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Meet the Himachali leading BSF’s extraordinary Mt. Everest expedition

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Avinash Negi BSF

He is a certified mountaineer, paraglider, skier and has passed advanced courses in these adventure sports with excellent grades. 

Shimla: What does it mean to lead a team of 25 members on an extraordinary expedition to scale the Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world,  and bring them all back safely alongwith collecting and bringing back 1000 kilograms of non-biodegradable waste left by other mountaineers?

Considering the challenges that the mighty Everest throws up, it would be a hell of a job for any leader, we believe.

The expedition is real and Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Union Minister of States for the Youth Affairs and Sports has already flagged off this 90-day expedition of the Border Security Forces (BSF) on March 20, 2018.

BSF Team

As a matter of proud for Himachal Pradesh, Kinnaur’s Avinash  Negi (37), who is currently serving as the Deputy Commandant, BSF, has been elected as one of the two leaders for the expedition alongside Padma Shri Love Raj Singh Dharamshaktu, Assistant Commandant, who has scaled Everest six times.

Himachal Watcher talked to Avinash to know more about this extraordinary expedition and about him. We found out that the officer is not only an adventure sports lover but also has his own philosophy that has been shaped by the mountains or adventures he experienced.

Before, talking about Avinash, first, we should get an outline of the expedition and its objectives.

The prime objective of the Expedition is to pay reverences to the goddess of mountains and to hoist Tricolour on the top of world’s highest peak under the campaign ‘Clean Himalayas, Clean Glaciers’. This gesture will not only sensitize the locals and mountaineers and trekkers community towards cleanliness but also help us spread the message of Swacch Bharat Mission to neighbouring countries.

37-Day Training for the Expedition

Avinash and other team members have undergone a rigorous training of 37 days in the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges in Manali to prepare for the expedition.

Basically, all the team members are qualified mountaineers, therefore, the focus of the training was to increase endurance and stamina,

Avinash told HW.

BSF Mt. Everest expedition 2018

Their days began with running in hills for nearly 15 to 20 kilometres with their back-packs on, followed by handball or football games and yoga classes under a trained yoga instructor.

In yoga sessions, they mostly concentrated on the breathing practices. Besides this, they also did snow and ICE climbing – the most essential part of the Mt. Everest Expedition.

Other than that, the team members scaled peaks upto altitudes of 14,000 to 15,000 feet. The focus was on trekking with full gears with night climbing exercises as all the journey performed and route travelled above the base camp of the Everest is usually undertaken at early mornings or late nights, Avinash said.  

BSF Mountaineering training

Avinash during the training period

The reason behind night climbing is that during the daytime, the probability of avalanches is higher due to the melting effect of sunlight deep within glaciers.

The training also included lectures on the first aids, CPR practice, and ladder crossing which is used to cross craves.  

He further informed that normally, upto the base camp, one person carries a weight depending on his needs. Nevertheless, the weight of the essential equipments like oxygen cylinders, food and water reach upto 15 to 18 kilograms.

The most important question was that how the team would bring down the collected 1000 kilogram of garbage, as it is a gigantic amount for  25 men.

We will be collecting and carrying the garbage in parts. We will go to the camp one and two for acclimatisation. During this period, the team will be returning to the base at least thrice,

he explained.  

During these visits, we will collect the non-biodegradable garbage from these camps. This garbage will be transported back during the returning journey after the summit, he further added.

BSF Mt. Everest expedition training

BSF team members during the training period

Thereafter, with the help of supporting staff and service providers, the team will carry it to the base camp.  The garbage will be transported to Nepal through yaks for a proper disposal.

When asked as to what does it mean for him to lead a team and scale the highest mountain in the world, he replied,

The best view comes after the hardest climb and taking no risk is the biggest risk of life.

I am fortunate enough to be the second leader alongside Padma Shri Love Raj Singh Dharamshaktu. He has a vast experience in mountaineering, and it is my sheer pleasure that I am chosen for the responsibility,

he added.  

It is a big responsibility because above 8000 meters, there starts the death zone – the term usually used by climbers.

When asked whether he was feeling any nervousness, he replied,

We are ready to take on the challenge as we have rigorously practised for the mission. But, I once again reiterate that we are nothing in front of the mountains and nature. It is our endeavour and we will succeed in it, I believe. I take challenges as they come. We are here and we are geared up.

