SHIMLA- In another horrible accident, a 17-year-old Nepalese child labourer lost both his legs after he in contact with high tension wire of Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board. According to the victim Naresh, the accident took place on 26th September in Shatala Village, Kotgarh, district Shimla.
In a letter to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Ajai Shrivastva, chairman of Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust, said that since the boy’s life has been spoiled by a State agency, a compensation of at least Rs. one crore be awarded and urged the CM to order a high level inquiry in to the matter so that justice could be done to the poor child.
Naresh, who was working with a private contractor, not just lost both his legs but also sustained severe burns all over his body, and is still fighting for his life at Indira Gandhi Medical College for last two months. He was brought to IGMC Shimla on the evening of 26th September where his both legs were amputated and his head, chest, back, neck and ears are still full of bandages due to severe wounds. A team of doctors lead by Dr.D.K Verma, department of surgery is working hard to his life.
Unfortunately, the boy was left on his own by the contractor and the government despite the fact that the victim is a minor and is now completely disabled. According to the father of the boy, Buddha who rushed to Shimla from Nepal on hearing the news, the contractor allegedly came to hospital after a week and gave Rs. 20,000 as ‘relief’ but in fact it was the first payment after four months’ work of the boy.
Naresh was assured the wages at a rate of Rs. 300 per day but the contractor did not pay a single paisa to him before this accident. According to Naresh’s father, more than 20,000 Rupees are still to be paid by the contractor who did not appear again to see the boy.
The Chairman of the organization, Ajai Shrivastave held a press conference in Shimla and said,
Four days ago I met the child in the hospital who narrated the terrifying incident occurred on 26th September in Shatala village of Kotgarh in Shimla District. As per Naresh, he hails from village Salyan, District Lakshmipur, Nepal and came to Kotgarh about six month ago and started work as daily wager with a big contractor. His work was to cook meals for 16 labourers and bring firewood for kitchen. On 26th September after completing his kitchen work at about 9 in the morning, he went to the nearby forest to pick firewood. He does not remember what happened thereafter.
He further added,
Indra Bahadur says his son is just 17 years old but the people who got him admitted in the hospital got his age registered in the admission slip as 18 years which is wrong,
In his letter to CM, Srivastava said the life of the Nepalese child has been spoiled for which HPSEB, state government and the contractor is responsible. He has urged the CM to order a high level inquiry in to the matter, book the people and agencies responsible for the accident and take stringent action against the culprits. The entire amount incurred on the treatment be also reimbursed to the victim.
Since Naresh has become 100 percent disabled, his economic and social rehabilitation is the responsibility of the State. In a similar case of Chowari in Chamba, the H.P. High Court had awarded a compensation of Rs. 1 crore 25 lacs to the victim Naval Kumar on 9th January, 2015. In the same manner, Naresh should also be given a compensation of Rs. one crore by the government.
Umang Foundation has also informed Mr. Deep Kumar Upadhyay, the Ambassador of Nepal to India, about the incident and miserable condition of the Nepalese national and urged him to come forward to support the boy.
HP Health Dept Scam: There is More to It Than Just Alleged Bribery
Shimla-Following the alleged scam in the Himachal Pradesh Health Department, which has been linked to bribery in the procurement of PPE kits, the sudden resignation of the Bharatiya Janata Party chief Dr. Rajiv Bindal, and new twists and turns have left people baffled amid the pandemic. The fact that the Health Ministry is directly under Chief Minister Jairam Thakur makes it embarrassing for the party not only in the State but also at the national level.
The opposition has demanded resignation of the Chief Minister saying that if Rajeev Bindal who is claiming to be innocent resigned on moral grounds, then CM should do the same as the Health Ministry is directly under him.
The audio clip related to the alleged scam appeared on May 21 following which Director, Health Service, AK Gupta, was arrested and suspended. A person identified as Prithvi Singh has come out claiming that it was he who recorded the telephonic conversation with Gupta because his payment for delivery of medical equipment to the Health Department was put on hold.
Ambiguity in media reports and little or no release of information by the Vigilance Department investigating the case indicate the possibility of political influence and pressure from the party’s top leadership.
According to an Indian Express report, investigating officer DSP Kailash Sharma and public prosecutor Sandeep Attri told the court during the hearing of Gupta’s bail application that Prithvi Singh is a liaison for Bio Aid – a Derabassi-based firm. They told the court that Bio-Aid had supplied PPE kits worth over one crore to the HP Health Department. The court was also told that Gupta allegedly demanded bribe but hadn’t received it.
“On this, the special judge (forest) Arvind Malhotra remarked that since bribery had not yet taken place, it could not happen now. “You cannot force him to take it”.
But other media reports, especially in Hindi daily Amar Ujala and News 18, have mentioned this amount to be only Rs. 45 lakh. The daily said that earlier it was believed that Prithvi Singh was working for a BJP leader involved in the scam, however, Prithvi was only trying to get his payment released. The daily suggested he was not working with or for any such leader.
News 18 also published a similar report in which the Channel claimed that Pritivi Singh said that he was compelled to offer bribe as he did not have any other way to get his payment released.
