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Our experience with the present government and its departments

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Based on the interaction with various government departments and the public, HW shares the experience with its readers

We consider it our honor to be able to provide even a fraction of the point of view that the public hold regarding the development work and services of the present government. Almost for the past one and half years, HW has regularly been forwarding the public grievances and complaints to various responsible government departments and officials. With every complaint, we provided images and video clips to emphasize the need of immediate attention to the mentioned grievance. We exchanged many statements regarding these complaints with various government departments. Based on our interaction, these government departments and officials enjoy a reputation in our opinion. We would like to share it with you before you cast your vote tomorrow. We would just talk about the Shimla city, as it’s the capital of the state.

The Roads

Most of the complaints, which we officially communicated with the MC Shimla and PWD, were regarding the poor condition of the roads. No surprise, most of them are pending, others were either done with a poor patching work or disposed off saying it doesn’t belong to their department. In the case of Sangati-Summerhill road, the HPWD even replied that they could not locate the road in Shimla. However, now the department claims to have awarded the contract of resurfacing of the Sangti road to a private contractor.

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Parapets and Protective Railings

HW regularly wrote to HPWD regarding the need for protective railing, especially, on the bypass road. We mentioned a few accidents, which could have been averted, if there would have been proper parapets, or any strong protective railing on the spots of accidents. Already many lives had already been lost on the bypass road and in most of the accidents, sharp curves or narrow road space were the common factors. We even begged asking them to take immediate steps so that any further loss of a life could prevent. It was after months of complaint that PWD provided railings on the bypass road, but only at a single spot. The railing didn’t cover the whole curve and the job was done half heartedly. Still, the many spots at bypass road remains as a risk to life. But, that doesn’t bother the government.

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Environment

The government boasts that Himachal has been rated as diamond state in terms of environment. We would better apologize later, but at least once, we would say that the government and the public, both are dumb and idiotic when it comes to caring about the environment. Himachal Electricity Board has a great taste for torturing the trees with their stay-wires, iron rods and mails. Have a look at the images yourself. If you notice carefully, only in Shimla city, you would wonder how many trees are in the same condition. Now assume the situation all over the state. HW forced HPSEB to remove some of the stay wires and rods, but there are numerous ready to die.

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On the part of the present government in the state, the tree massacre at the site of DLF Luxury Villas in Shimla is a sufficient evidence of the very good care that it took of the forestland

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Well, that’s not it. Near Sankat Mochan, about 450 trees, which are to be chopped down to construct a new 33 KW substation, have already been marked. The villagers of the nearby Panchayat, who dependents on the forest for some of the basic requirements like fire wood, food for the domestic animals and a nearby natural water resource, requested the government to shift the location to a place where less trees would be chopped off. The villagers even called the media to put some pressure, but it didn’t work. Similarly, 50-60 trees have been marked for the construction of the new complex of Public Health & Irrigation on the Shimla bypass road. HW had requested the government to find a location with a lower density of trees. In nutshell, the government did not listen to its people at all.

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Health

Have a look at these images, which were sent to us by a reader, narrating the conditions in the Kamala Nehru Hospital, the biggest lady reading in Himachal.

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A few other images of KNH Shimla sent to us by our other readers.

Transportation Facilities

The government, somehow succeeded in getting rid of open doors of private buses, but overcrowding problem has worsen, especially, on Sanjuali, Tutu, Summer Hill routes. The bus accident, in which 53 people died, in the Chamba district a few months ago is a sufficient proof that the bus fasciitis does not meet the requirement in many parts of Himachal. Even after the accident the issue remains the same in rural areas.

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Shimla is the capital city and a great tourist spot on the world map and that makes the roads of Shimla busiest in the state. The government failed to tackle the problems of insufficient parking spaces in the Shimla. The frequent traffic jams, most of which causes due to vehicles parked on the already congested roads, has become a frequent scene. BCS, Sanjauli and Boileauganj, Lakkar Bazaar are the most common places which suffers due to the unavailability of the parking spaces.