 

About Avinash Negi

Avinash Negi Kinnaur

Born in the mountains of Kinnaur district, he has a rich history of adventure sports. His father, Mr K.C. Negi, is a retired IIS officer, who has served with the Govt of India.

Avinash received his higher education from the Punjab University.

 He cleared the Union Public Service Commission CPF-2007 Examination in 2008 and joined the Forces.  He underwent 14 months of training at the BSF Academy.

Currently, he is about to complete nine years of serving in the BSF

When asked whether he always wanted to join forces, Avinash replied,

Yes, I always had a liking for the armed forces and uniform. I am happy to be part of it.

Besides undergoing routine courses of the BSF, he has tried his luck in the field of adventure sports too.

I started my adventure career with my basic and advance mountaineering courses, which I took at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (ABVIMAS), Manali.

During the basic and advance courses, I was exposed to heights. I climbed to the height of 15500 feet in basic training and upto 17,900 feet in Pir Panjal Ranges of Manali,

he added.

Besides climbing some routine unnamed peaks, he has successfully attempted the following peaks:

  • Mt Friendship Manali, HP, (17,900 feet)
  • Mt Rudurgera, UK ( 20,000 feet).
  • Mt Gangotri Group of peaks, UK (21,700 feet)
  • Jogin 1 and 3 Expedition UK (215k -20100 feet) as the Deputy Leader alongside Lovraj Singh Dhramsaktu- his mentor

That is not all about him.  He is also a passionate paraglider and has taken several courses at Bir Billing in Kangra.  He is a certified pilot for solo paragliding, for which he has completed all three levels – P1, P2, and P3 courses at Gurukul paragliding school in Bir Billing.

There, Mr. Gurpreet Dhinsa, the Ace paragliding pilot of India, remained his mentor.

He did not stop here and underwent advance courses like thermalling and cross-country paragliding courses that added to his flying hours and let him fly next to clouds.

He is also a qualified skier. He has taken the basic and intermediate courses at the ITBP, Auli and advanced courses at the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam, Uttrakhand, with excellent grades.

You must go on to adventures to find out where you truly belong,

he replied when asked if he would call himself a passionate mountaineer.

I am born and brought up in mountains like any other Himachali, especially the upper regions. The mountain always fascinates me and brings out the best in me, 

he said.

The best place to find your self is mountains. They teach you discipline and lessons that you never learn in classrooms. The first one is that the friends we make in mountains are for the lifetime because the people who stand by your side selflessly in the times of adversity are the ones whom you can bank upon blindly, Avinash said.

Avinash during the training period

He holds an opinion that the adventures open up one’s perspective towards life. People who are into mountaineering and adventure sports see life differently.

They are more docile, trustworthy, disciplined, punctual, lively, and helpful because mountains teach and inculcate these qualities in them, he said. 

Nature is supreme and we humans are just a nought in front of it.  Therefore, any mountain we scale should be done by seeking the permission of the mountain itself, he believes.

Himachali to scale mt everest

He always liked the saying “mountains are calling and I must go”.  The life depends on nature; therefore, only being disciplined and obedient will help us carry forward our mission successfully.

The mountains also teach us the reality of life. The days we spent on mountains are with limited things, be it edibles or limited space to sleep.

The two men tent and some warm water offered by someone becomes luxury when you are down.  A small space of just 24 square feet inside the tent looks far bigger than any king size bed. There we learn the value of things like food and water, which help us understand how little the requirements of a human being are.

Leisure moments during paragliding session

He believes there is a child in all of us and we should let that child live within us, otherwise, we are nothing more than machines.

Adventure helps add on to one’s decision-making ability, which is why all the corporates are also making it compulsory for their employees to undertake adventure activities once in a year. Most of the schools have also included adventure activities in their routine curriculum, he said.

I recommend all go outdoors. Being outdoor does not necessarily mean climbing a mountain or flying in thermal. Even a little exposure may help us realise what we actually are and what we actually want in life,

he said.

When he is off duty or on leave, then there is nothing better than a sunny evening, light music, and a broad view ahead.  He loves long drives and makes it a point to carry his iPods with him.   

He is not unaware of the dangers and risks involved in adventure activities. His advice is that adventure and accidents are closely associated. So it should only be undertaken under the supervision of a trained person until one becomes capable enough to do it on his own. All these activities look sounds adventures and charming but they involve a lot of risks too. Therefore, surveillance on a learner’s activities by an expert is a must.

