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Corruption alleged in HP Panchayati Raj exposure visit contract allocation



SHIMLA – HW received a scanned copy of a complaint filed with the Director of Panchayati, Himachal Pradesh. It was followed by a copy of the RTI filed seeking information regarding the schedule and expenditure on Kerala exposure visits organized by the Panchayati Raj Department every year.

In complainant alleged that the department did not follow the standard procedure before awarding the contract. The directions under HPFR 2009 Rules directs the department to invite bids through proper advertisement of tender to allocate the contract to eligible private agency. The tender in this case was awarded to a private contractor by the DPO, that deprived other candidates from fair opportunity. The complaint said,

It is brought to your kind notice that DPO Shimla had finalized the exposure visit during the month of July – 2015 to give exposure about the Panchayati Raj activities to the representative of Panchayat Member/BDC and Zila Parishad members and their staff. Sir the work relating to traveling & boarding/loading likely to be incurred on the exposure visit has been out sourced to a private agency by the DPO, Shimla without inviting bids through advertised tender system. As provided under Himachal Pradesh Financial Rules 2009 the activity/exposure visit costing upto Rs. 10,000/- & above are required to be finalized after inviting bids through competitive firm through advertised tender. However, the prescribed procedure has not been followed in this case. Since the same is illegal thus the exposure visit finalized by the DPO is required to be cancelled by inviting bids from other competitions through advertised tender published, at least, in two leading news papers.
It is, therefore, requested that necessary action in the matter may kindly be taken on priority basis so as to avoid any litigation/irregularity as well as to safeguard the interest of the competitive firms(s)

The complainant has also filed an RTI seeking the following information:


The contractor or the trip organizer is then responsible for the transportation and lodging of the delegation throughout the exposure visit. The delegation can consist of 25 – 40 members. The total cost of the expenditure is huge. Lakhs of rupees are are spent to facilitate the delegate.

The exposure visit is meant to provide knowledge regarding panchayat activities in Kerala that has decentralized

The complainant alleged that the DPO allocated the contract after inviting quotations from some pre-selected candidates without any advertisement.

The allegations are also hints towards manipulations in the standard procedure to favor a particular candidate, who in return might have bribed some officials to obtain the contract.

The complainant told us that he had approached the Director, Panchayati Raj with a written complaint. Surprisingly, the Director had no information regarding any scheduled exposure visit, according to the complainant.

What is an exposure visit?

The exposure visit is meant to provide knowledge regarding panchayat activities in Kerala and it socio-economic features, local self government structure, decentralization and local government system, participatory planning and development experience, gender mainstreaming, poverty reduction etc. The visits are paid to the functionaries of the some selected villages to obtain first-hand knowledge regarding the working mechanism in panchayats.

In reality, such visits are nothing more than perfect opportunities to spend a holiday at the cost of public tax money.

After reviewing the copies of complaint and the RTI, HW editor called at provided contact number of the office of District Panchayat Officer, Shimla to verify the allegations. HW was told that the DPO isn’t at her office. He called the next day and again we received the same reply.

However, the official who attended the call told us that there is no such procedure under which bids are invited through advertisement of tenders.

The DPO further added that previous contract for exposure visits were also awarded by the same way without any advertisement of tender. When HW insisted for an official statement regarding the same, the official told us that the DPO will be able to provide us sufficient and accurate information regarding the matter. We were told that the DPO is on holiday.

We dialed the DPO’s contact number provided on the official website.

HW member tried to verify two relevant facts like,

Is there any direction in the Panchayati Raj to allocated contracts above 10, 000 through proper invitation for tenders and its advertisement?

The second piece of information requested was related to the exposure visit scheduled for the month of July 2015.

However, the DPO didn’t find the topic comfortable to discuss and didn’t provide any direct answer initially. However, after repeated query regarding the same, she denied having any such direction under Panchayati Raj or HPFR 2009. We further informed her regarding the copy of the written complaint filed with the Director and the RTI filed by the complainant.

After 15 minutes, the DPO again called the HW member, who was covering this public grievance, and threatened to file a complaint with the high command of whatever newspaper he was employed with.

Apka high command Jalandhar main hain hai na, main call karti hun wanha apke head ko,

she said.

Well, we didn’t know either that HW had some high command in Jalandhar. Thanks for the information.

The DPO also threatened to file charges of misbehave with an officer on duty if she was further asked any questions regarding the mentioned exposure visit or any of her official activities.

The DPO,

Exposure visit ka contract kisko aur kaise dete hain ye app mujhe batayenge? App kaun hote hain mujhse ye poochne wale ki contract hote hain ya nai?

We were wondering that it took 15 minutes for the DPO Shimla to realize the misbehave issue and all that. May be, the DPO was trying to figure out details of HW. The anxiety and irritation was apparent in the DPO’s voice. That suggests that there is some crust in the complaint lodged.

First of all, respected DPO Shimla, HW isn’t a newspaper of media house. There is no high command that could be used to harass reporters like it’s done to most of the journalists or reporters from regional dallies. Here, at HW, the public, our members and readers make the high command.

