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Shame for Mandi district admin, leaves mentally ill destitute to live in inhuman conditions

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The SDM Sundernagar did nothing even after 55 days of complaint, almost two months. In two months, the SDM couldn’t provide even temporary shelter and food for just two people? Two living people are suffering every second they spent on road, alone without anyone available to take their responsibility. They can’t speak of their pain and suffering. One can show wounds to others or a doctor can easily diagnose a physical health issue, but mental illness is the worst of all.

MANDI – A reader has sent us a demonstration of insensitivity, lack of empathy, and lack of concern towards responsibilities given to HPS and IAS officers. It reflects on how state of Himachal Pradesh and its previous and present governments perceived the issue of mental health. It’s a matter of shame for the State of Himachal Pradesh and Government of India to display such inhuman attitude towards those who needs them most.

Himachal’s government and its people are neither concerned nor aware about the biggest irony of human life – mental illness and mental disorders.

For a moment consider your-self as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or SSP of Sundarnagar in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh. Now, someone brought to your notice that there are two mentally ill and destitute persons wandering on Sundarnagar roads. They are living in inhuman conditions as they are suffering from some serious mental disorder. The complainant request to take action to provide relief to these unfortunate, suffering souls as soon as possible. Each and every day that they spent on roads, eating from garbage, sleeping on roadsides with no roof over their head, adds to their suffering. What would you do?

Leave apart the concept that Right to Life under Article -21 of Indian constitution that directs state authority to take appropriate action for rehabilitation and treatment of mentally challenged or those suffering from mental disorders, and defines it the responsibility of the state to ensure shelter to destitute who are not able to take care of themselves due to mental illness.

As a human what would you do? The SDM Sundernagar did nothing even after 55 days of complaint, almost two months. The SDM and the DC were sent a proper complaint with photographs of the mentally ill destitute person for easy identification.

On May 12, the SDM and SSP were directed by the DC to take appropriate and necessary action to ensure rehabilitation of these people. But, non of them moved a muscle. The complainant again retaliated aggressively for inactivity of the SDM and wrote to him again. But as a last ray of hope, he turned to media. He sent the same grievance to other dailies too. We are not sure if it was published anywhere.

Gallery:

Take a look at the official documents containing the original complaints, direction of the DC to SDM, and RTI filed by Thakur Karam Pratap Singh, CEO, Vasudha, a Himachal based social welfare organization

In two months, the SDM couldn’t provide even temporary shelter and food for just two people? This is the concern for a grievance that asks for immediate action? Two living people are suffering every second they spent on road, alone without anyone available to take their responsibility. They can’t speak of their pain and suffering. One can show wounds to others or a doctor can easily diagnose a physical health issue, but mental illness is the worst of all. Here, the normal operational capabilities of human brain are damaged. A person suffering from mental disorder is helpless. They wander with naked feet seeking food. They don’t even beg. They don’t know to how to beg or of any such concept. They don’t know where to approach for help. They don’t have words to speak of their pain.

Mentally ill destitute in Sundarnagar 2

These HAS officers are said to be highly qualified for such high rank government positions. They take tough examinations and qualify personal interviews in order to get there. But we see, they are worst than the kind illiterates.

Unfortunately, the Chief Minsiter of Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh, shares, more of less, the same attitude when comes to recognizing and attending mental health issues. We doubt, if they know the difference between mental health, mental well-being and mental disorders. Anyway, now, let’s take at Centre governments useless and populist announcements.

In Octobor, 2014, Health minister Harsh Vardhan launched India’s first-ever National Mental Health Policy with a promise of delivering universal psychiatric care to a massive population suffering from various kind of mental illness or disorders.

The Mental Health Action Plan 365 very clearly defined the roles of the central government, state governments, and local bodies along with civil society organizations in the upcoming year. The government also promised a mental health bill in Parliament.

This policy wasn’t motivated by will, empathy and concern for mentally ill, destitute population living in poverty. It was because, WHO survey sited that India has the highest number of suicides in the world. An article in the NY Times regarding the WHO statistics said:

According to the World Health Organization, of 804,000 suicides recorded worldwide in 2012, 258,000 were in India. Indian youths between 15 and 29 years old kill themselves at a rate of 35.5 deaths per 100,000 — the highest in the world — and suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death of young Indian women.