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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Students Arrested, Stone Pelting Breakout in Himachal: Is Internal Tension Required?

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Kashmiri Students in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla– Two students of the Dr Y. S. Parmar University of Horticulture, Nauni, in Solan district, were suspended following a complaint that these students were allegedly supporting the most dreadful suicide bombing in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, 2019.

The local police, following the complaint, detained both students, who hail from J&K. A local court sent them to a three-day remand, the district police confirmed.

As a case has been registered by the police against the two students of Jammu and Kashmir. The Deans of respective Colleges in which they were studying i.e. College of Forestry and College of Horticulture have on Monday suspended them,

a university official told Himachal Watcher, confirming the report.

Additional SP (ASP) Shiv Kumar Sharma also confirmed the news and identified two students as Peer Jada Tabish, a student of MSc first year, and Auqib Rasool, a BSc student. As per the SP, the action came following a complaint from the university authorities.

Reportedly, students of the university carried out a rally demanding the suspension of the students while shouting anti-Pakistan slogans. An FIR was registered under Section 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the two students.

On Saturday, local police had detained a Kashmiri student of Chitkara University, Baddi, over alleged comments on social media, supporting the suicide bomber.

The police department has reportedly asked all the universities to provide a list of all Kashmiri students enrolled in their respective institutes.

On Tuesday, as per a report by News 18, a scuffle was reported between two groups of students at Abhilashi Memorial Institute of Engineering and Technology in Mandi district. An unverified video of the scuffle was in circulation on social media sites. However, the police did not verify it as communal in nature. It was said to be just random groups of students, who might have clashed over their previous grudges.

Another news report said a panchayat in Mandi district has passed a resolution and asked Kashmiri citizens living in rented quarters to leave the panchayat. Some miscreants also pelted stones on their quarters. The Superintendent of Police, Mandi, Gurudev Sharma, however, said there was no injury or damage to private property and Kashmiris were safe.
Afraid after the stone pelting, they took shelter at police station Baldwara.

Similarly, there were reports from other States where some Kashmiri students were held for either supporting the terrorist attack, anti-national activities, or posting communally inciting posts/comments on social media.  Such incidents are working as a double-edged sword – infuriating the majority, as well as, making all Kashmiri students vulnerable to violence.  

As a result, other Kashmiri students in other parts are also facing widespread backlash. Reports said Kashmiri students were leaving hostels to return to their homes. 

As per The Hindu, over 300 students were said to have arrived at Jammu and Delhi to return to their homes in J&K after facing back-lash, especially from right wing groups. The report also quoted Kashmiri students alleging of receiving threats from right-wing outfits. 

Another report on The Hindu said that some local youth raised slogans against Kashmiri students studying in an engineering college in Panipat with a demand to expel them from the institute.

Regardless of the need of the hour, a large number of Kashmiri students enrolled in other States of India has come under the scanner of right-wing outfits.

A sort of communal tension is growing in the society, which is exactly what the terrorist outfits want. Harassment or boycott of Kashmiris would only make them more susceptible to separatist agenda.

The reports also suggested that natives of the valley were receiving warning from their landlords to evacuate their property, fearing vandalism.

As per a report, some right-wing outfits roughed up a dozen students in Dehradun and forced the Kashmiri girls to lock themselves inside hostel rooms.

Feeding over the distress and anguish among the people over the Pulwama massacre, the right-wing outfits are upto fueling the nationalist agenda they had been cultivating since last five years.

Patron media channels had straightway started demanding revenge through bigger surgical strike or a full-fledged attack on Pakistan. Hashtags like #BadlaKab trended on Twitter.  

Though the police did not confirm it, a video appeared on media websites showing a bunch of people allegedly assaulting Kashmiri labourers (Khans) in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, which also lost one of its bravehearts, Tilak Raj, in the attack. 

To deal with this problem, the J&K Police has established a helpline for the assistance of students and general public who are presently staying outside the state.

In case they find any difficulty. The students are advised to call for any kind of assistance on 0194-2451515,

said J&K police advisory. 

The Union Government has already issued warning to all states to ensure safety of Kashmiri students and citizens.

The J&K administration on Monday said that the local administration and college authorities have given full assurance about safety of the students.

