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Kullu Bus Accident: How excessive corruption in HPPWD & HP Govt. facilitated avoidable tragedy

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The government enjoys luxuries with public money that is supposed to be spent on roadside safety measures, maintenance of roads including many other amenities and basic facilities that the government had promised to the public. Their VVIP luxuries are costing precious lives, and this accident is one example of it. The government has plenty of money for their luxuries, but none for the public.

KULLU – Bodies cut in half, decapitated, ground drenched in blood and painful screams of Kullu bus accident survivors presented a horrifying scene at the Parvati riverbank near Bhuntar. After overnight rescue operation, only eight bodies could be recovered from the river while 21- 23 others were washed away and are still missing.

The bus was overloaded so the driver and conductor aren’t sure about the exact number of passengers. About 22 survivors were rescued. Two of the dead bodies were recovered from near Jhiri and Gadasa banks yesterday. One was recovered today.

People reported to have seen floating dead bodies around Bhuntar and Bajaura.

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The rescue teams are waiting to recover other 22 bodies from the ‘Largi Dam’. However, they aren’t sure about it because the gates of Pandoh dam were opened to release excess water in monsoon. The bodies might float towards Mandi district into Beas tributaries. However, the gates of the Pandoh dam were closed following the accident.

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Some of injured were in critical condition and referred to PGI Chandigarh and others were admitted to Kullu hospital. Further details on casualties are still awaited as 600 personal including homegaurd, SSB,ITPB and police carries out rescue operation.

Kullu deputy commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said,

The bus is still untraceable. Most of the bodies might be still stuck in the bus or washed away.

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As usual, the Governor, the chief minister, and other politicians are expressing grief over the tragedy like they mean it.

The authorities are also trying to put the blame on the driver and conductor. Expect some ridiculous theory along with usual assurances from government soon.

Helpline Number

District administration has set up three helplines: 0190 2222727, 09418067223 and 9418015754.

Role of HPPWD and HP Government in the tragedy

According to Divya Himachal, Barshaini Zilla Parish member, Om Prakash, told that 10 proposals for widening, maintenance, and placement for steel crash barriers, or at least, parapets at this sliding point, were passed and submitted to HPPWD. No surprise, the department as well as the government were busy in finding ways to devour public money.

This is the outcome of excessive corruption prevailing in each and every department of Himachal Pradesh government – 31 people washed away and remaining others are fighting for their lives at hospitals.

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Divya Himachal also reported that the daily had warned the HPPWD and the government regarding the dangerous patch of road that was gradually sinking from sides. Due to soil erosion on edges, the road has become very narrow. The news regarding the same was published in the daily, but it failed to appeal to the authorities or were ignored as usual.

Manikaran bus accident

Amar Ujala also reported same factors responsible for the accident. It said loss of so many lives could have been averted easily if there were parapets or crash barriers on roadside.

Kullu bus accident

Moreover, the bus was longer than the road could accommodate, it was overloaded, and the condition of the road is very poor. The daily also reported that similar accidents were reported in the past on the same route, still neither MLAs nor HPPWD ever bothered to fix it.

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The accident again raised question on the efficiency of traffic police to ensure check on overloading.

The 52-seater tourist bus (PB-19H-3085) was on way its way to the Sikh shrine of Manikaran from Barnala in Punjab, and was carrying about 61-63 passengers. The bus was crossing this very patch when one of its tyres skidd off the edge due to shortage of space and bus plunged into River Parvati, a tributary of Beas that is in spate due to heavy monsoon rains.

The furious Beas rarely spared anyone or anything that ever came in spate of its lashing currents.

In Himachal, it’s a very common phenomenon – people dying in bus accidents. Government’s complete failure in ensuring roadside safety measures is responsible for the loss of hundreds of lives in majority of such accident.

Even the capital city Shimla doesn’t have proper measures like crash barriers or parapets. So, the condition in rest of the state is quite predictable. Moreover, people forget about accidents, no matter how deadly they are.