E-Samdhan, Online portal for public grievances started by Prem Kumar Dhumal

Hide dhumal-himachal-on-sale

Present Chief Minister, Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal launched the E-Samdhan in 2008 and made a great noise. It is an online portal where public a citizen can submit grievances. Mr. Dhumal claimed that the process of attending to the public grievances would become easier and faster. HW tried to use the services in a hope for some actions from the particular departments regarding many sensitive issues. However, in terms of speed, it takes more time than flying to New York, spend couple of weeks there and return to Himachal. Recently, E-Samdhan took 17 days to forward a complaint to traffic police Shimla. That’s not the best way the services of the Internet can be utilized. Online service means ease and speed, but unfortunately, not in Himachal.

Public Infrastructure

Please have a look at the condition of the public toilets, rain shelters, footpath, streetlights etc yourself. A very few of them were attended and most of them are still pending.

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Our experience with MC Shimla

Somehow, we managed to fix a few problems by submitting complaints to the MC Shimla. The damaged footpaths, poor waste management, leaking sewerage pipes, damaged roadside drainage system, public paths in poor condition, leaking water tanks, stinking public toilets etc. are a few of them. Most of them are still waiting to be attended. In case some of them were attended, then only the mentioned locations were dealt with and in general, the problems were ignored. Majority of the complaints submitted to the MC Shimla are ‘in progress’ and likely to remains the same in the future too. The story of Rajhana Panchayat is one considerable example of the ignorance of the MC Shimla towards the public grievances.

Fortunately, the MC Shimla seems to have put some efforts to tackle the issue of unauthorized placement of billboards and hoardings. However, HW has been writing regarding the same to MC Shimla from the past one year.

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To The Public

In a state with a literacy rate above 90%, the public equally contribute towards polluting the environment, mishandling public property with their unwanted routine habits that affect the social environment around them. Improper garbage disposal, unwillingness to co-operate with traffic rules, wasting drinking water, setting the jungles on fire are common, but the lack of raising voice against any public or social issue stands as the greatest problem that encourages corruption and development of the state.

Our Himachal is still beautiful and peaceful. HW requests the public to participate and contribute in any cause that matters for the sustenance of the natural beauty and the peace of our state. It doesn’t matter which party comes to power. That will not solve the problem. The public needs to know the power of their rights that they can use to correct the government. The Union Is Strength. The political parties still uses the ‘dive and rule’ trick and we still fall victims of it. Being a party sympathizer is not an issue, but following any ideology blindly is the dumbest thing the public of a nation would do. Just imagine that there are thousands of political parties in India and each one of them have their own supporters. This grouping is keeping the public from getting together and question the government. We don’t need a third front to take charge of the government. To keep the government responsible, we need to stand united and aware.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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How HP Govt Contained an Imminent Threat Successfully

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video of Farmers arrested in Shimla

Shimla-Three Punjab farmers were detained by Shimla Police on January 19, 2021, from the Ridge Shimla. The police can be seen shrouding them from media person and rushing the farmers to the Sadar Police station. A couple of media person were allegedly hackled during this process. The farmers were kept at Sadar for hours for questioning and later brought before the Magistrate. However, the scene created a stir among those who witnessed it.

Media persons were left wondering as to what these people might have done or were about to do. The body language, action, and statement of the police suggested that these three persons posed some serious threat.


Himachal Watcher tried to contact the Superintendent of Police, Mohit Chawala, to know about the matter, but couldn’t connect. However, a statement to an English Daily suggested that these three persons posed some sort of immediate and serious threat. They were booked under Section 107 (Abetment of an unlawful activity/thing) and 150 (Hiring, or conniving at hiring, of persons to join unlawful assembly).

“We had inputs about the arrival of some farmers but their credentials could not be verified. They have been detained as a preventive measure,”

the SP told the Daily. The Police is yet to reveal the nature of the intel and intensity of the threat posed by these three suspects.

This statement suggests, these three persons would have been on the radar of the police and their detention would have been of utmost importance to the police as it was gathering intel about them.

We will speak about the recovery of things made from these three suspects who had planned something big in Shimla later. 

Watching police in such aggressive action, media persons were seen running along the policemen who were taking these persons to the Station. According to media persons present on the scene, a couple of them were hackled by police. One of the officials, who was in a civil dress, allegedly threatened a media-person.

The policemen were seen trying hard to not let mics of reporters get near these persons. These suspects were seen trying to get the attention of the media and the people present on the scene. One of the suspects was even heard speaking something about “Right to Speech” in the Indian Constitution and “Democracy”.

