No room for cultural affairs
Neena Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 21
The government has been unable to allocate space for a culture centre, demand for which has been raised from time to time by culture aficionados. The monopoly of the state culture department is complete. So much so that all activities are routed through it but so far it has failed to come up with a culture policy.

“It has been eight years since the state was created but there has been no effort to draft a culture policy so far,” said RK Singh of REACH (Rural Entrepreneurship for Art and Cultural Heritage), the organisation that has been holding the cultural bonanza, Virasat, in Dehradun since 1995.

Things have come to such a pass that individual artistes have taken upon themselves the responsibility of conserving and promoting culture. “Artistes have initiated steps to preserve local language and culture. Successive governments have ignored the interests of artistes, despite their contribution to the statehood agitation,” said Rajender Chauhan, president of the Uttarakhand Film and Artist Welfare Association.

The absence of cultural infrastructure is acutely felt whenever renowned artistes from outside come to perform here. Usually, all classical dance-drama programmes are staged at the Dehradun Municipal Corporation auditorium built keeping the small population of Dehradun in mind way back in forties.

Much worse, the artistes are often forced to perform at the makeshift stage created at the Parade Ground or the Rangers Ground.

Activities pertaining to art culture are almost always held at the Parade Ground for lack of a suitable place. Even Shilp Emporium built at Shahastdhara Road that was to be a boon for craftsmen, is in a state of neglect.

Completely out of sync with the needs of artistes and the general public, the director, culture, Suverdhan, turned down the demand for a culture centre as too extravagant: “Artistes keep demanding things; one day they may ask for a place on the Moon. Will I be able to do that,” he retorted.

It is not that the government is unaware of the artistes’ need. Announcements regarding the construction of a cultural centre that would house a museum, auditoriums and the required paraphernalia have come from several quarters.

However, the district administration proposes to build an art and cultural activity centre at the site of the District Magistrate’s office that will be relocated on Haridwar road. Said District Magistrate Amit Negi: “The demand for an art and cultural centre, complete with a museum, art gallery, convocation cenre and auditoriums and theatre, has come from culture buffs. We hope to do just that.”

The plan includes demolition of the District Magistrate’s office to make way for the centre. Sources say the need for such a centre on Haridwar Road was first considered during the tenure of former Chief Minister ND Tiwari. But, the plan has again undergone a change, leaving little room for proposed centre.

The vacated premises on Haridwar Road comprises 11 acres. According to estimates, the new office is expected to occupy more than eight acres, leaving little room for the culture Centre.

Successive governments have accorded fleeting attention to the need for a culture centre. “Dehradun is a state capital. Now, at least, it should have a centre dedicated to cultural activities. But we seem to be only going round and round in circles, ” said Roshan Dhasmana, secretary- general, Akhil Garhwal Sabha. 



A 60-hour homage
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 21
A sitar teacher at Mussoorie International School, Surmani Agni Verma, will give a sitar recital 60 hours at a stretch at Surbhi Palace Hotel beginning tomorrow.

At a press conference, Verma said: “ I will play the sitar for three days and my attempt is to break the 24-hour record held by Shambhu Das of Toronto.”

The sitarist has submitted the required documents to the Guinness Book of World Records. Giving details, he said during the 60-hour recital, the first break would be held after 25 hours, the second after 12 hours, the third after 12 hours and the fourth after 11 hours.

The proceedings would be recorded by a team of doctors who would pen down details in a log book that would be sent to the Guinness Book of world Records.

“I was motivated to take up this challenge after the Mumbai terrorist strikes. Our brave commandos freed the hostages after a 60-hour operation. My 60-hour non-stop recital is a homage to them,” said Verma. 



Carrying a chip in their ear lobes
Jotirmay Thapliyal
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 21
In order to check unlawful trade of captive elephants, microchips have been injected into the ear lobes of as as many as 16 in and around Corbett National Park. Seven of the park’s camp elephants are also with microchips.

Tourist resorts around the Corbett National Park carry out elephant safaris in territorial forests areas encircling Corbett. Every resort has at least one elephant, as these safaris are very popular with tourists.

