Govt in a fix over power board’s trifurcation
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Mandi, January 20
The state government is in a fix over the trifurcation of the HP State Electricity Board (HPSEB) into generation, transmission and distribution wings, as the central government has rejected its plea for “postponing the overdue move, pending since June 30, 2007, under the Indian Electricity Act, 2003”.

The state government had asked the Centre to give time till March 30, 2009. The government is bound to face the music from the powerful lobby of HPSEB employees, including power and project engineers.

The employees have already formed a joint front and decided to meet in the first week of February to prepare the future course of action.

With over 40,000 on its rolls, the board employees have a strong political clout as both the Congress and the BJP always try to appease them. The successive governments have been postponing the trifurcation move. Even Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has taken up the matter with the Union Power Minister to give the state more time.

Chairman of the HPSEB RK Jain recently summoned all power and civil engineers and representatives of employees associations, seeking their views on the trifurcation of the board.

The employees have been opposing the move on the plea that similar experiments in states like Orissa and Maharashtra have failed to yield the desired results. In addition, it would put extra financial burden on the state, they say.

Though the project engineers have been pleading for the creation of a separate generation wing, they want it to be run and headed by technocrats and not bureaucrats along the lines of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).

The state government has created a pension fund for the employees, but it has not clarified as to what the government was going to do about the board’s liabilities, revealed project engineers.

Jain, who also holds the charge of the principal secretary, multipurpose projects, said, “We had sought extension till March 2009, but the government has not agreed. 



Cement plant issue resurfaces ahead of LS polls
Our Correspondent

Chamba, January 20
Ever since the proposal for a cement plant in Chamba was mooted,it has been the key issue in every election.It will again be an issue in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Though a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the execution of the plant was signed by the previous Congress government with Jai Prakash Associates in February last year, work on it cannot be undertaken unless the ruling BJP government takes the initiative to seek various types of clearances for accelerating the setting up of the plant.

People of the region are of the opinion that the plant will be a source of livelihood and economic uplift. Roads, bridges and other development activities in the area will get a facelift with the start of the plant.It will also strengthen the existing infrastructure of roads and other ongoing developments.

Residents have urged the state government to formulate a welfare policy for their well-being so that their interests can be safeguarded. The plant will be set up in the Baroh-Sikridhar hills from where huge deposits of limestone will be extracted.

They have also demanded commercial prices for their land, permanent jobs, conservation of the surrounding environment and all-round development of the area.

Official sources revealed that on February 1, 2007, the state government had signed an MoU with Jai Prakash Associates for setting up the proposed cement plant based on the Baroh-Sikridhar limestone deposits in Churah subdivision of Chamba district.

The 2-million tonne capacity plant to be set up with an initial outlay of Rs 800 crore was to be commissioned after five years and provide direct employment to 1,000 persons and indirect employment to over 5,000, besides a lot of indirect employment to the local people.

The plant had about 70 years’ deposits of limestone and the per day extraction would be about 6,000 truckloads with an annual production of about 2 million tonnes of cement from the plant.

This would be the second cement plant of the JP Company, which was setting up a 2-million capacity plant at Bagha in Solan district of the state, the sources divulged.

As per the MoU, the company would spend 1.5 per cent of the total cost of the project on local area development and employ at least 70 per cent manpower from within the state. Besides, it would give jobs to a member each of the families displaced due to the construction of the project. Such families would be given attractive rehabilitation packages, the sources further revealed.

The sources claimed that the company would use state-of-the-art pollution control technology as the environment was the main concern of the government.

Earlier, the MoU with regard to the cement plant was signed by the previous BJP-led government with the Larsen and Turbo (L&T) on September 24, 1998, and the government had also granted the mining lease to the enterprise.

But, when the matter of according environment clearance to the cement plant was in the pipeline in 2004, the BJP-led NDA government lost the general election.

During the Lok Sabha elections in May 2004, the ruling Congress had, too, promised the people of the region that it would give top priority to the setting up of a cement plant, but soon after it assumed power at the Centre, the proposal could not come through.



