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Deepak Project fire – another Shimla heritage building lost – accident or conspiracy?



Minto Court shimla fire

SHIMLA-On Saturday night, another heritage building, Minto Court near Indian Institute of Advance Studies, was lost in a fire break out. The building presently houses the office of Project Deepak of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), an inter-services organization under the defence ministry.

The estimate of the damage is suspected to have included many important documents. There was no report of any causalities or injuries to those present inside the building.

shimla fire brigade in action'

Minto Court shimla fire

Fire broke out at about 9 PM on the top floor of this three-storeyed building and then spread down to the second floor. The fire broke out was devastating and engulfed almost entire building. The reason for the fire break out isn’t clear yet. But most likely, a short-circuit would be blamed, as usual.


Interestingly, the office was going through CBI enquiry and many are relating this incident to be a conspiracy to destroy related evidences. The people present on the scene insisted that it wasn’t an accident.

As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago, two High rank officials, Brig JK Narang and Lt Col Chancal Jhamb, were booked for allegedly giving undue favor to Siemens Enterprises Communication Private Limited in return to the bribe they had accepted. CBI had filed a charge-sheet against the duo in October last year.

Also, one more noticeable aspect of these incidents is that most of these building were heritage property and housed Govt. office.

fire engulfs shimla

The building was built during British rule in 1904, named after Lord Minto. It was built by the British, Raaja Bhasin, co-convener of the Himachal Pradesh chapter of Intach (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage). It was built in half-timbered Tudor style including all frames made of wood. Bhasin expressed his grief over such a loss, saying:

“It’s one of the British-era’s iconic survival structures in Shimla. I am really saddened with the damage”

Chief Fire Brigade Officer Bhupal Singh confirmed that they received the information regarding the fire at 9:30 PM, thereafter, the fire tenders the Shimla Mall Road, Chota Shimla, and Boileauganj were deployed to control the fire. It’s surprising that no one noticed the fire for half-an-hour. It would have taken just five minutes for Boileauganj fire brigade to reach the spot.

Tkender panwar at shimla

The fire brigade struggled to extinguish the fire for over four hours, but didn’t seem to be able to save the building. Lack of proper training and preparation reflected in the operation of the teams.

wastage of water shimla

A lot of water was wasted as the trucks overflowed; the teams were observed to lack co-ordination, and some of the equipment weren’t functioning properly.

This is the second major fire in Shimla since last year when heritage Gorton Castle, a marvelous work of Neo-Gothic architecture, burnt to ashes. Before that many other heritage building have fallen victim to the same fate due to lack of maintenance and carelessness on the part of Govt. and related offices these building housed.

british era shimla lost

Everytime, any of these buildings are lost, the HP Govt. claim to conduct fare inquiry to find out the reason, and to take more precautions to avoid such devastating mishaps. However, those statements never had any purpose other than publication in newspapers. A lot of money is spent on the name of procuring safety measures and maintenances, but still Shimla is losing these heritage buildings one by one.

British era heritage shimla

burning deepak project

burning shimla

deepak project building shimla

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fire fighting shimla police


heritage buildings fires shimla

heritage property shimla

heritage shimla building lost

himachal pradesh police

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hp fire service

lord minto in shimla

Minto Court shimla fire

nes in shimla

poor shimla

shimla during british era

shimla police

shimla policemen

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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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In Pictures: Republic Day 2018 celebrations at Shimla Ridge




Shimla: As usual, like rest of the nation, Himachal Pradesh also observed India’s 69th Republic Day on January 26, 2018.  Himachal’s best parade and a showcase of tableaus by various government institutions are believed to be held in the capital city Shimla.

This year, the governor took the salute, which was followed by cultural activities.


Though we are little late in posting, still you might like the pictures of the Republic Day 2018 celebrations at the historic Ridge Maidan of Shimla, exclusively clicked by Himachal Watcher for its readers.


The Chief Minister with the Governor Acharya Devvrat All Photos: Tarun Sharma/ Himachal Watcher

The public did gather this year as well like it has been doing for the last 69 years.  Most of the educated people, especially the newer generation might have read all about the 26 January 1950 in their history lessons without realizing the purpose of spending every year on the arrangement of such an expensive show. 


This day is special for the armed forces, police, and even the National Cadet Core contingent that take part in the parade. They rehearse and compete to find a place in this parade as it is considered an honour.


All Photos: Tarun Sharma/ Himachal Watcher

 However, a crowd of commoners celebrates only the holiday they receive on this day.


