Unyielding monsoon challenges Himachal’s Independence day spirit”

Vishal Sarin/ Shimla, Aug 14

As the Nation prepares to celebrate the 77th Independence Day, the picturesque hill state of Himachal Pradesh finds itself ensnared in the clutches of an unforgiving monsoon. While the spirit of freedom is fervently embraced across the country, the people of Himachal Pradesh grapple with the far-reaching impacts of this relentless deluge, raising serious doubts about the state’s elusive dream of ‘Freedom of Quality Living’.

Even as the National Highways of the region try to maintain a semblance of normalcy, the much-touted NH 5 that winds through Parwanoo to Shimla seems to have an unpredictable personality of its own. The stretch at Chakki Mod has become a puppet to the whims of Mother Nature, with mudslides and erratic behavior rendering it as inconsistent as the weather itself. One could argue that the highway’s current condition perfectly mirrors the state’s aspirations for a steady and secure future – undermined by unexpected setbacks.

Meanwhile, NH that connects Mandi to Manali stands firmly shut, metaphorically echoing the closed doors to the outside world that Kullu and Manali now face. Alternative routes, once considered as lifelines, now remain impassable, effectively cutting off these idyllic towns from the rest of the world. It’s as if the aspirations for connectivity and progress have been washed away by the torrents.

The capital city of Shimla, known for its colonial charm and once the summer capital of India, found itself in darkness for over 15 hours, an inadvertent manifestation of the setbacks faced by the state. Power was eventually restored under the shroud of night, but not without leaving a lasting impression of vulnerability and uncertainty.

Amidst this natural turmoil, the plight of the people remains at the forefront. Over 20 individuals continue to wait for rescue under the rubble of landslide-related incidents in Shimla, while more than 60 souls remain trapped in the raging currents of the Beas river at Jwalamukhi in Kangra. The proposed site for an international airport at Balh in Mandi was tragically submerged, perhaps indicating that even the most ambitious of plans are often at the mercy of the elements.

The statistics paint a grim picture: 621 roads closed, including two major highways; 9300 water supply schemes adversely affected; and a heartbreaking toll of 174 lives lost. Chief Minister Sukhu’s decision to cancel the extravagant Independence Day celebrations this year appears to be a sensible move, as the state battles not only for its infrastructure and connectivity but for the very essence of its residents’ security and well-being.

As the rest of the nation revels in the spirit of independence, Himachal Pradesh’s struggle against nature’s fury serves as a poignant reminder that the path to true freedom, that of a ‘Quality Living’, is often paved with obstacles as unpredictable as the whims of the monsoon.

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