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Raid de Himalayas – Are we following the trend blindly?

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An environmental enthusiast shares his concerns regarding the undesired impacts of the event.

An environmental enthusiast shared his opinion regarding the undesired impacts of the Raid–De Himalayas, an adventure sports event held every year since 1999. Arvin Panwar is an IT graduate turned social/environment enthusiast who spent 10yrs in Japan, most of the time working with Sony Corporation as Project Manager, and 2 yrs as a freelancer at the radio software development company, EtherStack. Now Arvind lives in Shimla and is self–employed as a consultant for the local NGOs on CBRT and sustainability. Here is the complete article provided by Arvind to HW, that raises some sensitive issues . You can know more about Arvind on his blog.

Raid de Himalayas or Rape the Himalayas

Well, seems like everyone is excited about Raid De Himalaya. Till last year even I was, as I used to only witness this through media or Internet. However, this year I got to experience it closely. And as a responsible citizen of a highly ecosensitive state, I’m concerned!I would like to ask the authorities if appropriate checks are implemented to ensure that such events don’t create unnecessary problems to the:

1) The locals
2) The environment
3) The wildlife

And yes, even the media should ensure that they just don’t blindly follow the trend but look at the other side of the story. In a recent event, two participants of Mughal rally were killed ( newspapers have this already published) and some were even beaten up by locals as the participants hit a local car ! How that happened is something the organizers can tell but this is what I heard from the crew!

I went through the 44 page document which talks about the rules and regulations of the rally and though I must congratulate them to have touched many key issues related to the rally however nowhere in the document they have mentioned about how the participants and the organizers should act responsibly toward the local laws, environment , wildlife , local culture etc.

Some immediate concerns:

1) I see the participants flaunting the traffic rules and creating nuisance for the public. When the rally is not ongoing, the organizers should make sure that the participants follow the traffic laws. I was almost overrun by a speeding gypsy yesterday. They should be strictly punished if found breaking traffic laws when the rally is not on.

2) They should not be allowed to drive through / around residential areas / sensitive zones / wildlife sanctuary etc. especially at night time. Again from personal experience, yesterday night a car without silencers drove past our locality roaring around 0300hrs!!!

3) Noise level of cars: though there is a strict guideline on the noise level but are there any checks after the rally has started? If there a third party that verifies the noise levels ?

4) Who in the authorities ensure that the route doesn’t cross sensitive zones?

Some long term concerns:

The same question which I posed 2 years back to the organizers and I ask again, why such rallies are allowed in the highly sensitive zone of Himalayas? What measures they take to ensure minimum damage to the environment. One answer I received was they plan the route carefully however I really need to see that! Another answer I got was, this event is only for a few days so why it’s a big concern compared to the usual pollution? Didn’t expect such childish remarks from the organizers. So others are exploiting the natural so why we shouldn’t? Is that a responsible argument? If others do it for livelihood reason, do you guys get the free license to rape the nature for entertainment purpose?

I wonder how come the authorities allow this? Many would say that this rally has brought HP to international map and has done good. My answer to them is that there are other responsible ways of doing the same! Organizing a MTB rally makes sense as its more ecofriendly provided its organized with care but a car rally is highly questionable.

Some people who feel that it’s a cool thing to follow, must rethink long term!! Especially, when the climate is fast changing, even small steps can make a difference.

Thanks for the article Arvin Panwar, an environmental/social enthusiast

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Shimla: Charitable Trust Providing Free Meals to Home Isolated Covid-19 Patients

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Shimla-Coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a major blow to the state’s governance. At a time when almost all three tiers of government failed to assess and prepare for the second wave in the country, many organisations have come forward to help the ordinary citizens in need. The Sunil Upadhayaya Educational Trust has been running an initiative to provide free food for those in home isolation in the state’s capital city.

The trust started the initiative from 28th April 2021, and is currently providing free meals to at least 83 Covid-19 positive families in Shimla, Trust Secretary Dr Surendra Sharma said.

Joint Secretary informed that the meal plan for Covid-19 patients have been prepared after taking into consideration all the dietary requirements of such patients . Suggestions for this diet plan were taken from doctors.

A well-planned protein diet consisting of fruits, salads, sprouts, vegetable, pulses, rice, Indian flatbread (roti), and a sweet dish is being provided to the home isolated patients, the trust added.
Social Service by The Sunil Upadhayaya Educational Trust

The trust informed that all the people involved in the initiative, including the cooks, have undergone the RT-PCR test.