NGO to create awareness about smoking ban
Dharam Prakash Gupta
Tribune News Service

Hamirpur, January 20
Though almost a year has passed since the Centre imposed a ban on smoking at public places, if one goes by the practice in places like Hamirpur, it seems the ban has no effect here.

In the provision, the Central government has entrusted the job of implementing the ban to the state governments through its agencies, but in Himachal Pradesh little headway has been made in the direction and smoking at public places continues unabated.

Taking notice of the use of the practice in public places, the Hamirpur chapter of a Delhi-based NGO, Burning Brain Society (BBS), has come forward to get the ban implemented by highlighting the issue.

Chetan Lakhanpal, an office-bearer of the BBS, said, “It is a matter of serious concern that smoking in public places is going on as usual despite the ban and nobody seems to be concerned about the issue.”

The NGO feels “smoking at public places is not only a health hazard but also a social nuisance, since despite the ban smoking is common in offices.”

Telling about their action plan, Lakhanpal said, “We would create awareness among women, students, employees and other sections through seminars, workshops and other mediums in the rural and urban areas.”

The organisation would also try to rope in other NGOs and other social organisations in the awareness campaign.

“The NGO would also visit the government and other offices and urge government servants not to smoke in the offices and would approach the state government to create smoking chambers and implement the ban strictly.”



Weeds take over grasslands in state
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, January 20
Weeds are fast taking over grasslands and the open areas in the state where just about 11 per cent land is under agriculture. The open areas have provided ideal conditions for weeds to flourish, thus posing a threat to the health of humans and animals.
A lantana- infested field.
A lantana- infested field. Photo: Kamaljeet

Dr NN Angiras, senior agronomist (weed science) at Palampur Agricultural University, said parthenium (congress grass), lantana (panchphuli), ageratum (neela phulnu), chromolaena (kali basuti) and bidens (laamb ghass) are the major foreign weeds that have spread to a large extent in the state.

Scientists of the Indian Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (IHBT) have recorded the presence of another South American weed, synedrella vialis. Its effects on the local environment and ecology are yet to be studied.

As per conservative estimates, weeds have spread over 14 lakh hectares in the state, invading forestlands, orchards, pastures and grasslands in all districts, except the cold desert areas of Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti.

Parthenium weed causes health hazards like bronchitis, dermatitis, fever and vomiting in human beings. The weed comprises alkaloid parthenin which is known to cause severe allergic reactions among humans.

In a survey conducted by scientists of Palampur Agricultural University, 20 per cent people of the state were found to be suffering from various allergies due to weeds. Even in animals, ill-effects of weeds such as loss of hair and weight and damage to liver have been reported.

In grasslands, weeds reduce productivity by 90 per cent in many cases. The over exploitation of grasslands has allowed weeds to dominate over local grass varieties. The infestation of weeds has increased to such an extent that the scientists are feeling that it is posing a threat to biodiversity of the state.

The scientists have developed methods to revive grasslands and control the growth of weeds. These include releasing of Mexican beetle (zygograma beetle) to control the growth of parthenium weed. In some places, the scientists have illustrated that in isolated patches the use of beetle along with herbicides has helped in the revival of grasslands.

They have also developed a technology to produce fertiliser from parthenium. However, these technologies have remained limited to the university campus. The government, agriculture or forest departments have not taken any initiative to use them.

Experts are of the view that in consultation with the university, the government should use the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) to tackle the weed problem. Rural people can be employed under the scheme to revive grasslands.



Henry Irwin
A ‘productive’ architect
by Shriniwas Joshi

Henry Irwin, the architect who designed several buildings at different stations in India, was the superintendent of works in Shimla from 1881 to 1888 and had dotted the map of the town with awe-inspiring, now heritage, buildings. He was not only skilled in designing buildings but was also apt in producing children. Let us delve into his second quality first and then grace him with what he did for Shimla.

