Raingods turn their back on farmers
With few irrigation facilities on sloped fields, a majority of small farmers are dependent on the winter rain for their crops
SMA Kazmi
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 29
With wild rhododendrons blooming in the hills, people of the state have much to worry. Normally, rhododenrons blossom early summers but this winter, with no rain or snow, it is spring-like weather in Uttarakhand.

This winter, the temperatures are unusually high and absence of rain has ruined the rainfed crops of Garhwal as well as Kumoan regions.

Alarm bells have begun to ring in the wake of the long, dry spell that threatens to affect the rabi crops, particularly in the hills. Perturbed, the state government has asked the district administration to prepare a report on damage done to the crops. “More than 80 per cent of our crops in the hills are affected,” Agriculture Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said.

With few irrigation facilities on sloped fields, a majority of small farmers are dependent on the winter rain for their crops.

“Although the affect of scanty rainfall will be less in the Terai regions of Udham Singh Nagar, Haridwar and Dehradun due to irrigation facilities there, the situation is bound to be be worse in the hills,” said Madan Lal, director, agriculture department.

During the past three months, rainfall in the entire state has been negligible. “The rainfall deficit is more than 96 in the past three months,” said Dr Anand Sharma, director, meteorological department.

There has been only 5.2 mm of rainfall in January this year in Garhwal region, particularly Tehri and Dehradun districts, but the entire Kumoan region has been near dry since November last. The state usually receives an average of more than 50 mm of rainfall in January.

“While the rainfall in neigh-bouring Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir has been near normal, absence of effective western disturbances and induced cyclonic circulations that brings rains in the region has led to dry weather, Dr Sharma explained.

“It is for the third time that rains have failed Uttarakhand since its inception,” said Madan Lal. In 2007 also there were no winter rains, ruining the hill crops. But it did rain mid-February. This year too small farmers who are poor with small land-holdings are praying for rain.

Vikram Singh of Golthir village in Rudraprayag district is awaiting rains to fill his water pond that he uses for irrigating his fields. “It is very tough. We have lost the winter crop due to paucity of rains. The summer will be even more harsh due to lack of moisture,” he observed.

The rabi crops of wheat, barley, potatoe and millet have been adversely affected. The apple crop has also been damaged in ther absence of “chilling hours” required for a better produce.

Apple farmers in higher altitude areas of Dehradun, Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Kumoan fear that apple crop may have suffered heavy damage. “The weather has played havoc with the apple and other fruit crops. It should rain and snow,” said a desperate Padam Singh, a progressive farmer of Uttarkashi district.

The dry spell has been more severe in the Kumaon region with near total dry winter. “We have asked our officials to assess the ground situation within a week,” said Madan Lal.

Besides agriculture, failure of winter rains will also severely affect drinking water availability during the summer months. “Winter rains are useful not only for the hill crops but also recharging of springs and aquifers. These will now go dry,” said Dr Rakesh Kumar, a scientist working with farmers in the hills. Higher temperatures in the state have led to faster evaporation of moisture from soil and other water bodies.

Little or no snow in the region will not only result in grave drinking water problem in the summers, but also lead to less water in snow-fed rivers, adversely affecting hydro-power generation from projects. The state depends heavily on power generation during the summer months as the water level increases in the rivers due to the melting of snow.

Excess power generated during the summer months are banked with other neighbouring states. During the lean winter months when it snows and power generation goes down due to scanty water in the rivers, Uttarakhand withdraws the banked power to meet its “own power requirements.”

There is little hope of rainfall during the coming days. But Dr Sharma remains optimistic. “We are still hopeful that it will rain next month providing relief to the poor farmers in the hills,” he said.



Without hope or money, minors take to theft
Umesh Dewan
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 29
Three children were arrested for allegedly decamping with household goods in Ballupur area yesterday. The incident has laid bare the unpalatable truth of increased involvement of children in criminal activities in the city.

Earlier too there have been instances when school-goers were arrested for petty theft. But what was startling about these children nabbed yesterday was the fact that they had been trained in thieving by their parents, say senior police officials.

