It’s double trouble for irrigation officials
Sandeep Rawat

Tribune News Service

Haridwar, January 31
It has been eight years since Uttarakhand was created in 2000, but the state still doesn’t have a right over the properties of the irrigation department in Haridwar.

Despite several rounds of talks, negotiations and even directions from the Central Government, the mother-state of Uttar Pradesh has been delaying handing over charge to Uttarakhand.

The delay in transferring the land and sub-properties is hampering the Ardh Kumbh mela works and inviting encroachments too.

Though there have been several meetings between the two states, but due to Uttar Pradesh’s inflexible attitude nothing substantial has been achieved so far. Last November at a meeting UP agreed to surrender the charge of canals to Uttarakhand but when it came to signing the deal, it backtracked.

What is more gaslling is that the land is not being utilised and being allowed to be usurped. Encroachments, illegal colonies and slums have mushroomed in the past eight years on the banks of irrigation canals.

In Bairagi Camp area that falls under the mela area, hundreds of illegal houses and huts are erected. With the UP irrigation department that controls the area paying little heed, the encroachments have mushroomed.

This area is utilised for the Kumbh Mela when crores of pilgrims visit the city. Now, the local administration is finding it difficult to carry out mela development projects as most of the land comes under the Uttar Pradesh irrigation department. Uttar Pradesh is neither giving back the land to Uttarkahand nor maintaining it.

Also, the Uttarakhand government has to seek permission from UP for any developmental work on irrigation land in its state. Irrigation land in areas such as Rodibelwala, Lalji wala, Bairagi Camp, Chandighat, Aryanagar and Bahadrabad is under massive encroachments.

Uttarakhand irrigation department executive engineer DD Dalakoti says that irrigation-related problems are on the rise but the department remains hapless with UP controlling most canals in the district.

The situation is grim in rural areas where canal water is imperative for agriculture purposes. Local villagers complain of irregular water supply in the canals.

The Bhimgoda barrage, now renamed Chaudhari Charan Singh Bhimgoda Barrage, is also under the UP irrigation department.

In New Delhi on January 23, a meeting was held between officials of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh irrigation departments to discus the division of department assets. The meeting was convened by the water resources secretary. At the meeting, UP agreed in principle to hand over the Kumbh Mela area to Uttarkahand, leaving aside the transfer of other assets.

Just two days before the creation of Uttarakhand on November 7, 2000, the union ministry of water resources had issued a notification stating that only those assets which fell under his jurisdiction would be under the Uttaranchal irrigation chief engineer. The rest would be under the UP irrigation department chief engineer.

The assets in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar are still under the control of Uttar Pradesh. This includes the irrigation department’s 13,800 hectares, 4,384 buildings, 42 canals originating in and falling in Uttarakhand and several lakes.

There are several important places and land properties belonging to Uttar Pradesh in Haridwar. VIP Ghat, Alaknanda Ghat, Green Vista Park, Vivekananda Park to all important ghats on the banks of the Ganga come under Uttar Pradesh. Also, there are several guest houses of the irrigation department in Haridwar which are under Uttar Pradesh.

“We are trying our best to maintain the land under our control,” said Uttar Pradesh SDO canal KP Singh. Sources say unless one party governs both states, the issue is unlikely to be resolved in the near near future.



Sowing seeds of change
Jotirmay Thapliyal
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 31
A people’s movement in the true sense, the Beej Bachao Andolan (BBA) that came to Uttarakhand hills over two decades ago, is striving hard to safeguard the state’s fast-dissipating indigenous seeds against the onslaught of cash corps that involve higher investment and greater risk.

Led by environmentalist, social activist and a farmer, the movement, a brainchild of Vijay Jardhari, started from Jardhargaon in Tehri in the late eighties. Since then this people’s movement to conserve traditional seeds has found support each passing day.

