Indo-Pak chill may freeze Winter Games
Vishal Thakur

Dehradun, December 22
Uncertainty looms large over the South Asian Federation (SAF) Winter Games scheduled to be held in Uttarakhand early next year.

Though everything is in place and work on setting up the requisite infrastructure in full swing, the ongoing tension between Indian and Pakistan has brought the games under a cloud of uncertainty.

The main organisers of the games, SAF Winter Games Federation, has now referred the matter to the Government of India. The Centre will now decide whether to go ahead with the games or not.

"Since the Indian cricket team has called off its Pakistan tour scheduled for early next year, we will also do whatever the Government of India instructs us," said president of the Winter Games Federation of India S.S Pangtey.

Besides India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Bhutan were to participate in the games.

Now, the organisers have delayed the process of sending a formal invitation to the participating countries.

"Though we had intimated the participating countries about the games, official invitation will be sent only after the go-ahead from the Union Government," informed Pangtey.

Though officials were reluctant to speak on the issue at length, highly placed sources said since India had decided not to pursue its Pakistan cricket tour, the latter could also withdraw from the SAF Winter Games.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty over the South Asian Federation (SAF) Winter Games, work at Dehradun and Auli, the two venues for the games, is going on full steam. A team of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is expected to visit Dehradun in January to monitor the works.

"The construction work at Auli and Maharana Pratap Sports College in Dehradun is on at a fast pace. Around 80-85 per cent of the work is complete. We are hopeful that by the second week of March next year, everything would be in place," informed Pangtey. Notably, funds amounting to Rs 102 crore are being spent on setting up sports infrastructure for the games.

"While a new slope for skiing, snow gun and an artificial lake will be set up in Auli, an ice skating rink and international standard swimming pool are coming up in Dehradun," said the organisers.

Tourism department officials expect the SAF Winter Games to be a major revenue earner. Tourism minister Parkash Pant, speaking to The Tribune, said the SAF Games would play a vital role in attracting tourists not only from neighboring countries, but also European countries, where winter games are very popular.

"We will be launch a publicity campaign before the start of the games," he said.

The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a state government body looking after tourism in Garhwal, wants to showcase Uttarakhand during the proposed games. Old guest house of the nigam at Auli in Chamoli district, the main venue of the games, is being renovated while a 23-room guest house is fast coming up.

Fifteen rooms in the new guest house are ready while work has been on to complete the remaining rooms by January 15, 2009.

An ice-skating ring is coming up at the Dehradun sports hostel complex. A Canadian ice-making machine has been installed for the first state-of-the-art ice skating rink.

"About 70 per cent of the work has been completed. Our aim is to complete the remaining work by the first week of January," said Subhash Sehni, engineer of Pine and Peak Developers, a Delhi-based company.

The ice rink will be inside a (80-mtsx40-mts) multipurpose indoor stadium, where other indoor games like Basketball, Volleyball, table tennis, weight lighting, Judo, Wrestling, Gymnastics etc would also be played.

An international standard indoor Swimming Pool is also under construction. A sum of Rs.60 crore has been earmarked for the entire complex.

"The games like roller-skating is very popular in Dehradun and Mussoorie and there is not much difference between roller and ice-skating.

There is also a greater possibility of public schools children taking advantage of these facilities after the games are over", said Pangtey.

Meanwhile, a team of Microsoft is installing computer at the complex for managing various sports activities here.



The Italian connection
Neena Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, December 22
St Francis Church, Convent Road, has a unique Italian connection that has bestowed a rare mystique and grandeur to it. A prisoner of war, Nino La Civita, who was brought to Dehradun during World War II and was a gifted painter, is credited with depicting excerpts from the life of St Assisi on the walls of the church.

As a prisoner, Civita, from Sulmona in Italy, spent most of his spare time painting. Soon, he caught the eyes of the Major incharge of the prison and the latter was so impressed by Civita’s creativity that he immediately requested the then parish priest to take the services of the painter. And the result is there for all to witness - seven religious frescos on the three sides of the church walls, which depict the life and times of St Francis of Assisi in Italy. 

