An article in The Tribune


    Wednesday, July 5, 2006, Himachal Plus, The Tribune

    A network of Himachalis


    Networking is the modern mantra for going places. The Beharis, Gujaratis and Keralites have an inbuilt knack for setting up strong lobbies wherever they pitch their tents. The hotel industry in the USA is dominated by the Gujaratis. The Andhra lobby has a commanding presence in the Sillicon Valley. Kerala has a near monopoly over the nursing sector. Every other stenographer (later becoming PA’s to bosses and wielding enormous trust and power) in the then Calcutta, Bombay and Madras was a South Indian. Of course, the old-boy networks have been well known all over the world.

    The Himachalis have a considerable presence in major cities like Chandigarh, Delhi and Mumbai —apart from several countries outside. Being modest and content, they haven’t built up influential lobbies despite several Himachali associations around. But in the last decade or so during my tours outside the state, I have heard many murmurs about the growing need for such a network. Especially, from scores of our boys and girls working in the print and electronic media there. Hence the birth of “HimVani” (originally set up as Voice of Himachal), the “think-tank “, a few months ago.

    It has already evolved into a community blog ( with 400 members, including NRI doctors, surgeons, IT engineers, stock brokers, and journalists who care for the development of their state: “ We are bound by a certain feeling, a wish, a longing… we feel a natural urge to be part of the evolving process taking place in the state”. The group wants to accelerate “unbiased development” and promote a democratic news set up by encouraging “grassroot journalism” in which common citizens will be both reporters and producers of goods and services.

    The members help people to find jobs, discuss development issues and share their experiences on novel farming methods. They hope to promote initiatives in sectors like village tourism and E-governance. Recenly, Manish Gupta, a member in Dubai (who hails from Chandyal village in Mandi district) organised a training programme on organic farming in his village after HimVani put him in touch with Sehyog, a local NGO.

    Surender Dhaleta, a Himachali journalist in Delhi says: “ We propose to set up information kiosks in villages and hand them over to local youth with suitable backgrounds for maintaining them. The kiosks will disseminate to farmers information on horticulture, floriculture and on getting good prices for crops, fruits, vegetables etc, in big mandis. It will be a solution-oriented service. Many members, including NRIs, have promised to donate computers.”

    What are the hurdles? “Our people are contented, and hesitant about new ideas and entrepreneurship”, says Sanjay Versain (hails from Dharamshala) working with a major newspaper at Chandigarh. “Once our members start putting their hands into mud and become active at the grass-root level, we will become a think-tank for the government and also act as a pressure group for influencing policies and building up public opinion.”

    But Varun Rattan Singh the founder of the group laments the lukewarm response from people within the state. “Many there consider this work more suitable to housewives and retired people! Young men and women should get down to brass tacks and work solidly for Himachal’s progress now— instead of waiting till they become old, infirm and cynical”. Any takers?

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    A perfect story-teller, who is madly in love with the hills. Shimla is his first love, and probably the last too. Won't get tired reading Rudyard Kipling. Hopes to pick up poetry again soon.

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