Karoh Peak – the highest point in Morni

Karoh (Kroh) Peak at 1467 metres is the highest peak of the Morni hill range of Haryana. The peak can be reached after a rather sharp trek of about 2 KM along the steep hill path through the dhanis of Churi and Diyothi of Bhoj Darara. One ends up  climbing a vertical distance of nearly 500 metres from the metalled Chhamla-Daman-Thapli road.

Hill track through pine belt to the Karoh Peak, Morni Hills

Hill track through pine belt to the Karoh Peak, Morni Hills

The peak is the abode of the local deity,the Kroh (Karoh) Deota and hence its name. Three modest white-washed, brick and mortar shrines occupy the small grassy meadow at the top. Some old sculpted rocks stacked outside one of the shrines hint at the ancient past of the Kroh Deota’s legend.

Kroh (Karoh) Deotah's Peak, Morni Hills

Kroh (Karoh) Deotah’s Peak, Morni Hills

Ancient rock sculptures, Karoh Peak,Morni Hills

Ancient rock sculptures, Karoh Peak,Morni Hills

A sculpted rock, Karoh Peak,Morni hills

A sculpted rock, Karoh Peak,Morni hills

The Karoh peak has a small watering hole and a whistling cluster of chir pines.

Grassy meadow, Karoh Peak, Morni Hills

Grassy meadow, Karoh Peak, Morni Hills

 

Watering hole- Karoh Peak

Watering hole- Karoh Peak

Wild mushrooms on the Karoh Peak

Wild mushrooms on the Karoh Peak

The 19th century Imperial Gazetteers of British India made a mention of the Karoh Peak. The height of the peak as measured by the British and as mentioned in the Gazetteers was 1499 metres (4919 feet). The actual height on being measured with a GPS device by ‘The Tramp’ turned out to be about a 100 feet lower.
The Karoh Peak offers a breathtaking, 360 degree view of the surrounding hills.

Diyothi, a dhani of Bhoj Darara from Karoh Peak, Morni Hills

Diyothi, a dhani of Bhoj Darara from Karoh Peak, Morni Hills

One can spot the formidable ‘wall’ formed by the Bursingdeo Range to the north of the Morni Hills.

The Karoh Peak is easily one of the top picnic destinations in the Morni area of Haryana.

Polyhouse farming in Morni Hills

Farmers in the Morni area have of-late started experimenting with Polyhouse farming. A polyhouse is a tunnel like structure of polythene, generally semi-circular in shape that is used for growing plants under controlled conditions. Originally designed to trap the sun’s heat like a greenhouse for growing plants in colder climates, polyhouse farming has today come of age with the more sophisticated ones employing technologies for controlling temperature, humidity and ventilation inside the polyhouse. Some even heat up the soil to get rid of pests and bacteria. The high cost of erecting polyhouses generally restricts their use to floriculture and for running high-end plant nurseries. More recently, farmers have started experimenting with off-season vegetables like growing tomatoes during the monsoons.

In Morni one can see numerous semi-circular polyhouses that have sprung up in the terraced fields along the Ghaggar valley in the area of Chhamla and Barisher. The oldest and easily the best known polyhouse farm in the area is that of one Vijay ‘Babu’ a Thakur of Saraon village of Himachal that borders Barisher, the last village of Haryana on the Morni-Nahan road. One can spot the neat rows of white and pink polyhouses from a fair distance as one drives down the road to Barisher along the Ghaggar River. Almost everyone in the area seems to know Vijay Babu and the Tramp decided to pay a visit to his farm to get a first-hand experience.

Polyhouses of Vijay Babu, Saraon

Polyhouses of Vijay Babu, Saraon (view from Chhamla-Thapli road)

One has to drive down the Morni-Barisher road until one reaches Haryana’s border with Himachal formed by the Dehi Nadi (as Ghaggar is locally known in the area). A newly constructed bridge takes one over into Himachal territory.

Bridge across Dehi nadi

Bridge across Dehi nadi

Dehi nadi

Dehi nadi

A hill track branches off from the main road right next to the bridge and leads one to the polyhouse farm of Vijay Babu. The picturesque farm has a beautiful backdrop of hills and has been set up in what was once a plum orchard. Terraced fields of maize and some of the old plum trees crowd around the polyhouses. The farm sits high on the left bank of the Dehi nadi and has a natural stream running through it. The polyhouses are exclusively dedicated to commercial farming of roses. Column upon column of bright red roses in different stages of bloom greet the inquisitive visitor who takes a peek inside the rather hot and humid polyhouse.

Inside view of a Polyhouse

Inside view of a Polyhouse

Vijay Babu's Rose Cultivation

Vijay Babu’s Rose Cultivation

Vijay Babu sells most of his roses in Delhi. The luscious-red rose buds are taken by jeep through Chhamla, Jodhian, Kheda Bagdha, Jallah, Chandimandir to the Chandigarh Railway Station and from there by rail to Delhi. Smaller orders of a few hundred buds from Chandigarh are also catered to.

Rose buds awaiting transportation

Rose buds awaiting transportation

The polyhouses are of Israeli technology. The main stakes and posts that support the arching roof need replacement after some years as they rust with the watering of plants.

Polyhouses- the Israeli Technology

Polyhouses- the Israeli Technology

The farm labour is curiously drawn largely from the east with very few locals and has been placed under the efficient command of one Gaur Khan. Vijay Babu’s ‘kothi’ stands proudly atop the hill overlooking the farm and lords over the landscape like a modest castle of the erstwhile Thakur Rajahs of the Protected Hill States.