IG of Garhwal MA Ganapathy said the arrested children were trained to break into a house through a ventilator.

The IG said the trio arrested were “skilled thieves.” SSP Kumar Vishwajeet expressed similar views, adding that poverty was a major factor that pushed the children into crime.

Yesterday, the Garhi cantonment police arrested Umesh Kumar (12), Birju (14) and Maisi (10), all residents of Kanwli Road, for theft. On November 23, 2008, the Nehru Colony Police had nabbed three Class IV students on charges of theft.

The trio had confessed to at least six burglaries. There have been several other thefts involving minors.

SP (City) Pushpak Jyoti feels that poverty, lack of education and unemployment are the main reasons that push the minors into a life of crime.

“If financially sound people start sponsoring the education of poor children, it will be of great help.”

Psychologists feels that lack of parental care contributes significantly towards the problem. “In case of slum dwellers, both mother and father go for work and remain away from home the entire day.

With none to monitor them, the kids do whatever they like and often adopt wrong habits. In order to satisfy their monetary requirements, they get involved in snatchings and thefts,” says city-based psychologist Dr Nand Kishore. 



Scholars’ retreat
Named after the 33rd Dharma King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo (617-650) credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet, the library boasts of a comprehensive collection of books and rare Tibetan manuscripts
Neena Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 29
Far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, the meditative charm of Songtsen Library at Sahastdhara is attracting scholars of history, culture, religion and environment from all over India and abroad.

Dedicated to the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, the library is also designated as Research and Resource Centre by HNB Garhwal University in Srinagar. His Holiness, Dalai Lama the XIV, inaugurated the library on March 2003.

A group of students from America, Malaysia and Japan are living at the campus for an intensive course in the Tibetan language. “I am interested in Tibetan culture and history. The three-month course in the Tibetan language will be of special help when I take up higher learning,” said Rosita Faber from Germany.

Named after the 33rd Dharma King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo (617-650 AD), who is credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet, the library boasts of a comprehensive collection of books and rare Tibetan and Himalayan 

“It is believed that the king sent sons of ministers to India to study the bhotiya script prevalent among the Himalayan regions of Ladakh and Kinnur; later the Tibetan script was born,” informed Dr Tashi Samphel, director
of library.

The statue of King Songtsen riding a horse finds pride of place in the lawns of the library. It has been sculpted by Khenmo Gey Longma Nyima Drolima of the US.

“As Dehradun has a sizeable Tibetan population and centres dedicated to various schools of Tibet, it was an ideal place to set up such a library. The monastic traditions of Ladakh, Kinnaur and Nepal are attracting attention of scholars and our library is a key resource centre fort such research,” informed Tashi Samphel.

At Songtsen, scholars can access publications on the Dun Huang documents that cover several subjects on Central Asian culture, including history, literature, religion, law astrology and medicine.

“These publications are edited versions of the manuscripts found on way to the famous Silk route that were buried in caves. The scholars retrieved them and made their edited versions available to Tibetan libraries,” informed M.Kong, a student from Malaysia.

The library has gained immensely from the personal collection and journals of well-known scholar and pioneer of Buddhism, Lama Anagarika Govinda. Born in a German family, he became a Buddhist, staying in Almora in the mid-eighties. “He is credited for introducing Buddhism to the West. He lived in the house belonging to the Buddhist translator Evans Wentz,” informed Anil Sharma, who works in the Songtsen Library.

The architecture of the library is based on the famous Tibetan First Castle and its ceiling has Tankha paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha and King Songtsen.The library has installed Buddhist texts in digitised format brought from the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center at New York.

Architects have given a holistic view to the library keeping in mind the major influences on Buddhism -- Tibet and China,” said Samphel.

A Saloon Mercedes Benz in a glass house is a cynosure of all eyes. The car was used by the Dalai Lama for 18 years from 1964-1998. It was brought here after the inauguration of the library. 



A carpet for all reasons
Divya Semwal
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 29
The taste for carpets, an important part of home décor, has changed over time and so have the varieties on offer, whether machine-made or hand- made.