It has gathered as many as 220 varieties of kidney beans, 350 of paddy, 32 of wheat, four of barley, eight to 10 of legumes and eight of millet. This is quite an achievement, particularly on the backdrop of agriculture in the hills switching over to the high-yield variety mode these days.

Jardhari has started documentation of seeds and aspires setting up a seed bank. Uttarakhand hills are known for intercropping. 'Baranaja' (meaning 12 grains) practiced by the villagers is a traditional system involving intercropping of 12 species. A dozen varieties are planted on the same piece of land, meeting the nutritional needs of a family.

But, this practice is on its way out. Uttarkhand’s crop varieties used by local hill people for ages require almost no investment.

But these traditional seeds are being replaced with seeds from multinationals, leading to hill farmers losing control over agriculture.

“Dwindling production levels despite increased investment on pesticides and fertilisers as well as a decline in soil fertility has forced the farmers to think of corrective measures vis-à-vis high- yielding variety of seeds,” says Raghu Bhai,a Beej Bachao activist. He claimed the farmers in the hills were fast realising the importance of indigenous seeds.

Jardhari’s initiative has been lauded at the national level, if not the state level. Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy is among those who have applauded the andolan activists for their unique initiative.



Primarily, dysfunctional
Umesh Dewan
Tribune News Service

A class being conducted in a room with a damaged ceiling. Tribune photos: Vinod Pundir
A class being conducted in a room with a damaged ceiling. Tribune photos: Vinod Pundir

Dehradun, January 31
Broken windowpanes, paucity of classrooms and blackboards in poor condition. This is the sad tale of city government primary schools. Woefully short of infrastructure, most primary schools are in a pathetic condition but the government attitude remains nonchalant.

More than 80 per cent of these schools are without basic infrastructure that is a must for teaching. The education department has failed to provide the requisite infrastructure. Take the case of the government primary school in Araghar, Jakhan, Parade Ground, that does not have any furniture or benches for students. The students have to study on jute mattresses on the floor even in winters.

At government primary school in Dobhalwala students study in the corridors due to paucity of classrooms. “It is not possible to accommodate students of five classes in two classrooms. Hence, we conduct classes in the corridors as well,” said one of the schoolteachers, pleading anonymity.

Classes are also held under an overhead water tank in this school. Most government schools face shortage of space.

Except for a handful of schools, most do not have power connections. Many government schools which are being run from rented buildings, are facing immense difficulties. In Dehradun, as many as 12 schools are being run from rented premises.

In government primary school in Chidyamandi the condition of the two classrooms is deplorable caused by a leaking water pipe. “Due to the leakage, water accumulates on the classroom floor. With lavatories located at one corner of the room, students and teachers are forced to sit in stench,” complained Sarita Devi, whose son studies in the school.

She said in the absence of arrangements for drinking water, the students had to knock the doors of neighbours for quench their thirst.

The state of affairs in other schools being run from rented buildings in Chukuwala, Syedpur and Lunia Mohalla are as much gloomy. Sources in the education department said that buildings of at least 12 schools needed immediate repairs but the department was helpless with the owners of the buildings not allowing renovation work.

The teachers pooh-pooh the claims of the authorities regarding raising the education standards. “Since years, we have been begging for infrastructure, but our complaints have fallen on deaf ears,” say the teachers, who maintain that the annual grant of Rs 5,000 per school under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan is woefully insufficient.

Education department officials say as many as 5,879 students are studying in 49 government primary schools in Dehradun.The department is short of 46 teachers. A dozen schools are being run by a single teacher.



Magpie camp aflutter with bird-watchers 
Jotirmay Thapliyal
Tribune News Service

An exhibition at the Magpie Camp. Tribune photos
An exhibition at the Magpie Camp. Tribune photos

Dehradun, January 31
For birdwatchers from across the country, the non-descript Kankra Gad in Mandkini valley in Rudraprayag district of Garhwal hills continues to be a most sought after destination - the valley houses Mandkini Magpie Bird Watchers’ Camp.