He got married to Henritta Helen at the age of 30 in 1871 and begot twin daughters - Henrietta Elizabeth and Helen Frances - in 1873. A year after he was blessed with a son, Harloe Alfred, who had just completed 12 months of his life when his playmate brother arrived as Henry Robert. Henry Irwin designed striking Christ Church for Pachmarhi and God bestowed upon him a beautiful daughter, Hilda Kathleen Josephine Hinde, in 1876. Two daughters - Honora Alice Caroline and Heatherbell Jeanie - were born in 1878 and 1879, respectively.

Hope Helena Catherine was his last child at Pachmarhi and then Henry Irwin moved to Shimla with eight children and the “child-bearing machine” - his wife. Whereas the hill station of Pachmarhi had blessed him with more daughters, the hill station of Shimla favoured boys to the girls. Here he begot Hamnet Edward Andrew, a son in 1884, followed by two masculine nouns Hubert Richard Benjamin and Harold Edward Alan (year of birth not known); they were properly punctuated by two daughters Hyacinth Florence in 1886, and Haidee Lilian Henrietta in 1887. That was full stop for Madame Henrietta Helen who continued adding to their offspring-galore for 16 best years of her married life.

The other interest of Henry Irwin, besides nurturing the family tree and constructing memorable structures, was to have stallions and indulge in horse races. He was a regular loser of money on the racecourse. Once he lamented, “I have too many horses and too many daughters! Both expensive affairs!” When Henry Irwin was posted at Madras, he, with his family, would go to Ooty in summers to take part in horse races and one of his daughters had won “ladies’ point-to-point race” there in 1892, thus earning name and money.

About his stay in Shimla and contributions towards raising buildings here, an extract from October 1888 issue of The Indian Engineering, a Kolkata periodical of the times, reads “...Mr Henry Irwin, C.I.E., is transferred to Allahabad ... It is now seven and a half years since Mr Irwin came to Simla, to build public offices. Since then he has designed and superintended the building of the Army headquarters; the PWD secretariat; the post and telegraph offices; the foreign office and the Ripon Hospital... His crowning work in Simla is the Viceregal Lodge, a handsome stone building of the Elizabethan style, which he saw completed during the summer of the present year. He leaves Simla, the city he has beautified, on the 1st of November, carrying with him the best wishes of a large circle of friends and acquaintances.” Of the mentioned and other buildings, Irwin’s imprint is still visible in the existing buildings of the Army Training Command (ARTRACK); The Gaiety; DDU Hospital - the largest structure in Alpine Chalet style; the St Michael’s Cathedral Catholic Church built in French Gothic style; and the Indian Institute of the Advanced Study (IIAS).

Of his above-mentioned works, the Viceregal Lodge or the IIAS was the most impressive which is stylistically English Renaissance and Elizabethan and bore resemblance to Hardwick Hall in north England. Irwin had his critics too to whom Viceregal Lodge looked “Scottish hydro” and The Gaiety was “gaunt, graceless protuberance”.

The Chennai High Court building, Connemara Library there that now houses the National Art Gallery, and the State Bank of India building in Chennai are other testimonies to the genius of Henry Irwin but his “beauties” that please the eyes are, no doubt, the IIAS, Shimla, and the Amba Palace, Mysore. He having shown immense prolificacy finally chose Ooty to settle down and there only he had been sleeping in his grave since August 5, 1922.


There wasn’t enough money for all horse-rider daughters of Henry Irwin to have their own riding boots and family legend was that the girls would go to bed with the riding boots on to make sure that those were not taken by one of their sisters before the morning. 



Runway extension gathers dust
Our Correspondent

Kullu, January 20
The proposal for the extension of the Kullu-Manali airport runway at Bhuntar, about 10 km from here, has been gathering dust due to the dearth of political will.

