Shimla much more than the Ridge and the Mall

Spice of Life: : Aided by official heft, I discovered the academic side of Shimla. There are four such landmarks that embellish the Queen of the Hills uniquely
Set up as a research institute by the then ministry of education, Government of India, in 1964, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) started functioning from October 20, 1965. (HT file photo)
Set up as a research institute by the then ministry of education, Government of India, in 1964, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) started functioning from October 20, 1965. (HT file photo)
Published on Oct 13, 2021 02:02 PM IST
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By Chander Gupta

Shimla is one of the best-known hill stations that tourists throng to. Once the summer capital of British India, Shimla is now the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. Tourists normally mill around popular hotspots, namely The Ridge and The Mall, considered the epicentre of tourist activities in town.

I was fortunate to be posted in Shimla as a banker. The two-year stay offered me opportunities to explore Shimla in ways that tourists who come for a couple of days don’t get. Aided by official heft, I discovered the academic side of Shimla. There are four such landmarks that embellish the Queen of the Hills uniquely.

The first institution is the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS). Set up as a research institute by the then ministry of education, Government of India, in 1964, IIAS started functioning from October 20, 1965. By virtue of the goodwill earned through the installation of an ATM at the gate of the IIAS during my tenure in the bank’s Shimla branch, I gained the opportunity of not only meeting its top brass but also the privilege of being shown around even those quarters that are not open to the public. The building that houses IIAS was completed in 1888 as the Viceregal Lodge. After Independence, it was renamed Rashtrapati Niwas.

The second place of eminence is the National Academy of Audit and Accounts (NAAA). It is the apex training institute of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department. Trainee officers of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS), an allied service of the IAS, are imparted training at NAAA during their probation period. I will always cherish the privilege of taking a session on the topic of banking for IAAS probationers in the plush precincts of the academy.

Next comes the Labour Bureau. It is a central government office under the ministry of labour and employment. It compiles the consumer price index for industrial workers (CPI-IW), used for calculating the dearness allowance (DA). It is housed in The Cleremont Building, a British Raj heritage building. Prior to my visit to the Labour Bureau where this interesting fact was revealed, I hadn’t known that the CPI-IW was compiled in Shimla. Officials at the bureau fully satiated my curiosity about the methodology of compiling the consumer price index.

Last but not the least is the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI), run under the aegis of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research. CPRI was established to carry out research, education and extension on the potato. An interesting trivia about potato is that though potato is a household name today in India it came to this ancient land from Europe in the beginning of the 17th century. It remained an insignificant crop till independence. As our bank had an extension counter there, I was duty-bound to visit the CPRI periodically.

Undoubtedly, Shimla is much more than the Ridge and the Mall. It is dotted with heritage buildings that house institutions of academic significance. chander59@icloud.com

The writer is a Panchkula-based retired banker

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021