While government claims curbing substance use, it failed to understand the relation between substance abuse and mental health troubles like depression, bipolar disorder, stress and other issues. Presently, school students and adolescence in Himachal are more vulnerable to substance use because of unending stress mounting on them due to rising competition in professional fields. Still, majority of parents believe that their children are failure if they could not become either doctor, engineer or HPS or IAS. We hope, you read about recent suicide cases in Himachal where students hanged themselves under extreme mental stress.

In India, depression accounts for more than 258,000 of the 804,000 suicide deaths worldwide in 2012.
The WHO report had also highlighted the condition of home for destitute and institutions provided for the rehabilitation of mentally ill people. The article further said;

A report from Human Rights Watch released in December exposed the horrific conditions in institutions where too many Indian women with mental and intellectual disabilities are confined, many against their will, and where some are subject to physical and sexual abuse and electric-shock therapy.

If that’s not enough to get your attention, then WHO report also informed that in India, there is only one psychiatrist for every 343,000 people. That’s the ratio of the availability of skilled mental health professionals for present population of India. That means negligible health support. Rather, it’s a matter of shame for India.

Take a look at the expenditure made on mental health in the graph given below:

Indian Mental Health challenge

India spends just 0.06 % of total health budget on mental health. It absurd to know that the suicide rate in India is highest in the world. The total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product is 4.16 % and the per capita government expenditure on health (PPP) is $22.0.

In 2013, Mental Health Bill was introduced and new policy was launched. The government claimed it as a landmark in delivering mental health care worldwide. But their claims are sandwiched between official files while the funds are already allotted.

In 1982, India’s National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) was implemented. Since then, the governments are fooling people and mocking at the worsening state of mental health in India.

You see, in India, even mentally and physically healthy, highly educated and well to do people never care to find out where all those gigantic amounts of public money disappear year after year since Independence. Obviously, who is going to speak for these destitute and mentally unwell creatures?

An article on Wall Street Journal throws light on the stigma and lack of awareness about mental health in India. Considering the report of Ms. Ramanathan, a US based medical student, it said:

Quality research methods are not part of Indian medical school education — it’s still a system of rote learning. The research, on the social determinants of depressive-anxiety disorders among women, entailed asking questions about marital history, violence, safety and autonomy. The female resident, although qualified as a psychiatrist, didn’t seem to think counseling was a requirement for women whose husbands physically or verbally abused them. The psychiatrist adopted a “these things happen here,” attitude.

The conditions in rural areas are far worst. The people here in India know nothing about the causes of or differences between depression and tension. Stress and Anxiety is considered mere nervousness. At maximum, patients are taken to ‘Tantriks’ for cure because people still believe it to be a paranormal phenomenon.

Himachal is just another State of India that is literally unaware of what the term mental health actually defines. The absence of mental disorder doesn’t mean that a person is mentally healthy. According to S.S. Chauhan, author of Advanced Educational Psychology:

Mental health is a condition which permits maximum development of physical, social, intellectual and emotional status of the individual so that he/she can contribute to maximum for the welfare of the society and realize ideas and aims in life.

It’s time that government must start pay attention to this critical issue – rehabilitation and treatment of destitute people with mental illness. There are a number of destitute and mentally unwell people who are helpless and are struggling to survive in inhuman conditions.

Already, there is a PIL pending with HP High Court regarding the treatment and rehabilitation of mentally ill destitute. The PIL was filed by Mr. Subhash Kumar, a resident of Shimla, in 2011. Taking note of it, the High Court had directed the Superintendent of Police at every district to rake responsibility if such cases are brought to their notice. However, final judgement is still pending, and so is relief from suffering to the victims.

However, nothing has changed except that police chases away these destitute people out of their area on complaint. We appreciate the efforts that Vasuda is making to get justice for these suffering souls.

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 7 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 world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Amid grave water-crisis in Shimla town, Mayor on China tour for reason unknown

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Himachal Watcher tried to confirm the urgency behind the Mayor’s visit to China in times of such crisis when she should have been brainstorming with her councillors to come out with a solution.

