Govts did nothing to bring Andretta on tourists map of art, say residents

ANDRETTA, also known as “village of artists” for its association with renowned artist late Sobha Singh and Norah Richards, the lady Gregory of Punjabi theatre is crying for government attention as residents said that successive governments have not done anything to bring it on tourists map of art.

Sobha Singh had settled in the village, located 10 km from Palampur. His family has preserved his paintings and legacy by converting his house to Sobha Singh Art Gallery and Museum. Authorities of Punjabi University, Patiala, have converted Norah Richards house into a rest house and a preserved monument.

Besides the duo, pottery artists Gurcharan Singh had also brought the famous art in Andretta. His son Mansimran Singh and his wife Mary set up Andretta Pottery and Crafty Society in the village.

While the village is an artists’ Mecca, several residents said that for them the biggest election issue was the apathetic attitude of successive governments. Not only the village could have been a learning centre for budding artists but also an advanced institute of learning art could have been set up here.

Hirday Paul Singh, Sobha Singh’s grandson said they were keeping the art of his grandfather alive as many tourists visited the art gallery and museum every year. Residents said that they expected from the government to bring the village on the tourist map. “It just required a little push from the government. There were three Padam Shri artists. But nothing was done,” said Satish Sharma, a resident of the village.

GC Pathania, another resident said that it was an art village only in the name. “But nothing was done. Norah Richards, who had set up her retreat in the village and later donated it to Punjabi University, Patiala, they set it up as a rest house. There are caretakers in the rest house. A team from university comes to the place twice a year. But the local government have not done anything. The name of Andretta is known village over because of Sobha Singh and Norah Richards, who returned to India from Ireland just for her love for Punjabi theatre. Mansimran alias Mini kept the art of pottery alive. Two more pottery artists have now come to the village.”

He added that Norah Richards retreat is a piece of 20 kanals. “The government can easily set up a university or a fine arts college. But nothing was done.”

Satish Sharma added that Andretta could be a hit of tourism. “A lot of foreigners come here on their own. But the traffic is not too much. The government can easily set up an institute. It had promised it but nothing was done. Connectivity is also a big issue as the train station is at least 1.5 km away in Panjukhi. They have named the road in Andretta after Sobha Singh. They can set up a railway station here after his name.”

Balbir Singh, a shopkeeper said if the trust spot is promoted even the village economy can be helped. “But no one cares. We keep asking for industry in Himachal but if Andretta could be development into art tourism hub then it could help our youth also. “

Andretta falls in Jaisinghpur Assembly segment, represented by BJP MLA Ravindra Dhiman. The Congress has fielded his arch-rival and former MLA Yadwinder Goma from the seat and AAP has nominated Santosh Kumar.

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