We speak on the behalf of public. We represent public and public has every right to ask questions from any government official employed for its service. Perhaps, such government officials have forgot that they are meant to serve the public, not rule them.

Moreover, no tricks or threats will work on HW members. Unfortunately, we are quite poor at flattering too.

A lot of journalists, RTI and social activists are murdered brutally in India every year. Some of them are burned and buried. Almost every day, we read about someone burnt alive, others axed in public.

We are quite aware how the police and state machinery is used to harass those seeking replies from or trying to expose corruption among high rank government officials and politicians.

HW won’t mind facing the same while fighting against corruption or in effort to raise public grievances and distress.

Coming back to the grievance, we would request the Director Panchayati Raj Department to look into the matter and take note of the irregularities in the allocation of the contract. We are also forwarding the copy of this complaint to higher authorities.

Original Copies of the RTI and written complaint filed with the Director

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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Ruling Govt taking cover of Congress misdeeds to justify Karnataka episode




Shimla: Congress party in Himachal Pradesh today staged a protest against the capricious decision of the Governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Vala, to invite Bhartiya Janata Party to form Government despite the written statement of Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) alliance claiming a clear majority. It has created a constitutional controversy.

If that was not enough, Yeddyurappa swore as the Chief Minister without proving a majority and had even announced waiver of all farm loans of up to Rs 100,000. Governor even appointed the BJP’s K G Bopaiah as pro-tem speaker.

This action of Governor has shattered the belief of those who honoured the constitution and political ethics.

A valid point that the Congress has raised here is that the ruling government did not play by the same rule in Manipur elections. In the 2017 elections, Congress won 28 seats in the 60 member House, BJP had managed to win 21 seats. However, governor Najma Heptulla invited the BJP leaders to form the government and denied Congress a chance to form the ministry.

What’s the biggest security a common man has in a democracy like India? It’s the constitution. This single weapon can set the entire country back on track if the people knew how to use it.

Anyway, politicians are taking care of it for you now. The ruling government has just over-rode the constitution, which is going unnoticed because the majority of the public has no idea about the business going on at the top level of governance.

In the present case, the Supreme Court of India intervened and overruled Governor Vajubhai and asked B S Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the assembly at 4 pm on Saturday. Otherwise, the Governor had given BJP 15 days for horse trading. The Supreme Court only followed the constitution. The court has also proved the decision was unconstitutional.

It is not that opposition parties have always played fair, but the ruling party is taking unfairness to the next level.

There are only three ways in which BJP can form a government in Karnataka: by convincing elected lawmakers of Congress or JD (S) to resign or make them disappear today before floor test or create defection through horse-trading. Sadly, the Governor listened to the high-command and opted to be part of this game.

Another ironical fact is that BJP is trying to counter the resistance to its game plan by referring to Congress’s decades-old controversial decisions like the emergency imposed in 1975 and taking down BJP governments in four states including Himachal using tactics of defection. This is what the Spokesperson of BJP in Himachal, Shashi Datt Sharma said in a press statement on Friday.

The BJP followers are saying that the party is taking revenge from Congress.

Sharma alleged that Congress has always used politics of repression and at the same time the party is adopting the same tactic.

Why is the ruling government criticising as well adopting the same tactics at the same time? Why take the shield of bad deeds of past governments to justify own misdoings? What would be the difference between two parties then? Why is the public ok with it?

This trend of over-riding the constitution will take a toll on the public. No one is supposed to be above the constitution in India. However, this seems no more a rule of the political game.

One should wonder who will protect honest RTI activists, journalists, judges, or anyone resisting against government’s dictatorship when the constitution mo more has their back.

But, for now, no one is even close to understanding why they should be scared about it.

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Findings of magisterial probe into Nurpur Tragedy exposes HPPWD’s blunder




Probe report of Nurpur school bus accident

Kangra: The Additional District Magistrate (ADM) has completed the magisterial probe ordered into the school bus accident in Nurpur on April 9, 2018, and submitted the report to the Deputy Commissioner.   

The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur-led State Government had ordered the inquiry after unrest broke out among the people following the tragedy, which caused loss of 28 people including 24 children.  While 23 had died on the spot, one succumbed to injuries a few days later at a hospital. 

While Hindi and English Dailies told an altogether different story related to the report of the magisterial probe, a Government spokesperson today made some of the original findings public.   

Findings of the magisterial probe into Nurpur School Bus Mishap

1.   The driver was never challaned/charged even once for the offence of over speeding, drunken driving and rash driving. 
2.   The accident did not seem to happen due to any mechanical failure.
3.   The site of the accident was a black spot with loose soil and damaged edges abutting a landslide zone with cliff and did not have any crash barriers and the road formed sort of craters.
4.   The bus should have been on the left-hand side but due to the absence of eyewitnesses, it couldn’t be ascertained how and why the bus went to the right side of the road.
5.   As per a survivor, a 10-year-old, who was sitting on the right side window seat, divulged that a motorcyclist came from opposite direction after which the bus rolled down
6.   Since there was no eyewitness of the accident,  it is believed that just to save the motorcyclist, the driver, in a reflex action,  had negotiated the bus to the right-hand side, misjudging the space on the right-hand side road. He could not have been able to control the bus which had reluctantly rolled down. 
7.   The accident has occurred under unverifiable circumstances. The road was straight, not sloping up or down 
8.   The driver was never seen driving bus in a rash manner and reported to be a mature person
9.   The road on this point is in very poor condition, uneven and forming fatal craters. The edges of the road on this spot are badly broken supported/reinforced with no crash barriers/parapet.


