My Himachal, a US & India based non-profit organization, announces grant of HOPE Scholarships to 40 students (Rs. 1,28,030/-) of Himachal Pradesh studying in classes 8th upto 12th in various HP Government schools for the academic year 2009-10.
To kick-off the grant disbursement process, Mr. Anil Chandel, current Treasurer of My Himachal in USA distributed grants to 7 students at Govt. Senior Secondary School, Dadhol and to 1 student at Govt. Senior Secondary School (Girls), Bilaspur while on vacation in Himachal Pradesh. Grants for the rest of the awardees will be sent to their respective schools shortly via postal service
In a significant development, My Himachalan NGO with the help students of S.P.Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai has come up with proposed implementation plan to revive the crumbling Kullu Handloom Industry. It is in fact, now in the hand of state government to take the plan seriously and try to do something concrete to save this age old art.
Ironically last year too, My Himachal with students of same institute had found out the reasons behind tottering weaving industries and suggested the ways out. A NGO-students deputation met concerned officials and minister over the matter and even handed over their findings to the CM.
A free health insurance was extended to all weavers in the valley soon after the deputation met CM. However going by the present deplorable condition of industry, these measures will not be able to survive the art. The certain steps are required, without which the art may become a thing of past.
Pooja Adiga and Ajay Simha the students of Institute have chalked out a revival mechanism for this industry. The co-operative societies, who are involved in the making of authentic hand woven Kullu shawls, should be registered with the buyer. The terms and conditions can be mutually agreed upon and are then they allow showcasing their products on the websites, the students point out. Currently, Bodh Shawls and Ganapathi Co-operative have expressed an interest in this venture. The students are also in the process of identifying other interested co-operatives by seeking help from bodies such as HIMBUNKAR. The certain parameters such as quality check and supply-demand equilibrium are currently being looked into. The proposal is that, My Himachal shall do the quality check before the products are being shipped out to their respective locations, besides ensuring a steady supply of goods throughout the year.
The benefits of such a plan are immense, feel Pooja and Ajay. On the supplier side, it opens up untapped markets and multiple marketing channels to the co-operatives. It creates sustained demand and gives them access to latest consumer trends. Also, it brings in a much needed work ethic and most importantly boosts the current state of the industry. On the buyer side, it gives them a First Mover Advantage (access to authentic hand woven products that have the finest quality and finish) and also leads to increased revenues at minimal costs, since the setup is already there. It also greatly enhances their existing brand image whilst boosting their CSR initiatives.
The major hurdles in this are power loom players, lack of awareness amongst weavers and co-operatives, lack of a progressive attitude, lack of proper implementation of the GI and the handloom mark as well as ineffectiveness or the lack of government policies.
To annual the impact of these obstacles, major stakeholders in this industry like government, bodies such as HIMBUNKAR need to be get involved actively. In association with the Tourism Department, a mechanism should be setup to invite private players into this market. Apart from privatization and increased market accessibility, there are many other things that will also ensure revival of this industry. Important amongst them is product diversification. The success of privatization would eventually lead to this, but it is important for suppliers to diversify their existing product portfolio to cater to a larger base of consumers. Access to latest consumer trends would help them create / obtain better designs for their products, and here again, the govt can ensure access to both.
The Geographical Indicator (GI) for Kullu shawls that was approved in 2006 hasn’t moved much since. The GI would go a long way in preventing cannibalization from power loom players thereby setting the base for the revival.
GI can be a lifeline for Kullu shawl!
GI is a name or sign used on certain products which correspond to a specific geographical location and origin. The use of a GI acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.
GI has proved to be very valuable as it identifies the source of the product and is an indicator of quality. It highlights the peculiar qualities of a product, which are due to human factors, such as specific manufacturing skills and traditions. GI can be life saviour for gradually dying art. Yet, the imitations stuffs have not only flooded the market but also offer whopping discounts to tourists. GI, if implemented, prevents sale of non Kullu shawls. It also prevents proprietors from using the name “Kullu shawls” if they are produced outside of the defined geographical territory of Kullu valley. It is interesting to note that unauthorized shopkeepers or producers cannot even use sign boards/hoardings of selling Kullu shawls. In the event of anyone found selling fake shawls, a huge penalty will be imposed on them or imprisonment of 6 months to 3 years or both under the GI Act of 1999.
