I have an unfortunate first-hand experience to share. We have just returned from our Leh Ladakh trip yesterday.
We traveled in our own brand new Fortuner with a convoy of 15 vehicles which also had two self-drive rental vehicles. Unaware of the goings on and the extent to which these taxi union people could go to, all 15 vehicles did the local sightseeing circuit. On our way back from Pangong Lake, the two self-drive vehicles were stopped. Their windows were smashed, a huge stone was smashed onto the bonnet and iron rods were used to pierce the bodywork. We were the last car in the convoy and did not see any of this happening.
We sensed something was amiss when we reached the spot and having no other option, we carried on calmly through the crowd gathered on both sides. Unfortunately, there was a jam at the Karu roundabout and two of our cars stopped. I saw the crowd running towards us in the rear view mirror and we managed to escape as soon as one of them kicked our rear bumper.
The other car ahead of us was not as lucky and had their rear windscreen smashed. They however managed to reverse and escape. We then regrouped further ahead and decided to take our stickers off. This way the convoy vehicles would not stand out from regular traffic. We then proceeded to Leh via the Leh-Manali road. Unknown to us, the Karu taxi people had phoned ahead and laid a trap on the road leading to the main Leh roundabout. The spot was well chosen, as they had caused a traffic jam and the central divider was too high for a vehicle to climb over.
One by one, ALL our private vehicles were stoned and attacked. They paid no regard to occupants of the vehicle and huge stones were hurled at private vehicles. Three in our convoy sustained minor injuries. We were fortunate that no-one was seriously hurt. We had to nearly ram our way through the crowd. Fortunately they parted and we were able to escape. A policeman was standing in front of the crowd and gesturing for us to stop rather than controlling the crowd.
We were discouraged from registering an FIR and did not see any concrete action being taken against the offenders. We had to leave Leh the a day later under police escort. Even otherwise, all through the route, the taxi drivers were tail-gating us and coming onto our side of the road, just to cause an accident and to instigate us into getting into a tussle with them. This has been a truly harrowing experience that we will never forget. I would advise extreme caution when travelling to Leh in the near future even if going by private vehicle. Please do not even consider taking a self-drive rental to this part of the country under the present circumstances.
Other facts and details about the attack
A few cars from the convoy had not reached the mob when the first few were attacked. So as soon as we escaped the mob, we called the rest to warn them of the danger. The rest of the cars then took shelter in an army camp and some at the police station. The police stressed on the fact that the IPC did not apply in Ladakh and they followed RPC (Ranbir Penal Code). They threatened our group that they had the power under RPC to arrest them if they wanted. They only accepted a ‘general’ FIR- essentially a written statement from us. They further warned that for a ‘proper’ FIR they would impound the vehicles involved and then it would be a matter of court dates and releasing the vehicles on ‘superdari’.
The ITBP refused to help flat out. This was immediately after the incident when some from our group were seeking protection.
The Military Police were very helpful the next day and organised car workshops to be opened on the next day which happened to be a Sunday. We were able to replace some of the broken windscreens this way.
There is infact a video from a dashcam installed on the self-drive Fortuner, which was from the first attack at Karu. I shall endeavour to source this and post it too.
The owner of the hotel we stayed at shared the following background data: Leh’s population is 30000. There are 10000 taxis in Leh, so one- third of the population owns taxis and it constitutes a sizeable number of the population. Every year, in the tourist season, 300000 tourists visit Leh. That equates to 250 tourists a day. And the number of cabs to be filled a day is 10000. Thus they are sometimes unable to make their loan payments at times. Interestingly, the local SHO also owns 3 taxis, so it’s in his interest not to allow self-drive rentals!
The mob spared no-one. Two Thars in our convoy were driven by ladies, and both vehicles were attacked by iron rods. They even tried to pull out the passenger from one Thar after breaking his window with a stone and hitting him on the upper arm. Fortunately the door lock knob broke and they were unable to open the door. They then sped away from the scene.
We have brought with us the stone that smashed our Fortuner’s rear window, it landed inches from my aged mother on the rear seat behind the driver. I will share a picture of this.
