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Our experience with the present government and its departments

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Based on the interaction with various government departments and the public, HW shares the experience with its readers

We consider it our honor to be able to provide even a fraction of the point of view that the public hold regarding the development work and services of the present government. Almost for the past one and half years, HW has regularly been forwarding the public grievances and complaints to various responsible government departments and officials. With every complaint, we provided images and video clips to emphasize the need of immediate attention to the mentioned grievance. We exchanged many statements regarding these complaints with various government departments. Based on our interaction, these government departments and officials enjoy a reputation in our opinion. We would like to share it with you before you cast your vote tomorrow. We would just talk about the Shimla city, as it’s the capital of the state.

The Roads

Most of the complaints, which we officially communicated with the MC Shimla and PWD, were regarding the poor condition of the roads. No surprise, most of them are pending, others were either done with a poor patching work or disposed off saying it doesn’t belong to their department. In the case of Sangati-Summerhill road, the HPWD even replied that they could not locate the road in Shimla. However, now the department claims to have awarded the contract of resurfacing of the Sangti road to a private contractor.

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Parapets and Protective Railings

HW regularly wrote to HPWD regarding the need for protective railing, especially, on the bypass road. We mentioned a few accidents, which could have been averted, if there would have been proper parapets, or any strong protective railing on the spots of accidents. Already many lives had already been lost on the bypass road and in most of the accidents, sharp curves or narrow road space were the common factors. We even begged asking them to take immediate steps so that any further loss of a life could prevent. It was after months of complaint that PWD provided railings on the bypass road, but only at a single spot. The railing didn’t cover the whole curve and the job was done half heartedly. Still, the many spots at bypass road remains as a risk to life. But, that doesn’t bother the government.

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Environment

The government boasts that Himachal has been rated as diamond state in terms of environment. We would better apologize later, but at least once, we would say that the government and the public, both are dumb and idiotic when it comes to caring about the environment. Himachal Electricity Board has a great taste for torturing the trees with their stay-wires, iron rods and mails. Have a look at the images yourself. If you notice carefully, only in Shimla city, you would wonder how many trees are in the same condition. Now assume the situation all over the state. HW forced HPSEB to remove some of the stay wires and rods, but there are numerous ready to die.

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On the part of the present government in the state, the tree massacre at the site of DLF Luxury Villas in Shimla is a sufficient evidence of the very good care that it took of the forestland

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Well, that’s not it. Near Sankat Mochan, about 450 trees, which are to be chopped down to construct a new 33 KW substation, have already been marked. The villagers of the nearby Panchayat, who dependents on the forest for some of the basic requirements like fire wood, food for the domestic animals and a nearby natural water resource, requested the government to shift the location to a place where less trees would be chopped off. The villagers even called the media to put some pressure, but it didn’t work. Similarly, 50-60 trees have been marked for the construction of the new complex of Public Health & Irrigation on the Shimla bypass road. HW had requested the government to find a location with a lower density of trees. In nutshell, the government did not listen to its people at all.

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Health

Have a look at these images, which were sent to us by a reader, narrating the conditions in the Kamala Nehru Hospital, the biggest lady reading in Himachal.

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A few other images of KNH Shimla sent to us by our other readers.

Transportation Facilities

The government, somehow succeeded in getting rid of open doors of private buses, but overcrowding problem has worsen, especially, on Sanjuali, Tutu, Summer Hill routes. The bus accident, in which 53 people died, in the Chamba district a few months ago is a sufficient proof that the bus fasciitis does not meet the requirement in many parts of Himachal. Even after the accident the issue remains the same in rural areas.

overcrowded-bus-shimla

Shimla is the capital city and a great tourist spot on the world map and that makes the roads of Shimla busiest in the state. The government failed to tackle the problems of insufficient parking spaces in the Shimla. The frequent traffic jams, most of which causes due to vehicles parked on the already congested roads, has become a frequent scene. BCS, Sanjauli and Boileauganj, Lakkar Bazaar are the most common places which suffers due to the unavailability of the parking spaces.

