Projects named after martyrs left midway
Neglected families rue govt apathy
Ravinder Sood

Palampur, December 16
After the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the state government too remembered its martyrs who had laid down their lives in the Kargil war and several anti-insurgency operations in the country. However, it is unfortunate that we soon forget the contribution of these heroes and leave their families to fend for themselves.

The state has the highest number of jawans in the armed forces. It has lost hundreds of youths in the proxy war being fought with Pakistan in the past 10 years in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country.

Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi are the worst affected areas where the state has been receiving one or two bodies every month of jawans killed in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states. Even in Kabul embassy attack in September, the state lost two of its officers. In the Kargil war, 41 soldiers from the state were killed, highest for any state. Uttar Pradesh was the second, which had lost 20 jawans.

It is but sad that the families of these martyrs are being neglected in Himachal Pradesh. Most of the projects named in the memory of these soldiers have been left halfway either for the want of funds or other official bottlenecks. The BJP government assumed power in the state in December 2007, but in the past 11 months no headway was made for the early completion of these projects. Despite repeated requests from the families of the martyrs, there is no one to listen to their grievances and take care of these projects.

The parents of Yoginder Singh, who had sacrificed his life while fighting with Pakistani intruders in Kargil on July 25, 1999, are shocked over the attitude of the state government in not completing a road named in the memory of their son 10 years ago. They say even after nine years only a portion of the road is complete.

Kuldip Kumar, father of the martyr, says the Chief Minister had visited their house immediately after the sacrifice of his son and announced that the Amb-Pathiar Road leading to their village would be named as “Saheed Yoginder Singh Road”. He had also assured that the road would be completed in six months. But the 3-km long road has been left half completed by the HPPWD for the reasons best known to the government, he adds.

Enquiries made by The Tribune reveal that the construction of the road has been delayed because of the slow acquisition process of land for the road.

In another case, the construction of “Sorabh Van Vihar” named in the memory of Capt Sorabh Kalia, who was the first casualty in the Kargil war from Himachal Pradesh, is in a state of neglect. During the five years of the Congress regime, not even a single brick was added to this project. The government had reportedly abandoned the project on political consideration because of the fact that it was initiated by BJP leader Shanta Kumar. However, the BJP government, too, has shown little interest in this project.

The parents of Captain Kalia are also deeply hurt over the attitude of the government in not completing the project. They say a statue of their son has already been installed in the project area, but the road leading to the van vihar is in a shambles.

It is very difficult to reach there, they say, adding that such projects should be kept away from politics.

The family of Maj Sudheer Walia (Ashok Chakra winner), a resident of Banuri, 5 km from here, who sacrificed his life in an anti-insurgency operation in Jammu and Kashmir, is also a victim of red tape.

Then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had named a primary health centre in his village in his memory. Funds were also sanctioned, but the government could not accord the administrative approval for this project in four years. Three months ago, The Tribune carried a news item in this regard only then the approval for the construction of this project was granted.

It may be recalled that most of martyrs were below the age of 30 years, who had left behind young widows, small children and aged parents.

Most of them were the sole earning members of their families. Despite repeated requests from various organisations, panchyats and social bodies, the government has failed to form any policy to help these families and instead keep passing the buck on the union government.

However, in most cases the union government has already sanctioned family pensions to the widows, who are getting the last salary drawn by their late husbands.

But there are some widows who have been receiving meagre pension because of short service of their husbands.

There are also some cases where family pension has been withheld because of some technical or administrative reasons. Such widows needed immediate attention.

There are instances where the family pension is being paid to the widow who has separated from the in-laws and there is none to look after the aged parents of the deceased soldiers.



Massive soil erosion
Well rises 25 ft above ground level
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala December 16
Deforestation and flashfloods in the past 50 years have led to massive soil erosion in the lower areas of the state. A well standing in a rivulet near Una district is a clear illustration of soil erosion that has taken place in the area.

The well now stands tall in the rivulet about 25 ft from the ground level. Despite the fact that soil around the well has got eroded over the years, its structure of bricks has somehow withstood the forces of nature.

Residents of nearby Lal Singhi village say at one time they used to fetch water from the well. An old man from the village says about 50 years ago the well was just at the ground level. “People of the village used to fetch water from it. However, slowly the rivulet changed its course and over the years kept cutting soil around the well. But surprisingly the well has withstood even the flashfloods, especially in 1988, when all rivers in the area caused massive devastation”.

Massive soil erosion has been caused in Una by the Swan river and its 73 distributaries. The river in the recent winter session of the state Vidhan Sabha was termed as the “sorrow” of Una by district’s elected representatives.