There has been an increasing tendency among resort owners to bring a replacement elephant in case of death of the safari elephant.Taking advantage of lack of any mechanism to identify the elephants, these resort owners bring elephants along with the mahout from other states to jump the trade ban.

These replacements are unlawful with the trade of pachyderms banned under the Wild Life Protection Act. Further, any inter- state ferrying of elephants can only be carried out with the permission of the Chief Wild Life Warden’s office.

In order to check the malpractice, Project Elephant has initiated a progamme for registration of captive elephants by using the microchips.

“We have completed injecting microchips into as many as 16 elephants, most of whom are owned by private tourists resorts in close vicinity of Corbett,” said Dr Rajeev, who carried out the campaign on the captive elephants. Among these elephants are seven Corbett camp elephants, five in Dhikala and two in Bijrani zones.

“These Chinese microchips ‘Prouvan Unix’ carry an identification number and once injected cannot be removed,” explained Dr Rajeev. CK Kavidayal, Deputy Director, Corbett National Park said the move would now help identify captive elephants in and around Corbett.

More than 1,000 captive elephants have been microchipped so far in Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, West Bengal, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Delhi.The Project Elephant authorities have held necessary training for this purpose and also arranged for supply of standard microchips to states known to have captive elephants.

As per the 2000 elephant census, there are 22 captive elephants in Uttarakhand.



Despite fraud, no e-stamps
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 21
The recovery of unaccounted non-judicial stamp papers worth lakhs in the raid conducted by a team of senior district administration officials here on Monday has brought into focus the urgent need to implement e-stamping in the state.

Even as there is no data available regarding the number of frauds related to forged registration of property, the number of unaccounted stamp papers recovered on Monday as well as during the raid conducted in November last year is sufficient to presume that this illegal activity is deep-rooted.

As many as 21 licenced vendors were booked last year. It should be all the more disturbing for the government as it amounts to huge revenue loss to it.

But it is intriguing to note that the government is dithering on implementation of e-stamping despite tangible advantages. The matter has been hanging fire since April 2008 when Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL) made a presentation to the Uttarakhand finance and treasury authorities.

State finance secretary LM Pant admitted that the system was worth implementing but not much progress could be made. “The matter is under consideration,” he said while expressing concern over the seizure made by the raid on Monday.

Interestingly, the most vociferous opposition to this Internet-enabled application, which eliminates the possibility of duplication of a stamp certificate and facilitates secured system of collection and remittance to the government, has come from stamp vendors.

Last year, when they came to know about the government move to introduce e-stamping, their delegation met Chief Minister BC Khanduri and opposed it tooth and nail. The government buckled under the pressure and deferred it, apparently for political considerations.

Even as senior officials have been denying this, the fresh revelation has left them red-faced. The government can hardly afford to look the other way as the loss of revenue this way needs to be plugged without delay in the prevailing financial crisis.

Since e-stamping was put off mainly on the plea that it would harm the business of around 15,000 vendors in the state, the raids on them have amply shown the kind of business they are trying to protect.

The malaise is widespread as there was no reason why all vendors should have fled from the spot when raid was conducted on Monday.

Another official plea that e-stamping was not possible at this stage as the government has a huge inventory also seems more like an excuse because a state-like Delhi too had dealt with its huge inventory before making e-stamping mandatory in July 2008 after its successful trial run.

Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka have introduced this system on an optional basis. They too would not have been able to do so had they taken into account the inventory factor.



Ross Cottage and the Kennedy connection
While JF Kennedy’s father Patrick Kennedy moved to America, the rest of the Kennedys moved from New Ross in the USA to Mussoorie.  The Kennedy family lived in Ross Cottage named after their village in Ireland.
Sanjay Tamta

On Tuesday, Barrack Hussain Obama was sworn in as the first black American President of the US. Obama was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and a white American mother and was raised in Indonesia. Having come from a different land and culture, today Obama is at the topmost position of a country that has always beckoned hopefuls and dreamers.