The KSWA took the initiative and registered Kullu Shawl as a GI in 2006. Ever since, there has been slow progress on the implementation. The registration has an expiry period of 10 years before it has to be renewed again, of which 3 years are already lost trying to get things implemented.
The logo, which is a representative of Kullu shawls as a GI, is yet to be finalised and this has largely due to the miscommunication between the Department of Science and Technology and KSWA. Also, the KSWA hasn’t got adequate resources even to set up a working office in the valley and has applied for funds which have to go through the layers of bureaucracy and red tape at the government level.
The major retailers of the state have a lot to lose if the GI is implemented because they cannot sell just any shawl as a Kullu shawl to the guileless tourist. And because of this there is an underlying, subtle resistance to the implementation.
Over the last 3 years, the government, despite its best efforts hasn’t been able to do much in this regard. But the problem here does not lie in a lack of effort, but it lies in a lack of “channelized” effort. The government must appoint an independent person to look into this matter immediately.
Not many of you have ever heard of Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP). A piece of 765 sq-km area of land offers a vast range of tourism varieties to those seeking refreshing and adventurous break from their routine work. Far from busy and noisy life of cities, about 60-km from Kullu town, GHNP is a perfect place for getting feel of well deserved outing. Ironically even after its existence in 1984 the park has failed to witness desired attraction, as far as tourism is concerned.
GHNP, comprising the area of watersheds of Jiwa, Sainj, and Tirthan rivers was selected under the eco-tourism policy in May 2001 with other 5 locations in state. The policy was launched with much hope but with little result. Observations showed that the eco-tourism attraction has not much helped to enhance the tourist influx here. In fact the lack of publicity and soft approach in implementing the policy has failed to serve the desired result.
Initially when GHNP was created the major goal was to develop it as a national park. The goal was to convince the locals to preserve the environment and develop a sense of self conservation among villagers around the park.
The eco-tourism has not achieved its potential at GHNP despite it offers various attractions ranging from adventure sports like rock climbing, rappelling, river crossing, and fishing in the eco zone and long treks into the GHNP for bird watching, wildlife spotting and long nature trails. The treks are selected on the basis of the capabilities of tourists. Interestingly the tourists can have the feel of local culture and customs thanks to local fairs galore which are celebrated by villagers with much fanfare and enthusiasm.
No doubt, GHNP is an ideal location for eco-tourism. The 25 trekking guides who are locals are professionally trained for the eco zone. All the porters and cooks are also locals. There is a nursery which grows medicinal herbs so that the villagers who depended on the forest resources of the now protected area of the park can actually use the plants from nursery and grow their own medicinal plants for sustenance. In addition to this, entry in GHNP is permitted only with a local guide. This is done to restrict the number of people entering the region and also so that the local residents benefit from tourism in that area.
Moreover the home stays the main catchy feature of eco-tourism, is another untapped potential here. Inquires shows that many tourists want to experience the local culture and accustom and in that case there is no better way than home stays.
But despite all this, only a few locals are being benefited from the tourism that is being generated in the area. There is urgent need to build a model in which locals should have an opportunity to sell home made products like shawls, handicrafts and medicinal products to the tourists. Also building on the business model for home stays in the area will bring a tremendous benefit. Currently there is only one home stay which always remains overbooked. The eco-tourism will really be viable in park if a single governing body is created which has the authority to take the decisions for the park. Ironically, the BTCA model is not working as it was supposed to be. BTCA formerly known as SAHARA is formed for the betterment of locals.
In fact the progress has been slow and the true potential of GHNP is really not being exploited. Although responsible tourism is the key to eco tourism, awareness levels of GHNP have been very low which is a major problem here.
Interestingly, Divya Sawant and Gautam Bhatia the students of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, currently on their Development of Corporate Citizenship program with My Himachal, a NGO are working on a plan to develop a sustainable model for eco tourism in the GHNP area. Their immediate plan is to develop a marketing strategy for eco-tourism in GHNP.
