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Mega Mock drill (Pics)– Does Shimla City stand a chance against predicted Mega Quake?

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In reality, if seismologist and research data is to be believed, Shimla city has already dug its grave by undertaking haphazard, unplanned and unauthorized construction on steep slopes that still continues unperturbed.

SHIMLA- On Thursday, as claimed by administration, a Mega Mock drill was held at seven districts, Shimla, Solan, Mandi, Kullu, Kinnaur, Chamba Kangra that fall in seismic zones IV and V. The mock drill was crucial considering the prediction of Mega-Quake in Himalayan region by experts that could turn most of Himachal into graveyard within seconds. Some critics (readers) would call the long predicted “Mega Quake” pessimism while others would believe writing about it can create panic among people. But that won’t change the truth. All that can be done is to be prepared and brace for it.  In fact, experts at the Union home ministry’s disaster management have warned of a bigger catastrophe.

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Himachal Watcher also witnessed the mock drill conducted in the capital city Shimla. Including five other chosen locations, mock drill was also held at the DC Office Shimla. As expected, the drill was conducted very casually and the team members took their time while climbing stairs and recovering injured (posed).

Video

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Photo by Tarun Sharma, HW

Though, the major focus should have been earthquake, it appeared more about emergency response in fire breakout. Apparently, most of it was for official records. In reality, if seismologist and research data to be believed, Shimla city has already dug its grave by undertaking haphazard, unplanned and unauthorized construction on steep slopes that still continues. The government has complemented it by approving retention policy under which it is legalizing such structures on the name of relaxation.

According to DD Sharma of Himachal Pradesh University, an earthquake of bigger magnitude in Himachal Pradesh during night hours would bury 2.40 lakh people alive. The number would be around 1.6 lakh in case the quake hits during morning hour. Congested localities like Sanjauli, Lakkar Bazaar, Shimla Bazaar, Tutu, Chakkar etc. that are build on steep slopes would fall down like pack of cards.

Even the IGMC hospital building is built in vulnerable zone and would instantly turn into rubble, the roads will be blocked with no chance for emergency vehicles, and the power stations would be down leaving Shimla in dark. Considering the unsafe clutter of concrete buildings, it won’t be possible to recover dead bodies.

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Predictions by Seismologists and Researchers

During past decades, several national and international research institutes, geologists, and seismologists had been repeatedly warning about massive tectonic movement in seismically active 600 km long Himalayan belt. Entire Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand will be worst hit as they fall in seismic zone IV and VI. No expert is able to predict any date, but they have shown confirmation in their predictions based on various historical and contemporary data.

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InfoGraphic: Times of India

We also find reference to quake prone zones described in ancient Indian literature. It can’t be coincidence that current data on present day zones of earthquake concentration matches with the this literature.

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InfoGraphic: HP Disaster Management

International expert, Roger Bilham, the seismologist of University of Colorado suggested that “the current conditions might trigger at least four earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude. And if they delay, the strain accumulated during the centuries provokes more catastrophic mega earthquakes.”

According to Bangalore’s respected Indian Institute of Science (IISc), North India is vulnerable to a powerful earthquake. The quake could arrive sooner than expected and wreak more damage than previously estimated.

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For decades, seismologists have suggested that a massive quake (exceeding magnitude 8.2) is imminent. They have mostly predicted the epicentre somewhere between Kangra (Himachal Pradesh), Bihar and Nepal. These zones are referred to as the central conflict zones. As per the IISc scientists, the last major quake that rocked the region happened 500 years ago, whereas their calculations and on-site excavations suggest that such a quake happened 1,000 years ago.

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Review Literature

In the past 90 years, 250 quakes of magnitude 4 and more than 60 with a reading of 5 on the Richter scale have rocked HP and adjoining states of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Uttarakhand.

On April 4, 1905 an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude had wreak havoc in district Kangra. It killed 20,000 people and 53,000 domestic animals perished along with one lakh houses. Back then, the economic cost of recovery was estimated at Rs 29 lakh. Currently, it would impossible to even estimate this cost.

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Between 2002 and 2008, Central Himalayas, if records to be scanned, had recorded over 1,100 earthquakes of magnitude 3, several quakes of intensity 4, and nine quakes of magnitude between 5 and 6. In 2016, many more have added to the list including sever Bhuj quake in 2001 that had claimed about 20,000 lives. In 2011 Sikkim was jolted by a 6.9 magnitude quake, in 2015, a 7.3 intensity quake almost erased entire Kathmandu, and in 2016 Manipur faced a 6.7 intensity quake.

However, this time these quakes, as per researchers, re-ruptured the plates that already had cracks. Now, instability of these plates forms the basis of ‘Mega Quake Prediction’ for Himalayan region including Himachal Pradesh.

Intensity of Predicted Devastation

“In our research work, where we have revisited the Himalayan region, an earthquake of larger magnitude happened 1,000 years ago and so the strain could be building up. So it (the quake, when it happens) has greater potential to be dangerous,” said Kusala Rajendran, one of the researchers of the study and faculty member at the Centre for Earth Sciences at IISc.

