span   six times that of a CFL. 

A 3-watt LED bulb was enough to replace 40-watt fluorescent tube. The LED bulbs are assembled manually using an array of LEDs to make bulbs of different wattage and as such have a huge employment potential.

Lal Singh maintains that CFL initiative taken by the government would not only save precious energy but also make people realise the need and importance of energy conservation. It would certainly help in further switch over from CFL to the LEDs.



Sustainable development must in hilly areas: Experts
Dharam Prakash Gupta
Tribune News Service

Hamirpur, November 4
While future strategies for carrying out development works in the hilly areas are being strongly debated, renowned architects of the country have suggested significant points for designing and constructing buildings in the hills in a two-day national workshop at NIT Hamirpur.

Most of the architects felt the need of preserving the hilly terrain while carrying out development works and felt that buildings in these areas should be designed in consonance with the availability of land.

There was a general consensus among the architects that digging increased the risk of earthquakes besides environmental degradation.

Talking about the threat of earthquakes in the hilly region, architect K. Jaisim from the Fountainhead Institute of Architecture, Bangalore, said many hills fall under the seismic zones and thus, were earthquake prone.

Experts were of firm opinion that the region under the Himalayan mountain range was fragile and large-scale digging of hills posed big threat of earthquakes.

Jaisim said minimum digging should be undertaken for construction work. Buildings should be designed in such a way that houses were built on slopes to avoid digging as a safety against earthquakes, since digging lead to dissemination of layers which otherwise keep the soil intact.

“This has been part of our ancient wisdom of carrying any construction and culturally it is our tradition that before one cuts the soil one must pay obeisance to mother earth for forgiveness and pray that all goes well,” Jaisim elaborated.

The architects suggested that by carrying out construction along the slopes instead of digging 70 per cent safety could be ensured. Almost all experts suggested that houses should be designed keeping in view the topography of the hills.

As a part of strategy for  sustained development of the hill areas this conference gave vital suggestion about designs and construction to preserve environment and ecology in the hills besides effective safety against  earthquakes, which is most relevant to growing state like  Himachal Pradesh.



Folkloric Chandrabhaga
by Shriniwas Joshi

I was in Lahaul in the month of June, the best time to be there. The entire Pattan valley from Tandi to Tindi was lush green with shoots of peas, potatoes and hops.

It is the richest of the three other valleys in Lahaul with architecturally pleasant houses defining prosperity. The Chandrabhaga flows through the entire length of the valley. It rises as Chandra on the south eastern side of Baralacha pass from Chandratal, only 6 km from the Kunzam Pass that stands 4590 metre high between Lahaul and Spiti and as Bhaga from Surajdal (4800 m) on the northwestern side of Baralacha la.

Both flow on the two sides of the mountain to confluence at Tandi, six kilometer from Keylong, the headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti. Tandi is a pilgrimage where Draupadi accompanying the Pandvas to the Himalayas for their last journey gave up her body and was cremated here. It was named tan (body) dehi (give), which in times degenerated to Tandi.

No other river in the state is as picturesque as Chandrabhaga. It passes through an exposed and extensive valley up to Mudgraon and then through a narrow gorge up to Tindi and again into an open expanse for several miles and then passes through a wild and rugged route before getting baptised as Chenab.

The ever-changing panorama alongside the river is attractive. It changes character as it flows. The landscapes change and added to it are the tales, stories and songs that go along with it.

The most common folktale is about Chandra, daughter of the moon and Bhaga, son of the Sun. They were in love but the Gods in the sky and the moon were against their marriage because they felt that like Sun, his son would also be all fire.

How can a fire-emitting Bhaga marry calm and cool Chandra? The two lovers, however, had decided to live together forever. They came down to earth to meet at Baralacha and from there they took two different routes to meet at Tandi.

While traveling towards Tandi, I could see Chandra rippling with joy as if knowing that her lover Bhaga was not far off and then they met at Tandi to live eternally as Chandrabhaga.

The two other folk-tales are lesser known. A shepherd had two daughters Chandra and Bhaga. The two sisters took their herd of sheep to Baralacha and started playing a local game kngara and were so lost in it that they ignored a thirsty saint who had come to them asking for water. He transformed them into rivers to continue quenching the thirst of any voyager whosoever happened to pass by.