What caused misreporting?

Surprisingly, the Dailies reported that the inquiry found a human error on the part of the driver Madan Lal (67).  These reports further said the driver was looking back as children were making noise or suggested that the driver might have dosed-off on a duty, which is not hectic in nature and includes boarding-off children after every 10 minutes.

The road was tip-top and was not in poor condition, these reports said.  It is not clear who fed the media this story.

However, the findings of the report have made it clear that the Public Works Department shares the responsibility for the massacre.

That’s why the government has haphazardly tarred the patch of over one kilometre and constructed new parapets on the spot from where the bus had skid-off the road.

Now, the PWD is also installing crash barriers too.

magisterial probe report in Nurpur Bus accident

Photos: Amar Ujala

Take a look at the two pictures. One of them was taken on the day of the accident and the second one clicked recently and published in the Hindi Daily Amar Ujala in its May 9, 2018, edition. The picture speaks itself. 

At the same time, the parents, based on the said media reports, questioned the findings and demanded a separate, most preferably a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The shattered parents of the 24 children including some who had joined the school a day ago killed in the perhaps one of the most tragic and heart-breaking road accident in Himachal Pradesh.

Most of the kids aged between five years to 10 years and some families lost more than one child, which was the worst part of it. It is too early for children of this age to die a horrible death, which cannot be called an accident in a literal sense.

The mass cremation of small pyres weighed heavy on everyone who keeps a heart.

However, it is to be seen whether the State Government would take a action this time or will opt to save the skin of responsible bureaucrats and just move on like the governments have been doing in previous cases. 

If the Government would not deliver justice to the victims of this massacre by taking action this time, there would be more such tragedies.

In fact, the reason the people keep dying in road accidents or due to jaundice outbreaks is that no action is ever taken against the responsible government officials, especially the bureaucrats.

In case the Government chose to patronize the sinful officials, the public must not remain silent this time.  

We believe the mass cremation of small pyres is too heavy to be overlooked for anyone who keeps a heart.   

Top Photos: Amar Ujala

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Amid Shimla city’s water-crisis, MC alleged of putting people on hold for Hotels, VIP areas under central zone



Shimla city's water crisis

Shimla: Amid Shimla Municipal Corporation’s poor response to acute water crises in the city, the allegations have appeared that the VIP areas and hotels under the central zone are being given priority in the distribution of water. The tanks in VIP areas and hotels were full while the commoners were put on hold for them.

Opposed to equal distribution of the available supply, on Tuesday, as per the May 09, 2018, edition of a Hindi Daily and other media reports, the SMC supplied water to localities under central zone like the Mall Road, Ridge, Lower Bazaar, Ram Bazaar, Middle Bazaar, and some areas of Sanjauli. The reports alleged that these areas house majority of hotels, VIP residents, and officials.

Even BJP’s own Ward Councilors are now feeling agitated over the poor management of the SMC under the command of new Mayor. The people are questioning whether the Mayor and Deputy Mayor possess enough knowledge about managing a city with 1.70 lakh population?  

However, these Councilors are not able to muster enough courage to criticize their own party.  

The manifesto of the Bhartiya Janata Party for the SMC elections in 2017 had promised betterment in the water supply. It was one of the most important agenda before the elections.  

However, the situation has become so ugly that public toilets in the city were locked as there was no water for cleaning.  The government, as well as private offices, are also bearing the brunt of SMC’s miss-management.

For last two weeks, the people have no option but to buy water even for drinking. The SMC is receiving over 50 calls per day seeking supply through water-tankers.

The peak tourist season has begun on a bad note for Shimla. The hospitality industry is also surviving on either SMC’s alleged favouritism or through private tankers.

Betterment of Water-Supply in BJP’s Manifesto for SMC Elections  

The party had promised in the manifesto that the leakage in the main pipelines of the water supply schemes would be fixed to improve water supply. Natural resources would be cleaned and used to supplement the main water supply. The BJP has promised to cut water-bills and that the water would be lifted from Kol Dam to fulfil the demand of water in the city.

Unfortunately, a large amount of water is either wasted due to leakage in pipelines that awaits repair and water-tanks in the city including those of residential, commercial and government buildings. The water-tanks of the SMC can still be seen overflowing.

The State High Court has also noted that either water is waste in leakage in supply pipelines or being stolen through illegal connections. 

The supply to the city has dropped down to 23 – 27 MLD per day against the demand of about 45 MLD per day.  About 10 MLD is wasted due to the leakage.  In times of water-crisis, there is no effort to encourage people to not overlook leakages in their tanks or pipelines.

Rainwater harvesting is not even in the SMC books. 

The SMC has faced water crises earlier too, however,  but nothing was learnt to deal with water-shortage in future. Moreover, the formation of Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Limited (SJPNL) will take its time.     

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