Says Divya and Gautam, there has been hardly any promotion for this location and also the present efforts are towards treks inside the park for the extreme trekkers when there is actually scope for the park to be a family retreat also with activities in the eco zone. Accessibility to the region is another issue. The roads are poor due to persistent rain and poor maintenance, points out Divya and Gautam who are currently doing extensive field survey and analysis of situation on the hand involving interactions with villagers residing there.
They have met the locals staying within the eco-zone the western boundary of the park inhabited by 160 villages. While disclosing their plans the students say, we talked to the villagers living there in order to gauge what they feel about their source of sustenance being converted into a protected park. We wanted to know on how they have adapted to this change and in what way have the local governing bodies helped their employment opportunities and income generation activities.
The villagers in the area were used to depend on medicinal plants from the park for their livelihood but since the park have become a protected area, they now have to rear goats for their living. Most women are part of the Women Saving and Credit Group an initiative by BTCA. The villagers outlook towards life in the valley was quite defeatist and they were resigned to the belief that their life would not improve. On further probing about the initiatives taken by the successive state governments, they seemed sceptical and have lost faith in governing bodies.
Judama Devi, a member of the Women’s Saving and Credit Group was used to depend on medicinal plants from the park for her family’s livelihood. However since the park has become a protected area, she along with her unemployed husband now rear goats to make their both ends meet. The family have lost faith in state government and BTCA as well. They seem to have the opinion that nothing is really being done to support them and even the initiatives being taken by BTCA are not working well. Judama Devi further says, BTCA currently offered locals the option to purchase medicinal plants from the nursery so that the villagers could grow them on their own. But the soil was infertile and the plants were not really growing in and around their house. So finally the benefit was nil, she rues.
Another sufferer, Harilal from Dhar village is pessimistic over the present initiatives. The BTCA members have not visited Dhar which is one of the more accessible villages in the area, he laments. According to Mr. Gopal the current in-charge of BTCA, despite some of the initiatives taken so far, the time to get approval for each initiative is very long. The most proposals are lost in government offices and the proposals are actually never implemented, rues Gopal who is also the Panchayat Pradhan.
Awareness about GHNP is another major roadblock, inform Divya and Gautam. GHNP is not even listed as a tourist destination on the Himachal Tourism Website. Being one of the largest national parks in the country one would think that it would be given the necessary importance to bring responsible to tourist to the area.
Providing alternate means of sustenance to locals who previously depended on the forest also is an uphill task especially since most villagers are losing faith in the present system and further time passing by without any action is not helping, point out Divya and Gautam. The handloom, handicrafts, medicinal plants in the eco zone etc are few of the employment opportunities which are being explored, but some strong decisions need to be taken accompanied with an implementing action plan is the need of the hour, they suggest .
Developing small scale tourism in GHNP while striving to have as little impact on the fragile and pristine protected areas of GHNP is one of our primary objectives, they reveal. Educating the travelers while directly benefiting the social stability, economic development and political empowerment for the local communities (Community Based Ecotourism) will be another key objective of our study, they inform.
Based on their surveys and study, Divya and Gautam suggest few measures to improve the situation at GHNP. They Say, improving accessibility to the region is most crucial one. The state government should look at starting a special bus service for travellers to the park which would provide convenience, comfort and ease of luggage space for the tourists. Improving awareness is another thing that can help lot to popularise the park all over. The developing of comprehensive and extensive website as the internet is the major source for information for most tourists these days. The need is also there to create new independent governing body comprising of government officials, local NGO and representatives from local villages to act as the decision maker for the region and help the overall development of the region.
This independent governing body which would not only provide a channel for local villagers to raise their concerns but having locals on the board may build trust in the villages. It will also ensure the training and skill development of the locals; provide avenues for locals to sell their home made products and co-ordinate home stays etc to bring direct benefit to the locals.
Ironically, Divya and Gautam have also done awareness survey on GHNP, in which only 23 people out of 80 were heard about it.
Not many of us know that just 60 kms away from Kullu town lies a 765 sq km area known as the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP). As management students we were given the task to build a sustainable model for ecotourism in the park but when we started our project on the its promotion of we were clueless about the complexities of the issue at hand. Two weeks into this project and we realized that there are three main issues that plague the GHNP accessibility, awareness and improper flow of information among concerned authorities.