E-Samdhan, Online portal for public grievances started by Prem Kumar Dhumal

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Present Chief Minister, Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal launched the E-Samdhan in 2008 and made a great noise. It is an online portal where public a citizen can submit grievances. Mr. Dhumal claimed that the process of attending to the public grievances would become easier and faster. HW tried to use the services in a hope for some actions from the particular departments regarding many sensitive issues. However, in terms of speed, it takes more time than flying to New York, spend couple of weeks there and return to Himachal. Recently, E-Samdhan took 17 days to forward a complaint to traffic police Shimla. That’s not the best way the services of the Internet can be utilized. Online service means ease and speed, but unfortunately, not in Himachal.

Public Infrastructure

Please have a look at the condition of the public toilets, rain shelters, footpath, streetlights etc yourself. A very few of them were attended and most of them are still pending.

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Our experience with MC Shimla

Somehow, we managed to fix a few problems by submitting complaints to the MC Shimla. The damaged footpaths, poor waste management, leaking sewerage pipes, damaged roadside drainage system, public paths in poor condition, leaking water tanks, stinking public toilets etc. are a few of them. Most of them are still waiting to be attended. In case some of them were attended, then only the mentioned locations were dealt with and in general, the problems were ignored. Majority of the complaints submitted to the MC Shimla are ‘in progress’ and likely to remains the same in the future too. The story of Rajhana Panchayat is one considerable example of the ignorance of the MC Shimla towards the public grievances.

Fortunately, the MC Shimla seems to have put some efforts to tackle the issue of unauthorized placement of billboards and hoardings. However, HW has been writing regarding the same to MC Shimla from the past one year.

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To The Public

In a state with a literacy rate above 90%, the public equally contribute towards polluting the environment, mishandling public property with their unwanted routine habits that affect the social environment around them. Improper garbage disposal, unwillingness to co-operate with traffic rules, wasting drinking water, setting the jungles on fire are common, but the lack of raising voice against any public or social issue stands as the greatest problem that encourages corruption and development of the state.

Our Himachal is still beautiful and peaceful. HW requests the public to participate and contribute in any cause that matters for the sustenance of the natural beauty and the peace of our state. It doesn’t matter which party comes to power. That will not solve the problem. The public needs to know the power of their rights that they can use to correct the government. The Union Is Strength. The political parties still uses the ‘dive and rule’ trick and we still fall victims of it. Being a party sympathizer is not an issue, but following any ideology blindly is the dumbest thing the public of a nation would do. Just imagine that there are thousands of political parties in India and each one of them have their own supporters. This grouping is keeping the public from getting together and question the government. We don’t need a third front to take charge of the government. To keep the government responsible, we need to stand united and aware.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

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HW Exclusive: Dirt newbie Sushant Thapa and champion Suresh Rana on Motorsports

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Suresh Rana and Sushant Thapa of Himachal Pradesh

He is a ‘One Man Show’ and people know him as the King of Speed. From Raid de Himalaya to Desert Storm, SJOBA Thunderbolt Rally, Arunachal Speed Fest, Dakshin Dar and many more, there is nothing that has not been written about the Motorsports champion Suresh Rana.

Born and brought up in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, Suresh Rana got a quick fascination with speed when he saw drivers running fast on the roads near his home during the budding years of Raid De Himalaya in the late 90’s. That stuck in his mind and he started running his vehicle on roads where there was less traffic.

Suresh Rana

Once he was riding in Spiti and on the way to Kaza he was spotted by the officials of Raid De Himalaya and they encouraged him to participate. It was the year 2001 when he participated in the Raid for the first time and since then there has been no looking back for him.

11 times winner of Raid de Himalaya, Rana is a power-packed member of the team Maruti Motorsports since 2009. When he started, he was a novice and the scope for learning professional motorsports was nil.

From Rana to dirt newbie: Sushant Thapa of Team Himachal Valley, is Himachal a place for budding rallyists?

Shushant Thapa

Sushant was born in Kullu and brought up in Nahan of District Sirmaur. We spotted him at the Himalayan Auto Cross Rally which happened in Kullu last month. What made us know him more was his passion and extreme driving skills that reminded us of the novice Suresh Rana of the early 2000’s.