Pakistani Warplane crashed in Morni Hills in 1971?

It was Sunday, the 3rd of December, 1971. Civil war had been raging in East Pakistan ever since the crackdown in Dhaka on the night of 25th March, 1971 by the Pakistani Army. The leader of the separatist Bangla nationals, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested in the midnight swoop and a violent pogrom was unleashed to crush the dissidents. The genocide that followed saw the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent Bengalis and millions fled the country and sought refuge in Indian Territory. Pakistan saw the build-up of Indian troops on the East Pakistan border with growing suspicion. The Pakistani Generals anticipated a military intervention by India with the onset of winters to deal with the refugee problem in the East. The Pakistani Air Force launched a blitzkrieg with pre-emptive strikes on eleven airfields in north-western India in the evening and night of 3rd December. Over 50 Pakistani planes participated in ‘Operation Chengiz Khan’ and the Indian ack-ack guns lit up the evening skies as they responded to the sudden challenge.

The Pakistani Blitzkrieg - Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 4th December 1971

The Pakistani Blitzkrieg – Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 4th December 1971

The Indian Air Force launched retaliatory strikes the same night. This marked the declaration of war between India and Pakistan that lasted for 13 days and ended with the surrender by the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan on 16th December.
The short but fiercely fought war witnessed numerous attacks on Indian Air Force Stations by Pakistani War Planes. It was in one such attack on the Ambala airfield on the night of 6th December, 1971 that a Pakistani Warplane reportedly got hit and crashed somewhere between Mallah and Morni. A police party was despatched the following day to locate the crash site. It is not known whether they found the wreckage or not. The newspapers of the following days carry no further news of the crash.
The Tramp, is greatly intrigued by this mystery and has launched an ‘investigation’ to bring out the truth. As a first step, the news items carried by the Tribune on the Pakistani air raids on Ambala and Chandigarh airfields as well as on the reported crash at Morni have been located and are reproduced for the readers.

Wreckage of Two Pak Planes Sighted, The Tribune, 8th December, 1971

Wreckage of Two Pak Planes Sighted, The Tribune, 8th December, 1971

4 Pak Planes Sighted Over Chandigarh, The Tribune, 7th December, 1971

4 Pak Planes Sighted Over Chandigarh, The Tribune, 7th December, 1971

Woman Killed in Bomb Blast, The Tribune, 8th December, 1971

Woman Killed in Bomb Blast, The Tribune, 8th December, 1971

Pak Planes Seen Twice Near Chandigarh, The Tribune, 10th December, 1971

Pak Planes Seen Twice Near Chandigarh, The Tribune, 10th December, 1971

Was it that a Pak plane got hit over Ambala and it then flew towards Morni shedding its bombs over Raipur Rani in desperation before it crashed into the hills between Mallah and  Morni? The Tramp needs to locate a member of the police party that went looking for the wreckage 42 years ago to get an authoritative answer!

P.S.
The ‘Official History of the 1971 India Pakistan War’ published by the History Division of the Ministry Of Defence, Government of India (1992) makes no mention of the air-raids on Ambala or the crash in Morni Hills on the night of 6th/7th December. There is a mention of the air-raid on Chandigarh at 1827 hours on 6th December by four Pakistani Mirages. There is also a mention of numerous single-aircraft air-raids on Amritsar and Pathankot and the bombing of Bhuj airfield on the night of 6th/7th December.

Police Stations of Morni Ilaqa

The larger Morni ‘Ilaqa’ comprising the Morni Hills, the foothills and the adjoining hill area of Mallah falls within the jurisdiction of three police-stations.

  • The 14 ‘Bhojs’ of Morni hills fall under the Morni Police Post (of Chandimandir Police Station) that is located in the Morni Sub-Tehsil Building next to the Morni Fort. The following Bhojs/ Dhanis fall under the jurisdiction of Morni Police Post:-

Bhoj

Dhanis

Jabiyal

Morni, Chhoyi, Chaakli, Ramsar, Taprah, Chamkha, Sherla, Kaajarh, Majauli, Marhi, Kogta, Sanoi, Jabiyal, Tharog, Runja, Bhaliyon, Jamniyar, Chaila, Gaanjho

Koti

Jakhron, Gariyanah, Kharak, Chhamla, Paroli, Barhwa, Kuddal, Dharti, Galog, Behni, Koliyon, Bijlaag, Chapoli, Jaabal, Solta, Kaangar, Danh, Damog, Larog, Kaarag, Tikkar, Alaap, Koti, Mahmal, Paprola, Dalaini, Khagtua, Dar-rhi, Dhar-rha, Dhamesha, Bhurh, Saur, Maliyon, Chakor, Katli

Kothi

Cheela, Baaserh, Hadiyon, Barihsher, Kothi, Pathrauti, Daahal, Taprah, Janjaar, Bilchurih, Chaakli, Ambarih, Nijyon, Dadauli, Ranja, Sukhbaap, Chhoyi, Pherihser, Laahna, Piyog, Teeb, Jaminiyaar, Soonh, Khunyo, Paprola, Diyosi, Katharta, Gajauli

Dararah

Dararah, Manjhaar, Baayeh, Bhau, Upausi, kalgarh, Bhupati, Sanaoh, Khaati, Chapauli

Dharti

Behlon, Dadiyon, Kaatal, Maroloo, Saamu, Tikri, Silyon, Bangaar, Kadeela, Bhooreeh, Thana, Dayanah, saherah, Sillee, Baarihwala, Amreeh