When the suspense ended by evening, it turned out these were only three farmers who had come from Singhu border near Delhi to speak about three contentious Farm Laws passed recently by the Government of India. As per the police, a threat of a demonstration was looming large. To accomplish their purpose, they were reportedly carrying ‘banner’ about farmers’ protest. The police successfully recovered them before they could cause any damage to the people. However, the State Police, thus, the State Government successfully contained this imminent threat and saved a lot of people from exposure to the opinion of farmers on the Farm Laws. These farmers, if not stopped, would have spoken about their reasons to oppose these Laws.

The police said the Ridge Maidan, Shimla, falls under the Core area and requires prior permission to hold a demonstration/protest/events etc., which is true. These persons had obtained no such permission, thus, invited detention. Legally, this detention could be justified only if these persons were found violating this norm. The police or say the government might have their reasons to take such action. But our readers had been writing to us to ask about the activity in which these farmers were found to be indulged in at the spot. The farmers said that they were not shouting slogans nor staging a protest.  The SP Shimla, in a statement to media, said that these persons were detained before they could execute their plan.

The execution of detention aptly speaks about the urgency of detention of these farmers. The farmers’ protest is denting the reputation of the ruling party in the Centre. In case, more farmers are convinced and join the protest, it would cause more damage to the Union Government. These Laws have invited massive protest from farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana. Farmers have been protesting for almost two months now. The farmers have even planned to hold a tractor parade on January 26 – the Republic Day. The pressure on the Government has mounted to such an extent that yesterday it agreed to pause the three Laws for the next one and half year. Before this, the Supreme Court had stayed the Laws and constituted a committee. The farmers are, however, adamant that the Laws should be repealed. The eleventh round of talks between the farmer representatives and the Government today again concluded without any agreement between two parties. So, the state Government’s concern regarding the containment of such threats can be well explained here.

As far as the persons, who were later released on bail, managed to speak to a couple of media persons – major lapse in security. They said that farmers had been going to various states to create awareness about the Farm Laws but did not receive such a treatment anywhere except Himachal Pradesh.

“We were treated like terrorists,”

they complained.

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The Story of Himachal’s ‘Friendly Leopard’ from the Viral Videos

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Viral Himachal Leopard Cub Video

Kullu-Several videos of the ‘leopard incident’ in Tirthan Valley, Kullu district, Himachal Pradesh, are going viral in India and would soon spread to international media. Anyone who is watching these videos is wondering as to how a wild predator who avoids humans, habitats, roads etc. and is a shy feline happened to be playing with people amid a huge gathering of people around him, traffic jam, and a lot of noise. It’s just like a fantasy to see a wild animal having such close, friendly contact with humans despite not being familiar with humans. Not only it was dangerous for the animal itself but also the ignorant people chasing him with mobile cams in their hands. That’s what we could infer from the response given by forest officials after watching the behavior of the people in these video clips. Himachal Watcher has also compiled several video clips of the incident.

A lot of our curious readers had been writing regarding the incident, so we talked to people who actually have knowledge regarding wildlife and animal behaviour in order to find a possible explanation for this rare leopard-man contact. It turned out, opposite to the fun people were having with this animal, it was a sensitive matter for the wildlife officials. 

We talked to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Banjar, Praveen Thakur and HPFS, Sachin Sharma, who is currently posted as DFO, Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP).  Readers had been asking us questions; Where did it come from? How did it become so friendly with humans? What happened to the cub later? So we requested DFO, Banjar, Praveen Thakur, to answer these and some other important questions related to the incident. 

What you already know is that a leopard came out of the wild onto the road near Sarchi – Nagladi bridge in Tirthan valley on January 14. This belt comes under the Great Himalayan National Park. People stopped their vehicles and came out to record videos. The leopard was seen playfully grabbing different people. A traffic jam and a huge gathering of people, mostly locals, were seen in the videos. It was something that people had never seen, at least in this part of the world. 

The DFO, GHNP, also admitted that this is highly uncommon to see such ferocious wild predator getting so friendly within a few hours after contact with humans. But in this case, it was just a cub, aged about seven to eight months. 

“I haven’t seen or heard of such an incident where a wild leopard became so friendly with humans that he started to play with them. These animals are generally shy and smartest in the feline families. They avoid humans and their habitats,” he said.

