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Town Hall Shimla likely to become library or museum after restoration

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State High Court has finally admitted that such a marvelous piece of architecture cannot be left at the mercy of the ‘bubus’ (clerks or Govt. officials).

Shimla: The Tourism Department of Himachal Pradesh and the Shimla Municipal Corporation are up in arms to claim the possession of the precious piece of heritage property – the historic Town Hall of Shimla, built in 1908 by Scottish Architect James Ransone.

Built in the Gothic style, the Town Hall of Shimla featured the half-timbered Tudor style, all wooden frames and shingles eaves. It originally housed a Library alongwith a few public utility offices in British-era. However, later it ended up in the hands of Shimla MC.

The building is undergoing a complete renovation since 2014, and Rs. 8 crores has been spent on it so far.  The government failed to meet the deadline of 18 months and hope to complete it in 2018. About 70 percent of this cost was provided by the Asian Development Bank as a loan for the purpose of the beautification of the Shimla Mall.

View 18 incredible before and after pictures of ‘British Simla’ vs ‘Modern Shimla’ 

The Corporation had evacuated it for the restoration work in 2014 and wants it back; the HPTDC wish to use it as a tourist attraction; and the High Court suggest making it a Library, Museum or something that would help preserving the heritage property along with catering to larger public interests.

The court has given the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit by January 3, 2018, with proposals for better use of the building other than handing it over to SMC again.

A writer and historian Raja Bhasin, head of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Himachal, and its state convener Malvika Pathania are also of the view that it is a disrespect to a magnificent heritage building to house a government office in it.

After facing a disregard for its value as a cultural, historic, and tourist attraction, the State High Court has finally admitted that such a marvellous piece of architecture cannot be left at the mercy of the ‘bubus’ (clerks or Govt. officials).

The division bench comprising of the acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma called it “an important and significant landmark of the Shimla town and intrinsic part of its heritage.”

The court took a jibe saying that it would be a complete waste of the Shimla Town Hall if it is left to the staff of government offices. The babus would hammer nails into restored wooden works to hang calendars or paste the same all over the walls of a heritage property, which could be used to house library, museum and other public conveniences.

The court said, “under Article 51-A (Part-IVA) of the Constitution of India states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.”

Moreover, the history of the State in preservation and protection has been quite bad. For instance, another Gothic style heritage building Gorton Castle was gutted by fire due to carelessness. 

On the other hand, the former-Mayor of Shimla Sanjay Chauhan argued that only the Corporation and Government are authorized to decide the fate of the building.

“It is a clear attack on the jurisdiction of the local government, and is a violation of the Section 243 W and 12the Schedule described in the Indian constitution,” said Chauhan.

Chauhan alleged that the government is allowing the ADB to intervene in its decision making process. He believes that the building should be returned to the SMC after restoration as decided previous to its evacuation.

However, the court has better logic. Referring to increased activity related to art & culture and tourism at the historic Gaiety Theater of Shimla after restoration in 2009, the court asked the government use the Town Hall in a similar way.

“The culture of knowing and understanding art, in whatever form, is being picked up by the younger generation and solely on account of the exposure, which both the artists, admirers or criticizers have got,” noted the court.

“After all, Art and Culture are also true forms of expression of thought, which, in our considered view, needs to be propagated, inculcated and promoted, more so amongst future generation,” the court further added.

The court also referred to the Vice Regal Lodge as an example of how a heritage property should be treated.

When an attempt was made to convert the same into a hotel, Hon’ble Apex Court had intervened and directed the said property to be protected and preserved, so that cultural and historical heritage of India and beauty and grandeur of the monument is preserved, said the court. 

The court also referred to certain communication between the ADB and HP Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation suggesting that over the years, the woodwork of the Town Hall has decayed, and that it could be restored to its originality like the Gaiety Theater and put to better use. 

The Corporation including the newly elected Mayor and Deputy Mayor believe the SMC is the rightful owner of the building.