Shimla: The Mayor of Shimla town, Kusum Sadret, on Friday left for China, away from the chaos caused by the ongoing water-crisis that has reached an alarming level. Her Ward Councilors are shocked that the Mayor did not even conduct a single meeting to attend to the water crisis in the town, which is only worsening with each passing day.

Yesterday, she remained in the news as SMC supplied ‘sewerage contaminated’ water to the residents of Kanlog Ward. The public and opposition parties are seeking action against the responsible officials for playing with the health of the people by supplying them contaminated water in a time of acute water shortage.

This is not the only reason to worry. The people are forced to fetch water from natural water sources, which are already declared contaminated. Sadly, the Government and the SMC forgot the deadly jaundice outbreak in 2016 that had killed about 32 people within a few months.

The Mayor doesn’t deserve to be at the SMC because she has failed on every front ranging from sanitation to supply of clean and sufficient drinking water to the people, the former Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan said.

He has demanded that the government should take the matter seriously and initiate criminal proceedings against the responsible officials. Meanwhile, the Councillors had yesterday planned a protest and gherao of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. However, they did not find them in office.

The public is receiving a supply of water after a gap of four to five days in most wards while some others are going without water for over a week now.

The water-crisis has brought the hospitality industry in Shimla on its knees. People are forced to buy mineral water as public taps and filters in offices, schools, hospitals are running dry for days. The Shimla Municipal Corporation doesn’t even have sufficient water-tankers to make up for the shortage of water.

A sort of protest erupted among the people as well as the Councilors against the Mayor. The Mayor was even gheraoed by the people in some localities.

While the protest of the Congress Ward Councilors demanding the resignation of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor was obvious, Bhartiya Janata Party’s own Councilors have come out openly criticizing the way Mayor left them behind to face the wrath of the people.

Leaving the battleground at such a time is condemnable.

It appeared that there must be some urgent reason behind discarding distressed people from the list of her priorities for a visit to foreign.

Himachal Watcher tried to confirm the urgency behind the Mayor’s visit to China in times of such crisis when she should have been brainstorming with her Councillors to come out with a solution. The Deputy Mayor did not pick up the phone. Everyone else at the Shimla Municipal Corporation said they were not aware of the purpose of the visit.

When Himachal Watcher contacted the MC Commissioner, Rohit Jamwal, he also denied having any knowledge regarding the purpose of this visit of the mayor. The Commissioner also denied having any knowledge regarding the return of the Mayor.

He said he could only confirm that she has left for China.

The only hint available is some unofficial reports that suggested that Sadret would be attending the International Mayor’s Conference in China. Otherwise, her visit is a sort of secret mission, which is why no one is aware of it. Maybe, she’ll bring a solution to the ongoing chaos from China.

The Councilors are blank as the people of their wards demand supply of water on at least alternate days. The Mayor made a wrong choice, the Councillors agreed, adding that a leader should not run away when the people need him/her most.

The public can be heard comparing the tenure of Sanjay Chauhan with Kusum Sadret. We were better off with previous MC, a couple of shopkeepers at Boileauganj heard discussing.

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Cobrapost stings create stir as biggest media houses including Times Group seen allegedly agreeing for paid news

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Another big shocker came as the Vice President of Paytm, Ajay Shekhar, was allegedly seen and heard confessing that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had called him seeking the data of its users

Shimla: Hashtag #MediaOnSale is trending on social media after Cobrapost today released a series of about 49 videos allegedly showing biggest names in the national media including the Times Group agreeing to sell right-wing propaganda for fat amounts of money.

The series is titled as “Operation 136 – II.” It is named after the rank of India in World Press Freedom Index – 136. Indian media was ranked one of the most corrupt.

If everything is fine with the videos of the sting, then the most ironical part is watching the naked dance an ugly nexus between politicians and media houses like Hindustan Times, New Indian Express, India Today, Big FM, Dainik Bhaskar, Zee News, Star India, ABP, Dainik Jagran, Red FM, Lokmat, Big FM New Indian Express, OPEN magazine etc. All of them are seen allegedly agreeing to sell content that could “not only cause communal disharmony among the citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party.”