The government, meanwhile, has started a canalisation project for taming the river with help of funding agencies such as NABARD. Till date, a 15-km long stretch of the river has been canalised. The government claims that the work for remaining stretch would be completed soon.

However, flashfloods caused by the Swan are not the only reasons for large-scale soil erosion in the area. Massive deforestation is also equally responsible. Rapid urbanisation has taken place in the district in the past few years.

Though the government has allowed leveling of hillocks up to 9 ft, unplanned leveling is only leading to massive soil erosion not only in the areas leveled but also the surrounding areas.

Such massive loss of topsoil affects the ecology as well as its fertility. It is also leading to destruction of the Shivalik hill ecosystem. 



Upcoming Renuka Dam: A boon for wildlife
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, December 16
Meant primarily to quench the thirst of the water-starved national capital, the Rs 2600 crore Renuka Dam Project will be a boon for wildlife with the creation of a sprawling water body spread over 1210 hectare in close vicinity of the existing holy lake.

Apart from the local flora and fauna, the man-made reservoir will play host to a wide range of migratory birds from Central Asia and North-Western Himalayas as the government plans to develop it as a wetland on the pattern of the Pong Dam.

The area of the existing 402 hectare Renuka sanctuary will increase by over 1600 hectare, making it one of the most important protected areas for the conservation of biodiversity. Not only that 5 per cent of the total cost of the project, about Rs 130 crore, would have to be spent on its development as per the directions of the Supreme Court. It is a huge amount considering the meagre funds that the state had been spending on preservation of wildlife all these years. In fact, the forest department has not been able to properly maintain the sanctuary, and even the lion safari has been in bad shape. It recently raised the entry fee for the “parikrama” of the lake by four to five times for different categories to 
raise funds.

Despite its small size, the sanctuary has been a treasure-trove of wildlife with a total of 443 species of 26 faunistic groups ranging from microscopic protozoa to mammals. In all, 24 species of mammals, 103 of birds, 14 of reptiles, 9 of amphibians and 19 of fish have been recorded among vertebrates ,besides 225 species of insects and 49 of other invertebrates. Of late, it had also started attracting migratory birds. However, the protected area, particularly the natural lake of about 2 sq km, has been too small in view of its rich biodiversity. The addition of thickly forested area and a sprawling water body will provide ideal habitat for the wide range of flora and fauna.

Principal chief conservator of forests Avay Shukla says that the extended sanctuary and the water body will be developed into a model wetland which will not only be useful for the conservation of biodiversity but also be an eco-tourism destination. The availability of funds will enable the government to create the entire required infrastructure for the purpose. A master plan will be formulated soon for the systematic development of the sanctuary and allied facilities.

It is worth mentioning that the natural lake has been shrinking due to silting and spreading of weeds and at one stage its area had been reduced by over 25 per cent. The measures taken by the forest department had brought down the silt content in the stormwater which flows into the lake through 19 nullahs considerably but it is still beyond manageable limits. Over the past 10 years, over Rs 1 crore have been spent on various measures to save the lake from silting.

A bigger water body after the construction of the dam will help attract more and more species of migratory birds on a regular basis. It could well become a second winter destination for the migratory birds in the northern India after the Pong Dam which attracts over 1.20 lakh birds every year. At present, they come to the Renuka lake in small numbers and their arrival is irregular. In all, 15 species have been recorded which included coots, millards and egrates. It all started in 2001 when a flock of 20 migratory birds descended on the lake from Central Asia for the winter sojourn.

There are several positive features, which will help support a wide variety of flora and fauna after the addition of more area to the sanctuary. Like the natural lake and the man-made reservoir will be located in the heart of a sanctuary providing a secure habitat for birds. More importantly, there is no threat of poaching as Renuka being a religious place where even the killing of fish is not permitted.



ASI to promote 40 historical temples for tourism
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Mandi, December 16
From the legendary Mrikula Devi shrine in the landlocked Lahaul valley to the rare remnant of the Pahari architecture, Bhima Kali in Sarahan, there are over 40 historical temples in the state under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

These monuments are now being tapped by the ASI for the promotion of tourism under public-private partnership (PPP) model.

Top ASI officials and eminent citizens have chalked out a strategy to tap and promote tourism during the world heritage week concluded recently. The writers and eminent citizens agreed with the ASI’s plan to protect and promote the ancient shrines.

Most prominent among these protected monuments are over 1000-year-old Tabo Gompa in Spiti, also known as Ajanta of the Himalayas, Bhima Kali (Sarahan), Panchvakhtar temple (Mandi), the rock-cut Masrur temple (Baijnath), Laxmi Narayan Mandi (Chamba), Hidimba Devi (Manali) and legendary shrines of Bajreshwari, Jawalaji and Renuka, to name a few.