It is the day of the people. The Independence Day and Republic day are the days when the people are supposed to celebrate the fact that India had united to overthrow the centuries-old British colonial rule to claim the very freedom we cherish and enjoy today. 

On this day we are supposed to express gratitude to the freedom fighters that we are not slaves anymore.   


The Republic Day is special because it was the day India received its constitutional framework and the people were given the true power of the country through the written constitution, which is the longest in the world.


India was in a hurry and wanted to incorporate the best components of the natural justice and rights, which is why it borrowed most of the components from countries like United States of America, United Kindom, France, Russia etc.


This constitution is the handbook of common people, and it is the only power they possess for the protection of their democratic rights. As a very bitter truth, we are enjoying freedom in India but corruption has corroded the true protocol. Freedom can be manipulated through political power, wealth and influence.


Anyway, now we put a full stop to our verbose expression of our comprehension about the symbolic meaning of the Republic Day celebrations to let you view more visuals in high-resolution pictures.  


There is a lot about the tableau showcase that doesn’t match with the ground reality like waste management, rainwater harvesting, metalled roads, renewable energy etc.


For instance, the tableau of the Shimla Municipal Corporation said ‘Waste to Energy’ while things are more like ‘Waste to Air Pollution’ as the corporation and residents continue to burn a huge amount of daily garbage in open.  The sanitation workers are not even regular.

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However, we will highlight these tableaus separately later. For now, enjoy the images.

Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-14 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-13

Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-4Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-20Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-12 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-8 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-1 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-17 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-18 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-25 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-24 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-15

Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-31Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-8 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-7Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-2Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-19Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-33

Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-30 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-32 Republic-Day-2018-Shimla-Pictueras-27

All Photos: Tarun Sharma/ Himachal Watcher

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Pictures from swearing-in ceremony of Himachal’s new Chief Minister  




HP Chief Minister Jairam oath taking ceremony on the shimla ridge 2

Shimla: With the swearing-in ceremony concluding yesterday, Himachal Pradesh received its new government under the leadership of the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur of the Bhartiya Janata Party.

Himachal Watcher has a few images that we thought might interest our readers, especially those who missed the ceremony held on December 27 on the historic Shimla Ridge Maidan with a great pomp and show.   

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony 10

The new Chief Minister swung into action immediately after taking the oath of the office and secrecy and held his first meeting with the 12-membered cabinetYou can read the decisions taken by the cabinet here

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony3

Photo: Tarun Sharma

Though Jairam Thakur has expressed his wish to abolish the VIP culture, his own oath-taking ceremony remained a display of political strength and extravagant expenditures on facilitation of not only the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, but also for his big guns including Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of several states.

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony 8

Does it make sense for a state to spend on grand ceremonies when it is debt-ridden?

HP Chief Minister Jairam oath taking ceremony on the shimla ridge 5

We hope there are others who would accede to the idea of adopting simplicity while performing such formalities. However, this perspective of ours can’t be forced on anyone.

So, either way, these images will interest you. There was massive crowd comprising BJP supporters and Modi fans.  Remember, Mr Modi and BJP have become two different identities within the party. In Himachal, the people seem to have voted for Modi, not for the BJP. 

Otherwise, why would people elect BJP but reject its Chief Ministerial candidate and party president of the State BJP?

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony 9

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony6

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony 5

New HP Chief Minister oath taking ceremony4

HP Chief Minister Jairam oath taking ceremony on the shimla ridge 14

HP Chief Minister Jairam oath taking ceremony on the shimla ridge 9

HP Chief Minister Jairam oath taking ceremony on the shimla ridge 7

HP Chief Minister Jairam oath taking ceremony on the shimla ridge 6

All HW Photo: Tarun Sharma

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Triund: Where the sky romances with mountains and wind plays music – a travelog



Triund Where the sky romances with the mountains and wind plays the music

If you are in Dharamshala or around, a trek to Triund Hill is something you must not miss. The reason is, it is a moderate trek, even if it is for the first time you are planning to trek, you will not have any difficulty. The trail is beautiful and there are amazing plants and trees to help you uplift your mood and energy. It doesn’t matter how long you take to reach the top, but when you are up there you will feel amazing. The view from the Hill top is magnificent with 360 degree view of the mighty Dhauladhars and the sky looks so beautiful and at night it is enchanting. It is a sublime experience which you must have. Plus at night, when you look down, you can see the entire town gleaming with lights, and that makes your trek worth.

I will not say that I am any Triund or trekking expert. However I have done this trek thrice. I have my experience which I would like to share with you and if you are planning a trek solo, with friends, family or anyone, or if you are just curious about Triund, you will get to know quite a lot from my side.