The stinger of Cobrapost, Pushp Sharma, reached the media houses one by one over a period and introduced himself as “Acharya Atal”, leader of an organization that wants to polarize people over Hindutva agenda. It doesn’t matter if it creates communal disharmony, he told them.

Sharma told the media houses that the cost is not a problem and that he wants to book maximum advertisement slots on their respective media platforms. He is being heard offering packages starting from a few crores to several hundred crores.

Pushp Sharma asked them to show content targeted at character assassination of leaders of the rival parties by using less respective names like Papu for Rahul Gandhi and Bua and Babau for others like Mayawati.

Other names included Star India, Radio One, Scoopwhoop, Rediff, Suvarna News, ABN, Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Prabhat Khabar, K News, India Voice and MVTV.

Another big shocker came as the Sr.Vice President of Paytm, Ajay Shekhar, was allegedly seen and heard confessing that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had called him seeking the data of its users. He was further seen allegedly confessing that he had supplied it to the PMO. Then Shekhar went on challenging the stinger that it is not possible that such a propaganda is being planned by the RSS without his knowledge. He referred to his close relationships with the organization members and his obedience towards the RSS.

The biggest deal was allegedly stuck with Vineet Jain of the Times Group for Rs. 500 crores in exchange of advertorials and events created around Krishna and the Bhagavad Gita, which would serve as a cover for Hindutva and its political agenda. Jain was seen negotiating on the method to re-route the black money. Rather, most of the media houses were seen allegedly discussing the mode of payment for the paid news. Now imagine Times Now talking about demonetization.

There is loads of data about the conversations, and we would suggest to our readers to watch these stings themselves. It is not possible to express the shocker these stings would give you. You can watch them on the official website of Cobrapost or its YouTube Channel.

Meanwhile, Dainik Bhaskar reached the Delhi High Court and managed to get orders to remove its footage from the list of sting operations.

Citing the court’s order in its May 25 cover story, Cobrapost stated:

We have received an exparte stay order from the honourable Delhi High Court on the evening of 24th May, 2018, which debars us from including the Dainik Bhaskar Group in our investigation. The honourable High Court has passed the injunction in favour of Dainik Bhaskar without hearing our side of the case, and we shall consequently be challenging the court order in the interest of truth and justice.

Now, we wonder, which media channel would be playing this news.

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Worsening water crisis of Shimla town now reminds Govt about water-conservation

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It is today that the State Government has announced that it posed Rs. 4751 crore project for funding to the Government of India for Rain Water Harvesting in the State.

Shimla: Daily water supply to the people was one of the main promises that the Bhartiya Janata Party had made in its manifesto for the elections to the Municipal Corporation of Shimla in 2017.  When the ruling party was in opposition, its leaders used to protest against the previous SMC holding empty-buckets in their hands.

Now, under its own regime, the supply of water from Giri and Gumma schemes to the town has fallen upto 12 MLD against required 45 MLD. The Chief Minister might have directed the SMC to roll-down all the water-tankers to supply water to the people, but the SMC doesn’t have sufficient tankers either. There are only seven or eight tankers for a population of about 2 lakh people.  

The Mayor of Shimla town Kusum Sadret had, on May 12, sighted the cause of the water-scarcity to be the interruption in power supply to the pumping stations, excess silt, and rain deficiency. She had assured that the situation would improve in a week or so as SMC was working on alternative plans. However, the situation has now become alarming.

Water-scarcity in Shimla had begun a decade ago, however, the situations never attained such grieve form that the capital town is facing in 2018. Hotels are not serving free water anymore. The tourists have to buy mineral water. Public toilets and that of offices, schools, hospitals etc. are bearing unbearable stench, as there is no water for cleaning.

Similarly, the water filters installed at public places, offices, schools, hospitals etc. are empty for days now.  Washing clothes and taking bath have become privileges.

The public is getting water after four to five days while in some areas like Bhattakufar, the people are spending weeks without the water supply.

The tourism industry is on its knees. The Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association alleged that the SMC has proved to be a complete failure in ensuring water-supply to the city. The hotels are forced to call water-tanks, which is an additional expenditure.