In fact, the SMC had refused to vacate the building in 2014 for the restoration work over its demand that they should be given the alternative office within the town. The SMC is currently operating from the building complex of Deputy Commissioner, Shimla.

The extensive restoration work includes fixing washrooms, laying mezzanine floors along with restoring four collapsed chimneys, rickety wooden staircase, and original height of attic (2.4 mts)

Before refurbishing the walls, the cement plaster and plywoods were to be removed along with restoration of the entrance from the Mall side to an open verandah.

Campus Watch

As major achievement, Nauni varsity scientists bag International project on oilseed research

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Nauni varsity scientists bags international project

Solan: Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, was in news last week after Jagriti Thakur, a research scholar at the varsity, won US-based International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) Scholar Award for the year 2018.

This week, in a major achievement, the scientists of Department of Plant Pathology at the UHF, have bagged an International collaborative project on developing cutting-edge technology for inducing biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in mustard rape for economic and environmental sustainability.

The University will work with nine leading research organisations of the country besides seven renowned research institutes of United Kingdom in the project. The three-year project has a total budget outlay of more than Rs 7.27 crore as Indian component, which will be distributed to the 10 Indian institutes, which are part of the project. Each Indian institute will work on a different aspect of the project with a researcher working on the same area in the UK.

The project has been sanctioned under the prestigious NEWTON BHABHA Fund UK- India Pulses and Oilseed Research Initiative (PORI). The fund has been created by BBSRC of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, GoI.

BBSRC which is a part of UK Research and Innovation, a body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations and government for promoting research and innovation is also making upto £3.5 million available to support the UK components of this research.

Dr HR Gautam, Professor and Head of Department of Plant Pathology informed that Dr Anil Handa, Professor of Plant Pathology will be the Principal Investigator and coordinator of this project while Dr Rajnish Sharma working in the Department of Biotechnology will act as the Co-Investigator.

He added that this achievement is one of the cherished moments in 55 years history of the department. Dr JN Sharma, UHF Director of Research, said that the University is making continuous efforts to get projects from various funding agencies and engage in collaborative work to strengthen the research capabilities and infrastructure.

India is one of the major producers and consumers of oilseeds crops in the world. The university scientists will work on ‘Genomics-led improvement of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in mustard rape for economic and environmental sustainability’ by utilizing state-of-art advanced molecular approaches like CRISPER/Cas9 for mapping the genes conferring resistance to turnip mosaic virus (TuMV).

UHF Nauni Lab

The Plant Virology laboratory of the Department of Plant Pathology

The Plant Virology laboratory of the Department of Plant Pathology is an internationally acclaimed laboratory and has facilities for conducting molecular level research for determining the genetic diversity of TuMV in Northern India and developing a panel of Indian TuMV isolates for evaluating European and Indian sources of resistance.

Besides Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, the University of Delhi, South Campus; NIPGR, New Delhi; NBPGR, New Delhi; NRCPB, New Delhi; IARI, New Delhi; PAU, Ludhiana; CAZRI, Jodhpur; DRMR, Bharatpur and IIT Kharagpur will be a part of the project. The University of York, University of Hertfordshire, University of Warwick, University of Essex, Earlham Institute and Rothamsted Research will be the investigators from the United Kingdom.

While congratulating the scientists, UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr HC Sharma said that the project will go a long way in using the latest techniques in biotechnology for disease management to increase the productivity of oilseed crops. This project will also help train our students in using molecular markers for crop improvement.

Through this collaborative project, efforts are being made to encourage multi-institutional collaborations between UK and Indian researchers to undertake high-quality research aimed at increasing crop productivity, resilience, sustainability and quality of pulses and oilseeds grown for food or feed in India. Pulses and oilseeds are important crops in India.

Pulses are relatively under-used crops in the UK but are a major source of dietary protein in India. Oilseeds are grown in both countries and are a valuable source of oil for a variety of uses, as well as animal feed. This collaborative project aims to develop exploit genomic and bioinformatic resources to aid the development of improved varieties for sustainable crop production.