So, it was 2015, when I planned for Triund along with two other friends. I was novice at that time about Triund and we spent a lot of extra money during the trek. For the other two treks I preferred a trekking company and it was a wise decision. As I came across a lot of local stories of the place and I enjoyed it more than my first visit.


My trek began from Galu. There is a small check point at Galu where you have to register yourself. It is free of cost. While my trek guide was filling the formalities, I sneaked out and enjoyed a cup of ginger lemon honey from Thapu Dai’s chai shop. He is a man with a lot of stories and he likes to discuss a lot about politics and sports. He has some old books for sale and I bought a couple of them while returning.


The hike from Galu to Magic view cafe (which is the middle of trek) is easy with a little gradient and the trail is really beautiful. At some places there are small boulders and if you are tired you can take a small break. I reached Magic View in one and a half hour and it was a beautiful walk with the smell of flowers making it refreshing and the trees giving shade whenever I felt the heat.

Magic View is a small café as I already mentioned. It was built in 1984 and it is the oldest chai shop of the trail and taking a break at this small and cosy place is is nice idea. You can have lemonade, chai, green tea, coffee, maggi, bread omelette, chocolates, energy drinks, cigarettes, and other trek essentials like walking sticks, woolens, gift items etc. from this place. Also, the view from the porch of the café is mesmerizing.


The trail from here takes a better gradient and there are rocks on the way which made me little tired. The route was zig zag and there was no place to sit and relax so I kept on walking, until I came across a beautiful boulder on my left. I fell in love with it and I named it “Shivee Boulder”, because it is pretty and it has enough space to lie down and relax or have a quick nap (I love to do that).

Also Read: Shrikhand Mahadev- A heavenly Himalayan trek

Thank God, I came across that boulder and relaxed, because after that the altitude was increasing and I was really tired, until I saw a dry waterfall. My guide told me that it was the underground waterfall which makes the Bhagsu waterfall. During monsoons, the level of water increases and it becomes a small stream on the dry nallah. Plus during winters there is a lot of snow on it.

Shivee boulder_Triund


Soon we crossed it and there started the real walk. We had 22 curves to walk. I was actually tired and wanted to rest, but my guide encouraged me. He started telling me stories related to the trek. He told me about that one dangerous curve from where some tourist guy fell down while taking a selfie. He also told me about his experiences like, once while coming down from Triund he found an iPhone and apple watch. He named that place iPhone point. He returned the things he found  to the owner from Delhi and till date they call him and send groups for Trekking. He was so happy while telling me his tale of honesty, I could see real happiness in his eyes (Himachali people are honest)

Ask-Gypsie-triundHe was talking to me while an Indian trekker from Rishikesh stopped me and took a selfie with me. He was so impressed with me because I was carrying a huge backpack (and it was really heavy). He told me that he had seen girls walking up with just their purse and still cribbing and crying. His trek partner was a foreigner from Spain and she was  equally impressed. I was on cloud nine and trust me, this motivated me and I climbed non stop till the last tea shop where the 22 curves end.


There I met Ella, a beautiful German Shepherd. She was really graceful. At that chai shop I had some water, chai and tried to play flute, and I was really bad at it. The only tune I can play on a flute is a Garhwali song “Bedu Pako”. May be I was breathless or tired or still on cloud nine, I couldn’t do it.

Gypsie On the way to triund

It was about to rain, so my guide asked me to start again. In five minutes I was on the top of Triund and it was a great feeling. The moment you reach the top, you can see a shack which is run by a guy named Kalu. He makes a nice bonfire and people like to sit there for exchanging their experiences and free music. I enjoyed the bonfire but didn’t stay at his place because there was something better.

Baisakhi Chacha: The Mountain Man


Baisakhi Chacha, I call him mountain man. He is serving at the Himachal Pradesh Forest Guest House located at Triund Hill since last 35 years. At first when I met him, he looked little occupied with his work and we hardly spoke for a couple of minutes. So, I broke the ice and started the conversation. “Chacha, Chai milega kya?” He looked at me, smiled and went to the kitchen. At tea we discussed a lot of things about mountains and he told me many stories related to his experiences with various trekkers from the past.

After tea we had a nice lunch which chacha made for himself, but he shared with me. He served me some wild mushrooms (Ban Bakri) with rotis. That was one great treat after the trek. Baisakhi chacha is a sweet person, however, when you will meet him for the first time you will be showered upon with stabbing words like, “Room nai hai. Pehle kyu nahi book karate. Sahib kabhi bhi bookings bhej dete hai. Sheher ja k book kyu nahi karate ho?”