The poor condition of the roads leading to the park which is aggravated by other uncontrollable forces such as persistent rain is a major obstacle in the way of tourism in the Great Himalayan National Park. The lack of available transport on this route is another major issue. The government should look at starting a special bus service for travelers to the park which would provide convenience, comfort and ease of luggage space for the tourists. Currently the GHNP is targeting only the hardcore adventure trekkers and the Eco-zone treks are not really highlighted or given any importance when they can attract a large set of tourists looking for a family getaway with a little adventure. The Eco-zone treks provide the right mix of small treks and a few adventure activities for the complete family trip.
One of the most important issues for the GHNP is the lack of awareness about it among people in and out of Himachal Pradesh. Internet being one of the most used avenues for travellers to research their planned destinations, it is a shame that GHNP being a national park is not even present as a tourist destination on the HPTDC website. Most Indian ecotourism websites have no mention of GHNP as an ecotourism destination. Even the Lonely Planet – India ( a travel guide) which is considered the bible for tourists has just a mention about the park with no contact information or website information about the park. The lack of sign boards on the road leading to the park – only two sign boards from Sairopa up to the GHNP Gate doesn’t provide a pretty picture. Boards providing interesting facts about the park and eco tourism need to be put along the trek to at least keep the tourist focussed on the eco tourism and the idea behind the concept.
The need of the hour is a new and improved comprehensive website with information such as varied packages for the varied consumer (with prices), a reviews section, a query section and one which is regularly updated with the latest happenings in and around the park. Brochures, posters and postcards need to be made available to key locations (Shops, HPTDC hotels, other key tourist destinations) in Himachal to make the traveller aware that such a destination exists. A documentary about the GHNP on travel shows on television channels like Discovery, National Geographic and NDTV will go a long way in making tourist all over the country aware of such a location in Himachal.
People need to be aware that such a park exists in the country which houses many an endangered species. Ecotourism itself in India needs to be encouraged. Responsible tourism which boosts the local economy while conserving the pristine environment of the park needs impetus.
The key factor in an ecotourism model is to bring an overall positive effect to the locals of the region. The GHNP has the potential to develop an ecotourism model which can then be followed by many around the country. Presently the governing bodies as well as the BTCA group are ineffective and are struggling to bring any improvement to the region. Any suggestion (either from BTCA or the locals of the region) has to go through so many levels for approval and most of the time is lost in the paperwork of the governing offices that hardly any improvement has been brought to the region. A new empowered governing body is the need of the hour. This would not only provide a channel for local villagers to raise their concerns but having locals on the board may build trust level among the villagers. This body should be a non profit organisation consisting of representation from locals, government as well as the local NGO and it should be given the authority to act on behalf of the government. It will also ensure the training and skill development of the locals; provide avenues for locals to sell their home made products and co-ordinate home stays in the region to bring direct benefit to the locals. The information flow would be quick, effective and this body will work towards bringing about the quick development of the region.
Currently there is no fixed structure to either make your bookings or to raise your queries about the park. Most queries are lost in a chain of mails going from one person to another before finally reaching the concerned person after two weeks. An attempt to make the bookings by phone is struggle as there is no fixed price list nor is there a single person handling all the queries. It is quite possible for duplication of information or even inconsistent information passing to the same customer. This ineffective and inefficient operating model must be changed immediately. Allocation of at least two resources for bookings/answering queries is very important and their contact information should be available on the website as well as any other mode of communication to the traveller. Making a standard price list and bringing about consistency in the information been given out to consumers is the least one expects from any service.
The problems in the GHNP are vast but solutions exist to bring about a quick change. It is up to the concerned authorities to take up the challenge and take the necessary strong decisions to bring about the change. A lot of people have come before us and highlighted the problems and most people working in the park are aware of these problems but still no action seems to be taken. The road ahead for the GHNP has to be carved by the concerned authorities; it can be one leading to becoming a key tourist destination in India or one in which GHNP remains an unexplored paradise.
The above article has been written by Divya Sawant and Gautam Bhatia. Both of them are students of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai. They are currently on a 6 week internship with My Himachal as part of their DOCC (Development of Corporate Citizenship) program. They are presently working on a plan to develop a sustainable model for eco tourism in the GHNP area. Their immediate plan is develop a marketing strategy for ecotourism in GHNP.