Plans were approved in this regard during 2002. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, which has been given the responsibility to examine the feasibility of the extension,has submitted its survey report to the Himachal Pradesh government. The study team, comprising Prof Nayan Sharma from the Water Resources Development Training Centre, and Prof Krishen Kumar of Civil Engineering, Roorkee, in their report established that the extension of the runway by a length of 1010 metres and a width of 200 metres was feasible by bridging over the Beas with a pier-supported runway slab in the stream-bed portion and by providing usual column supports for the slab in the non-river dry portion.

It may be recalled that Rs 100 crore had been sanctioned by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the extension and expansion of the airport in 2002 and Rs 30 crore were given for infrastructure development of the three airports in Himachal Pradesh. This correspondent spoke to R D Nazim, Deputy Commissioner , G D Dhiman, Deputy General Manager, Planning, Airport Authority of India, Delhi, and the Senior Aerodrome Officer, at Kullu-Manali airport in Bhuntar. They said the IIT, Roorkee, project team members visited the site to get a first- hand report of the technicalities and assessed apprehensions of damage to the river.

The team members were of the opinion that the proposed extension of 1000 metres would unavoidably entail bridging over the Beas at two successive locations.R. D. Nazim, the then Deputy Commissioner of Kullu,said the bridge was considered feasible as the highest flood level of 1995 was below the required height. He, however,said that the design and dimensions of the bridge on which the runway and airstrip were provided by the IIT study involved Rs 117.2 crore to construct the bridge.

Piyush Joshi, General Manager, (Planning) Airport Authority of India (AAI), said the IIT Roorkee, had revised its opinion and feared that the bridging might not be possible due to the strata on the riverbed. He, however, said that the widening of the airstrip could be done provided the government of Himachal Pradesh allocated the land to the AAI.

As far as shifting of the ATC tower and communication mast were concerned, Joshi said the AAI was planning to fix that at a place wherefrom the entry point of the Kullu valley was visible.



Academy to publish book on Chamba artists
Our Correspondent

Chamba, January 20
The Prabal Pramanik’s Academy of Arts, Bhamlada in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, has undertaken a project on Chamba under its heritage wing.

In a seminar on cultural integration and co-ordination held at Bhuri Singh Museum recently, it was declared that a book on 20 local creative artists titled, “From the Chamba Hills” would be published shortly. A comprehensive art documentary on these people would also be produced.

Three art documentaries - “Haveli in Sands of Time”, Through the Eye of a Lens” and “Prem Setu” - were also screened on the occasion.

A number of artists and writers of Chamba, besides office-bearers of the academy participated in the seminar.

Prabal Pramanik said three different and unique publications on Chamba would be published soon. “These publications will be of high quality and will be interesting for scholars and general public,” he added.

The academy has already launched comprehensive websites on Chamba and Dalhousie - and



Samuel Evans Stokes transformed lives of hill folk
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla: The story of Samuel Evans Stokes who transformed the lives of people of Shimla hills by introducing delicious apple varieties from America is making waves in his homeland these days.

The man from Philadelphia, who made India his home, embraced Hinduism and played an active part in the freedom struggle, has been reintroduced in his native country by his granddaughter Asha Sharma through her book “An American in Gandhi's India”.

Published recently by Indiana University press, the book has been released in the US at a time when India-America ties are gaining strength and not surprisingly, it has drawn the attention of critics who have showered accolades on the author for her moving portrayal of the life of a remarkable American who made India his home.

It is the American edition of “An American in Khadi”, published earlier in India by Penguin, albeit with a new preface and glossary. The highlight of this edition is a foreword by Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader Dalai Lama.

“Sharma has written a lively and philosophical book, reflecting closely Stokes's mixed personality and steely commitment,” Michael Fathers wrote in Time Asia while reviewing the book. Famous journalist Mark Tully described it as, “The story of the commitment to India that prompted Gandhi to describe Stokes as a foreigner who had made India his home in a manner in which perhaps no other American or Englishman has”.