When asked whether a cub of its age, considering strength and growth of nails and teeth, was capable of inflicting harm or not, he said that on sensing a threat it can. He condemned the behaviour of the people as it was not only dangerous for them but also the animal.

“Amid such a chaotic environment, the behaviour of any wild animal would be unpredictable. If not intentionally, the cub could have inflicted minor injuries to someone while playing. In that case, the reaction of people could have been hostile and things could have gone wrong,” he said.

In his opinion, this rare instance can’t be termed as a result of man-animal conflict. No other instances where these animals attacked or caused harm to humans in this region have been reported, he said.

The DFO, Banjar, Praveen Thakur said he was also surprised but also gave an explanation.

“It was an eight- to-nine-month-old cub, who got separated from its mother. The mother with its cubs lives in a nearby forest in a territory of four to five square kilometers. There was an incident of fire in the area and the cub, most probably, got separated from the mother due to it,” the DFO told Himachal Watcher.

Regarding the friendly behaviour of this cub, he said,

“Several videos are going viral on social media where the cub was looking comfortable and friendly with humans amid a crowd. Adult leopards show behavioural changes before becoming mature animals. They mostly avoid humans. But it was not an adult leopard, but just an 8 to-9-month-old cub,” he said.

“However, the cub did not get friendlier at the starting and was avoiding vehicles. As per my knowledge, for the first few hours, the cub was seen roaming around in a distress and avoiding humans and vehicles. (Watch Video). Initially, a couple of vehicles stopped to see the cub. As it was just a cub unable to hunt and survive at its own, it got friendlier after sensing that humans were not harming and, thus, were no threat. Cubs can get friendly on sensing no threat. Similarly, cubs and young offspring of several other animals can get friendlier.”

If watched video clips carefully, the cub was curious and trying to explore this new environment. But at the same time it was distressed as it had gotten separated from its mother and was in a environment not natural for it.

Citing a previous case, the DFO said,

“Not long time ago, we had rescued a bear cub. He had also become friendly within no time.”

“In the present case, we have identified the family. Mother lives in the forest not far from our Rest House. The area falls under the Great Himalayan National Park and is not far from the road. The family is not entirely unfamiliar with traffic and human movement,” he told HW.

In the current incident, he said that it’s a case of separation of the cub from mother.

A forest fire was reported in the territory of this family, and the mother or the cub got stuck somewhere due to it, resulting in a separation.”

He confirmed hearing calls from its mother. Mother would make a particular sound as a form of a call when trying to find its cubs, he explained.

He said that the department received the information regarding the presence of this cub among humans a little late. On receiving information, a rescue team was dispatched, which reached the spot within half-an-hour.

The team caught the cub with a net without much difficulty, he said. As it was healthy and had no injury or disease, it was released into its natural habitat as guidelines say that in such a case the animal should be released to its natural habitat as soon as possible to reduce distress.

He also said that teams are continuously monitoring the movement of the cub to ensure that it reunites with its mother and do not venture into human habitats or comes near the road again.

The mother and the cub are only a couple of kms distance apart. The cub would also make calls, which would help the mother find it, he said.

He rejected speculations of this cub being raised as a pet.

“His mother would have not been making calls if the cub was raised as a pet. These calls imply that the cub got separated very recently,” he said.

“After consulting wildlife experts, we have decided that in case the cub is seen venturing into human habitats or places having human presence and displaying same friendly behaviour again, then it would have to be captured and sent to the rescue centre in Gopalpur in Kangra district,” he said.

If it would grow up while remaining in friendly contact with humans, it might not get capable of attaining hunting skills to survive at its own in the wild. Moreover, these animals could inflict grieve injuries unintentionally while playing.

However, we are certain that the mother would soon find the cub. We will keep monitoring it until the mother stops making distress calls, he said.

On being asked whether this cub was capable of hurting or injuring a human, the DFO said that cubs of this age lack hunting skills, and it’s mostly after one year of age that the mother starts training them.

The DFO, however, expressed more concern over the behaviour of the people than that of the animal.

Most of these people were locals and they are often made aware about dos and don’t on an encounter with a wild animal.