The silence of public is surprising. No matters how many lives are lost, but people are satisfied with empty assurances served by authorities. Well, carry on. The government enjoys luxuries with public money that was supposed to be spent on roadside safety measures, many other amenities and basic facilities it had promised to the public.

Their luxuries are costing precious lives, and this accident is one example of it. The government has plenty of money for their luxuries, but none for the public.

List of the injured
(1) Gurvinder Kaur, 25, from Barnala
(2) Manpreet Kaur, 5, Barnala
(3) Dilkaur, 3
(4) Kewal Singh, 38, Bathinda
(5) Sandeep Kaur, 22, Bathinda
(6) Raj Kumar, 45, conductor
(7) Paramjeet Kaur, 45, Barnala
(8) Tejender Pal Singh, 21, Barnala
(9) Driver Surjeet Singh, 35, Barnala
(10) Gurmeet Singh, 25, Mansa
(11) Sukhdev Singh, 30, Talwandi Sabo
(12) Harjeet Singh, 24, Mansa
(13) Balwandir Singh, 32, Barnala
(14) Balwinder Singh, 23, Barnala
(15) Surender Kaur, 51, Raigarh
(16) Gurdeep Kaur, 28, Barnala
(17) Gurvinder, 9, Barnala
(18) Gurnam Kaur, 65, Bathinda
(19) Harbajan Singh, 55, Barnala
(20) Nika, 30, Rajgarh
(21) Aman Deep, 18, Bathinda
(22) Nikka Singh, 25, Jogga
(23) Jagdeep Singh, 19, Mansa

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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Social Media Platforms Agree to Come up With Code of Ethics, says ECI After a Meeting With Representatives

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Lok sabha elections 2019 and social media platforms

New Delhi-The usage of Social Media ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 is one of the biggest causes of worry for the Election Commission of India as well as the people. The social media platforms do not have any provisions like the Model Code of Conduct.

The role of social media in helping spread information as well as curbing misinformation cannot be underestimated. There is a desperate need to come up pro-actively with deterrents like some punitive action against users misusing the platform.

Considering this issue of ethics, the Election Commission of India today had an interactive session with representatives of various Social Media Platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). The representatives from social media organizations such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, TikTok and BigoTV attended the meeting.

The Chief Election Commissioner cited Model Code of Conduct as a unique and historic document, which is followed by all political parties /entities from the date of declaration of schedule of elections till the election process is concluded.

Arora said the Social Media Organizations are formidable force-multiplier and asked them to come up with a similar Code for the ongoing election process in the immediate context and a lasting document in the long run.

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa pointed out that today’s has been a momentous meeting for the evolution of ‘behaviour’ of Social Media platforms on Social Media.

Voluntary restraint is a hallmark of civilized society and works as effectively as any regulation, he said. He suggested that the management should consider a clear clause on users’ voluntarily agreeing not to misuse social media platforms for election or political purposes.

The need for the appointment of dedicated grievance channel for expeditious action by the organizations, pre-certification, and transparency in the expenditure of political advertisements was also raised in the meeting. The meeting focused on evolving a notification mechanism by social media platforms for acting upon the violations of Section 126 of R.P. Act, 1951 and preventing misuse of these platforms. 

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Manohar Parrikar Was ‘Chief Minister of Commoners’, Says Cabinet condoling his demise

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Manohar Parrikar Condoloscence messages

New Delhi– The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today condoled the sad demise of Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister on March 17, 2019, at Panaji, Goa.  The Cabinet observed silence for two minutes in his memory.  Parrikar had been in and out of hospitals since February last year after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

He was cremated with full state honours at Panjim’s Miramar Beach this evening. He was 64-years-old.

The Cabinet had also approved observing one day of mourning by the Government of India and flying the National Flag at half-mast on March 18, 2019, in all the States/UTs Capitals including Delhi and throughout the State of Goa.

The Cabinet expresses profound sorrow at the sad demise of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa in the evening of 17th March 2019 at Panaji, Goa. In his passing away, the country has lost a veteran and distinguished leader, affectionately called as the Chief Minister of commoners,

said a condolence Resolution of the Cabinet.

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, also condoled the passing away of Parrikar.

Extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa, after an illness borne with fortitude and dignity. An epitome of integrity and dedication in public life, his service to the people of Goa and of India will not be forgotten.

the President said

About Manohar Parrikar


Born on December 13, 1955, at Mapusa, Goa, Parrikar was educated at Loyola School, Margao and later graduated in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai in 1978. Before entering politics, Parrikar had joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at a young age and became a Mukhya Shikshak (Chief Instructor) in the final years of his schooling itself. After graduating from IIT, he resumed RSS work in Mapusa and became a Sanghchalak at the age of 26.

As a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Parrikar was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Goa in 1994. He became the Chief Minister of Goa for the first time on 24th October 2000 and continued till 27th February 2002. He was re-elected as Chief Minister on 3rd June 2002 and served till 2nd February 2005.  He became Chief Minister of Goa for the third time on 9th March 2012 and continued till 8th November 2014. On 9th November 2014, Shri Parrikar became Union Minister of Defence and continued till 13th March 2017, he was again sworn in as Chief Minister of Goa on 14th March 2017.

He is credited with the building of modern Goa and to the modernization of India’s Armed Forces as well as improvement to the lives of ex.-Servicemen.

Parrikar was awarded the ‘Distinguished Alumnus Award’ by IIT Mumbai in 2001, Honorary Doctorate by National Institute of Technology, Goa in 2018, and the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Award in 2018, among others. He is survived by his two sons.

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Parents Protest Loot by Himachal’s Private Schools, Education Minister Advises Sending Children to Govt Schools

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Loot by Private Schools in Himachal Pradesh 2

Shimla- Levying of hefty fee by private schools in Himachal Pradesh continues despite instructions by the Supreme Court, State High Court and MHRD Ministry. The assurances of the State Government to regulate private schools has also proved insignificant. Parents allege that after court orders to remove the building fund and the admission fee, the schools have only changed the methods of fleecing them with exorbitant fees.

Now, their free booklets have removed the colums of building fund and admission fee and replaced them with annual charges, tuition fee, smart-classroom charges, SMS service charges etc. They have not only adjusted the previously charged funds under new columns but also hiked the total charges, parents alleged.     

Distressed parents have organized under the banner of Parent-Student forum and are again out on the roads to protest against private schools and incapability of the government to take appropriate action. They are asking the government to regulate private schools and make them accountable and responsible. Three main demands of the parents include regulation of fee structure, syllabus, and admission process.

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On March 11, 2019, parents gathered outside the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, to hold a protest. On March 13, the forum staged another protest outside the Directorate of Higher Education. The protests are likely to continue until the government addresses the issue, suggested the convenor of the forum, Vijender Mehra.

Parents complained that schools did not consult them before implementing fee hikes for the current session. They also alleged that schools flaunted all regulations while doing so. After extracting hefty fees, some schools were charging an additional Rs. 35-40 in the name of tours, parents alleged. If that was not enough to burden the parents, the schools charge money for their events too, the convenor of the forum said.

My son was in the second class last year, and I paid about 50,000 to the school as various fees. This year, I will have to pay more,

a father told Himachal Watcher on the condition of anonymity.    

Schools have imposed compulsions on parents regarding purchase of books and uniforms. Parents are strictly ordered to buy them from shops selected by schools, where books and uniforms are sold at thrice or four times the normal cost, the convenor said.

Vendors selected by schools set stalls inside the campus and parents must buy books from these vendors. It’s a strict instruction given by the school. These vendors sell books at a higher price as parents are rendered helpless by the school,

said another parent on the condition of not mentioning the name of the school.

Schools tie up with these vendors and fetch fat commissions from them every year on the sale of stationary and uniforms, the parents allege.

If the number of students enrolled in these schools is considered, then they are earning almost over Rs.6 crores per year. Including the commissions from books and uniforms, this amount increases to almost Rs. 7 crore. Their expenditure including salaries of teachers doesn’t exceed Rs. 3 crores. Rest of the amount is their surplus,

the convenor of the forum said.