Matour

Pandit-ka-Baas, Gabla Baas, Sireh-ka-Baas, Chaudhri-ka-Baas, Chhoti Thaathar, Barih Thaathar, Chandi Devi, Mataur, Chhoti Thapli, Barih Thapli, Baaloo, Jaunpur, Behroon, Jaakhri, Jaansu, Jhoonarh, Dangrana, Harijan Baas, Kumbhwala, Balauti

Ponta

Kharoj, Baana, Katli, Ponta, Khetra, Narwarh, Rasaawa, Daakwala, Bairihwaala, Bhainska, Banswala, sher Gujar,Jabrahwala, Thapal, Kheri, Talwarh, Jorihwalah, Dar-rah, Neemwalah, Masoon, Jeemanwallah, Thakurdwar, Belwali, Chhota Tikkar,Bhandari, Baelwalah, Dabor, Tibbi, Dharkabagrah, Marahan, Bhogpur, Jheerwallah, Marahwallah, Cheetehwali

Plasra

Plasra, Leid, Leid Upparly, Khaitee, Nagnaasu, Ambovah, Khopar, Baag, Andarwallah, Karahaiyani, Doodhgarh, Uparly Khetpurali, Tarahwaali, Ferozepur

Kudana

Kudana, Samlotha, Dooh, Bhaiyal, Dundal, Manthaana, Mehrarh, Baabarwali, Bhog, Baagwali, Lohaaro, Bhamnol, Tikkar, Saagrih, Dhaarkhet, Baraat, Dindan, Dhaarwala, Rukkagarhi, Anoli, Tibbi, Batheela, Maithri, Gantha, Chavaala, Meharwala, Maaoo

Tipra

Dhaman, Chaplana, Suneeh, Saungkhaarih,Kenan, Tipra, Neechla Tipra, Kothla, Harsohn, Sug, Sararih, Berat, Silyon

Naggal

Bheevarh, Dhaatbagdah, Bhorh, Chaireeh, Kayanah, Kyaar, teliyon, Badaarah, Utron, Saarghon, Sahlon, Aadyon, Makoka, Pajiyana, Kamdol, Hathiya, Kaari, Raji Tikri, Paplon, Paplokyar, Sadapt, Majiyon, Khapu, Dhaneer, Bunga, Khaba, Malosi, Talarih, Meindarih, Batolli, Laitbatolli, Dagohn, Tharh, Padyan, Piyoga, Thandog, daar, Kaulak, Kyaar, Saalyon, Biyula, Ghopla, Malon, Chalon, Gawahi, Thatha, Gathya, Dera, Thana, Badiyal, Sehat, Chaitha, Khan, Makhadi, Saunthal, Kona, Sehlon, Jog, Dabsu, Dudhla, Silli, Haran, Sherta, Jaamla, Dhaarta, Sinhwalah, Neemwalah, Bairiwalah, Matolli, Kaatal, Kaderan, Morih, Bhorih, Tula, Daarla, Jaabal

Rajpura

Barihwalah, Baladwallah, Taandoh, Shairjavain, Turon, Thaplar, Rampur, Fatiyeh-ki-Bhurh, Bhoorh, Moliwalah, Dangah, Jauli, Chuharpur, Jiya, Thathar, Madhowalah, Dharampurbeerh, Ranah

Balag

Balag, Kharog, Gajhaan, Rasoonh, Deorah, Thala, Maddal, Nathan

Naita

Kharta, Samrala, Bidhna, Bachhroh, Amrih, Marogh, Saerah, Rewadih, Jhodih, Bhalag
  • The Gujjar villages in the foothills to the rear of TBRL Complex fall under the Ramgarh Police Post of Chandimandir Police Station that is located next to the Ramgarh Fort on the Panchkula-Naraingarh road. The following villages fall under Ramgarh Police Post: Aasrewali, Belwali, Muhas, Bunga, Baloti, Tibbi, Sabilpur.
  • The Chandimandir Police Station is located in Sector 23 of Panchkula, close to Nada Saheb Gurdwara and covers the villages in its vicinity as also the Morni road up till Berwala village. The following villages fall under direct jurisdiction of Chandimandir Police Station: Gumthala, Chauki, Nada Sahib, Naggal, Moginand, Berwala.
  • The villages on the Jallah road, beyond Gumthala, till Jallah and those on the Pinjore-Mallah road fall under the Pinjore Police Station.  The following villages fall under direct jurisdiction of Pinjore Police Station: Niyolta, Bhuwana, Gawahi, Dagrog, Dagarok, Janauli, Mallah, Khokhra, Deewanwallah, Bhagniwallah, Nandpur, Kedarpur, Jallah, Ambwallah, Burj Kotian.
  • The following villages in the foothills along Morni-Raipur-Rani road fall under Raipur-Rani police station: Khetpurali, Tirlokpur,Taprian, Bhund.

Phone Numbers

CHANDIMANDIR P.S.

Ph. 0172-6532990, +918146630017

 

RAMGARH P.P.

+919729990508

MORNI P.P.

01733-250050

PINJORE P.S.

Ph. 01733-231403,  231806, +919729990502

RAIPUR-RANI P.S.

Ph. 01734-256626,  257111, +919729990503

Man-eater of Morni

Man-leopard conflicts in the Morni hills are rare and have been generally restricted over the decades to the occasional cattle-lifting by these cunning, spotted-felines. The laid-back hill dwellers residing in the remote hamlets of Morni ilaqa, have over the centuries, resigned themselves to bearing such losses. The cattle-lifting incidents typically receive little attention from either the authorities or the media. The protests by the locals are generally muted and they quickly reconcile to the meagre compensation that is dished out to them as per the rules of the Forest Department. The peace of these idyllic lower-Shivalik hills was, however, shattered by a tragic incident that occurred, about 10 KMs from Morni town, 25 years ago.

