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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 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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Another Elderly Man Dies in Stray Cattle Attack in Himachal

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Stray Cattle Population in Himachal Pradesh in 2019

Mandi-The number of stray cattle on Himachal Pradesh’s roads continues to grow due to the apathy of the state government and those who abandon these animals after they are of no use. It’s leading to stray cattle menace that has now reached an alarming level with two deaths registered within two months.

Other than that, these animals are leading to road accidents in which both commuters, as well as these animals, get hurt. While humans are immediately taken to hospital, these animals are hardly attended.  

An 80-year-old man in Ledha area of Mandi district, who was critically injured after a stray bull attacked him on November 1, 2019, died at the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla, on November 5.

The elderly man was identified as Ishru of Ledha, who hailed from a poor family and worked as a daily wager. He had come to the market for shopping for the wedding of his two granddaughters. Ironically, the grandfather died on the day of the wedding. Though the news of his demise had reached a couple of his family members, it was broken to all only after the conclusion of the wedding.

Previously, on September 8, 2019, a 70-year-old man in Baroha village of Jhanduta Sub-Division, Bilaspur district, was attacked by a stray bull in which he had sustained critical injuries. He succumbed to his injuries on his way to the hospital.  

The deceased was identified as Ganga Ram, a resident of Baroh village. On the day of the accident, he was on his way home after visiting a nearby temple.

Most of these cattle are bulls who remain of no use to farmers as tractors and modern machinery is replacing them. These are simply abandoned and adds to a growing population of cattle on the roads. 

In a order passed on 7-10-2014, the State High Court, hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Bhartiya Govansh Rakshan Sanverdhan Parishad, HP, had directed that all the cattle including cows in M.C. Shimla and Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Panchayats should have a tag number to make it easy to trace the owner. The court had also directed the government to construct sufficient shelters for stray cattle. However, as usual, the orders didn’t make much difference. 

What Does HP Govt Claims About Eradicating Stray Cattle Menace

On the other hand, the Animal Husbandry Minister and Chairman of ‘Gau Seva Aayog’ Virendra Kanwar, in an official statement issued on November 3, 2019, claimed that according to the cattle census of the year 2012, 32107 destitute cows were on the roads. So far 9119 animals have been provided shelter in cow-shelters, Kanwar claimed. It’s pertinent to mention that the census refers to 2012. The number is probably much higher by 2019. Moreover, after the government’s policy to ban beef, abandoning has cows become way more frequent.  

The Chairman also claimed that About 146 cow shelters are being operated by NGOs in the state. Cow shelters, cowsheds, cattle ponds, etc. are being constructed for destitute cows at the Panchayati level, he claimed. He also urged the people not to abandon their cows and ensure registration of their animals under the Panchayati Raj Act 2006.

The government claims that it also established ‘Gau Seva Aayog’ on March 1, 2019.

Also, the government had been collecting 15 percent of the income of temple trusts and one rupee Gauvansh cess on sale as per bottle of liquor, from which the amount of Rs. 7.95 crore has been collected in Aayogs account.

Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center to be set up in Kutlehar Assembly constituency

The State Government has been claiming that it is setting up a Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center at a cost of Rs. 47.50 crore. In this center, such injections will be prepared for indigenous cow breeds that will produce only female calves. 740 kanals of land have been selected for the establishing Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center in Lamlahdi of Kutlehar Assembly constituency. The government believes this will reduce the problem of destitute animals on the roads and it will also motivate farmers to adopt livestock activities.

Cow-Sanctuaries, Large Cow Shelters in Himachal Pradesh

The government further claims that cowsanctuaries and big cow shelters have been established by the Aayog across the state. The foundation stone of cowsanctuary worth Rs. 1.52 crore have been laid at Kotla Badog in district Sirmaur and similarly the process of setting up ‘Gau Sadan’ is going on in other districts as well. A cowsanctuary will be constructed at Thanakala Khas in District Una at the cost of Rs. 1.69 crore and Rs. 2.97 crore at Hada-Kudi in District Solan. In addition, an amount of Rs. 77.90 lakh has been released by the Aayog for the fencing of Gaushala operated by the temple trust in Bai Attariyan of district Kangra. With this, the capacity of ‘Gau Sadan’ will be increased to 1000 cows. Land has been selected for the establishment of cowsanctuaries at Barota Dabwal and Dhara-Tatoh in District Bilaspur. An amount of Rs. 21 lakh rupees has also been released for the construction of four new cow shelters in district Kangra, Mandi and Solan.

The government further claimed that an amount of Rs 1.20 crore has been released by the Aayog for the construction of nine new cow shelters and for the expansion of old cow shelters to provide shelter to the destitute cows of local areas.

However, despite government’s claims of rehabilitating destitute cattle, the number doesn’t seem to be decreasing. 