The state administration is advising all the students and their parents, not to pay heed to any rumours, try to stay put at their respective places and contact the LOs or local police administration for help. The mobile numbers of LOs have already been distributed among the students,

a spokesman said.

The Union Government had defended the demonetization move by citing it as a deterrent to terrorism in the valley. The terrorist organizations would be financially drained, thus, rendered helpless, the government and the leaders of the ruling party had claimed.

However, there seems to be no let up in the situation. Terrorist activity and attacks have not declined. Instead, more encounters were reported in 2018. 

Terrorist incidents in J&K increased 177% over four years to 2018, from 222 to 614; 838 terrorists were killed over the last five years, a 134% increase from 110 in 2014 to 257 in 2018. As many as 339 security forces died–a 94% increase from 47 in 2014 to 91 in 2018–in 1,708 terrorist attacks over the five years ending 2018 in J&K,

the J&K minister of home affairs had stated in his reply in the Lok Sabha on February 5, 2019,

The fact that the suicide bomber responsible for the Pulwama attack was a home-grown terrorist is a big reason to worry. 

Stories regarding the suicide bomber suggest that while the young boy had already been inclined towards militant groups, his bad experiences with Indian forces or local police pushed him further to join Jaish-e-Mohhammed – the militant group that claimed the full responsibility for the Pulwama attack.   

Negativity would only fuel negativity, which J&K cannot afford right now. Indian Government will have to fight this war at International level to isolate Pakistan and convince other nations to cut supply of resources to Pakistan – a patron of these terrorist organizations.

The only way to ensure that no more lives are lost is to break the cycle of violence. As witnessed in the past couple of decades, the call for counter-violence has become a part of this vicious cycle. Ending terrorism in J&K depends on the will and vision of the political leaders of the country, and not in using defense forces to roast political cookies.

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Viral Video of Overloaded Bus in Sirmaur Points at Inadequate Transportation Service

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OVerloaded Bus In Sirmaur of Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-Overloading in private as well as the government buses in Himachal Pradesh, especially, in interior areas has always been a hazard. Despite several bus accidents that claim thousands of lives every year, there does not seem to be any let up in the situation.

As per the statement made in the State Assembly by the minister of the opposition party, MukeshAgnihotri, over 1200 lives were lost while thousands of others sustained injuries in various accidents across the Stateduring 2018.

While the government tries to justify itself over road accidents, a fresh picture and a video of an overloaded private bus are making rounds on the social media, raising questions over the efforts of the government to discourage overloading.

As per reports, this bus was on its way to Manva from Rajgarh in Sirmaur district on Tuesday. The bus was jam-packed and over a dozen passengers could be seen sitting on the roof of the bus. On a complaint, the local police intercepted the bus near the Forest Colony.

When the police counted passengers standing inside the bus and those sitting on the roof, it was found that the bus was carrying 95 passengers, excluding the driver and the conductor, against its seating capacity of 37.

However, when the police questioned the driver for grieve violation of traffic laws and endangering lives of the passengers, the driver argued that it was not only his bus that was overloaded, that this is a normal scene in all buses. The driver can be heard saying that government buses were also overloaded.

When police told the passengers to avoid traveling in overloaded buses, they replied that they don’t have any option, suggesting inadequate public transportation servicesas the cause. Police advised the people to approach their Sub-Divisional-Magistrate (SDM) to solve any problem relating to inadequate public transportation.

The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Rajgarh, DushyantSarpal, confirmed that the documents of the bus have been confiscated. He said the police has taken such actions on several occasions but the situation doesn’t get any better.

It’s notable that pictures of such overloaded buses keep appearing on social media. There is no dearth of examples that highlight flaunting of traffic laws and rules defined under the Motor Vehicle Act.

The school bus accident in Nurpur in April 2018, which claimed lives of 28 persons including two dozen children, had highlighted carelessness on the part of the government. However, the government washed its hands off putting all the blame on the driver, who had also died in the same accident.

In January 2019, seven children died when their school bus met with an accident in Renuka Ji, Sirmaur district. Later, during the investigation, it was found that the bus was too old with little mechanical maintenance. A magisterial probe cited mechanical fault as the cause of the accident.

Despite being in a poor state, the transportation authority permitted this bus to be operational.  Moreover, like in the Nurpur accident, there were no crash barriers of any sort of roadside-safety measures along that road.

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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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