Shimla: It would have been a relaxing Sunday for some, but not for the residents of Dhauladhar colony, Dharamshala.
Dhauladhar Mahila Jagriti Mandal, My Himachal and local residents—from children to the old all were together on streets, collecting garbage spelled all over the society. With no proper disposable system in place, people are throwing waste on streets and khad and some are burning everything including plastics, without being aware of its poisonous affects in the environment.
For the complete society there is not even a single garbage cane kept by the government or the developers. Also, there is no pick up vans for the collection of garbage coming to this area.
So local resident here have come together and decided to hold each other’s hand and find out a solution to this. With the help of the Samiti and My Himachal they are now on the streets and creating an awareness campaign, making people aware of the segregation process. The purpose is to separate kitchen waste from the dry waste. Once this kitchen waste and dry waste is segregated from each home, locals are trying to find a place with the help of panchayat so that this can be converted into manure and can be given to the local farmers. For the solid waste, they have no immediate solution, but they are trying to find a place where bin can be placed, so that people do not throw waste in streets and khads. Once they have bins near the house, they will all have a place to dump the waste, from where MCD can send the pick up truck at least twice a week.
Waste management is the collection, transport, processing, recycling or disposal, and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics. Waste management is also carried out to recover resources from it. Waste management can involve solid, liquid, gaseous or radioactive substances, with different methods and fields of expertise for each. To read more about Waste Management kindly click here.
Many countries around the world have chosen this technique of waste management to intelligently dispose various types of waste.
My Himachal invite you all infact anyone to come up with their power of words. On many occasions your heart might have said something but you could not make it hear to other for no place to express. Thus, we decided to open our doors for your precious words or any other piece of art, which you want the world to see. Yes, you have ‘words’ and we have ‘space’, so collaboration of both can make a big difference to the society as well as its people.
My Himachal Blog is not like talking to the walls, your words will be read carefully even answered, debated, and appreciated by its readers.
There is no bar to truth as much bitter it is because we believe in the ‘Truth’. Ethnic slurs, personal insults and abuses, which hampers anyone’s dignity will be scrutinized otherwise we are open to all kinds of submissions by you, which can be articles, paintings, photographs, grievances, or any other art.
My Himachal Welcomes all those in search of free space to showcase their creativity and for established writers its a space to build Himachal’s very own quality media. We also look towards bestowing a token of respect to your work accordingly.
Kindly, contact us through email at following addresses:
Shimla:My Himachal, a US based non-profit organization, announces grant of HOPE Scholarships to 81 students of Himachal Pradesh studying in various recognised schools of the state. The grant amount is based on government school fees structure.
Director Education Dr. O.P. Sharma, today bestowed a scholarship cheque of Rs 2000/- to Akhil Negi S/o Shri Shiv Kumar at Government Senior Secondary School (Lalpani), Shimla and formally launched the HOPE scholarship grant for meritorious and deserving students of Himachal Pradesh.
Akhil scored 83% in 8th standard from H.P. Board of School Education and is presently studying in 9th class.
Speaking over the occasion Dr. Sharma congratulated Akhil, who aspires to become a doctor, and all other eighty-one HOPE beneficiary students and said that such scholarships prove as an encouragement to the students to perform better with some help to their family.
He appreciated the effort of My Himachal team in bringing out HOPE Scholarship this year and gave his best wishes for the effort in coming years as well.
With an objective of encouraging and rewarding merit of deserving students, My Himachal members (consisting of globally re-located Himachal residents) have come together and contributed to giving out these scholarships to students.[/lang_en] Read the rest of this entry →
Shimla: Are we all healthy in Himachal Pradesh? The answer to this question is unfortunately a sad…..NO. The rural villagers of the state suffer from Improper and insufficient diets, resulting in malnutrition. There are many reasons for this serious issue affecting our people and they include not only poverty but also lack of nutritional education, replacement of higher quality traditional foods, and gender issuses and inequities between young girls and boys.
Poor, uneducated parents lack the proper knowledge to give essential nutrient diet to their children especially during their early, formative years. The resulting malnutrition can often affect their physical and intellectual development. Read the rest of this entry →