Tragedy strikes

It was the early, cloudy morning of Thursday, the 10th of August, 1989 when Mohan, aged 13 and his cousin Yaad Ram, aged 15 were making their way through the forest for their school at Morni. The boys had come from their home at Chhaila, some 2 KM further down the winding kutcha track. They would have to wheel their cycles for another 3 KM along the track till they reached the Nalaghat T-point from where they could pedal up the Morni-Badyal road for the remaining 7 KM to reach Morni.

Chaila from Gajhan

Chaila from Gajhan

The sky was overcast as the monsoons were in full-swing. The ubiquitous lantana with its sickly odour was crowding the narrow forest path that the locals had cut through the thick scrub. Chhaila, is a tiny hamlet that falls under Bhoj Jabiyal in Morni. To reach this village, one needs to take the Morni-Badiyal road that forks into two beyond Sherla, a large, picturesque village that sits atop a broad level hill and is known for its ‘prachin’ Hanuman temple and its large, muddy pond (tal). One turns west at the Nalaghat T-point to leave the Badyal road and to take the road that leads to the Samlasan Devi Temple at Samlotha. One crosses Kaajarh to reach the point where a small hill-track branches off to reach Chhaila. The road to Samlotha is now metalled but was still kutcha in 1989.

The boys had reached the point where the path descended sharply before beginning to climb again towards Kaajarh when the beast made its appearance. In seconds Mohan lay dead, the poor child’s neck broken and the skull crushed by the terrible strike of that vile cat. The children’s parents did not realize the foul deed until it was evening and the children did not return from school. Parmanand, Mohan’s father and Prem Chand, Yaad Ram’s father were accompanied by their fellow villagers as they set out to search for their children. They found Mohan’s body lying in a pool of blood with the pugmarks of the leopard all around. The boys’ cycles lay at the spot. As did their school bags. Yaad Ram, had disappeared. Had he run-off in terror? Or had he struggled to save his cousin and had also been killed and carried-off by the leopard? The party hunted for the missing boy till late hours until it got dark and the search was called-off. The leopard struck again that evening at the neighbouring Kajarh village and carried off a goat.

A pall of gloom descended upon the village as the search party brought Mohan’s mangled body back home. There was terror all around as nobody could tell as to who would the next victim of the Man-eater. It began to rain again that night, washing away the signs of struggle and the pugmarks at the site of the leopard attack.

Parmanand, the grieving father, Chhaila village, Bhoj Jabiyal, Morni hills (Tribune photo by Yog Joy)

Parmanand, the grieving father, Chhaila village, Bhoj Jabiyal, Morni hills (Tribune photo by Yog Joy)

There had been reports of cattle-lifting by leopards in these parts of the hills for past many years. A cow and a bull had been killed at Gajhan. Locals had sighted a female leopard with her cubs in close proximity of human-settlements on several occasions. This was all a malady of the changing times. The once inaccessible hills of Morni had now been opened up to tourism and wheels of development by building of metalled roads to improve connectivity. The latter-half of the 20th century witnessed a sharp decline in the ungulate population in Morni hills due to degradation of habitat and rampant poaching. This meant lesser availability of natural prey for the leopard population. The leopards adapted to this changed scenario by moving closer to human habitations. They now augmented their dwindling supply of natural prey by poaching on the cattle and goats belonging to the villagers. Thus, since the 70s, the hills have seen an increasing number of cattle-lifting cases. The leopards will not spare even the village dogs! The leopard, generally avoids any confrontation with the humans as it ‘knows’ through its ‘racial instinct’ that this will certainly bring about its eventual destruction. A cattle-lifter does, however, gradually lose its shyness of humans and gets progressively bolder in its raids to steal cattle. The risk of a chance face-to-face encounter then goes up and the leopard may strike the human out of fear when startled, as is the case with all wild animals. The leopard may also, in rare cases, prey on humans if it is unable to catch its natural prey due to injury or old age. Even in such rare cases it is too cowardly to take on a fully grown man and will if at all, attack only children and women who appear to it as soft targets.
The villagers commenced their search for Yaad Ram again at first light. Those with weapons carried their guns loaded apprehending a second strike by the leopard. Children were kept indoors. The search party found fresh pug-marks near the cycles, confirming that the leopard had returned to the ‘kill’. Generally, if the animal has killed a human accidentally, out of fear, it will not venture again to the site. It is only the Man-eaters who will return to the site of the ‘kill’. Word had been sent to the authorities about the tragic event. The Chief-Conservator of Forests, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and the Station House Officer of the Chandimandir Police Station congregated at Lal Munia, the Forest Rest House at Morni to decide the strategy for dealing with the crisis. Help was sought from the wildlife experts at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and the established ‘shikaris’ of the region.