Asha Sharma is elated at the response and feels that the story of Stokes is an asset for Indians and it could be for the Americans too. Indeed, Stokes was an asset for hill folk and his contribution in their socio-economic uplift through the apple revolution has been recognised by naming the library of the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry after him.

The fascinating and rather unusual story of Samuel Evans Stokes who came to India as a missionary in 1904, and died as Satyanand in 1946, remained “untold” all these years. It was rather surprising in view of his contribution to the freedom struggle and, in fact, he was the only American who was jailed for his active role by the British. All credit to Asha Sharma for her well-documented work which provides a vivid account of how his mission turned into a spiritual quest and also the transformation he brought to the lives of the people of his “adopted” country.

Immensely inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and the struggle he waged to liberate the country from the alien rulers, Stokes got involved in the India’s freedom struggle. He became a full-fledged delegate from Kotgarh to the All India Congress Committee which met at Nagpur in 1920.

The Himachal connection of Stokes also provides the readers of the book in America and elsewhere some idea about the hill state. Stokes settled in Kotgarh, better known as the apple bowl of the country, married a local Rajput Christian Agnes, who became Priya subsequently, and made the hills his “karam bhoomi”.



Inter-state border under police scanner
Our Correspondent

Nurpur, January 20
In order to keep a strict vigil on the activities of anti-social elements in bordering Nurpur subdivision, the Kangra district police has ordered the setting up of a chowki and a barrier at Kandwal, the inter-state barrier.

This was disclosed by Dr Atul Fulzele, SP, Kangra, here after his recent inspection of the local police station, its attached chowkis and reviewing the crime rate in the bordering subdivision. Talking to The Tribune, he revealed that the police and staff of other government departments like forest, excise and taxation and the regional transport authority, which had set up their check- posts at Kandwal, had been asked to function in coordination so that suspected elements could be tracked. He said the security on the inter-state border had been strengthened and guidelines were also issued to the police to handle any untoward incident.

Expressing concern about the sudden spurt in cases of atrocities on women, telephone cable thefts and road mishaps under the jurisdiction of Nurpur police station, Fulzele said the police had been directed to enforce the Domestic Violence Act effectively, for which the local DSP, designated as protection officer, would receive complaints and take action. “In order to track cable thieves, the police will start patrolling and random checking at the Nurpur road railway station, known as a safe exit of the area,” he added.

He informed that a traffic control room (TCR) had also been proposed at Jassur near here on the Pathankot-Mandi national highway (NH). “The TCR will assist to curb road mishaps on the NH-20,” he claimed.



Move to restore Himalayan ayurvedic supremacy
Tribune News Service

Mandi, January 20
Young ayurvedic doctors from Mandi, Dr GS Dehal and his team of experts, have dreamt of restoring the Himalayan ayurvedic supremacy in the state.

He, along with Dr Jagjit Kaur, a consultant at Ramdev’s Patanjali Chikitsalaya, Mandi, has launched the panchkarma treatment and started free yoga classes in the town here promising treatment for scores of diseases.

The ayurvedic doctors said the Himalayan ayurvedic supremacy had vanished in the midst of modern medicines. But patients were responding well and had restored their faith in the most ancient method of treatment of diseases, they said.

“We have received good results in treating diseases like gall stones, autism, pancreatitis, fibroid uterus, hepatomegaly, migraine, meniere’s disease, sciatica, low back pain, chronic indigestion, allergic rhinitis, hernia, gout, arthritis, paralysis, IBS, piles, psoriasis, leucoderma and thyroid disorders”, claimed Dr Dehal. “We administer pure and safe ayurvedic medicines for each of these ailments”, he added.

Dr Dehal has launched his panchakarma clinic in the town. “We have all facilities to perform Kerala panchakarma treatments like abhyanga, swedan, pidichizil, dhara and potali sweden separately for male and females by well experienced and dedicated therapists”, he said.