In fact, the work was necessitated after the church was partially damaged in April 1905; the re-construction began in December 14, 1908, and it was blessed in 1910. The paintings were completed in 1946 and Bishop Patrick designed the altar.

“The church was initially built in 1853 and will be 100 years old in 2010. It was predominantly served by Italian, French and Irish priests. In fact, the first baptism was held of Charles Edward by Father Doogan and the first marriage service was of Wilfred Bathcole and Clare La Frenais in 1932,” said parish priest, Revd. Bernard of St Francis Church.

“Old-timers still recall the sound of the pipe organ, which was put up at the entrance and acted as a bell. The sweet sound was enchanting and we could make out that the service was underway at the church,” said E.S. Shepherd, a resident of Doon. However, the pipe organ developed a malfunction and is now in disuse.

Besides, the church has three other paintings, all procured from Italy and France, in canvas mounted near the main service altar, which immediately catches the attention of the visitors. “The painting in the centre depicts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, while the painting on the right side relates to an incident that occurred in 1857 in the life of Bernadette of Lourdes, France,” he added

Another remarkable feature of the church are 14 stations of the Cross all symmetrically aligned on the two walls. “They convey the suffering of Jesus Christ, beginning with the sentence passed by Pilot Governor of Jerusalem and how it ended,” said Father Bernard. Below the frescos, the artist has created real life images of St Mark, St Lucas, St Matthew and St Joanes.

The architecture of the church has a mixture of Roman and Gothic influences. Professor Lorenzo Cassamenti, an Italian artist, along with other artists came in May 2004 to restore the frescoes on the inner walls and it took 15 days to restore the paintings. “The painstaking restoration work has yielded results; the colour matching has been undertaken, which has extended the life span of the paintings,” said Father Bernard.

However, despite best efforts the pipe organ could not been repaired; it still lies intact at the entrance waiting for expert hands to make it functional once again. 



Mumbai shadow on Xmas sales
Divya Semwal
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, December 22
With two days left for Christmas, the sale of Christmas trees, Santa Claus toys and decorative items in the oldest and most famous city market, Paltan Bazar, is yet to pick up.

"We have Christmas bells, balls, stars, Santa masks and soft toys but due to the Mumbai terror attack, our sales this year have been poor,” said Amit Rastogi of Ashoka Book depot.

“We have Christmas trees ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 600 and decorative items such as bells, hollies, balloons and different kinds of Santas. Our sale so far has been average, but I am hopeful that it will pick up,” said Vikas of Saurabh Stationeries.

“All Christmas items such as the Santa mask, Xmas trees and decoratives are exported from China and till last year our sale used to be exceptionally outstanding. This year only students have purchased stuff for school functions,” said Manoj Agarwal of Agarwal Traders.

“I have purchased a small Christmas tree for my daughter but after the terror attacks we don’t feel like celebrating on a large scale,” said Reena, a housewife.

“Mostly people opt for decorations. But this year our sale is so down that Christmas items in my shop are going to last for another two years,” said Manoj Agarwal.

“Though the sale has been down, we are hopeful it will pick up in the next two days. We have introduced party popper bottle for Rs 150 and Rs 200. It makes noise and is filled with colourful cuttings and flowers,” said Himanshu of Sona Kangan Store.

“In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and Kandhmal (Orrisa) incidents, people, in a show of solidarity, are keeping low key and are waiting for more peaceful times for celebrations,” said Amit Rastogi.

“As compared to last year, this year I have purchased few decorative items for my Christmas tree,” said 
Amit George. 



Showcasing Gorakhpur art
Sandeep Rawat/Tribune News Service

Haridwar, December 22
The textile mela showcasing handicrafts and hand made items from the artists of Gorakhpur is drawing a large crowd here.

Organised by Textiles Ministry under the Ambedkar Hand-Sculpture Development Scheme, the exhibition-cum-sale is attracting people not only from the city itself but also from the areas around. From terracotta statues to jute articles there is something for every one.

Stalls such as stone jewellery, carpets, hand made bags, jute craft, zardosi, banarasi bed sheets, hand embroidery items are drawing major crowd.

