Modern Himachal Trip
¤ Government & Politics
Himachal Pradesh has 12 administrative districts and three divisions.
The divisions are Shimla, Mandi and Dharamsala, while the districts
are Sirmaur, Solan, Shimla, Kinnaur, Bilaspur, Mandi, Kullu, Lahaul
and Spiti, Kangra, Una, Hamirpur and Chamba.
Himachal was granted full statehood in 1971. Following the Chinese
takeover of Tibet, McLeodganj in Dharamsala has been the capital of
the Tibetan Government in Exile.
HP has a single-chamber legislative assembly with 68 seats. The state
sends seven members to the Indian National Parliament three to
Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and four to Lok Sabha (Lower House).
The Bharatiya Janta Party came to power in 1998 under the leadership
of Prem Kumar Dhumal who is the present Chief Minister.
The economy of HP is predominantly agricultural. Due to a wide range
of agro-climatic and topographical conditions ranging from flat lands
in the lower hills to the cold deserts, many different crops are grown
here. Rice and wheat in the lower valleys; tomatoes and other
vegetables in the middle hills; apples, plums and other fruits in the
higher regions and dry fruit and potatoes in the cold deserts.
Tea, ginger and mushrooms are some of the important cash crops. Due
to the difficult terrain, barely 11% of the total geographical area is
To gain more cultivable land, terrace farming is commonly practiced.
At higher elevations, farming is often supplemented by the raising of
Wild olives that were once cultivated rather hap-hazardly are now
being planted with the necessary know-how from Italy. The middle
height districts like Mandi and Kullu are ideal for this and the state
is now hoping to increase its share of olive oil in the world market
to 5 million tons.
¤ The Rare Chenopod
Today there are about 20 crops that feed the human population. But
our ancestors had real variety they had some 3000 species to
choose from! Needless to say, most of them have been lost in the world
The Chenopod grain is one such forgotten old crop which is still
grown in certain parts of Himachal like Kullu, Shimla, Kinnaur, Mandi
and Chamba. Locally called bathu, it is extremely rich in protein. It
is used to make roti (a kind of bread), porridge, subzi (a dish of
vegetables) and even a fermented drink called thara or ghanti.
¤ Forest Produce
As stated earlier the state has a large forest cover that can be ideal
for a trip in Himachal Pradesh. Though theres a ban on felling
trees, HP Forest Corporation extracts commercial timber from dry,
fallen and damaged trees.
Other material gains from the forest are resin (from chir pine tree);
kattha (which gives that red stain while chewing paan or betel leaf)
from the wood and root of the Khair tree (Acacia catechu); chilgoza
(pine nut or Sultanas); medicinal herbs like Dioscorea (oil of deodar)
and blue pine; cane and bamboo. Deforestation and the resulting soil
erosion are now being combated with several reforestation programs.
Luscious fruit-laden orchards are a delightful sight in the valleys
of Himachal. The town of Pawanoo has the largest fruit processing
plant in Asia.
The hills grow sub-tropical fruit like mango, litchi (a juicy berry),
guava and citrus fruit; stone fruit like peach, plum, apricot, pear
and pomegranate; temperate fruit like cherry, walnut and chestnut; and
dry fruit like chilgoza (pine nut or sultanas), almond and grape
raisin. and most important of all, many varieties of apple.
Due to the persistent effort of the state government, a broad-based
industrial structure has slowly developed in the state.
There is small-scale mining of slate, gypsum, limestone, barite,
dolomite, and pyrite. The main industries include iron foundries,
resin and turpentine factories, fertilizer plants, breweries and
Woollen garments and handicrafts make up the main small-scale
industry. In fact, the annual turnover from the shawl industry alone
is estimated at around six crores rupees! Spinning and weaving of wool
(which is locally produced) is mainly a winter occupation when there
is time to spare from the fields.
Himachal Pradesh abounds in rivers, lakes and glaciers and is
therefore extremely rich in water. A number of hydel projects have
been constructed on the Satluj, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Yamuna basins.
Some of the more important are the Bhakra Project, the Kot Dam
Project, the Beas Satluj Link Project, the Beas Power Project and the
Well, this is where HP is far, far ahead of other states in India.
Its great natural splendour explains why tourists should make a trip
to this destination. Apart from good hotels and transportation, there
are excellent facilities for adventure sports like trekking, rock
climbing, skiing, heli-skiing, river rafting and kayaking which
attract enthusiasts from all over the globe. Some of the important
tourist centres are Shimla, Solan, Chail, Renuka, Kalpa, Nako, Sangla,
Kullu, Manali, Baijnath, Dharamsala, Kangra, Palampur, Dalhousie,
Khajjiar and Chamba.
Roads are the most important transport link in a hilly and
mountainous state like HP. The state road network consists of four
national highways and is constantly being extended. Kalka (in Haryana)
and Pathankot (in Punjab) are the two nearest railway stations on the
broad gauge network, if you are trying to reach Himachal.
There are two exciting toy train routes, though:
Pathankot-Palampur-Jogindernagar and Kalka-Solan-Shimla.
The three airports in the state are at Shimla, Kullu and Kangra
(closed these days) while two are coming up at Spiti and Banikhet
STD and ISD facilities are available in most places, even small. The
Internet too is making its presence felt at an amazing speed. There
are cybercafés in Shimla, Manali and McLeodganj.
Surprisingly, notwithstanding the hilly terrain, radio has penetrated
to the remotest corners of the state (100% as against the national
average of 96.89%).