It was for the first time he participated in any championship and he surprised us. Sushant finished his race in 1 minute 54 Seconds and stood second on the podium, which is an unexpected achievement for a beginner. He gave tough competition to experienced participants who had already participated in various national rallies including the prestigious Raid De Himalaya.

A student of legal studies from Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) and former football player, Sushant has represented in 17 National Football championships and 1 International under 19 Football championship in Nepal.

On his first experience in the Himalayan Auto Cross Rally, Thapa told Himachal Watcher,


Autocross is quite different from driving on road experience as there is an off road
track in which you have to keep yourself safe from fouls and drive carefully on the corners and beat the speed timings of the other participants. It was my first-time experience so I had to understand each and every detail myself while driving and analyzing the race track. It was quite tough because the other participants were experienced and they had already participated in many other national level competitions.

For talented aspirants like Sushant Thapa, who are full of energy and have the passion for motorsports but are clueless on where to polish their skills, Suresh Rana has started India’s first Mountain Rally School in Kullu and has already prepared three batches since the inception of Raptors RALLY School.

The idea of the Motorsports School was to polish the skills of the aspirants, promote them and give them the training that is required to make it a career. It is definitely a costly game in which financial and family support is a must.

There are many talented youngsters in Himachal Pradesh who are capable of showing their skills and talent through a full-time career in Motorsports, however, with the lack of proper knowledge, guidance and support from the family, they leave their dreams and look for a regular job option.

Speaking to us, Suresh Rana, who believes that Motorsports can be a career option if the aspirants spend some time in improving the performance and learning the techniques said,


There are many talented youngsters but they are not able to give their time in practice. It requires time, at least five years of practice to polish the skills and Motorsports teams are always looking for young and talented people. It can be a good career option if a person starts working on it from a young age.

He further added,


Motorsports is all about techniques more than having knowledge
and speed it is a must to know the techniques to control the vehicle and understand the breaking points. There are many drivers who drive well but when it comes to driving on the off-road with seatbelt on, they just can’t do it. It is quite tough to practice without a teacher and moreover, we don’t really have places to practice however I personally encourage the aspirants to learn and practice with safety. I am always there to help.

Rana while we finished our conversation said:


Newbie Sushant Thapa can do wonders in the field of motorsports. He has the talent, he understands the breaking points and he knows how to control his speed. If trained well, he can be the new champion from Himachal Pradesh,

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Quandary in KCC Bank Recruitment – Himachal’s Unemployed Youth Grinds Between Corruption & Politics

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KCC Bank Recruitments 2017

Shimla- If you search hashtag #KCCB on Twitter, you are likely to find thousands of Tweets where the youth of Himachal Pradesh is requesting the current Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to deliver justice. In every Tweet, the CM can be seen tagged. Since the government chooses to remain tight-lipped, the helpless youth is now cursing not only the CM but also the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for befooling them. 

Shimla– If you search hashtag #KCCB on Twitter, you are likely to find thousands of Tweets where the youth of Himachal Pradesh is requesting the current Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to deliver justice. In every Tweet, the CM can be seen tagged. Since the government chooses to remain tightlipped, the helpless youth is now cursing not only the CM but also the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for befooling them. 

After being versed with entire matter, you will be astonished to find, how far the politicians and corrupt officials can go in playing with the future of the youth and their money.

State’s educated but unemployed youth had been trying to attract the attention of the ruling government towards the mental agony and despair they are going through for the past 18 months due to ugly vendettas of political parties and blatant corruption in the Kangra Central Cooperative(KCC) Bank.

You’ll find a lot of newspaper cuttings, pictures of protests, and memes showing how the politicians and the Bank not just toyed with the sentiments of lakhs of unemployed youth but also extorted crores of rupees from them. 

At the same time, the youth are alleging the Bank officials of lying through their teeth with no remorse at all. Read on to understand the entire issues.