Himachal Watcher talked to some parents of children enrolled in various private schools in Shimla. It turned out that Rs. 30,000 – 50,000 per annum is a common amount for the majority of schools. For reputed ones, this cost reaches upto Rs. 60, 000.

I have two sons enrolled a reputed private school in Shimla. Elder one is in class II and younger one is in LKG. Last year, I paid about Rs. 90,000 as their fee,

a mother – resident of Summerhill- told HW.  

The schools justify annual hike and hefty charges saying that they are fully self-funded. To hike salaries of teachers, the fees are also hiked every year, non-funded private schools argue.

According to Right to Education (RTE), all private schools are supposed to reserve 25 percent of the seats for children hailing from economically weaker sections. In 2014, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had also issued fresh guidelines to private schools. The parents alleged that schools are not following these rules. The government, they alleged, is behaving like a mute spectator.

It is seen that MLAs, bureaucrats, leaders of the ruling, as well as the opposition, enroll their children in reputed private institutes because they don’t believe in the quality of education and facilities provided in government institutes. While middle class parents also dodge the government institutions because they have begun to find consolation in the fact that their children are at least receiving the best possible education they can afford to secure their future, which government schools cannot provide.

I won’t send my children to government schools because I want them to explore their full potential and develop their personalities. I want them to develop enough self-confidence and communication skills to face the modern, tough competitive world. Currently, government schools are just not able to offer much to children,

said a father of two and resident of New Shimla.

What Does Education Minister Says?

The Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, in response to these protest, told media that he is well aware of this loot. His advice to parents was to send their children to Government schools. As per the Minister, the Government schools are tip-top and quality of education is at par with private schools.

Since assuming the office, the Education Minister was reluctant to accept that a decline in enrollments in government schools is a result of the degrading quality of education. As per his statement in February 2019, parents send their children to private schools for it has become a status symbol. He also claimed that introducing pre-nursery classes in about 390 government schools have resulted in the additional enrollment of 40,000.  He also claimed that 99.7 percent of government schools have toilet facility and that 18 percent of the budget is being spent on education.    

It’s pertinent to mention that the HP Private Education Institutions (Regulation) Act does exist, but its hardly playing any role in regulating schools.

The school aren’t even following the instruction given by the Directorate of Higher Education to submit records of their annual charges for the session 2018-2019.

Other states have developed their own regulatory mechanism to deal with loot by private schools. For example, the State of Gujarat has the Self Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act. It makes State Government competent of forming laws for state boards, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). 

However, it appears that the Government in Himachal is trying to delay forming and implementing any such regulatory law.

Parents also question the government’s disinterest in the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Moreover, irrespective of political parties in power, private schools are hardly audited.

In January 2018, right after coming into power, the Education Minister had assured the people that a policy would be introduced to check arbitrary fee structures of private schools in the State. The laws formed by other states to prevent private schools from exploiting parents financially would be studied, he had said. He had also said that very soon these schools would be brought under the Regulatory Commission.   

In March 2019, the Education Minister has again given an assurance that the Government would make provisions to regulate private schools.  The Government did not mention any deadline or estimated time it would take to frame laws and implement them. Meanwhile, schools have already begun extorting this year’s fees.

The parents also said that they would be meeting the Education Minister during the current week with their plea. The parents have warned the government of more such protests if no action was taken to tighten the noose around these schools.

What Does Law Say?

Operation of private schools and commercialisation of education has long been a matter of litigation across the country. The Supreme Court in December 2018 had ordered a 20 per cent decrease in fees charged by upscale private schools. The schools were ordered to return half the fees they had charged for summer vacations. This order was applicable across the country whose fees were in excess of Rs 5, 000.

The apex court had also ordered that private schools can only increase their fee by five percent each year.

Before it, cases like Islamic Academy of Education versus State of Karnataka (2003) and Modern School versus Union of India (2004) have clearly stated that educational institutions should be allowed to make only ‘reasonable surplus’. The schools were expected to use this profit to provide better facilities and not for profiteering by the school management.

Apparently, the welfare of society lies in putting a check on the commercialisation of education. Good education lies at the foundation of a strong, healthy democracy. At least, education must not be put on sale.

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