It would not take much time for the industry to collapse if the Municipal Corporation, as well as the State Government, continued to try washing their hands off by blaming it on the insufficient rain and snowfall.

The water sources are drying up and this crisis could aggravate if it did not rain in coming days, the SMC has admitted itself.

There is no surprise that there are hardly any complaints from the VIP areas. The people, as well as marginal players in the hotel industry, are alleging that the VIP areas are being given priority when it comes to water supply during such a crisis. 

There are reports that tanks in some VIP areas were seen overflowing while rest of the Shimla is getting only a couple of buckets after a wait of several days.

Earlier, there used to be water-shortage, but now it has become a crisis. It is the result of disrespecting ample availability of natural water that the people, as well as the government, have no idea about water-conservation practices. Establishment of small waste-water treatment and rain-harvesting plants at commercial and official spaces would have helped a lot in such a time. 

When caught off-guard, the SMC had agreed to supply contaminated water from the same Ashwani Khad that has caused deadly jaundice outbreak in 2015.

The Malyana sewage treatment plant is still not working properly and the samples have still not passed the quality tests. The samples still test positive, says the former Mayor of Shimla Sanjay Chauhan.

It is quite shocking that even after knowing that untreated waste from Malyana is getting mixed into Ashwani Khad, the Municipal Corporation is going to supply water from that source. If this decision is not rolled back, then CPI(M) will launch an agitation for which the state government and municipal corporation would be responsible,

his recent statement to media said.

The civic body did not pay attention to the millions of litres of water wasted due to leakages in the main-water supply lines as well as distribution lines in the town. Instead of showing strictness towards leakages in tanks installed at residential, officials, and commercial buildings, SMC’s own water-tanks could be seen over-flowing or leaking.

It is similar to the approach that the SMC is adopting in the disposal of garbage. Instead of penalizing people for burning garbage, the SMC’s own sanitation workers regularly set ablaze daily garbage.     

It is now that the Chief Minister has to urge people to save water and be judicious while using water – a message that should have been initiated long ago with intensive awareness campaigns to actually create an impact on the people.

It is today that the State Government has announced that it posed Rs. 4751 crore project for funding to the Government of India for Rain Water Harvesting in the State.

Chief Minister said that being a hilly State, the rainwater flows downstream unused. He said that the State Government was contemplating to check this wastage of water by building rainwater harvesting structures for effective water conservation. 

The quality of governance of any government is reflected in the vision of its leader and the team of ministers and bureaucrats. In the case of Himachal,  the leaders could not realize the outcomes of the inefficiency of water infrastructure and inequitable distribution.

In case of water-conservation, there is no sign of efforts to make preparations to deal with increasing demand for drinking water at a time when the weather is following a rain-deficient pattern and natural water resources are depleting. Our leaders are not able to foresee the impact of rising population and imbalanced exploitation of natural resources.

Now, the Government is proposing to stop farmers from using the water of Gumma and Giri schemes for irrigation so that the town could be supplied water. Meanwhile, the Government should also mind the unbridled over-construction. A large amount of water is being supplied to construction sites. In some cases, the builders have bored into the nearby land to fetch groundwater to meet the requirement of water for the construction.

The government has allowed private parties to bore, extract, and sell groundwater to hoteliers or anyone who can afford to buy. The groundwater sources would be exhausted in no time if the government did not check its policy regarding construction around Shimla. 

To complement this ignorance, the deforestation was almost unchecked. The mysterious killing of a 22-years-old forest gourd Hoshiyar Singh in 2017 in Karsog division had thrown apt light on the nexus between the forest department officials and forest mafia cashing on illegal felling of trees.

Each of us should now pay attention to the fact that the hills are forced to carry more than their capacity. To make up for the damage, the government need to work on a war footing to take corrective measures including awareness campaigns targeted at encouraging people to opt water-conservative friendly practices.

The corrective measures also include conservation of the depleting sources of fresh water, which were ignored by modern Shimla.

To prepare for the future, along with learning water-conservation, we will have to take up the task of planting suitable species of trees like oak, maple, fir and spruce, horse chestnut in addition to deodar. Taller plants should be planted instead of planting samplings due to lesser mortality rate, say scientists.

 

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