We understand that local taxi operators depend on tourists for their daily earnings and self-driven rental vehicles affect their business to a certain extent. But this does not give them any right to threaten the tourists opting for better, well-maintained self driven rentals or their personal cars. People have a right to opt for vehicles according to their convenience rather than travelling in ill-maintained cabs operated in one of the most treacherous regions of the world. The occupants of the vehicles suffered from immense physical and mental harassment and the Leh-Ladakh Ministry of Tourism should take strict action against culprits for this act of shame that undoubtedly would severely affect the tourism dependent region.
“This is a ladies seat”
Shimla: Until now, I didn’t know the difference between a lady and a middle-aged woman when a ‘LADY’ on a local bus helped me distinguish it. While travelling in an overloaded local bus today, a voice from somewhere in the middle of the bus cracked into my ears saying “ye ladies seat hai.”
The irony of the situation was that the person who was trying to capture the so-called ladies seat was herself a lady, probably in her twenties. But, to my conscious, I came to know that women in their twenties are not considered ladies by other middle-aged ladies’. And, with no guilt, the ‘LADY’ took a seat proudly while the little ‘GIRL’ uttered softly but furiously “aap hi beth jao.”
The percentage of reserved seats for ladies in a local bus in Shimla is almost 50%. But this does not imply that women who are well built and enjoy a good health condition also cannot manage to stand for a few kms.
Reservation in India as a whole had already been criticized for a long time now.
But asking for a reservation for women and also granting it is not making women stronger or acceptable but weaker and vulnerable.
Women aren’t any minority in India who needs a reservation to prove themselves. And all women who think they need it are not strong enough to empower themselves.
Author: Tabbu Verma
Disclaimer: Himachal Watcher may not necessarily share the same opinion as expressed by the author.
Weeklong Harassment by Shimla’s Electricity and Water Departments
If you have a property (house) in Shimla but you don’t stay here, you could end up paying a price for it. Price not only in monetary terms but in terms of undue stress and pain.
I had been living in Rajasthan for a few months now, leaving home in Shimla only to return for the surprise of my life.
In today’s technologically advanced system, I could be considered liable for a moment, but what transpired because of my negligence (if you may) is something I don’t want anyone else to go through. This is why I’m sharing my bitter experience with the electricity board and water department in Shimla.
Living away from hometown, I should have paid water and electricity bills for my home in Shimla. I should have; but, due to negligence or over involvement in personal chores, I was unable to pay the bills online.
All the while, I had it in the back of the mind but I thought I will pay the bills (with whatever penalties) in person the next time I am in Shimla.
I thought it would be easy. Instead, I was for a week of mental trauma.
When I came back to Shimla, a few days back, there was no electricity and water supply to my home.
Worried not bewildered, I lived with it for the night and planned a visit the concerned departments the next morning, to clear the pending bills and have the water and electricity supplies restored.
To my surprise, it wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be.
When I went to pay the electricity bill at Lakkar Bazaar ( the area where my house is), I was asked to go to the main office of the electricity board in Sanjauli. I went to Sanjauli, where I was told that electricity connection to my house had been cut, and I needed to apply for a new connection.
I was told a fresh file, for a new connection, had to be made.Now I was certainly bewildered.
From then onward, I was sent from one electricity office to another for different papers. To the DC office for affidavits– all the procedures had to be done from scratch.
It took almost a week (six dark days precisely)to complete the entire procedure afresh. All this while I didn’t find one person in the electricity board who cared for the mental trauma I was going through or how my family would be living without electricity.
Finally, after innumerable visits to various offices of the electricity board, I took the file to the JE office in Snowdown hospital.
Here, I was meted with a shock. The courteous JE informed that my family didn’t have to stay without electricity for so many days, neither did I have to go through all the pain. JE said ‘power supply could have been restored to my home in matter of few hours after the bill payment and the process for new application could have been followed thereafter.’
He then sent a person from his office along with me to the concerned office in Lakkar Bazaar. Finally, we saw a bright night at my place.
JE was the only person in the entire electricity board who talked nicely, gave me correct guidance and helped solve my problem.
My worries were not just limited to the electricity board. I was all this while simultaneously running pillar to post to pay my water bill and have the water supply restored.
The issue was an elaborate water bill, which was beyond anyone’s understanding. For us, we should have only been charged the meter rent because we had not used water for months.
This is when I learned about plugging connection. When you are not at home and would not be using water for months, the water department requires you to plug the connection.
This ensures you’ve only billed the meter rent and not for the usage (though, how do you end up using water when you’re not home stays an arguable story for me).