“As soon as I came across the videos, I contacted a few people who were present on the spot including the Pradhan of the area and told him to ask people to stay away from the cub and to not chase him for photos and videos. I had even spoken to the local police to help manage the situation as people were not even listening to our Rangers,” he told HW.

“It was a complete nuisance that the people were creating by causing a traffic jam, chasing the cub, and trying to get close to it. We are trying to identify some people visible in the video deliberately going near the cub,” he added while informing that there are provisions of three to six months of imprisonment for those creating nuisance for or teasing wild animals, especially those protected. Leopards are protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.

He urged the people to avoid wild animals if they happen to encounter them. Stay away from them, do not gather around and obstruct their path. Left alone, on sensing no threat, these animals eventually find their course and go back to their natural habitat, he said. In the current case, the situation would have led to chaos if it was a mature leopard, he said.

Even if you want to watch the animal then, at least, maintain a safe distance or remain in the vehicle, he added.

When asked whether this instance can be related to man-animal conflict and is a matter of concern or not, the DFO said,

“This can’t be termed as a matter related to man-animal conflict and isn’t a matter of concern as long as animals do not enter human habitats and kill livestock or attack humans. Moreover, such judgement can’t be made based on a single instance.”

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Farmers Welcome SC Order to Stay Implementation of Farm Laws But Suspicious About Formation of Committee

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stay on farm laws

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of three contentious farm laws passed by the Centre Government, which has led to huge protest from hundreds of farmer groups. The stay implies that the Centre Government can’t take any executive actions based on these laws till further order. 

“The implementation of the three farm laws (1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; (2) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and (3) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, shall stand stayed until further orders,”

said the order passed by a panel headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A Bobde on Tuesday.

Further, the MSP system would continue as it was before the enactment of the laws.

“As a consequence, the Minimum Support Price System in existence before the enactment of the Farm Laws shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws,”

the order said.

With this order, the SC hoped to end the ongoing impasse over the contentious farm laws.

The farmers who have been protesting for over the last 45 days, welcomed the SC’s order.

However, at the same time, the Apex Court ordered the formation of a committee to listen to both sides and make recommendations to the court. The committee, which would comprise of Agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, Bhupinder Singh Mann, Dr Prmod Kumar Joshi, former director of National Academy of Agricultural Research Management), and Anil Ghanwat from Shetkari Sangathan, was asked to submit its report in the court within two months.

The CJI, in its order, speaking about the purpose of this “extraordinary” order, said,

“While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmers’ bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.”

Though a stay on the implementation of laws was welcomed by protesting farmers, several unions said that they would not accept this committee and the protest will continue. They said the Government is trying to form this committee through the Supreme Court. This committee, they said, included persons who have already been justifying the farm laws. They said the purpose of this committee is nothing more than creating a diversion. The protest would be armed up and only a repeal of laws would be accepted, the unions said. 

At the same time, the SC was undeterred with these statements and said there is nothing that can stop it from forming a committee. The SC asked the farmers to cooperate with the committee.

On the other hand, the Government was more concerned about that other political parties would think of the stay as a “political victory”.

Further, the Government has also expressed apprehension about security breach due to the tractor rally planned by protesting farmers on the Republic Day.

K.K. Venugopal, Attorney General, told the court that there are reports that the farmers’ bodies may take out a tractor rally on January 26, 2021, disrupting the Republic Day Parade and celebrations However, the same was stoutly denied by Dushyant Dave, learned senior counsel appearing for a few of the farmers’ bodies on the ground that at least one member of the family of each of the farmers from Punjab is in the Army and that they would not disrupt the Republic Day celebrations.

The Court, in its order, said that several rounds of talked between farmers and the Government have failed and there was no solution in sight.

“The situation on ground is: (i) that senior citizens, women and children are at site, exposing themselves to serious health hazards posed by cold and covid; (ii) that a few deaths have taken place, though not out of any violence, but either out of illness or by way of suicide,”

the order said.

The court also lauded the farmers for carrying on the agitation peacefully without any unwanted incident.

Further, the Court orders also mentioned separate petitions filed by individuals/residents of the NCR complaining of blockade of roads/highways leading to Delhi and terming it an infringement of the fundamental rights of other citizens to move freely and to carry out trade and business.

Stay on 3 Farm Laws and Formation of Committee: Read Full Order of Supreme Court

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