When I asked him if he feels homesick, he replied in simple words that since last 35 years this is my home. I live here, the air, trees and climate of this place is like my family and I enjoy staying here. He can reach Triund top from Galu in 35 or 40 minutes, if there is no one to stop him and ask questions, like how far it is from here, is there any shop around or is it difficult from here etc. Chacha hates talking to strangers, but if he is comfortable with you, you will get to know a lot of stories from his experiences. He wakes up really early in the morning to fetch water from churri, which is around half an hour walk from Triund and if he finds anyone mis using water, that person is in soup. Talking about family and life, he told me a very interesting stories from his native village and his life in Triund. His supernatural encounters during snow and when there is no one on the hill. He also shared some interesting incidents with trekkers, like, during the late 80’s when British travelers were frequent in Triund and one evening while going uphill he met a British woman who needed some help. Baisakhi chacha not only helped her but took the entire group safely to the top and served them with tea and quick snacks available. The British woman was really impressed with him and she proposed him to marry her and she was even ready to take her to England. Chacha was smiling while telling this story and when I asked him, “Aap kyu nahi gaye?” Shyly, he replied, “Merko uska bhasha nahi samajh aana tha, usko mera nahi. Bahar ke log alag hote hai na.” Apart from that we talked about many other things and he told me amazing stories about the place.

Also Read:Churdhar – A mesmerizing and challenging Himalayan trek

Last year, Government of Himachal Pradesh awarded Baisakhi Chacha for providing hospitality in Triund. Till date, whenever I feel my life is tough, I think about him and get my confidence back.

Best time for Triund Trek:

During January to March, Triund trek is not open because of the snow. If you want to enjoy natural splendor to the fullest, the best time for Triund trek is from April to May. However, it is mostly crowded during this time. September to mid-November is also a nice time for this beautiful trek. You should definitely avoid Triund during the monsoons because the rocks are slippery and the mud is slushy during this time. There is a high risk of slipping down the hill during rainy season.

Important details about the trek:

Trek Duration: It can be covered as a day hike. However, if you plan a stay during night, you will get a chance to see the beautiful and star studded sky and if you look down, you will see the dazzling lights of the town. I will recommend you to stay at least one night at Triund.

Trek distance from McLeod Ganj to Triund: The distance of the trek is 9 Km, but it is an old saying that, you cannot measure the distance of mountains in kilometers. It is the number of hours you take to reach the top.

Starting the trek: You can either start the trek from McLeod Ganj or Gallu. I prefer staying in Dharamkot for a night and taking a short walk to Galu. These days there are auto rickshaws and taxis available from Dharamkot to Galu. Auto rickshaw charges rupees 80, and taxis are available for rs 400.

Triund Altitude: 2842 mts.

Triund trek grade: Moderate

Accommodation: There is a Forest Guest House on the top of Triund, but you need to book it in advance otherwise you will not get a room. There are tents available on almost every shack of Triund. You cannot pitch your own tent there if you don’t have permission from the Forest Department, which you should take at least a day before the trek from Forest Office in Dharamshala town.

Triund trek essentials:

  • People who trek often, know this already, however, if it is your first trek, you must carry a day sack, keep a small torch, first aid, tissue roll, water bottle, packed lunch, fruits, juice, camera and extra clothing as the weather of Dharamshala is unpredictable, it might rain or get colder than you expect, in the night.
  • Good quality, ankle length, waterproof trekking shoes or sneakers which are comfortable. Wear good quality cotton socks and keep a pair of flip flops.
  • For sun protection, you must apply sunscreen lotion, lip balm with SPF, sun glasses and hat.
  • Wear comfortable cotton T-shirt and lose trousers. Also, keep a warm jacket with you.

Some quick tips:

  • Be a responsible trekker and do not litter your waste. There are dustbins or huge bags available which are given by Waste Warriors, an initiative by Jodie Underhill to clean the mountains. All the shacks and shops have the waste bags available.
  • Keep water bottle with you because there is no water source on the way and buying a bottle of packed water can cost you rs 40 to 60. You can refill water from the filters available at Magic View and other shops on the way by paying rs 20 for one liter.
  • The way is laden with Rhododendron flowers, do not freak out and pluck the flowers or damage any other plants and trees. Let the beauty stay on the way.
  • Do not disrespect local cultures and nature. Be friendly to other trekkers.
  • If it is your first trek to Triund, hire local guide, they will make sure you get a tent to stay plus you will not have to worry about your meals. They will also take care of your safety and above all you will get to know a lot of local stories from the place. You can feel free to contact me to help you get a good guide.
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