Then it is about the saints and sages who used to visit Lahaul and enter into states of samadhi (trance) by the sides of the milk-flowing rivers. They would take a sip or two of milk from the rivers before breaking the samadhi and opening the eyes. The demons detested the ever-increasing inflow of the sagacious. One morning, they defiled the rivers by throwing slain animals therein.

The saints, as usual, took the sip and on opening the eyes found that the milk was mixed with blood and that animal carcasses were flowing in the rivers. Ashamed of the act of the demons, Chandra and Bhaga gave up their privileged status and since then have been flowing like ordinary rivers of water. Then there is a temple at Trilokinath in Lahaul.

The present white marble idol in the temple is a 16th century Chamba craftsmanship that has replaced a black one of the 12th century.

Both the Hindus and the Bodh worship this idol. Hindus venerate it as Lord Shiv and Bodh as Avalokiteshwar, the embodiment of Buddha’s compassion.

The temple has a measure to judge the sinner and the sinless. He who crosses the small gaps between the twin pillars of virtue and temple’s wall is sinless and the rest are sinners. The valley of folkloric Chandrabhaga is must-visit before one kicks the bucket. 


In Trilokinath, I tried to clear the gaps twice and failed. I was declared sinner by ladies present there, who asked me to lie prostrate before the Lord and beg pardon for the past sins. The priest gave me prasad and expected from me a second visit for clearing the test and to remain just and joyous till then. Am I so?



shimla diary
Back with a bang
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 4
Senior Congress leader Asha Kumari who had been lying low ever since she had to quit Virbhadra Singh’s cabinet in the wake of a land controversy three years ago is back in the reckoning.

PCC chief Kaul Singh has assigned her the important charge of organisational affairs, making her comeback as the most powerful general secretary. The new assignment has afforded her an opportunity to prove her organisational skills.

Two young leaders have also been given important responsibilities. Mukesh Agnihotri, who quit journalism to join electoral politics six years ago, has been given the charge of media affairs.

His experience in journalism would come in handy in effectively discharging the responsibility. Sukhwinder Singh, who had a long stint as president of the state Youth Congress, has been given charge of the sewa dal planning and training. Another general secretary Kuldeep Rathore has also been given the important panchayati raj department.

Gulzar’s anecdotes

In the city to inaugurate the 14-day long autumn school on ‘oral as resource’ at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, famous lyricist, film producer and poet Gulzar refused to entertain any questions other than those related to the theme of the school. His inaugural address was laced with interesting anecdotes and the manner of his narration left no one in doubt that he could contribute substantially to carry forward the oral tradition in the current era. As a poet, he was at his best. The ekal kavita path (solo poetry recital), during which he recited some of his favourite nazms, cast a magic spell on the select audience.

It was indeed a rare opportunity for the elite gathering, mostly scholars from across the country who were here to participate in the autumn school and they relished every moment of it. 



Patience pays

While the aspirants of ministerial berths had a “dry” Diwali, the long wait of two senior BJP leaders for political appointments ended on auspicious occasion of bhai dooj.

Ganesh Dut was made the vice-chairperson of the state urban development authority for the second time and Rajender Rana, a close confidante of Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal, was accommodated as the head of the newly constituted state media advisory committee.

Incidentally, both leaders had been associated with media. Dut had a long stint as party’s spokesperson and Rana is still holding the position.

Dut had been rewarded with loyalty bonus for putting in a sincere effort for the victory of the party even after being denied ticket from the Shimla assembly segment.

Known for his PR skills, Rana had been managing the media affairs of the party for the past quite sometime. He virtually headed the election management team during the crucial Hamirpur parliamentary byelection that Dhumal won by an impressive margin of over 80,000 votes.

So far, only three political appointments have been made. Ambika Sood was first to be appointed as chairperson of the state women commission.

The rest of the positions against which party leaders have been accommodated were filled through an election process, mostly in the cooperative institutions.

Now that the process of political appointments has finally got underway, other aspirants are hoping that their wait for a cushy job would be over sooner than later.



In harmony with NATURE
The Chamera project has devised a unique way of dumping muck that not only helps in maintaining the wholesomeness of the Ravi but also has the potential to reduce the scouring of its banks
Balkrishan Prashar

Tribune News Service

Chamba, November 4
The age-old practice of throwing debris into water bodies like nullahas and rivers is nowhere visible in Chamera hydroelectric project stage-III being executed by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) in a remote part of Chamba district.

In fact, the Chamera project has devised a unique way of dumping the muck, which not only helps in maintaining the wholesomeness of the Ravi but also has the potential to reduce the scouring of its banks during peak flow in the river.  