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Video: HP Govt’s Alleged Illegal Demolition of Sheds Leaves Over 70 Cattle Shelter-less Ahead of Winters

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BBNDA Waste Treatment Plant Petition

Solan-Four families living in Kenduwal in Baddi, Solan district, for over past 35 years and are dependent on selling milk, received a big jolt when some government officials along with police force with armed jawans allegedly trespassed and demolished all cattle-sheds on October 30, 2019. These families own over 70 cattle including 40 cows.

The families told Himachal Watcher (HW) that despite their repeated requests, they were not shown any permission or orders regarding the said tress passing and demolition. The officials with the police force just came with a JCB machine and demolished the cow-sheds. Now, all the cattle are spending cold nights under the open sky, which also jeopardise their lives and health, especially newborns, thus, the business on which these families depend on for their livelihood.

It’s shocking that under the rule of Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been using cows as an agenda for elections at both State and Centre, in reality, showed such insensitivity towards these animals in this case.

Considering the petition filed in relation to the same in the State High Court, it appears that the reason behind this action has more to do with grudges of the BBNDA with these families than law and order. These families – living in Kenduwal for over last 35 years- have become a thorn in the side of BBNDA, District Administration, and the State Government right after they reached the court with a petition.

In the petition, it was exposed that BBNDA had proposed an Rs.9.7 crore Integrated Solid Waste Management facility in Kenduwal in 2012 and obtained clearance for the same in 2015. Entire garbage from Baddi and area under BBNDA was to be treated in this plant.

However, the plant never came up, and instead, the piece of land was turned into a huge open dumping yard.

 

It should be noted that According to the 2011 Census, the total pollutions of the Baddi MC and BBNDA area were 29911 and 29293 respectively while the total amount of waste generated per day was 25.50 tons and 20.30 tons respectively. The number of migrant labourers or workers from other states was not included in this Census. The populations in both areas have increased by 2018, which implies growth in a waste generation too.

To make it worse, BBNDA didn’t even follow guidelines under the environmental laws. The dumping yard was created on the riverbed of Sira River.

Another disaster was that BBNDA didn’t even follow the guideline related to maintaining a distance of at least 200 meters from human habitat. For years, tons of waste was dumped on this site and eventually, it made the lives of these families a living hell – posing serious health hazards.

The situation became so ugly that these families had to seek legal help and approach the State High Court. The families filed a petition seeking relief.

As per the proceedings, the BBNDA and District Administration could not justify in the court why a dumping yard was created on a land that was sanctioned for building a treatment plant. It made this act as unlawful and this dumping yard illegal. These authorities had to face the the wrath of the court. Eventually, the court directed the authorities to stop dumping waste at Kenduwal and dispose of it in accordance with the environmental laws. The court also directed that the affected families, which were living in inhumn conditions, are relocated within a stipulated period of eight weeks.

Petitioner’s request for relocation and halting of the illegal dumping was allowed by the Hon’ble Court vide its Orders dated 04.10.2018, 21.05.2019 and 4.9.2019.

The order passed on 04.10.2018, the Hon’ble Court had directed,

“In the interregnum, we direct that no garbage shall be dumped into the land owned by the present petitioner or dumped at any other site, save and except, in accordance with the law.”

In an order passed on 21.05.2019, the Hon’ble Court had directed,

“…the request made by the petitioner in CMP No.4422 of 2019 regarding the relocation of his house at a distance from garbage dump be also considered and specific response be given in the status report”

Again, in another order passed on 4.9.2019, the court had directed,

“It is stated by the learned Senior Additional Advocate General that the petitioner may be relocated and reported to this Court within two weeks. Post after two weeks.”

The petitioner said that the BBNDA and District Administration had no regard towards or fear of the court orders. They still continue to dump waste at the same site and did not relocate the family.

Instead, these families, which belong to Gujjar community (recognised as Scheduled Tribes), begun to face the wrath of the government system following it. The families alleged that they were even threatened in order to dissuade them from reaching the court or taking any legal step.

The families on October 30, 2019, had to approach the court again with a contempt petition.

As per the contempt petition, the BBNDA did not even obtain permission to establish an SWT plant from the Pollution Control Board, which is a mandatory condition under Section 19 (3) of the 2016 Rules. There is also a flagrant violation of Section 24 and 25 of Water Act 1974, and Air Act 1981, the petition says.

As per the petition, none of the 36 Conditions mentioned in the Environment Clearance letter are fulfilled by BBNDA.

On October 30, 2019, when the family again approached the court complaining that its orders were not followed by authorities, their cowsheds were demolished within a few hours without showing any order, the petitioner alleged.