But Obama is not the first dreamer to reach that top. John F. Kennedy, one of the most popular Presidents, was an Irish. Born and brought up in America, he was a Roman Catholic. Kennedy's grandfather Patrick Kennedy lived in Dunganstown near New Ross 
in Ireland.

At the age of 29,he moved to America in the hope of a good fortune as most Irish, Welsh, Scotts and Britons were then moving to the land of opportunities. On April 22, 1849, Patrick Kennedy boarded the Washington Irving vessel and reached Boston, Massachusetts. He settled there for good.

His son Joseph Patrick Kennedy (1888-1969) married Rose Elisabeth Fitzgerald (1890-1995) who gave birth to John F. Kennedy in 1917. This bright-eyed infant was to become the most adorable President of the US. JFK, as he is remembered, married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. JFK was assassinated in 1963.

While Patrick Kennedy moved to America, the rest of the Kennedys, the Clives and the Ladles, moved from New Ross to Mussoorie in India. The Kennedy family lived in the Ross Cottage named after their village in Ireland.

The cottage, as early British maps of Mussoorie indicate, stood near Christ Church in the Library Bazaar. A rare photograph of Charles Kennedy, a close relative of JFK, is part of the collection of historian Gopal Bhardwaj who has with him photo albums, maps and records that prove the Kennedy connection with the Queen of the Hills.

Sadly though, these and other precious historical memoirs that Bhardwaj has been collecting for years may soon perish as there is none to preserve these. 



Scheme for girlchild launched
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 21
Uttarakhand Chief Minister BC Khanduri has reiterated his government’s commitment towards empowerment of women in the state. The Chief Minister was addressing a gathering at a training workshop organised by the Uttarakhand Women’s Empowerment and Child Development Department at Navodaya Vidhayala, Tapowan, here today.

The Chief Minister, while greeting women on their success in the panchayat election, said that his government had provided 50 per cent reservation to women in the elections.

Khanduri exhorted the women to come forward in the administrative sector after attaining success in electoral politics. The Chief Minister also launched ‘Nanda Devi Kanya Yojana’ to benefit the newborn girl child from Below Poverty Line families.

Uttarakhand Women Empowerment Minister Beena Maharana too pledged to work for the betterment of women’s empowerment. She said her ministry was conducting several training programmes for women.

Dr Rakesh Kumar, secretary, Women’s Empowerment Minister, said that the Nandadevi Kanya Scheme was aimed at ending the gender divide.

Dehradun district panchayat president Madhu Chauhan, State Women’s Commission chairperson Raj Rawat and state president of Child Development Board Kovindi Koranga were prominent speakers at the programme?.



Flowing revenue buoys up transport dept
Umesh Dewan
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 21
The revenue collection of the state transport department has witnessed an increase of almost 10 per cent in the current fiscal year, till December 31, 2008, as compared to the corresponding period in 2007-08.

Secretary of the transport department Uma Kant Pawar said from April 1 to December 31, 2008, the department has generated revenue of Rs 118 crore, which is Rs 11 crore more than the corresponding period for the fiscal year 2007-08.

“The increase in revenue collection is a very positive sign,” he said.

Pawar said the department would take strict action against unauthorised use of the red/blue beacon lights on vehicles. “It has come to our notice that several private cars are being used as taxis. Some buses, registered as school buses, are being used as private buses. In order to check this illegal practice, we have instructed the schools to give the registration number of the buses being used by them. Likewise, lists of registration numbers of the taxis have also been sought from travel companies. Subsequently, action would be initiated against the violators,” he said.

Pawar said vehicles from Uttarakhand pay Rs 210 per tonne and Rs 85 per tonne for plying in hill areas and plains of the state, respectively. “On the other hand, vehicle owners from other states who have paid a lump sum of Rs 5,000 annually for procuring a national permit, ply in Uttarakhand the whole year. In this manner, the vehicles from outside Uttarakhand are paying less than those from within the state. Therefore, we are contemplating a change in rates,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pawar also convened a meeting with regional transport officers of Haldwani, Dehradun, Almora and Pauri. During the meeting, various issues related to the transport department were discussed. 



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