On the other hand, according to the Indian Express report, the court was told that Gupta was not directly a part of the procurement procedure as he was not a member of any of the two committees formed to invite tenders. It’s not all, both the defense lawyer and the prosecution told the court that audio-clip was recorded in mid-April, and tenders were invited twice before the recording of the clip. Also, the Defense lawyer told the court that Bio Aid firm was not in the list of qualifiers for these tenders. Bio-Aid made all supplies before tenders were floated.
The report also stated that the prosecution indicated that it might not go for extension of police remand for Gupta.
Meanwhile, Gupta’s wife alleged that she was threatened by Vigilance officials when she tried to meet her husband. She also said that Gupta wasn’t given access to a lawyer.
However, the answer to the question regarding the identity of the involved BJP leader and his role was nowhere mentioned. Another curious question is; why BJP Chief Bindal resigned? What he has to do with this alleged scam? Bindal said he resigned on “moral ground” as fingers were being raised towards the party. He also said that he did not want to influence the investigation, which makes no sense at all.
It’s notable that Bindal did not try to defend his party or seek proof of involvement of any BJP leader even once before tendering his resignation. National BJP chief JP Nadda at once accepted his resignation.
From these facts, it is being derived that the party had already made its mind or had asked Bindal to resign after the matter relating to the scam reached the high-command. Further, media has already moved on to the topic of “BJP searching for its new State chief”.
However, a report published by India Today said that Prithvi was an employee of a company owned by Bindal’s family members.
“A close aide and an employee of a diagnostic centre owned by his (Bindal’s) daughter and son-in-law, Prithvi, offered Rs 5 lakh bribe to the arrested health director Dr. AK Gupta,”
the report said.
The report also said that “Dr. AK Gupta was also close to Dr Rajeev Bindal, who had also sought a three-month extension to his service as he is retiring on May 31, 2020.”
Then, there are reports that suggest that Bindal, five-times MLA and former health minister, was being seen as a potential challenge to Jairam Thakur as CM candidate. The incident is also being seen as evidence of power tussle in BJP. Bindal was hoping to secure a seat in the State Cabinet after BJP came to power. But he was disappointed. It’s also speculated that when a berth in the Cabinet got vacated due to the elections of Food and Civil Supplies Minister Krishan Kapoor to the Lok Sabha from Kangra, Bindal was again disappointed.
The veteran Congress leader and former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh suggested that the resignation of Bindal is nothing more than just a diversion to take the pressure off the Chief Minister as he was heading the health ministry.
Moreover, to put BJP in a questionable position, some of its leaders including the Veteran party leader and former chief minister Shanta Kumar came down heavily on their party.
“It is not only crime and shameful act but a sin. Imagine a MNREGA worker donating Rs 5,000 of her savings to the COVID fund in Himachal Pradesh and these people are trying to pocket the money. Highly shameful,”
Shanta Kumar said as a reaction to the alleged scam.
On the other hand, Congress is demanding a probe by a sitting judge of the State High Court to ensure a fair investigation.
Former Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, has also demanded a probe by a sitting judge of the State High Court for clean trial. He also asked the State Government to make expenditures made in the name of Corona pandemic in the State public.
He also targeted the State Government over the recent case relating to irregularities in the purchase of sanitizers for the State Secretariat.
“Over 20 days have passed since the order was given to the Vigilance to probe the scam relating to purchase of sanitizers for HP Government Secretariat, but no action has been taken so far,”
HP Health Deptt Scam: BJP Chief Bindal Resigned on “Moral Grounds” or Asked to Resign by High Command?
Shimla-In a time when the corona pandemic is haunting India as well as the entire world and a huge amount of budget is being allocated for health infrastructure, services, and equipment like PPE kits, ventilators etc., officials and politicians in India are as usual ensuring their cut in corruption. Are all the donations that people are making towards the PM/CM Relief Funds to fight COVID-19 safe in the hands of the current Government? No surprise that a cut from the 20 lakh crores, which the Prime Minister claims has been released as a relief for the people, would end up in the pockets of bureaucrats, politicians, and middlemen.
An example of this is Himachal Pradesh’s Health Department and politicians. Just after a week of an audio clip of an alleged deal between the Director, Health Services, Dr. Ajay Gupta and an employee and close aid of a politician appeared; Dr. Rajiv Bindal has resigned from the position of State BJP Chief. His resignation was also accepted almost immediately. He claimed that he resigned on “moral grounds” as he was hurt after the party’s name was associated with the alleged scam. He claimed that the party and the Government are clean and have no role in this alleged scam. It’s hard to digest that BJP Chief resigned even though no particular name of any political leader has been confirmed officially. The pubic and oppositions are sensing something fishy in this act of the BJP party chief.
The resignation came right after the mater reached the Office of the Prime Minister. Some sources say Bindal didn’t resign but was asked to resign on the behest of PM Office anticipating a political upheaval not only in the State but at the national level. Five times MLA Bindal has served as health minister, remained the Speaker of State Legislative Assembly, and then given the charge to lead the party in Himachal.