As per the advocate for the petitioner, no authority can issue orders of demolition on that property because the case is pending in the High Court as well as in the lower court. To issue any such order, these authorities will have to obtain permission from the court. No such permission was taken from the court, he said. This means that the entire act was a case of tress passing and illegally conducting demolition.

The families also told HW that a letter seeking relocation as per the court orders was written to the DC too.

The contempt petition clearly mentions,

“Representation dated 10th June 2019 was made to District Commissioner, Solan, Himachal Pradesh and a copy was also sent to competent Sub Divisional Magistrate for Seeking adequate compensation and rehabilitation under “The Right to Fair. Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013”, for relocation in accordance with law…”

When HW talked to the DC, Solan, KC Chaman, he said that he is not able to recall receiving any such request.

About the demolition, he said the matter was not in his knowledge.

He further told HW that the land belongs to the government and these families have encroached upon it. Keeping aside the orders of the HC, the DC said these families are not entitled to get any land under any scheme or policy.

However, the petitioner’s advocate argued that once the court has passed orders of the relocation of these families, it doesn’t matter whether they were entitled under any scheme or policy or not. The authorities are ought to obey the order and relocate them.

“The entire area, which is about 41 bighas, falls within the planning area. It’s government land that is allotted to BBNDA for construction of waste treatment plant. Therefore, fencing and the process of clearing the land are being carried out by the BBNDA authority,”

the DC said.

“The BBNDA does not need my permission to issue such orders and it can do so at its own discretion. The Town and Country Planning Department might have issued such orders,”

the DC said when he was apprised of the allegations of the families that they were given no notice and shown any orders.

Other than that, the family has written to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribe seeking justice. Similarly, applications were given to the Superintendent of Police, Solan, in 2018 complaining that BBNDA was violating court orders. The SDM, Nalagarh, was also requested to intervene. For years now, they are running from post to pillar. However, no relief came from anywhere. 

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Two Himachal Youngsters to Launch State’s First Hemp Start-up: An Online Market for Green Products

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Its Hemp Dharamshala

Kangra-Two youngsters of Kangra district have founded Himachal Pradesh’s first-ever hemp-based online marketplace – Its Hemp, which they plan to launch very soon in November 2019.  

“Its Hemp” – as an online marketplace will offer a vast range of hemp-based green products from various sellers across the country, the founders expect. The platform is recognised as a start-up by the DIPP under the Startup India Program.

“Its Hemp” is dedicated to make hemp products a regular commodity,”

said co-Founders Srijan Sharma and Apurva Sheel

Srijan Sharma, 25, belongs to Kangra district and is an engineer by education. He completed his B.Tech in ECE from SRM University, Chennai. Srijan works as a marketing consultant with businesses all over the country. Previously, he had also founded “365 degrees” in 2012.

Apurva Sheel, 25, belongs to Dharamshala. She has completed her MA in Linguistics from Deccan College PGRI, Pune, Maharashtra. She is a Communications Consultant by profession and has worked as PR Manager for IBC Media. This is her first start-up.

The startup deserves a mention because it is linked to the idea of sustainable living. In a time when adopting a sustainable lifestyle has become the need of the hour. The startup (Its Hemp) would offer organic and environment-friendly alternatives to everyday products.  Hemp as a commodity has a long-rooted relationship with human existence. It is an organic, nutritious, chemical-free, and eco-friendly alternative to present-day products. Adoption of all kinds of hemp-based products, from apparels to accessories to hemp milk and even biodegradable plastic, is one of the many ways for humans to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, the founders said.

Nearly 25 thousands of green products can be manufactured from Cannabis (hemp) plants. Hemp Industry is one of the fastest-growing industry globally. In Himachal Pradesh, after hearing a petition filed by advocate Deven Khanna, seeking legalization of cultivation of industrial hemp in the state for manufacturing non-narcotic products including life-saving medicines, the State High Court had given a green nod and had asked the state government to formulate a policy. Considering these facts, it’s good news that Himachal’s own youth is showing interest in this industry. The government had hinted that ahead of Global Investors Meet, some foreign hemp companies have expressed their interest in Himachal’s market. 

If the government decides to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp for the production of limited green products and medicins, then it would be a boon for rural areas where the plant grows in abundance. 

“Our experience with hemp products got me intrigued. On researching on the crop, we were fascinated to know the long-lost history it holds with our existence and its minimal eco-print just inspired me to promote its use,”

said co-Founders Srijan and Apurva. 

 “In addition to orally advocating it among communities,  we wanted to build a platform where users could gain access to these eco-friendly products and experiment with them. That is how Its Hemp came into existence. We are working with hemp products manufacturers and wholesalers from all over the country to create a single has-it-all stop for users,”

they further added.

They hope to make sustainable living a reality by educating people about this eco-friendly alternative.

 

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