The Hunt

The Tribune carried a prominent story by Donald Banerjee on the Man-eater on page-one of the newspaper of 12th August. The news was not missed by Chaudhury Jagdeep Singh of Ganguwala, the younger brother of the legendary hunter-turned conservationist and freedom-fighter, Sher Jung. Their father Partap Singh, was the collector of Nahan in the princely State of Sirmaur and was an ace shot. His sons, Sher Jung, Jagdeep and Shamsher were all masters in the jungle-craft and reknowned shikaris of their times. Jagdeep’s younger son, Kirnesh applied for permission to hunt down the Man-eater which came through on the 16th. By the afternoon of the 17th, Ch. Jagdeep had landed at Lal Munia Forest Rest House in his Gypsy with his sons and Rakesh and Kirnesh and two expert trackers. The local forest officers narrated the details of the incident and the shikaris reconnoitred the road uptill the point where it branched off into a kutcha track for Chhaila. They were joined in the late evening by Ashish Dasgupta, Col. Sher Jung’s friend and protégé from the ‘Muktivahini’ days. The strategy was chalked out for an early morning hunt for the Man-eater.

It was late night when the shikaris suddenly planned a late night drive up the Morni-Badyal road to see if the Man-eater was prowling around the area. Ashish took the wheel of the Gypsy and was joined by Rakesh and Kirnesh each armed with a 30-06 Czech Delux with a 4X scope! The trackers were carrying .12 bores and the forest guard navigated the party. Luck had finally run out for the vile, Man-eater as Rakesh stopped the party a couple of hundred yards from the huge-grey boulders that overlook a bend near Sherla. The rocks are at the very edge of a sharp drop to the south into the narrow valley of the rivulet that separates the Morni-Sherla ridge from the Gajhan ridge to the south. The rocks were shrouded with the lantana growth and looked sinister in the night. Rakesh had spotted a movement in the shadows. He pointed a spot-light on the area and immediately picked up the leopard amongst the rocks in the sharp beam. The animal immediately clambered to the top of the rocky outcrop to evade the glare, seeking refuge in the bushes to make good its escape. The eyes gleamed at the hunters from the bushes with hatred (terror?). It was now or never. Kirnesh took a head-shot, between the eyes from a distance of over 200 yards with the target illuminated by the spot-light. A difficult shot under the circumstances but he held his nerve and made no mistake. The bullet thudded home and that was the end of the Man-eater of Morni.

The team carried the dead leopard back to the rest house where it was inspected by the proud father of the ‘braves’. The inspection revealed that the animal had lost two of its claws in the right paw and the forearm was weakened. There were other injuries on the body, probably from a territorial brawl with another leopard. A canine was broken. The belly was empty. It was a classic case of an injured and weakened leopard who had taken to killing humans, probably by accident. A Man-eating leopard is notorious for its cunning and vile and is much more difficult to track down than a Man-eating tiger as the leopard knows the ways of man having lived in the proximity of human settlements. The people of Morni were lucky that the Shikaris had got the animal on the very first night before it became a confirmed Man-eater.

Man-eater of Morni, shot dead by Kirnesh Jung (Tribune photo by Karam Singh)

Man-eater of Morni, shot dead by Kirnesh Jung (Tribune photo by Karam Singh)

The officials of the forest department later confirmed that it was the same animal that had killed Mohan by matching the pug-marks that they had lifted from the site near Chhaila. The hunt was received with an enormous relief by the locals who had been living in terror for the past week. The Forest Minister and the entire top-brass of the Forest and wildlife Department as well as the DC descended at Lal Munia to see the dead ‘villain’ and congratulate the shikaris. It was a large-sized leopard, 7 feet and 3 inches ‘round the curves’ (nose to tail). The gallant shikaris suggested that the bounty announced by the Government for hunting down the rogue be given as aid to Prem Chand, the hapless father of Yaad Ram who was still untraceable. Yaad Ram was found many days later. He had managed to escape the unhappy fate that befell  his cousin and had run blindly through the forests in a state of terror. The trauma had resulted in complete amnesia of the ghastly experience. He had been spotted walking in a dumbstruck state by some trucker who had taken him along when the child failed to speak or give his identity.

The Tramp happened to visit the rocky outcrop some years back, where the Man-eater was shot. The spot has been christened the ‘Tiger-Point’ by the locals. Villagers of Sherla report seeing leopards on these boulders.

'Tiger Point' - the  Rocky outcrop near Sherla, Morni-Badyal road

‘Tiger Point’ – the Rocky outcrop near Sherla, Morni-Badyal road

Tiger-point, Sherla, Morni-Badiyal road

Tiger-point, Sherla, Morni-Badiyal road

Frequent visits of the spotted-cat have also been reported from the Sherla village. An elderly lady reportedly shooed away a leopard from her garden after safely securing her dogs inside her house, lest the villain should make a meal of them!

The hills have returned to their former peaceable slumber, the tragedy forgotten .

P.S.

It may be worthwhile to note that there has been only one solitary episode involving loss of human life due to man-leopard conflict in the entire Morni hill region in the past 25 years. By contrast, there is a death, virtually every year, from a snake-bite during the rains. The biggest threat to humans is of course from the Homo sapiens themselves with more than one murder being reported in the region on an average every year .

References:

  1. Big Cats Accounted For, Jagdeep (1998)
  2. Leopard strikes in Morni Hills, Donald Banerjee, The Tribune (12th August, 1989)
  3. Man-eater of Morni shot, Donald Banerjee, The Tribune (19th August, 1989)

Demographic profile of voters in Morni

The electoral rolls published by the Chief Electoral Officer of Haryana contain a wealth of demographic details of the adult population of the State. The author has made an effort to extract some of this information pertaining to the Morni ‘ilaqa’ and present it to the readers. The electoral rolls give basic details of voters registered under each polling station. To the extent that virtually every adult settled in each of the numerable dhanis of Morni is today registered to vote, this information provides us a peep into the demography of the entire adult population.