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MoU to construct Naina Devi-Anandpur Sahib ropeway signed

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naina devi-anandpur sahib ropeway mou signed

Shimla: A Memorandum Of Understanding (MoU) to build ropeway between Shri Naina Devi and Shri Anandpur Sahib was signed by Additional Chief Secretary Tourism Ram Subhag Singh, Himachal Pradesh and Secretary Tourism Punjab Vikas Pratap Singh, in Chandigarh today.

The MOU in the presence of Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his Punjab counterpart Captain Amrinder Singh.

This ropeway will be constructed by Shri Naina Devi and Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji Ropeway Company Pvt Ltd with an estimated cost of Rs. 210 crores. The ropeway would cover a distance of 3.5 km.

A 10-member Board of Directors would be formed, and each government would nominate five members. The Chairman of the Board of Directors would be nominated by the Punjab government and the Managing Director would be appointed by the Himachal government. Both the governments will deposit 50 Lakhs each as an initial investment.

Chief Minister said that the lower terminal of this project would be at Rampur near Shri Anandpur Sahib, the Intermediate station will be at Toba in Himachal and the upper terminal point would be at Shri Naina Devi. The tourism departments of both the states would work as nodal agencies for this work.

The Tourism and Local Bodies Ministers Navjot Singh Sidhu said that inking of MoU by both the Chief Ministers on the auspicious birthday of Sheed-e- Azam Bhagat Singh is a big gift to the mankind.

In 2012-13, the efforts were made to build this ropeway and 14 acres of land was also acquired for this but due to some circumstances, the work could not be completed.

Naina Devi is one of the 52 famous Shakti Peethas of the country and is one of the most prominent religious places for not only the peoples of the country but the entire world. Likewise, Shri Anandpur Sahib is also a prominent international the religious place.

This project would boost the tourism sector in both the states alongwith strengthening the bond between two states besides facilitating the devotees visiting these two religious places.

It was informed that 80 percent pilgrims come to Shri Naina Devi from Punjab and during last one year, 20 Lakh devotees paid their obeisance in this Shakti Peeth.

The Chief Minister informed that for the construction of this impending ropeway, the matter had been taken up with his Punjab counterpart Captain Amarinder Singh on February 26, 2018.

The Chief Minister of Punjab said that with the construction of this ropeway the pilgrims of Punjab would get rid of the difficulty in reaching Shri Naina Devi.

He said that people of both the states would like to see this project completed at earliest and three year’s time frame has been fixed for its completion.

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Himachal suffers Rs. 1479 crore losses in 4 days alone, Centre releases Rs. 122 crore for rehabilitation

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Monsoon losses in Himachal pradesh in 2018

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh has suffered losses of about Rs. 1479 crore and during the last four days alone. Five choppers of Indian Air Force had been pressed into service to evacuate the stranded tourists and local people.

Chief Minister, who chaired a review meeting today, informed that the Centre Government has released Rs. 122 crore as the first instalment for the State for undertaking immediate rehabilitation measures.

himachal cm in meeting

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur during meeting held today

Over one thousand people have been rescued from Lahaul valley out of these 147 have been airlifted and remaining have been evacuated by road.

He said the road would be cleared upto Baralacha by this evening. All the rescued people were being taken for medical examinations. Efforts were being made to restore communication network in Lahaul valley.

He directed the officers to ensure adequate availability of essential commodities in the valley. He said that a team of BSNL would visit Sisu today for the restoration of communication in the area. The Government has assured all possible help to the BSNL in restoration work.

Out of 18 towers of BSNL in the valley, seven were working properly.

It was informed in the meeting that 18000-litre petrol and 27000-litre diesel was made available. LPG and other food items were also in sufficient quantity. It was informed in the meeting that water Supply to Manali has been restored and Lahaul valley was also almost restored.

Till the electricity supply was restored in the valley, efforts would be made to provide solar lamps and lights to the people, it was informed. Small transformers would be airlifted from Kullu to replace damaged transformers.

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