Back in 2017, the KCC Bank advertised recruitment to fill up 216 vacant seats of assistant manager (Grade III), Junior Computer Programmer (Grade III), Clerk (Grade 1V General public, trained secretary, employees of cooperative society quota) and computer operators. Over 1. 26 lakh candidates applied for the recruitment conducted through the HP Board of School Education (HPBOSE). However, while applying, they had no idea that their own government would make a mockery of their unemployed status.

The then Chairman of the Bank, Jagdeesh Sephiya or the ruling Congress government did pay heed to the fact that the recruitment process actually violated the guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India and the Registrar Co-operative Society. It’s important to note, Sephiya is a Congress leader and a close aide of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

According to the applicants, the bank collected between 5-7 crores, conducted a written examination in June 2017 and held interviews of the 750 candidates in September. Before the declaration of the merit list, the Model Code of Conduct came into force ahead of elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

After elections, one of the first decisions of the new government of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was to not carry forward any recruitments made during the period of six months before the elections. The KCCB recruitment process was one of them. Since then, the 750 candidates who had appeared in the personal interview wait desperately for the bank to declare the result.

The BJP governmenthas alleged of nepotism in the recruitment while the members of KCC Board of the Directors allege grieve irregularities in granting loans and manipulation of data related to the Non-Performing Assets, which deem the entire application and recruitment process unlawful.

An inquiry by the then MD of the Bank, PC Akela, into some loans had confirmed a violation of norms by few KCC bank branches including one near Government College, Una. A chargesheet was also issued to the managers of these banks, if the ex-MD is to be believed.

Similarly, Rs 1.30 crore cash credit limit (CCL) extended by the bank to Chunni Lal, brother of Anand Chauhan, LIC agent – an accused in corruption cases registered against the former Chief Minister by the CBI, also came under the scanner.

The then Director of the bank, Keshav Korla, who is also associated with BJP and was in a race to become new MD, labelled serious allegations against the then MD and filed a petition in the State High Court, challenging the recruitment process.

It was alleged that the bank was not eligible to hire since its NPA was higher than 12 percent. According to bank officials, its NPA was about 15 percent. However, Korla alleged that the actual NPA was over 20 percent and that the bank has manipulated the statistics to fool the RBI.

The absurdity of the political drama witnessed a new low when Korla, in August 2017, alleged that he was slapped by Jaswant Singh Rana, another member of the BoD, over an argumentconcerningthese irregularities in the bank.

The new government then ordered a vigilance probe into the alleged irregularities in the grant of loans and manipulation of data related to the NPA. A nod was also given to lodge FIRs against three Chairmen and MDS. However, the vigilance probe was slowed down and no one was held accountable ;perhaps a regular outcome of such probes.

Also, it was found that the HPBOSE had destroyed all records of the recruitment except the personal interviews.

On July 19, 2018, the BJP government dissolved the BoD and the bank worked without the Board for about eight months. The government took its turn to reward its blue-eyed leaders and officials. In July itself, the government re-shuffled the MD of the Bank for as many as three times and made the respectable post a joke.

In November 2018, Rajiv Bhardwaj, a BJP leader from Kangra district and Shanta Kumar’s loyalist, was appointed as the new Chairman of the Bank along with the nomination of two other leaders as members.

Despite appeals from and protest of 750 candidates, by December 28, 2018,the new BoDpassed a resolution to cancelthe recruitment.Following this decision to cancel the recruitment, the court also closed the petition.

Now, the applicants tuned protestants allege that the bank officials including the new Chairman are lying to the candidates that they had no information regarding the cancellation of the recruitment. In fact, the court has mentioned it specifically that the petition was disposed of after the BoD submitted a written reply stating that it has cancelled the recruitments. The Chairman has held the court responsible for the cancellation of the recruitment. The Bank is treating these youth like primary kids, nothing more.

The reason given for cancellation was that the recruitments were conducted through HPBOSE. The BoD said it was against the Registrar Co-operative Societyguidelines, which instruct that banks can only recruit through IBPS, State Staff Selection Board or State Public Service Commission.  Secondly, the RBI guidelines, the BoD further stated that banks with an NPA higher than 12 percentare not eligible to conduct recruitments.