So far there was no integrated approach to protect and promote these sites as both the department of tourism and the ASI failed to plan a joint strategy in this direction.

The 300-year-old Panchvakhtar and Triloknath temples in Mandi along the Beas have been facing threat from encroachers as slum dwellings have come up around these, particularly Panchvakhtar temple. There are reports that mining activity is posing threat to Masrur temple. The ASI has asked the district administration to shift the slum dwellings from the spot and ensure its cleanliness.

The Mrikula Devi temple faces threat from underground seepage, which has damage the main temple sinking its base. The ASI has recently plugged the source of the seepage and erected a temporary support to protect the monument, believed to be created during the age of Pandvas.

These shrines also face the onslaught of rush as these attract lakhs of pilgrims and tourists round the year, threatening carrying capacity of its surroundings.

The PPP model can help the ASI to carry out its promotion plans effectively. The ASI has roped in eminent citizens and writers, besides local municipal bodies and NGOs to make a small beginning. President of the Progressive Writers Association Dinu Kashayap says, “Writers who have written about art, architecture and literature, including members of the public forums, will join hands and help the ASI to protect ancient monuments in the state”.

Though these shrines are managed by the temple committees or trusts, the responsibility for their protection rests with the ASI.

ASI superintendent K.C. Nauriyal says the ASI has made an inventory of all 40 monuments under its protection. “We are also trying to tie up with the tourism department to make these monuments more attractive and accessible,” he adds.



Know the other Bose
by Shriniwas Joshi

The past four years’ blogspots show only eight entries against Ras Behari Bose. The modern generation knows only one Bose i.e. Subhash Chandra Bose as the founder of the Azad Hind Fauj (AHF), but has not heard about this another Bose.

To put the records straight, the AHF was formed by Gen Mohan Singh in 1942, and not by Subhash Chandra Bose. Mohan Singh soon got disenchanted with the intentions of the Japanese towards the AHF. He was removed from its command. Ras Behari Bose, in Japan since 1915, then persuaded Subhash Bose to leave Germany and hold the reins of the AHF in Japan.

Who was this not so familiar Ras Behari Bose? His birth is unknown. Was he born in Burdwan district in 1880 or at Chandan Nagar, a small French pocket near Kolkata, or on May 25, 1886, as shown in the pedestal of his bust at Keylong? History is unsure.

History, however, is sure that he masterminded the bomb attack on Lord Harding, the Viceroy of India, on December 23, 1912, at Chandni Chowk. The point chosen was the clock tower. The bomb was to be thrown when the elephant carrying the Viceroy would be just in front of a bank there. Ras Behari and Basant Kumar Biswas were close by as morale boosters to Awadh Bihari, the third companion, who was to throw the bombs. Awadh threw the bombs. The Viceroy was seriously injured and was taken to A.C. Sen, a famous doctor in the vicinity. The Viceroy was saved but the incident shook the empire.

Ras Behari returned to Dehra Dun by night train and joined the Forest Research Institute where he was working. Finding the British grip tightening, Ras Behari fled. He took the route of Paonta Sahib, Nahan and bypassing Shimla reached Mandi, Kullu and ultimately Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti district. Here he remained underground in the house of Lambardar Tuk Tuk for eight months in 1913.

Searching him, the British secret force reached Keylong and raided the house of Tuk Tuk. They could not find Ras Behari as he had hid himself in one of the wide-mouthed metal pots used to warm water. He remained coiled in the pot with lid on till the operation ended. He then managed to escape to Japan and headed the India Independence League there.

He also got the chance of commanding the AHF but constant news of his companions engaged in freedom movement being taken to gallows in India did effect his health. He invited Subhash Chandra Bose to take over the reigns of the two organisations. Subhash did it on the July 4, 1943.

The Emperor of Japan conferred the title of “The Second Order of the Merit of the Rising Sun” on him recognising Ras Behari’s contribution in fighting against the imperial forces. He was married to a Japanese woman, daughter of a well-known restaurant owner in Tokyo, and had Japanese citizenship. He died on January 21, 1945, and was cremated in Japan, far away from his motherland - almost unhonoured and unrecognised by the people of the country for whose cause he fought all along.