Generally, within Morni, a polling station invariably caters to the voters of a number of dhanis. In some cases, dhanis falling within a ‘bhoj’ fall under a single polling station. In other cases, dhanis falling under a bhoj are spread over more than one polling stations. In some cases, the area covered by a polling station cuts across more than one bhoj. In other cases, the area under a polling station is co-terminus with the area of a panchayat. Some polling stations cut across panchayat areas!! Thus, it is difficult to present demographic data extracted from electoral rolls in terms of the 14 bhojs or the 20 panchayats of Morni. Nevertheless, an attempt is being made to present at least a sample of the data available to the readers.

Bhoj Balag: –

The case of Bhoj Balag is unique to the extent that the area under the bhoj, the panchayat and the polling station (No. 131 of Kalaka Assembly Constituency) is co-terminus. The beginning is hence being made from the voter data available for this picturesque bhoj.

Demographic profile of voters of Bhoj Balag

Age profile of voters of Bhoj Balag

 

Age-wise breakup of voters of Bhoj Balag

 

About 75% of Bhoj Balag’s adult population falls in the age range 20-50 with roughly an equal number falling in each 10 year intervals i.e., 20 to 30, 30 to 40 and 40 to 50.  55 % of the adults are male. The male: female ratio is terribly skewed in the ‘under-30 adults’ with nearly 3 males for every 2 females. The ratio gets somewhat reversed in the age bracket of 40 to 50 with more number of females than males. An incredible 10% of Bhoj Balag’s adult population is 70 plus with its oldest resident, Shiv Ram of Balag being 98 years of age! Balag’s men seem to be doing better than the women in old age with the number of ’80-plus’ men being 3 times the number of women in this age bracket.

Demographic profile of voters of Bhoj Balag- Graphical

 

Aasrewali : –

Aasrewali is a Muslim Gujjar village in the Morni foothills that falls under the Berwala Nandla panchayat. The villagers are primarily semi-nomadic pastoral farmers. The village lies tucked away in the foothills behind the 5000 acre high-security campus of the firing range of DRDO’s Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory at Ramgarh.

Demographic profile of voters of Aasrewali

Age profile of voters of Aasrewali

Age profile of voters of Aasrewali-pie graph

 

About 75% of Aasrewali’s adult population falls in the age range 20-50 with roughly an equal number falling in each 10 year intervals i.e., 20 to 30, 30 to 40 and 40 to 50.  55 % of the adults are male. The male: female ratio is dangerously skewed in the ‘under-30 adults’ with over 2 males for every female. The ratio is 1:1 for all other age brackets. This can either indicate a distortion creeping in the past 3 decades (on account of introduction and widespread use of ultrasonography for prenatal sex determination) or may simply mean that fewer adult women under 30 are registered as voters (on account of possible reluctance to get girls registered as voters prior to their marriage). The former explanation, however, seems more likely to be correct, at least to a large extent. As per the 2011 census, Haryana State has a sex ratio  of 877 females per 1000 males which is a marginal improvement from the figure of 861 females to a 1000 males in 2001. The situation in Aasrewali seems to be grim even as per Haryana standards and warrants the urgent attention of the departments of ‘Health’ and ‘Women and Child Development’.

Deciphering Morni’s PIN Code- 134205

The Postal Index Number (PIN) or PIN Code is a 6 digit code introduced by the Indian Postal Department on 15th August 1972 and is used for numbering of post offices all over the country to assist in the sorting of mail for delivery purpose. The PIN Code today, however, signifies something more than a mere code for identifying a post office. The PIN Code helps identify an entire area that is covered under the post office (for the purpose of delivery of mail) that bears that code. A recent Bollywood film ‘Delhi-6’ depicted the life and issues of people living in the walled-city area of North Delhi (around Jama Masjid-Chandni Chowk) that falls under the PIN Code 110006. The Prime Minister of India’s office has been assigned a unique PIN Code- 110101 that it shares with none else!

An area or locality can be said to have come of age when it acquires its own PIN Code. The Morni ‘ilaqa’ can thus legitimately take pride in having its own unique PIN Code-134205. The Code denotes the post office at Morni, a ‘Sub-Office (Delivery)’ in the parlance of the Indian Postal Department, which has 4 ‘Branch Offices’ under it. The Branch Offices are located at Bhoj Koti, Mandhana, Thandog and Tikkar. Morni’s PIN Code covers most of the postal addresses in the hills. Some of the villages in the Morni foothills are, however, covered by PIN Codes of the post offices located in the plains. Aasrewali village is thus covered by the Sub-Office at Barwala with 134118 as its PIN Code. The neighbouring Khetpurali village gets its PIN Code 134204 from the Sub-Office at Raipur Rani.

PIN Codes can be deciphered by looking at the 6 digits that comprise the code, each of which denotes a specific aspect of the overall address.

  • The first digit of the 6 digit PIN code indicates the ‘Region’, the country being divided into 9 PIN Zones- 8 regional and 1 functional (reserved for the Indian Army). Thus the number ‘1’ denotes the PIN Zone/Region that includes the States of Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territories of Delhi and Chandigarh.
  • The second digit indicates the sub-region. The numbers ‘2’ and ‘3’ (when following ‘1’) denote the State of Haryana.
  • The third digit indicates the sorting district within the region. The numbers ‘3’ and ‘4’ (when following ‘12’ or ‘13’) denote the Districts of Ambala and Panchkula (Panchkula was a part of the Ambala district till 1995).
  • The final three digits are assigned to individual post offices.