Interestingly, this camp is a result of the initiative of a village youth - 45-year-old Yashpal - who neither had any formal training on bird-watching nor knowledge of eco-tourism.

And during winters, the camp is abuzz with activities as bird-watchers find this time of the year most suitable to spot some of the rare Himalayan birds that arrive in sylvan surroundings of Mandakini valley.

Even these days, Scarlet Finch, Spot Wing, Grosbeak, White Browed, Fulbetta and other winter birds are flocking the region. This is apart from birds such as Monal, which is also the state bird of Uttarakhand.

“For a bird-watcher, Magpie camp is certainly a big delight,” said Dr Arun Pratap Singh, a bird-watcher of repute who has recently been to the Magpie camp. He has been visiting the camp for the past many years and his in-depth knowledge has certainly helped the visitors spot birds of various species.

Magpie camp also boosts of some commendable collection of bird nests. To the visitors’ delight, Dr Arun also possesses a number of books linked to identification of birds and other wild animals. He has also started working towards preparation of a herbarium of trees in which birds like to nest or feed.

For Yashpal, proprietor of Mandkini Magpie Bird Watcher’s Camp, coming up with a bird watchers’ camp was something unusual in the Garhwal hills. His initiative was often laughed away by his fellow villagers, who often found his interest in birds quite queer.

But a dogged Yashpal went ahead with his plans and started a small camp around seven years ago without any support from any quarter.

Initially, he initially converted a few of his rooms into accommodations and then set up tents and other infrastructure.

Yashpal’s authority on birds, by virtue of being born and brought up in hilly village environs, came as a big boost to his efforts. And to top it all, Yashpal proves an excellent host for all those who frequent Magpie camp.

Some of eminent bird-watchers of the country who have visited the camp include Nikhil Devasar, Delhi Bird Club, Rajnish, Bangalore Bird Club, Kiritam Mukherjee from Kolkatta, and Forest Research Institute scientist Dr Arun Pratap Singh from Dehradun.

Wild life photographers like Rakesh Sahay also frequent the camp.

Importantly, the Magpie Camp’s success comes at a time when the Uttarakhand government is struggling hard to carve a niche for itself on the eco-tourism front. Yashpal has without doubt shown the way!



The legacy of British banks
Sanjay Tamta

The British East India Company, which came here for business ventures, introduced banking system in India to regulate the income they made out of trade in South-East Asia.

After establishing trade centres in Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Madras they began expanding their territories and fought many battles with provincial realms and won. Almost the whole of India was acquired by the British, but the climate of the Indian plains did not suit them so they discovered hill stations such as Shimla, Darjeeling, Nainital, Dalhousie and Mussoorie, which they named as the “Queen of the Hills”.

The British also introduced the banking system in the hills stations and in 1836 established the North-West bank, which was the first bank of North India with its headquarters at Calcutta. They bought and sold hotels and bungalows in Mussoorie through banks only, and Hobson, owner of the famous Charliville hotel, pawned his hotel to the Mussoorie Savings Bank for Rs 28,000.

Similarly, P Mackinnon, son of Sir John MacKinnon, wagered the MacKinnon’s brewery to the Bank of Upper India. The thousand acre forestland that included a brewery and five bungalows was valued at Rs one lakh.

Later, the North-West bank was shut down owing to a trade slump. However, the banks that were functioning in Mussoorie were Delhi and London Bank (1859), Mussoorie Savings Bank (1864) and the Himalaya Bank (1865). Frederick Wilson or “Pahaari” Wilson played a key role in creation of the Mussoorie Saving Bank. Wilson was then flushing down deodar logs through the Ganges in the Bhagirathi valley and paid his workers in his own coined currency.

Subsequently, the banking system sailed through ups and downs in Mussoorie. The Himalaya Bank of Sir F. Moss was turned into the Himalaya hotel in 1875. The Alliance Bank of Shimla came to Mussoorie in 1892, which was converted into Allahabad Bank in 1917. The Himalaya hotel was again converted into the Imperial Bank of India and after independence in 1956 the beautiful building housed the State Bank of India, which still exists there. 