The people of Keylong, however, cared for the revolutionary for his significant contribution towards the national movement. They formed a memorial committee comprising Col Prithi Chand, MVC; Capt Bhim Chand, VC; Thakur Devi Singh; Nihal Chand and MS Mukherji, deputy commissioner, Lahaul and Spiti, to raise a pedestal in the memory of the great revolutionary. It was erected on August 15, 1969, and inaugurated by Lal Chand Prarthi, the then state cabinet minister.

An influential businessman had a clandestine deal with the administration in 1983-84 to purchase the plot now called Ras Behari chowk. The bust of the mahanayak was to be shifted to another spot. The news filtered to Bengal and Bangla people in thousands swarmed into Keylong for a dharna.

The proposal was hurriedly buried in the files and Ras Behari stayed where he was. No wonder, the call imprinted in the pedestal reverberated in the valley again, “I was a fighter, one fight more, the last and the best”.


After masterminding the bomb incident in Delhi, Ras Behari reached Dehra Dun and immediately got busy in organising a meeting of loyal citizens and was rhetoric in condemning the dastardly attack on Viceroy Harding.



Rising crime
Migrant labourers under scanner
Ambika Sharma

Solan, December 16
With the increase in the involvement of migrant labour force from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Nepal etc. in day to day crimes in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh (BBN) industrial area, the police has an arduous task before it. The problem assumes alarming proportion as in many such cases the permanent addresses of labourers is unavailable, which acts as a major deterrence in their detection.

Though the district administration has made it mandatory for every contractor to keep record of permanent addresses of all workers, there is little adherence to it. This had led to a situation where the migrant labourers easily get away after committing even heinous crime and the police keeps groping in the dark with little clue about their whereabouts.

According to the cases registered in the Barotiwala police station in the past one year, as many as 39 cases involved migrant labourers while this number was as high as 71 under the Baddi police station and nearly 40 in Nalagarh and still 39 others in Parwanoo. The crimes committed by migrant labourers were higher than the combined score of all other crimes in the district.

Figures also reveal that the incidence of crime was highest among the labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, followed by those from Punjab and Haryana.

While it is normal for these labourers to even resort to heinous crimes like murders for cash, it is also learnt that they lose no time in fleeing back to their native states soon after the crimes.

In a recent incident, a youth employed in a dhaba killed a woman by beating her mercilessly with a stone and then fled after taking away Rs 12,000. The police was unable to trace the youth though it claimed that clues had been gathered about his whereabouts. This is not a lone incident and several such instances have taken place in the past.

Reacting to the high rate of crime among migrant labourers, the IG (law and order), S.R. Marhi, said the BBN had been converted into a new police district, headed by a SP, with two DSPs also placed there. Even the police force had been enhanced keeping in view the extraordinary circumstances in the area where the population of migrants touches nearly one lakh.

The task, however, does not end there. With policemen being involved in malpractices like bribery at the barriers one wondered how much would such measures work. This was illustrated in a recent media sting operation where two policemen were caught on camera accepting bribe at the Baddi barrier.

Though SP Solan S.P.S. Verma has placed one of the two policemen under suspension and repatriated the other belonging to the Home Guard to his parent department. But would that stem the rot from the system, questions a daily commuter who visits Baddi for his business.

The SP revealed that out of about 80,000 labourers nearly 29,400 had been registered till now. He added that they were proposing to hire an agency to achieve cent per cent target of registering them as it this would ease pressure from the police.

However, with a spurt in such incidents the police officials were taking added measures like abrupt checking of labour contractors to ensure that they maintained proper records of their manpower.

Even the public was being sensitised about getting the verification of their tenants done from the police, confided SDPO Nalagarh Sanjiv Lakhanpal.



Tunnel to cut travel time between Chamba, Killar
Balkrishan Prashar

Chamba, December 16
The government’s move of linking the Pangi valley with the rest of the state through a proposed 9-km long tunnel would further shorten the distance between Killar and Chamba by 29 km, which is 170 km at present.
The road passing through the Saach Pass
The road passing through the Saach Pass. Tribune photograph

However, it was in October this year, when the 170-km long Chamba-Killar highway was declared fit for plying bus services over the 4413-m high Saach Pass, making it the highest road in the state motorable. Dhumal opened the road by flagging off a state transport bus from Killar, the subdivisional headquarters of Pangi valley, to Chamba.

However, the regular bus service would start from next year as the Saach Pass and its lower ranges have now been closed due to snowfall with the advent of winter. The highway would be reopened in June next year.

The Pangi valley, which had so far been accessible from Chamba via Kangra-Mandi-Kullu-Lahaul and Spiti, covering a distance of 683 km with a journey time of 40 hours, has now been reduced to only 170 km with a journey time of around 10 hours.