Thus, in case of Morni’s PIN Code 134205-

  • ‘1’ denotes the Northern region
  • ‘3’ denotes the sub-region, more specifically, the Haryana State
  • ‘4’ denotes Ambala-Panchkula district
  • ‘205’ denotes the post office (S.O.) at Morni

The 4 Branch Offices under the Morni Sub-Office share its PIN Code.

Morni Post Office

Morni Post Office

In the age of mobile telephony,  internet and eMail, the age-old post offices have got a fresh lease of life with the introduction of the MNREGA programme. Wages under MNREGA are not paid in cash and are instead credited to the account of the worker maintained with a bank or a post office. The Indian Postal Department runs the world’s largest postal network and its reach is much larger than that of the banking network. One can find post offices operating in relatively remote locations all over the country. This has given the Indian Postal Department an edge over the banks in areas like Morni and wages of a large number are being paid through its network of post offices.

Note: Morni S.O. falls under Ambala City Head Office, Ambala Division, Ambala HQ Region, Haryana Circle. Phone- 01733-250130

MNREGA in Morni

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) was enacted in 2005 and is aimed at enhancing the employment opportunities for the rural poor and guarantees a hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The adult members of a household have to register themselves with the Gram Panchayat in the jurisdiction of which they reside.The household is then issued a job card. Every registered household can apply for work under MNREGA Scheme and is guaranteed a 100 days of wage employment in a financial year. In granting employment preference is given to women registered under the Act. Employment has to be provided within a radius of 5 KM of the village where the job applicant is registered. In case employment is provided outside this radius, 10% extra wages have to be paid. The applicant has to be given work, however, within the Block. The Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India vide notification dated 26th February, 2013 has fixed the daily wage for an unskilled manual worker in Haryana (under MNREGA) at Rs.214/- with effect from 1st April 2013 and this is the highest in the country, the lowest being Rs. 135/- .
The Act also aims at creating durable assets that improve the avenues for earning livelihood for the rural poor. Water conservation & harvesting, afforestation, renovation of traditional water bodies, improvement of rural connectivity to provide all-weather access, digging of minor/micro irrigation canals and land development are the preferred works to be taken up under MNREGA. Thus the goal is to make the improvement of employment opportunities sustainable over a long period of time.
A look at the comparative figures for employment provided to men and women in 2012-13 indicates that only a minuscule percentage of women get employment under MNREGA Schemes in the Morni Block and this figure is far lower than the average for District Panchkula which in turn compares poorly with the average for Haryana State that lags behind the national average!

Employment provided under MNREGA (2012-13)

Employment provided under MNREGA (2012-13)

A look at the statistics of registration of women workers for the Morni Block shows that barring the Panchayat areas of Plasra and Bhoj Ponta, very few women are registered for employment.

Workers registered under MNREGA Morni Block

Workers registered under MNREGA Morni Block

This indicates a reluctance of the rural women to work for wages on public works. The women of Morni region do, however, work hard getting fodder for the cattle and firewood from the forests. The women handle all household chores and also tend to the cattle in virtually every rural household.
The percentage employment provided to Scheduled Castes is also far lower in the Morni Block when compared with the District, State and National averages. This is, however, on account of the fact that Morni population is largely consisting of the Pandit and Rajput castes and the presence of Scheduled Castes is limited. The percentage of SC households (of the total) registered under MNREGA and the percentage actually provided employment in the Morni Block in 2012-13 is virtually identical, that is, 15%.

Employment provided under MNREGA 2012-13 (SC, ST & Others)

Employment provided under MNREGA 2012-13 (SC, ST & Others)

About Rs.1.05 crore were spent under MNREGA in 2012-13 in the Morni Block for works implemented through Gram Panchayats and the Forest Department.The panchayat-wise break-up of expenditure is given below:-

 

Expenditure 2012-13

MNREGA has faced a lot of flak lately for generating assets that are of little utility and that do not contribute to any long term gains for the rural poor. To make matters worse, the 100 days guaranteed employment allegedly encourages the rural folks to stick it out in their villages and the labour is no longer available for undertaking major infrastructure works and also for the industries thereby slowing down growth. ‘How many wells can one dig?’ is the common rhetoric amongst the critics of MNREGA. The author has some insight into the operation of MNREGA Schemes in the Morni Block that is considered one of the most backward areas of Haryana State. The average villager residing in the many dhanis spread all over the picturesque hills of Morni is typically rather laid back in his approach to life. He is extremely reluctant to go to the cities in the plains in search of better employment avenues. He is mostly content with the meagre level of existence that he is able to cull out from the rocky clay that makes up most of these hills. The long dry summer spells and the forest fires certainly do not help his lot. But he is a proud man and maintains himself with a lot of dignity. A certain amount of resignation to fate and destiny is also clearly apparent in these simple hill folks. Water harvesting works, improvement of rural connectivity and afforestation are the principal works undertaken under MNREGA Schemes in this block. The forest department has had watering holes dug up all over the hills but these are generally dry in the summer months. Small lakes/large ponds have been created in the foothills by building earthen dams across seasonal choes. These lakes have proved to be a boon to the wildlife but have served only a limited purpose in providing water to irrigate the fields. The rainy season sees heavy siltation and the irrigation pipes are almost invariably buried by the silt within the first few years of the building of the dam. The lakes/ponds are, however, a source of water for the cattle for most part of the year. The positive impact on wildlife by providing safe water sources deeper in the forests and higher in the hills needs a systematic study and assessment.
The villages in the higher hills see the kutcha pathways disappear with the heavy monsoon rains every year. Large parts of the metalled roads also get washed away every year with the collapse of stone embankments (dungahs). The remote dhanis of Morni get almost completely cut off from the main roads. Village kids are sometimes unable to attend schools for long periods of time due to damage to the access routes to the schools. For all such parts, MNREGA has proved to be a boon and one can see the villagers working hard to restore their paths immediately after the rains each year. The restrictions on use of concrete etc due to environmental concerns do make the annual restoration a repetitive effort (and expense) but this cannot detract from the immense impact of such works on improving the quality of life of the hill folks. In assessing the overall impact of MNREGA one must approach the issue from the perspective of all the stakeholders and not merely rely on the armchair analysis of the economists who live their lives in the relative security and comfort of the University campuses! Thus let us not condemn the effort of the romantic who throws the starfish marooned on the beach with the receding tide back into the sea to save the few he can. We just have to ask the starfish that got thrown back into the sea!!