Earlier, people in Doon had a liking for jute mats, but today it is more about style and class. Wall-to-wall carpets are out of fashion as they are difficult to maintain and there is a distinct preference for maintenance-free carpets, or wooden and tile floorings that do not require a carpet at all. However, the cost of the latter is much higher.

“Earlier people used to purchase carpets for decorating drawing rooms, but today they buy for each and every part of their house,” said Anurag, owner of a carpet company here.

Whether it’s the lobby, the bedroom or the drawing room, carpets are available in all ranges and designs these days. “Centre piece carpets are in high demand for their light weight and low cost. Hand-made carpets being bulky and prone to insect attacks are not preferred in the city.

Therefore, from past several years we are importing machine-made carpets from Belgium and Egypt, which till now has received a very good response here,” said Anurag.

Available in all shades, the price of the carpet depends on the quality of wool, density of the yarn, weight and size. “People mostly prefer colours like beige, faun, maroons or else pick it as per the interiors of their houses.

Now, even rugs in bold colours like red, golden and silver are in vogue and are most sought after by youngsters,” said Dheeraj Bhatia of Haryana Hadlooms.

“Machine-made carpets are more in demand as compared to hand-made because they are light in weight, free from insect attacks and superior in quality. In addition, hand-made carpets are very expensive and found mostly in metros and emporiums. Nowadays, along with traditional designs, geometrical oriental designs are also preferred,” added Bhatia.

However, the Tibetan Women Centre in Doon offers high quality hand-made carpets in traditional designs. Not only do they offer a lot of variety, they also make carpets according to individual choices.

“At Tibetan Women Centre we use superior quality of wool from New Zealand. The price of the carpet is determined on the basis of knots per inches. We offer a large variety carpets and runners with the price ranging from Rs 692 to Rs 36,900. The carpets are washable and can easily last for at least 20 years,” said Tashi, accountant at the centre.

“We also keep hand-made carpets as there are still some sections of society who prefer them,” said Sateesh, manager of Kay Carpets.



Forgotten grave
The grave, amidst the thick oak forest of Landour cantonment, belongs to Caroline Moore, who could not find a place in the graveyard due to taboos associated with medieval English beliefs
Sanjay Tamta

On January 29, historian Gopal Bhardwaj and his friends lit candles besides the grave of a long-forgotten name of the mid-nineteenth century in a remote jungle near Mussoorie: a tradition they follow each year.

The grave, amidst the thick oak forest of Landour cantonment, belongs to Caroline Moore, who could not find a place in the graveyard due to taboos associated with medieval English beliefs.

The young and beautiful Caroline was the wife of George Frederick Moore, who was a captain in Her Majesty’s 10th Foot Regiment and was sent to India for the Sikh wars during 1846-49. Moore fought the crucial battle of Sobraon in Punjab.

He was commissioned as an ensign on October 25, 1839, in the 31st regiment of Huntingdon Shire and became a lieutenant on November 9, 1841. Later, he became a captain in 1847.

But fate had something else in store for Moore; he was severely wounded in his thigh on November 4, 1848, during the siege of Multan. He also didn’t serve during the mutiny of 1857.

Meanwhile, his beloved Caroline was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was shunned by the society, as was the norm during those days. Moore, a war hero of his times, fell helpless before destiny and as a last resort brought Caroline to the Landour Sanitarium in Mussoorie.

Caroline, who was just 21 then, knew that she would soon have to leave behind George and this beautiful world. To add to her agony was the fact that the couple had no child. Depressed, she would sit for hours beside the sanitarium window and watch the Himalayas through the oak and deodar trees.

On January 29, 1852, Caroline breathed her last and it was believed that she committed suicide, unable to handle her grief. She was buried in the oak forest beside the sanitarium, maybe because she was a tuberculosis victim or just because she was believed to have committed suicide. Either of the reasons was an excuse at that time for a formal burial in the graveyard.

Whatever the facts, Caroline was buried in the forest which she watched from her window during her last days.

The writer is a freelance journalist from Mussoorie



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