Long ago when I saw Palampur for the first time in sixties, it was a small town inhabited mainly by locals. Areas around Palampur town were clean and thinly populated. In fact, people used to avoid going out alone in the evenings outside the town. There was a small government hospital, two medical shops and one Ayurvedic Vaid or doctor in the market. In one of the shops which was in the middle of the bazaar, a drum of petrol used to be placed in front of the shop. Huge Kangra district then was a part of Punjab but even then hardly scooters or two wheelers were seen on the road. We were not in scooter age then.
Palampur of those years was a very clean place with towering Saint Paulâ€™s High School which used to attract students from different places. Very few buses used to ply on the roads which rarely required repairs. There was hardly any hotel here.
The shopkeepers were very easy going as there was hardly any competition.
Palampur of today is entirely different. There is hardly any space available. The bazaar is over-crowded. You get each and everything here, may be of low standard or quality. With the coming up of Amartex, the situation has improved a lot but innocent people are still befooled in the market as they hardly dare to enter complex shops like Amartex.
Educationally speaking, it has become a very big attraction centre. This place not only has a full fledged Agriculture University but also a big research centre (CSIR). Professors of this university are often seen getting prestigious awards for the commendable work done by them in different fields. Veterinary College is the showpiece of this university. Students from different places, not only from India but also from different countries throng to get degrees from this illustrious centre. Lot of concrete research is going on here.
Palampur has one Government college coupled with two other private colleges with lucrative faculties within a radius of 2-3 kms. It has 4-5 Government Senior Secondary Schools, about eight private Senior Secondary Schools and then about a dozen banks. It has many beautiful hotels of different standards. It has a well-furnished Government Hospital, being run by reputed doctors, most of them are renowned for their dedication.
There are many private clinics or hospitals which are visited by specialist doctors of good reputation. A new private Engineering college is supposed to admit students soon. The Eye Hospital of Maranda is the biggest attraction for all Himachalis. It is flooded with patients who never go unheard or unattended. Thanks and hats off to the eye surgeons like Dr. S.K Sharma, Dr. Sudhir Salhotra, Dr. Rohit Garg and other members of the faculty.
With all this, Palampur has many facets, which require perpetual care and administrative astuteness. Disorder or entropy is bound to increase. This is the fundamental law of nature but here at Palampur things appear to be beyond control. Law and order seems to be at the lowest ebb. Even during busy hours, the cars remain parked in the market. The policemen on duty simply remain whistling. Nobody listens. I donâ€™t know why they donâ€™t become active and fine those who park the vehicles in the market. They should be given full powers. I am told there is lot of political interference and because of this these policemen do not want to get humiliated.
The roads in and around Palampur are marvelously carpeted, virtually every year. They look like run-ways but in no time, they lose their luster and become over rich in pot-holes. Overnight these roads are dug, water pipes and other type of pipes are planted without repairs. Water flows on these roads not only because of rain but also because of the wear and tear caused by the water pipes running across the roads.
Water you get in the taps is muddy especially during the morning hours. This is because of the laxity on the part of IPH Department. Every plumber is a monarch here. He gives the connection from any point using his own discretion. The tapping done by them are so crude that these points become leakage centers. There are many points where the water literally bubbles. The whole filth enters from these leaking bubbling centers.
There are many road-side mechanics. They run their business on half of the road facing their shops. Because of them, many locations become one-way and these spots, many a time lead to accidents. That is not enough, even heavy trucks do loading and unloading on the roads. There are cement stores on the road. Nobody comes forward to check them.
Under some World Bank scheme, Palampur to Chamunda road is being widened. The work started from Chamunda(Dadh) instead of Palampur as widening was not possible because of influential persons who have grabbed the road side land. I am told, may be a rumour that these influential persons have now managed the show. They are safe, let others or poor folk go to hell. There is nothing new in it, after all this is what history teaches us. We take pleasure and pride in saying that we are at number eighty four(84) when corruption index of different lands is taken into consideration. We are gradually beating other nations in corruption.
Let us hope, one day, one person will take a bold stand and set the things in order here at Palampur. He will become the torch bearer for others to follow. He will not only be honoured but also remembered by posterity for his solid contribution… Let us wait!
By Professor K.S. Pathania, a renowned Professor of Physics currently based in Palampur.