An inclined cement concrete cladding of adequate height having its foundation deep beneath the ground is being erected all along the dumping yards on both sides of the Ravi. The concrete cladding has been considered a permanent measure against scour during floods. A gabion grid arrangement is being laid over the stable embankment slope for protection against surface erosion due to concentrated flow from rainfall, reveals K.K. Joshi, general manager, Chamera project (stage-III). 

The way the work at dumping yard is going on brings a lot of direct as well as indirect employment opportunities in this area. Local contractors are executing all protection works at the dumping sites by engaging local labourers. 

It is for the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh where the banks of any river like the Ravi in Chamba district stretching for about 20 km within the Chamera-III project catchments are being strengthened and reinforced. The NHPC is going to set up a benchmark by carrying out retaining works on the both side banks of the Ravi to curb the muck flowing into the Ravi during rains. 

For this, the project has launched an intensive environment management for sustainable development with an outlay of Rs 60 crore which envisages utilisation of usable debris in filling areas and disposal of unserviceable material at 14 identified locations and their utilisation so that it does not mix up with the river water and cause any ecological imbalance. 

The total debris is estimated at 24,63,090 cubic metres (cums) from the entire underground excavation of approximately 18 km length of total tunneling on the project that is almost nearing completion. Out of this, 8,67,552 cums is likely to be utilised while 15,95,538 cums will be dumped at 14 sites measuring 23.17 hectare area along the Ravi banks and nullahas identified in consultation with the authorities. 

Simultaneously, a catchment area treatment (CAT) plan is also being implemented by the state forest department. The plan, under which afforestation, pasture development, nurseries maintenance and engineering measures would be executed, extends over a period of 11 years at an estimated cost of Rs 30 crore. 

The ongoing development plan of the NHPC would help in checking massive soil-erosion which would go a long way in protecting roads and conserving hill slopes along the Ravi from further triggering of landslips, claims Joshi.



Commuting through chaos 
Ravinder Sood

Palampur, November 4
The traffic problem in this important town has aggravated as the administration has failed to initiate appropriate steps to regulate the ever-increasing vehicular traffic.

Despite the fact that the Holta bypass has become fully operational, the administration has been allowing the inflow of heavy vehicles via Palampur resulting in frequent traffic jams in the town, where the narrow Pathankot-Mandi national highway is a major traffic hazard.

Earlier, the SDM and DSP took keen interest in solving the traffic problem and diverted all heavy vehicles via Holta bypass, but after their transfer, again all heavy vehicles have started entering the town, causing inconvenience to the residents.

There has been manifold increase in the number of heavy and light vehicles here, as 200 vehicles are added every month, but the width of most of the roads is the same as it was 25 years back. Traffic jams have become a regular feature. In peak hours, motorists have to wait for long time, as there is traffic jams at one place or the other. Increasing political interference in the functioning of the police has made the matter worse.

The town has witnessed major expansion in terms of population and new townships in the past 10 years. The population of the town has increased from 5,000 to 45,000. A number of new housing colonies have come up in and around the town but no new roads or bypass have been added. Even no new plans were initiated for the development of the town. Though several proposals were made for the widening of roads, it remained confined to the papers.

The decision of the Municipal Council to grant permission to vendors and fruit-sellers to sit on national highway in front of the State bank Of India, police station, cinema road and gurdwara Road have further aggravated the situation, where daily accidents are taking place.  

Encroachments on the bypass have also become a common feature, as the public works department finds itself helpless as most of the offenders enjoy political patronage.



Mid-day meal
Rope in panchayats, say teachers
Rajiv Mahajan

Nurpur, November 4
The Kangra District Government Teachers Association has urged the Chief Minister to shift the responsibility of running mid-day meal scheme in government primary and middle schools from schoolteachers to gram panchayats.

Onkar Rana and Vinod Sankhyan, president and general secretary of the association, said the running of this scheme by schoolteachers had been affecting studies and putting the teachers to immense inconvenience. They asserted the gram panchayats could manage this scheme smoothly without affecting studies.

They have also asked the government to ensure the availability of cheap ration from fair price shops, special mid-day meal cooking gas connections with separate identity and uninterrupted supply of refills. They have also demanded that domestic electricity tariff should be charged from government schools as presently commercial tariff is being charged and the payment of the bill from PTA funds has been resulting in criticism from parents of the students.





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