Trust secretary, Dr. Sharma, claimed that the trust has managed to deliver 676 food packages till now. He also informed that the trust is running two helpline numbers for those in need of the food service. Needy people can reach the trust at the given numbers: 9418006194, 9805349124

The trust is also organising free online coaching classes for the students of class 10th and 12th for 35 days.

“All those students who are facing problems to manage their studies in the pandemic due to unavailability of required resources can contact the trust members and get themselves registered for the free classes,” Joint Secretary said.

In the past, Sunil Upadhayaya Educational Trust have organized various initiatives like cloth banks, and clothes distribution drives too, Dr Joint Secretary.

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Despite Inauguration of Oxygen Plant in Hamirpur, No Ventilator Support for Patients

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Shimla-Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had inaugurated two Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) Oxygen Plant at Dr. Radhakrishnan Government Medical College, Hamirpur, and Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College, Chamba on Sunday. The government had ensured to provide uninterrupted oxygen supply to the patients admitted in both these medical colleges.

But now allegations are being labelled that he inaugurated the plant in Hamirpur in haste while the patients are still not receiving ventilator support.

According to a report published in a daily, the PSA plant in Dr. RKGMC established at the cost of Rs 1 crore couldn’t provide any relief to the patients. Despite the inauguration, the patients are being referred to Dr. Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Tanda and Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Government Hospital, Ner Chowk

The report said that critically ill covid patients are being referred to nearby hospitals even after the inauguration of the plant and the timely availability of ambulances is also another inconvenience that the patients are facing. A covid positive police officer in critical condition was shifted to Ner Chowk on Tuesday. Last week a  BJP member in Hamirpur succumbed to corona due to the unavailability of a ventilator in the hospital, the report said.  

The PSA Oxygen plant at Hamirpur has a capacity of 300PLM. The plant was supposed to supply oxygen to a 30-bedded fully dedicated covid ward.

Senior officials from Dr. RKGMC, responding to the query, said that the oxygen plant is running, but the ward with ventilator facility is not ready yet. They said that covid patients can’t be shifted to the ward until the work concludes. The officials assured that the ward will be made functional soon.

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Govt and People Flaunting Interstate Travel SOPs Costing Himachal

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Shimla– Though the Himachal Pradesh Government has now announced imposition of strict curfew, similar to a lockdown, there is no doubt about it that both the government and the public underestimated the second wave of the pandemic armed with double mutant- more deadly than the first one. The government in the state was hardly able to take timely decisions at its own and those taken appeared to be ineffective and half-hearted. My own experience is a testimony to the carelessness shown by the government, as well as, the people during inter-state travel. 

HP Govt was one among the many states that made it mandatory for people entering the state to register with COVID e-pass and to carry a negative RT-PCR report. The measures taken by the government seemed commendable to me until I faced the ground reality.

A week after the official notification was issued, I travelled to the state capital city from New Delhi – one of the major hotspots. Rigorous checking and contact tracing is the need of the hour, but what’s happening at the border is far more different than what is expected of the officials.

It shouldn’t come to us as a surprise if fake e-passes in the names of Donald Trump and Amitabh Bachhan are being produced. This matter should put light on the negligent approach of state authorities. As much as we trust the government bodies to contain the virus, they are dangerously failing. In my own experience, I wasn’t asked to produce a negative RT-PCR report upon entering the state, nobody in the last 72hrs tried to contact trace me. I travelled to Shimla in a public transportation bus, on the eve of 4th May 2021. On entering the state border, the assigned official made no extraordinary attempt to check the passengers. Many were travelling without e-pass and RT-PCR test reports. I even asked the official to check my RT-PCR report, to which he showed no concern. It is due to careless mistakes like these that made India one of the most affected countries in the world.

I also noticed that many passengers were not carrying e-passes, either because they were not aware of the need to carry them, or because they didn’t take this mandatory condition seriously. The sheer ignorance of common people and those who are appointed to keep check of the situation is the reason why we are heading towards a catastrophe. The onus is on us, too. I made sure that I travelled with e-pass, so that the state government stays aware of my movement. I got my test done so that I don’t infect the virus to others unknowingly. I am also observing home isolation for a period of 14 days because there’s no harm in following the precautionary measures.

India is in the second wave of this deadly pandemic, and it is time we take responsibility for our actions. The primary reason for the rise of the second wave in India is the rampant violation of COVID protocols.

Now that the state government has decided to implement a curfew similar to a lockdown, I expect that the new Covid protocols will not have any loophole. This time people along with the administration will have to stay prepared to face the reality. The virus can be stopped, but only with our combined efforts.

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