Sufi qawwal mesmerises
Akash Ghai
Tribune News Service

Qadar Niazi
Qadar Niazi

Roorkee, January 31
The famous sufi qawwali singer, Qadar Niazi, was in the town to give performance in the annual cultural affair, Virasat Fest 09, at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Roorkee) started with much fanfare, here yesterday.

Niazi along with his two sons, Hyder Nizami and Hasan Nizami enthralled the audience, mainly consisting the IIT students with their popular qawwalis and bhajans.

In their one-hour long performance, the Niazi group virtually made the audience, which was over five hundred in number, at Multi Purpose Hall of Management Department (IIT), swayed with their qawwalis including 'Dama dum mast kalandar', 'mainu ek pal cahin na aiwe and bhajans like 'bahut kathin dagar panghat ki'.

Niazi, who has been performing with great distinction in various Urs and conferences in the country and abroad from last 30 years, said that the addition of many advanced instruments like electric banjo, tabla, harmonium and electric pads have given qawwali the new ranges. "Spirituality still exists in this sufiana form of music,” said Niazi, who has learnt the art from his father Ustad Inam Ahmed Khan.

"Qawwali is a form of devotional singing and is rooted in the mystical tradition of the Sufis, where music connects you to God,” said the famous Niazi, who has received many awards for his singing. Known for his styles, 'Aastana Gayaki' as well as the modern Qawwali tradition, the singer has also experimented with bhajans and ghazals in qawwali form.

"Yes, I have fusion bhajans and ghazals with qawwali and you believe this experiment is being well appreciated everywhere. Though it is very difficult to sing a bhajan in qawwali andaa, the audiences like it very much,” said the qawwal, who has also made his entry in Bollywood with blockbuster 'Khosla ka Ghosla'.

"I have no hassles working for Hindi films and even for music albums. I have also given music in the forthcoming film 'Zia',” said Niazi while maintaining that he was ready to give music in pop items, which he also likes very much. 



State short of 71 ayurvedic doctors 
Neena Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 31
The state health department is finding it difficult fill up the 71 vacancies for doctors on contractual basis for its various ayurvedic dispensaries.

“Despite receiving letters, 26 doctors have not joined duty. Even 37 posts of pharmacists are still lying vacant,” said Dr Pooja Bhardwaj, director ayurvedic and Unani services, Uttarakhand.

Notably, there has been a major thrust on establishing ayurvedic dispensaries/wings both by the Central as well as the state governments. According to data provided by the directorate, there are 538 ayurvedic dispensaries and 5 Unani dispensaries in the state. Twenty-three ayush wings have been set up at 23 community health centres and 116 primary health centres here. However, there are no doctors to run these centres. Despite newspaper advertisements, the government has not received an adequate response from interested candidates.

Besides, even paramedical staff is hard to find. “There are very few trained staff members and the problem is perennial. These problems would be sorted out once we get our own medical college,” said Dr RN Sharma, deputy director ayurvedic and Unani services, Uttarakhand.

Against the demand of 540 pharmacists, only 206 are serving as of now. According to sources, to tide over the shortage, the health department is toying with the idea of taking the services of doctors who are already working on a contractual basis at the 26 Ayush wings established at district hospitals in the state as part of the National Rural Health Mission.

Ironically, these wings are short of doctors too. Against the demand of 162 contractual doctors, only 75 posts have been filled. As far as pharmacists are concerned, against the requirement of 162 only 125 posts have 
been filled. 



Way above his league
Sandeep Rawat
Tribune News Service

Haridwar, January 31
Akhtab Khan is being projected as the next big thing in hockey. He has scored brilliant goals in national tournaments. He won the hearts of hockey lovers with his performance in the 77th All-India Shraddanand Hockey Tournament held in Haridwar recently. Hockey experts say that this 12-year-old is equivalent to those playing in the under-19 category.