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Photo by Tarun Sharma, HW

Consequences of Mega Quake

If an 8.2 magnitude earthquake hits Himalayan region, it is capable of releasing 30 times more energy than the one in Bhuj, Gujarat, in 2001,that killed at least 20,000. The researchers warn that pressure is building up in the region’s crust and it could be released far more powerfully than previously imagined, .

Such quake can turn the tourist town Shimla into rubble as 14 major localities are situated on an average slope of 35 to 70 degrees with peak population density of 2,000 to 3,000 per hectare. All these localities fall in Zone IV (High Intensity).

The Only Hope

According to D D Sharma of Himachal Pradesh University, frequent occurrences of low intensity earthquakes are good because they help in releasing the seismic energy and does not allow accumulation of energy, which later results in earthquakes of bigger magnitude and intensity. “It is said that a big earthquake revisits after a gap of 50 years and in Kangra district for last 110 years no major earthquake has occurred. It was in 1905 when 20,000 people were killed in Kangra so threat of a major earthquake is more in that area,” he added.

The purpose of conducting statewide mock drill was to gauge the efficacy of disaster management plan and capacity of the emergency services. It also helps in maintaining trust of public in administrations capacity. Though, most of the regional and national dailies only reported the event without pointing out toward the weaknesses or overall performance during the drills, it’s pertinent that a unplanned, crowded place like Shimla City now hardly stand any chance against high-intensity earthquake.

Moreover, it’s a bitter truth that Himachal Pradesh is nowhere close to being prepared to tackle such powerful seismic shock as predicted. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) also acknowledges this reality.
If journalists could spare some time to actually observe the mock drills, they would have found persistence of crucial shortcomings in the preparedness levels because of the overall complacency towards this subject (preparedness for high-intensity earthquakes).

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Photo by Tarun Sharma HW and Dheeman Gaur

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

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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.   

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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

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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.

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

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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?

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All HW Photo: Tarun Sharma

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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PM Modi’s Shimla Rally, speech and public response – In Pictures

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SHIMLA- The historic Shimla Ridge Maidan in poll bound Himachal Pradesh witnessed massive gathering of Bhartiya Janata Party followers in wake of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s address. Before arriving at the Takka Bench, a road show was held. The Mall Road was covered with rose petals. A large gathering of BJP followers gave a warm welcome to the PM. Weather of Shimla had taken a turn and rain haunted the rally. Fortunately, it didn’t rain enough to scatter the crowd. Himachal Watcher has a few pictures from the occasion that you might like to see. (Scroll Down)

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All Photos Copyright: Tarun Sharma/HW

The State BJP leaders have hopes to win HP Assembly Elections by campaigning under the banner of PM Modi like it happened in other states. The PM didn’t make any big announcements but focused on targeting the sentiments of the locals by referring to his past association with Shimla. He talked about the India Coffee House and made fun of the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, saying he spends more time with advocates than attending to the public. He didn’t miss to mention that he hails from an economically poor background. In other words, he tried to convince people that he knows what poverty means.

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BJP did manage to gather people from various districts via special buses and vehicles. The State Congress, on the other hand, took a jibe at PM’s visit to Shimla saying he delivered nothing except speech full of idioms. The Congress said that the PM has disappointed the people of Himachal who were expecting some announcements regarding expansion of infrastructure for development of tourism industry like railways and industrial package. Congress also claimed that the PM has flagged off the first flight under the UDAN scheme, but the original scheme was conceived during the UPA government and that the BJP government has only changed the name of the scheme.

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All Photos Copyright: Tarun Sharma/HW

The apple growers, who were expecting most from the PM, were told that the government is asking the multinational beverage companies to mix fruit juice in the soft drinks. It will benefit the fruit-growers, he claimed.

Earlier, before arriving at the Shimla Ridge, the PM flagged off first flight under UDAN – Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik- the Regional Connectivity Scheme for civil aviation from Jubbarhatti Airport, Shimla. Under this scheme, flights have begun today from Shimla, Nanded and Kadapa Airports. The Prime Minister addressed the gathering at Shimla Airport and also at Nanded and Kadapa via video link. He said the UDAN scheme will help the tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh.

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All Photos Copyright: Tarun Sharma/HW

The Prime Minister also unveiled an e-plaque to mark the laying of Foundation Stone of the first Hydro Engineering College at Bilaspur. Government of Himachal Pradesh and NTPC & NHPC had signed a MoU in July 2016 for setting up the said Hydro Engineering College. The idea to set up the engineering college was conceived back in 2009. Himachal Pradesh possesses more than 20,000 MW Hydropower potential and NTPC and NHPC are engaged in operation and construction of many projects in the State.

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The objective of establishment of this institution is generation of a Technical Human Resource specialized for specific requirement of Hydro Power Projects create manpower to serve the country for many future hydro projects. Rest, there was nothing for people in speech.

No doubt, under the banner of Modi, State BJP did succeed in displaying the strength of party by attracting massive gathering, which is otherwise impossible for the State leaders.

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All Photos Copyright: Tarun Sharma/HW

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All Photos Copyright: Tarun Sharma/HW

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