With the opening of this highway the longstanding demand of the tribal residents of Chamba has been met. The completion of a bridge across the Chanderbhaga and a portion of 72-km long Alwas-Killar highway constructed with an outlay of Rs 11.14 crore facilitated the opening of the highway.

The people of the Pangi valley will now be in a position to travel conveniently to their district headquarters. “The construction and commissioning of the road through Saach Pass is a milestone in the history of road network in the tribal areas of the state,” feel local residents. 



Shimla Diary
MC struggles to repair damaged roads
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla,December 16
The local municipal corporation is struggling to repair roads damaged by heavy rain during the monsoon before the season’s first snowfall.

Short of manpower, machinery and funds, it has not been able to clear even landslips and fallen trees which had blocked the roads. The road leading to Comely Bank-Dingle Estate from the Police Lines has been blocked since August while the road leading to Annadale is still under repair.The debris brought down by numerous small and big landslips has not been cleared at many places.

The corporation has put the loss on account of the damage caused by rain at Rs 7 crore, but it has so far received only Rs 40 lakh. Officials maintain that for proper restoration of roods, at least Rs 1.5 crore is required. There are over 60 landslips out of which 23 are big ones, each involving the construction of a retaining wall costing between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 4 lakh for restoration.

A major problem faced by the corporation is the lack of machinery and also the narrow roads where big machines can’t be moved. The muck has to be removed manually at most of the places which is a costly and time-consuming affair. The corporation has shown some urgency over the past fortnight as roads strewn with debris become dangerous after snow.

Perseverance pays

Perseverance has paid dividends to Akshay Kumar, a severely disabled student of Seul village in Dehra subdivision, who finally managed to secure admission to M.Phil (English) in Himachal Pradesh University. He is the first candidate to avail the benefit of reservation. His claim would have been ignored like many other candidates, who were denied admission by the university, if the chairman of the state chapter of society for disability and rehabilitation studies Ajai Srivastava had not pursued his case at various levels.

It is a dream come true for Akshay whose life has been a tale of misery and misfortune since birth as a minor operation to remove a cyst close to the spinal cord caused a severe damage to nerves which left both his lower limbs paralysed. As this was not enough, he lost his father, a clerk in the state public work department, and his mother struggling to complete his education with no source of income except the meagre amount she received as pension. However, this did not deter his mother from taking her son to school daily for years.

Aware of the precarious financial position of the family and the ambition of his mother, Akshay spared no effort in pursuing his studies and went onto obtain a postgraduate degree in English with 55 per cent score. However, his dream to become a college teacher was almost shattered due to indifference of the university authorities towards the enforcement of the reservation quota under the act.

His application was rejected without giving him any reason. A representation made to the Vice-Chancellor subsequently also failed to evoke any response and he was refused admission without considering his merit on the basis of disability. It was only after Srivastava produced verdicts of various high courts and the apex court in favour of the disabled regarding three per cent quota in admission that the university agreed to admit him.

LED light on The Mall road

A 70 watt LED (light emitting diode) light has been installed on The Mall Road on a trial basis to ascertain the extent to which such light will help reduce energy consumption. The light was installed along side other streetlights and separate energy meters were provided to measure consumption. While the normal light consumed 36 units in two weeks, the energy-efficient logged on 12 units during the period. Thus, switchover to LED lights could help save energy almost to the extent of 70 per cent. The trial is part of a study being conducted for the project by the local municipal corporation with the assistance of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency(BEE). 



Security stepped up on inter-state barrier
Rajiv Mahajan

Nurpur,December 16
After the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, the state police has intensified the checking of vehicles coming to the Kangra valley. The police is keeping a strict vigil on the inter-state border at Kandwal in the subdivision.

Migrant Kashmiri labourers are being thoroughly checked so that no anti-social elements or militants can sneak into the state.The migrant labourers are allowed to enter the state only after checking their identity cards. It is pertinent to mention here that in the winter, Kashmiri migrant labourers are brought by local contractors which is also being recorded in police records for verification. All private and passengers vehicles coming to the state through the Kandwal barrier where the police has set up a post are being checked thoroughly.

According to Bidhi Chand Verma, DSP, Nurpur, the police does not want to take any risk of infiltration of any anti-social element or Kashmiri militant.Therefore, thorough checking has been started at the Kandwal barrier on the inter-state border of both neigbhouring states. He told The Tribune that the police had also identified as many as 12 madrsas and mosques in Nurpur subdivision and verified the antecedents of those at the helm of affairs. He asserted that the police was also keeping a strict vigil there. Earlier too, the police had stepped up security in the wake of the serial blasts in Delhi in September. 





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