He has played in seven national-level tournaments and his coach Iqbal Khan puts Akhtab, a Class VI student of St Pauls, Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, in the league of upcoming hockey stars of the country.

“Akhtab has an inborn talent which he has honed with his hard work and application,” Iqbal said.

The coach runs a coaching centre in Moradabad and when asked about the training regimen of this prodigy, he said, “As he is a kid, I don’t want his natural talent to be curbed. I just focus on his skill development.”

Akhtab has won the Best Goal award in two all-India level tournaments. First, in the Nainital Veterans Hockey Cup, he bagged the “Naini Goal Award’ last year.

Secondly, in the recently concluded 77th edition of All-India Shraddhananad Swami Hockey Tournament at Haridwar, in which national teams like PNB Delhi, Northern Railway, Core Of Signals and BEG Roorkee participated, he scored the award-winning goal against Shahbad Markanda.

He was also bestowed the youngest player award at the tournament.

Akhtab plays in the left-in position which is considered one of the vital and toughest positions to play. Despite this, he plays with ease, speed and agility showing his tremendous dribbling skills.

So how does he feel while playing alongside players with experience and age double than him? The young lad humbly says, “I only concentrate on my hockey. All seniors help and encourage me.”

Being so young among grown-up players has its disadvantages. In a match, the referee told him to play outside the field. The referee thought that he was a kid practicing in the stadium. He was shocked when the team captain told him that Akhtab was a key player of the team much to the amusement of the spectators.

Apart from hockey, Akhtab focuses on his studies and watches cartoons. Former Olympian and Indian hockey captain Zafar Iqbal is his idol. “My coach introduced me to him and he gave me tips and encouragement,” he said.

Akhtab got a rare opportunity to meet 22 hockey Olympians on one stage last year where Olympian Dhanraj Pillay gifted him a hockey stick.



Knockout girl
Vishal Thakur

Durga Thapa
Durga Thapa 

Dehradun, January 31
At the age of 25 years when most girls struggle to make a career, Durga Thapa has proved her worth by being the first woman judge from Uttarakhand in an international boxing championship.

She was one of the members of the five-judge panel at the Asian Boxing Championship that was held in Guwahati in 2008. She has also been a judge at five national championships.

Durga qualified as a National Official Judge in 2007 after successfully competing her BPEd course in 2003 and NIS diploma in 2004-05. Apart from being a judge, she has been coaching boys and girls here for the past three years at the sports complex, Parade Ground.

Her boxing journey began in 2000, when PB Mall, a renowned boxer of Dehradun who had won a gold medal in the Asiad in the 1960’s, asked Durga to switch to boxing from athletics.

In 2002, she won the North Zone championship and the Inter-SAI Boxing Championship in 2003. Later, she was selected for the national camps in Bangalore and Hissar. “My most memorable fight was against Kanak Durga in the Punjab National Games. The fight was a closely fought one and I emerged victorious,” Durga recalled. Kanak Durga, who is the present Asian champion, had lost to her by three points.

Durga’s ideals in boxing are Padam Bahadur Mall, Dingo Singh and Marikom.

Even as an athlete, Durga had made remarkable strides. She had played for UP state and won a gold in the 400m at a state-level athletics meet in 1998 and won a bronze at the North Zone Athletics Meet. In 1999, Durga got a chance to run along side PT Usha at the senior national meet held at Lucknow.

“Dehradun boxers have a bright future, provided they get the basic facilities. Right now, we are practicing in the open at Parade Ground and there is a lot of distraction around. We need an indoor stadium for our practice,” rued Durga. During rain, the practice session has to be called off in the absence of an indoor stadium.

In the state, Pithorgarh and Kashipur have produced some talented boxers, but now Durga aims to add Dehradun’s name to the list. “I want to see Dehradun boxers on the top,” said Durga.

Despite being poorly paid as a coach, Durga still wants to pursue it. In addition, she has started working as a physical education teacher at a Army School. She devotes her evenings to boxing.



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