During the weeklong process, I was not only without electricity at home, there was no water too.
Considering myself a defaulter, I silently kept doing what the office bearers in the department were asking me to do.I was ready to follow the procedure but it was such a pain to see that no officer was considerate enough to help resolve the issue soon. Instead, I was made to run from one office to another with documents that were not even required.
It took me eight long days to pay the pending bills, apply to have the water meter plugged, and to have water supply restored to my house.
This was it, I couldn’t have taken anymore but the water department wasn’t done with its lackluster attitude.
After a month of submitting the application to get the water meter plugged, I again received an inflated bill. I called the water billing office for clarity.
After making an infinite number of calls, I was finally informed that the water meter of my home was still not plugged.
Alas! What had I done wrong to deserve this?
Immediately, I called up Mr. Laxmi Thakur (the person) responsible for plugging the water meter. He said ‘Madam, I plugged your meter the same day you asked me to’.
The linesman was a helpful fellow.He took it upon himself and went to the billing office to check why I was still getting huge bills despite the meter being plugged.
Post inquiry, he informed me that my file had reached the water department from Mayor’s office the same day I submitted it but people in the billing office didn’t update the same on their computer systems.
With Mr Thakur’s efforts, my bill was recreated with the correct amount, which I then paid off instantly.
•If electricity connection to your house is disconnected for non-payment of a bill, go directly to the JE of your area. The JE will escalate the matter and power supply will be restored. Now, follow the formalities, as guided, and get a new connection
•If you have property in Shimla but you’re out and not using IPH water supply, get your meter plugged to avoid rentals above the meter rent
By Rajni, Shimla
Photo: Sk-bent ex
Sensitivity where art thou, Shimla cries for you
Times are changing alright; we are progressing with age and time has come when pace of Shimla is matching the pace of most developed cities in India. Time was when modesty, selflessness and compassion flowed through the heart of residents of the Queen of Hill. With development and large scale urbanization, the mindset of the town is changing – and the change is demeaning the basic culture and charm of the city.
Development and urbanization are slow poison to say. Initially they taste refreshing – refreshing to the extent that humans are lured so magnetically to them. Culminating effect is fatal. Shimla is sipping on this slow poison and is headed for self destruction.
Who is to blame? Finger pointing comes naturally to Indians, so when I ask this, all of us will have our fingers pointed at the administration.
Constitutionally this is correct – and why not, the administration and public representatives we have voted to power are responsible for it all. If there is uncontrolled urbanization – government policies should have been framed to avoid it. If there is unmanageable garbage on roads, pollution in the air and contaminated water in the taps – administration should have strict measures in place. But, considerable citizens are we the main contributors to this?
I once read “your character is what you are when you are alone”, and it has stayed with me ever since. I bring this up to validate my point. We citizens are primarily responsible for the rumpus we confront in the town of late.
Himachalis, the residents of the abode of snow, are by virtue sensitive to change, sensitive to our culture and sensitive to the surroundings. Thus, for Shimlaites this sense of sensitivity comes by default.
Change is the only constant. Change we must and so we are steadily. We are more literate, more monetarily concerned and at near prime of a standard of living. Culturally we are still rooted – probably our previous generation has instilled this sense in us. Concern looms on our sensitivity to the surroundings.
We are literate, but our education has defaulted somewhere. We are concerned but our sensitivity is lost somewhere. We blame but our self-conscience has gone astray.
Back in school (this would be some 20 years back) moral science and civics was taught to me. Back then I never realized how my consciousness towards little civic duties and efforts towards betterment of my surrounding would make a difference. Today I realize it, but my neighbour makes me believe, I am in the wrong part of the world with an unwanted conscience.
How justified is it then to be the run off the mill? Is what your neighbour doing the correct way to do things, I often ask this to myself. I don’t get an answer – an answer is difficult to find because ‘this is India and nothing is going to change here ever.’ This cliché must have reached your ears a number of times. I am growing old listening to it.
Certainly this is not how it should be, at least that sensitivity instilled in me by being part of the hill state, tells me so. Calling out to all who follow – Change we must!
Change to ask questions, why my rights are being murdered by incapable, narrow sighted governance. Change to come to terms with my sensitivity to question that neighbour who stays and feeds on my city’s resources but fails to do his bit in return. Change to question my own acts when I’m in public or when I am walking down the road by myself.
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