The candidates, who had no role in this mess created by the previous and new governments, facedmental harassment awaiting their results during all this time. They met several leaders and even the new Chief Minister, requesting him to declare the results. The Chief Minister, during an event in Bilaspur, had assured them that they would not face injustice, which they eventually did.

These youth are questioning how other banks with higher NPAs are able to conduct recruitments and why this rule is being implemented in their case only.

They staged protests and reached media several times since the formation of the new government.

They received occasional hopes from the government, which were ultimately dashed to the ground. These candidates are still not in any mood to give up protesting over their demand.

The BoD members, some of which are nominated, have their affiliations to their respective patron political parties. All the members strive to appease their party through nepotism in recruitments, issuance of insecure loans to politically influential or any mean they can find.

In fact, one of the biggest reason for rising NPA of the Bank is that the previous as well as the current governmentshave been ignoring persons with banking background for the top positions and instead electing those having a political background. This political influence leads to grant of insecure loans to selected candidates or near and dear to leaders of the respective ruling government. These political persons do it to please their masters.

The biggest irony is that despite being such a sensitive issue, no one is held responsible.

Someone must be held responsible for initiating the process of recruitment when the Bank was not eligible to do so officially and legally. Someone must be held responsible for making the Bank BoD a political battleground where anyone hardly has any experience related to banking. Someone needs to lay some eligibility criteria for the selection of the BoD, members and the position of the Chairman.

As far as nepotism is concerned, none of the parties leaves a stone unturned to influence the recruitment process, which is no hidden secret.

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A Harrowing Challenge of Drug Menace in Himachal Pradesh

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drug abuse in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla- The drug menace, predominant among the younger generation, has been haunting the state of Himachal Pradesh for a while now. Inadvertently, an incipient problem of drug use has transformed into a full-blown problem. Over the past few months, minatory incidents such as the arrest of people in possession of contraband drugs became quotidian, and several mysterious deaths of students left the parents in despondency. The faces of the parents are masked with discernable worry and panic, albeit their stony silence on the issue, fails them in downplaying the issue.

If education is driving our children to indulge in drugs, in that case, it’s better not to send them to school/colleges and keep them illiterate,

said a man remorsefully, after reading news about the arrest of a college goer in possession of “Chitta”. The statement reflects the manifest distress and uneasiness among parents.

How dismal the situation is, can be fathomed from the fact that in the year 2018, so far, 151 cases have been registered under the Narcotics Act, and 204 people have been put behind the bars in connection to drug peddling. In addition, 94 kg of Charas, 3 kg of opium, 116 kg of poppy husk, 0.496 kg of ganja, 480 grams of heroin and 39135 tablets/capsules were seized in the state from April to June 2018, as per the report of the state Government submitted before the Hon’ble High Court in the month of August.

In response, the state cabinet under the Chief Minister, on 30 November 2018, decided an amendment in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances(Himachal Pradesh Amendment Bill) 2018, which will be moved in the upcoming winter assembly session in Dharamshala, in order to make the offense non-bailable. The opposition has welcomed the move-not surprising, as they had been making a clarion call for change in law for some time now.

Ergo, the Drug trafficking or smuggling of narcotics in the state of Himachal will become a non-bailable offense once the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Himachal Pradesh Amendment Bill), 2018 is passed by the assembly in the upcoming session.

The drug menace is not only unpalatable but if it is not quelled timely, it could become inveterate, jeopardizing the prosperity and stymieing the progress of the region. Clearly, the government was left with very few options, apart from making the crime non-bailable but this step might take care of the demand side of this complex issue. In doing this, the policymakers may be overlooking the overriding concerns on the supply side: as the amendments in the law may end up punishing the drug consumers only, whereas the supplier or the producers/manufacturer (in case of Chitta) of contraband drugs may never be nabbed. And the danger is– considering the inordinate delay and pendency of cases in our courts-the miscreants, especially the youth, may never get the second chance to redeem themselves.