Dr Jagjit Kaur, an expert in ayurvedic gynecology and yoga, said “we have started free yoga and meditation classes here”. Dr Dehal said three autism patients, who got their treatment here, had reduced their hyperactivity. Dr Dehal, who is also a patron of the All-India Ayurvedic Congress, New Delhi, said he had been doing his practice in ayurveda since five years in the Himalayas.



shimla diary
Theatre as therapy to transform prisoners’ lives

The month-long workshop on theatre organised under the aegis of the Delhi Kala Karam at the local Kaithu Jail not only brought out the hidden artistic talent in the inmates but also provided a peep into their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

While almost all 30-odd imnates who participated in the Bhishm Sahani’s famous play “Muabje” felt that involvement in theatre activity provided relief from mental tension, others expressed their desire to be part of the cast in any play to be enacted in future.

Some of them were completely overwhelmed by the commitment and effort put in by the team comprising noted theatre artiste Amala Rai, Saroj Vashsishth, Dayal and Ankita to make the play a success and scribble their emotional outpourings through poetry. One of the inmates who played the important role of commissioner wrote, “Har pal imtihan leti hai zindagi, har kadam per gum deti hai zindagi, ham zindagi se gila karen bhi to kaise karen, Amala jaise gur bhi to deti hai zindagi.”

Many of the inmates displayed unusual talent and they not only expressed their desire to continue with theatre activities after release from the jail but also accepted Amala as their guru. They also felt that if they had been involved with theatre earlier their lives would have followed a different course. The use of motivational theatre as a therapy to raise the spirits of the prisoners and transform their lives has indeed been successful.

The response of the inmates thrilled Amala and her team, but for Ankita, a young theatre artiste, who volunteered to play the lone female character as there was no women in the jail, the experience was unique and unforgettable. Rehearsing with jail inmates for a month completely changed her opinion about them and she found them much more civilised and respectful than most of those with whom she interacts outside.

Empowering’ Himachali youth

The pace of industrialisation in the state has picked up in the recent years, but it has not helped in providing employment to Himachalis. The main reason for it is that the kind of trained manpower the industrial units require is not available in the state. The government, without giving much thought to the issue, has been granting approval to units, not taking into consideration the fact that whether or not it will solve the unemployment problem in the state. The result is that industrial units are taking advantage of tax concessions, cheap power and other benefits, but employing people from other states.

In such a scenario, the initiative taken by the state chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) to launch “Chetna”, a career-counselling programme, is indeed laudable.

The CII, early this week, held a meeting of officers for the effective implementation of the programme. A former chairman of the chapter Rajender Guleria said the project was meant only to empower the Himachali youth and to enhance their employability. Efforts were being made to bridge the skill gap of the local youth with the help of perfectly designed workshops under various modules of “Chetna”. During the first phase of the project, about 3,000 final-year students of seven government colleges would benefit.

The project is being implemented in association with the education department and principal secretary of education PC Dhiman has directed principals of colleges and other officials to give full support for making the project a success.

While students across the country are paying thousands of rupees to get such training and counselling, the CII was providing the same at nominal charges. Requisite skills will be imparted to the students to enable them to get a job in the private sector.

Rakesh Lohumi



Pollution plagues Pragpur

Pragpur village in Kangra is plagued by insanitary conditions, leaving the locals and tourists high and dry.

Residents of the neighbouring Butail and Garh localities and students and staff of Government Girls Higher Secondary School here are the worst sufferers. The choe that flows nearby has become an eyesore for the passersby.

The sewage of the village bazaar flowing into the choe has not been cleared for two months . The residents, too, have contributed to the menace. They throw with impunity their refuse in the choe, which is already chocked.

The nauseating stench emanating from the filthy, stagnated sewer water has been a constant cause of trouble for the residents living in the close proximity.

The place has become a breeding ground for rats, rodents and other insects, posing danger to human lives. The verbal and written requests of the residents have fallen on the deaf ears of the health department.

Chandu Lal Sud, Pragpur, Kangra

Readers are invited to write to us. Send your mail, in not more than 200 words, at or write in at: Letters, Himachal Plus, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160030.





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