P.S.

A special mention needs to be made of the successful computerisation of NREGA records with an amazing amount of data being made available on www.nrega.nic.in. The website offers particulars of all households registered under MNREGA , particulars of all the workers (with photographs) who were offered employment and paid wages under the MNREGA Schemes, details and photographs of works executed etc. Data is uploaded from thousands of locations with millions of records being fed into the system to create a database that offers exciting possibilities for the social researchers besides building a high level of transparency into the system. The graphical presentation of data in this post is based on data retrieved from the website of MNREGA. The discovery of leakages in the programme and occasional frauds is a testimony to the high level of transparency built into the scheme, where anyone and anybody can access the micro-level details of expenditure incurred under MNREGA and verify the authenticity of the same.

Bhadrakali Temple at Bani

Bani is the site of an ancient village on the Morni-Badiyal road, some 16 KM from Morni. The road to Bani crosses the Sherla tal turning left at the tri-junction with the road to Samlotha and thereafter descends steadily to cross Badiyal and Thana villages to reach Bani, just short of the seasonal nadi (a tributary of Markanda river) that forms the natural boundary with Himachal.

As per popular folklore the village was inhabited by traders of Bania community and was a flourishing  trading post where trade was carried out by the 14 Bhojs of Morni with  the villages of the Nahan area. Morni itself is said to have been  only a hamlet at that time. The area around Bani was having a large number of perennial springs/baolis, which was a major blessing given the dry character of the Morni hills. The village inhabitants are believed to have incurred the wrath of a sage who visited the village and who was not treated with due respect. In the typical tradition of Hindu mythology, the angry sage is said to have promptly cursed the village and its inhabitants that led to a great fire that engulfed the entire village. The ruins of this ancient village are identifiable by a large levelled area that is strewn with construction stones cut from rocks that ostensibly belonged to the havelis of the banias. The traders are then said to have shifted northward to Sarahan, in the Bursingdeo range and to Raipurani.

Fresh construction with stones retrieved from the ruins at Bani, Morni hills

Fresh construction with stones retrieved from the ruins at Bani, Morni hills

The village also housed a Bhadrakali Temple that has been reconstructed by the devotees at what is believed to be the site of the original temple.

Bhadrakali Temple, Bani, Morni hills

Bhadrakali Temple, Bani, Morni hills (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Shivling at Bani temple (Photo Courtesy -Rajesh Pandey)

Shivling at Bani temple (Photo Courtesy -Rajesh Pandey)

 

As per another version, the village has been destroyed as many as three times in the past and is making its fourth appearance!

Fish farming at Tikkar tal

Fish farming is being carried out by private contractors for past many decades at the Morni tals. The lakes of Tikkar tal are treated as ‘public waters’ under the Indian Fisheries Act, 1897 and the Punjab Fisheries Act, 1914. The 40 hectare area of the lakes is leased out for a period of 5 years for fish farming by the Haryana Fisheries Department through an open auction. As per the Rules notified under the Punjab Fisheries Act, the fish farming contractor is allowed to catch fish with commercial fishing nets measuring 4 centimetres from knot to knot or 16 centimetre all around. The contractor cannot use poison, dynamite, electric current etc for catching fish. The contractor cannot catch fish below the length of 30 centimetres comprising Rohu, Catla, Mrigal, Mahseer and Carp (Common, Grass and Silver). The contractor is required to submit a monthly catch data report to the Fisheries Department.

Fish farmers at Badah tal, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills

Fish farmers at Badah tal, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills

The Tikkar tal is currently leased to a Chandigarh based contractor for a period of 5 years (to expire in 2016) for an annual lease amount of Rs. 1.6 lac. The contractor procures the seed from Fish Seed Farm of Haryana Fisheries Department at Jansui, Ambala. The contractor in turn engages ‘shikaris’ for catching fish with nets. The catch is best when water levels are moderate. The catch typically includes Catla, Rohu, Mrigal and ‘Golden’ that is sold from a booth at the fish market at Sector 21, Chandigarh. Catla sells at around Rs. 130-140 per kg.

Catla fish caught from Tikkar tal being sold at fish market Sector 21, Chandigarh

Rohu fish caught from Tikkar tal being sold at fish market Sector 21, Chandigarh

The leasing system, however, denies the sporting activity to the amateur anglers, who could otherwise obtain a licence under the rules from the District Fisheries Officer and catch upto 3 fish a day, not below 30 centimetres, using fishing rod and line. The angler is, however, not allowed under the terms of such licence, to sell his catch in the market. The fisheries department needs to consider allowing angling in the Tikkar tal by compensating the fish farming contractor appropriately. This would draw tourists to the lakes. The Haryana tourism department can offer the fishing rod and line on hire for the beginners.