After all, we all make mistakes in life, but, the key is to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

Hitherto, we have failed to underscore the crucial factors that festered drug use and it’s peddling. Be it the permeable border, high disposable income, lack of employment opportunities, temptation to make easy money or lack of awareness about the heinous repercussion of drug menace- high-risk behaviour, HIV/Aids/Hepatitis-C, violence, child abuse, risky sexual behaviour, the stigma of social exclusion, incarceration and list is endless. There are issues which require a far greater attention of the policymakers and the government.

First and foremost, we need to identify the conduit of these contraband drug and target it indiscriminately. The various studies show that once the European countries stopped the entry of drugs from “Balkan Route-the conduit of the drug trade to Europe” their problem of drug menace was half solved. Our state should follow the same approach.

With the advent of social media, the tricks of the drug trade have also changed; most of the drug sales nowadays are done on “Dark Net”. The state needs to ensure that our intelligence and police are abreast with all the latest technological advancement to nab the big fish of the drug trade. Only then this legislation will bring the desired results, or else our effort to curb the menace may belie the desired results.

Unsolicitedly, we all should provide, whatever little information we have about the drug buccaneers and miscreants in this trade to the police. The silence of the society on social evils don’t help in overcoming them but only fester them to the worse. Embrace meliorism!

We need to fight this menace from all quarters by spreading awareness about the pitfall of drug use. From parents, teachers, students, association, legislators, police, to NGOs, each one of us has a role in this battle against drugs. We, as a society, need to understand that it’s the higher socioeconomic groups that have a greater propensity to drug use, but it’s the society as a whole that pays the price.

The society, as a whole, needs to be emphatic to those who have fallen in the trap of drug use. The state also will have to ensure drug addicts are administered proper treatment-be it in prisons or in rehabilitation centers. Such an attitude for one and all will help drug addicts in overcoming the drug problem and social stigmatization.

The state also needs to usherradical reforms in sectors like education. At present, numerous youth get disillusioned when they get rejected for a job or don’t find a job. In frustration, they feel disheartened by the system and take up drugs. Whereas the real problem is, a majority of them lack the skill set and are often unemployable. The skill set is correlated with quality of education imparted to the students. The reform in the education system should commensurate with the requirement of the modern day age. It’s sad that we have commodified the education system, which further exacerbates the problems of the society, instead of remediating it.

Our policymakers need to introspect whether they have been able to formulate the policies that promote job creation and environment that thrives on an idea of innovation and technology.In absence of both these, youth is like to become susceptible to drugs to find solace. The policymakers need to avoid this trap and make sure the policies cultivate an environment on which our society can prosper for the best, not for the worst.

A bit of lateral thinking will also help. We need to create more options for our youth to have fun and frolic. Let’s understand, if we can offer an environment full of alternative activities to our youth, it will prevent the youth from falling prey to drugs. More parks, health clubs, library, reading rooms (sadly reading habits are declining in society worldwide), playgrounds will certainly help. Our pedagogy and parents can help immensely in this, by encouraging the youth to develop different interest and hobbies. Remember the old adage: An idle brain is a devil’s workshop.

Interestingly, most of the towns in the state or villages for that matter have a painful story related to the drug menace to tell- some certainly veracious, some may be apocryphal. The imminent challenge is to overturn the predicament. In the future, the tales from the state should be about drug survivor who fought his way back to health, not about the one who languished all his life in the hope of emancipation.

We are blessed with a young population but the asset has to be preserved by creating an environment that gets the best out the youth. If we err in doing so, the same asset can easily turn into liability and spell doomsday for the state. It would be a tragedy if we allow our youth to embrace the darkness.

Let’s get our act together; it’s high time! Let’s build a bulwark in the path of slow death by presenting new avenues of life to the youth. They deserve this much, if not better.

Author: Sunny Grack

About Author: Sunny Grack is a former banker. Interested in matters on economy, globalisation ,financial market and public policy; an Economic and Management graduate. He lives in Shimla.

Disclaimer: Himachal Watcher may not necessarily share the same opinion as expressed by the author.

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