“I came to know about the exhibition through my friend but really it’s a must visit place. With Christmas around the corner, I bought a terracotta teddy bear and patchwork tops which are really trendy,” said Tanya Arora, student.

These craftsmen and artists hail from Gorakhpur region in Uttar Pradesh and for most of them this is their ancestral occupation. There are nine women in a group of fifteen. “It’s our family profession and under this scheme, we have visited Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi and soon we will exhibit our articles in Dehradun,” said Jamaima, one of the artists.

Talking about the response they are getting in Haridwar, Sunaina Singh, the head of the group stated, “The sculptures are so attractive that nobody leaves the stall without buying anything. ”Though, the response is tremendous but the financial condition of these artists is not so good. While expressing this, one of the artist said, “We don’t have adequate finance, also the globalisation and mall culture has hit artists like us tremendously. Keeping in view all these problems, the young generation doesn’t want to venture in this business.



“Rab Ne...” draws young & old
Divya Semwal
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, December 22
The craze for King Khan and Aditya Chopra movies is unabated with everyone, from youngsters to the elderly, rushing to cinema halls to view “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.”Released in the city just 10 days back, the movie is doing exceptionally well at the box office. “It is a super hit and within a week we have done a business of Rs 87,000 and all four shows are going house full,” said Chaudhary Ram Bahudar, manager, Orient Cinema.

“I am here to watch the movie as I am a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan and my friend told me that the movie is amazing,” said Nishant, a college student. “I never miss SRK movies and today I am very excited to watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi,” said Atul, a school student.

“After Hum Apke Hai Kaun, Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jaayge and Dil to Paagal Hai, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi has again revived the SRK-Adiya Chopra majic. It’s a super hit,” said Ashok Kumar, a distributor.

“Welcome” released in 2007 did superb business but collections of “Rab Ne Bana Di Jhodi” has already surpassed Welcome gross earnings. Said Kalwant Singh, manager of New Empire: “within a week, Rab Ne... has managed collections of Rs 7,36,000.”

“The movie is a super hit as people can relate to SRK’s character of a simple man and it’s surprising that inspite of the movie running simultaneously in two halls, the box office results are outstanding,” said Chaudhary Ram Bahudar.

“I am a King Khan fan and within a week I have watched it five times. Today I have come to watch it for the sixth time,” said Atul, a college student.

“I have seen the movie once and because I love the role of Anuskha, who is from my hometown, Muzzafargarnagar, I decided to watch it once more,” said Meenakshi, a college student.

“I loved Dil Wale.. as it was a love story based on Indian values and I am happy to see Rab Ne... as it again reflects family values,” said Rekha Gupta, a housewife.

“Beginning today the show timings have changed but we are positive that it’s going to do outstanding business,” said Kalwant Singh. 



Insurance proposal accepted by Centre, says Congress gen secy
Divya Semwal
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, December 22
All-India Mahila Congress general secretary, former mayor and National Poverty Removal Task Force Member, Manorama Dobriyal Sharma, today claimed that central government has accepted her proposal on Health Insurance Schemes and Family Health Care Schemes for unorganised sector labourers and slum dweller. She said that in the first phase, towns with more than one lakh population would be covered under the Urban Health Mission.

Manorama, said the mission plans to provide benefit to almost 22 crores of people including 429 towns and district headquarters. Various schemes in the hospitals would be introduced for the residents of all the state capitals and facility of family health security cards would also be provided. She claimed that under health schemes, maximum benefit would be provided to the labourers and slum dwellers of the country. “Proposals for development of labourers and slum dwellers in the Act passed by both the Houses of parliament, have also been included in this year Health Mission Schemes,” said Manorama Dobriyal Sharma.

Under the various schemes for the development of weaker section, large number of states have accepted the proposal of the task force to grant ownership rights as well as facilities for low cost houses for the slum dwellers. "In Uttarakhand also, the task force under Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) is planning to provide housing rights to the slum dwellers,” said Manorama Dobriyal Sharma.

“In next five years, crores of people would benefit from various schemes under the partnership of state and central government. Smart Card facilities would also serve the purpose of identity cards,” she added.



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