It’s not the first time that Bindal had been in controversy over alleged corruption. In 2016, he was booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Anti-Corruption Act. He was, with some others, alleged of appointing several employees in the Solan Town Council in 1998 and 2000 by allegedly defying provisions under the Himachal Pradesh Town Service Act. Bindal was the Chairman of one of these committees. However, his cases were withdrawn in January 2019 after BJP came to power in the State.
Oppositions and public are demanding a CBI probe into all purchases made during the period of lockdown. Senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister Shanta Kumar also expressed anguish over the ongoing corruption in the health department, especially when the nation is going through turbulent times due to the pandemic.
प्रैस विज्ञप्तिभारतीय जनता पार्टी के वरिष्ठ नेता एवं हिमाचल प्रदेश के भूतपूर्व मुख्यमंत्री एवं पूर्व सांसद, शांता…
It’s pertinent to mention that it’s not the first such scam, irregularities were earlier reported in the purchase of sanitizers. According to the allegations, hand sanitizers were bought at a price higher than the actual price. Moreover, last year, a letter from a BJP’s leader had created a stir in which serious allegations were labelled against the minister and officials of the health department.
What Happened Earlier
Director, Health Services, Dr. Ajay Gupta was suspended after a 43-second-long audio clip leaked in the media on May 21, 2020. In the audio, two persons can be heard talking about bank accounts and transactions of Rs. 5 lakh. The charges are that the Director was allegedly asking for a bribe in purchase-related to health equipment in wake of the pandemic.
Additional Chief Secretary RD Dhiman had to hand over the case to the Vigilance department soon after the audio clip appeared. Ordering immediate probe is something that BJP is presenting as proof of State Government and Chief Minister Jairam Thakur’s innocence.
The Director confessed that he was one of these two persons heard speaking in this clip. Later, late that night, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested Gupta.
Then, he got admitted to the Indira Gandhi Medical Hospital complaining of poor health due to his diabetic condition. He was discharged on Monday, May 25. After his discharge from the hospital, he was produced in a court from where he was remanded to five days of police custody.
His house was raided by a Special Investigating Unit headed by IPS Shalini Agnihotri and jewelry worth Rs. 4 lakh and Rs. 28 thousand cash was ceased. Several documents, mobile phones etc. have also been ceased.
On May 25, the Vigilance team informed that the Director holds over a dozen accounts in various banks. As many as 20 ATMs and Credit cards were also ceased in the raid on his office and residence.
Then, media reports said that the entire scam is linked to some influential leader of Bharatiya Janata Party. According to a Hindi Daily, the person to whom the Director was speaking is an employee of a firm that the alleged politician is affiliated to. This firm was allotted the tender for the purchase of equipment related to COVID-19. The Daily said the Director had negotiated the deal for a bribe of Rs. 5 lakh.
The politician involved was reportedly making attempts to get an extension for the Director who was to retire on May 31. After the audio clip went viral, the politicians tried to hush it up but could not do so as the Vigilance had already arrested the director.
Not only the Director but the committee constituted for taking decisions on purchases for the Health Department has come under the scanner.
Since Gupta’s arrest, the Vigilance Department has not released any information regarding the person on the other side of the phone. No other arrest has been made so far. However, it was reported that a close aid to the politician involved was being questioned regarding the scam.
However, the public fears, investigation of this scam is likely to be botched up as influential politicians and bureaucrats are said to be linked with it. In the name of investigation, the Director or a couple of other officials would be held responsible. Still, the investigation might not reach its conclusion for years, as it happens when influential politicians of a party are involved in scams.
Response of Judiciary to India’s Migrant Crisis During Lockdown
Shimla-Judiciary has a duty to make the Government accountable for the conditions that migrant workers are facing today. In a series of articles, we will be going through the response of Indian Judiciary to the present Migrant Crisis. In the first of these series, we go through two important directions of the Patna High Court to the Government, which can help in elevating the condition of the Migrant Workers who are the victims of the present lockdown.
Patna High Court this month acknowledged the seriousness of this crisis and passed two important Orders which are marked by empathy for the plight of the present victims.
In one of the order, it has sought a reply from the Bihar government on a petition alleging ‘poor condition of quarantine centres’ in the state where migrant workers have been mandated to stay for three weeks upon their return from other parts of the country. In the other order, it has urged the State Government to reconsider its policy of not engaging with members of civil society in handling the COVID-19 crisis.
Order regarding the poor condition of quarantine centres
(C.W.P No.5656 of 2020)
A Division Bench headed by Hon’ble Chief Justice Sanjay Karol directed the state government to file its reply, noting with concern that Bihar has the “highest population density” in the country and “any mismanagement” at the quarantine centers could lead to a substantial increase in the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
“From the record, it can be inferred that perhaps in the State of Bihar, more than 2450 quarantine centres stand established by the Disaster Management Department, in anticipation of housing 2.5 lakhs persons, termed as migrants, who are desirous of returning home. Perhaps the figure may be more. Such quarantine centres are to be established and managed as per the guidelines for quarantine facilities framed by the Government of India. There has to be proper segregation of the areas, prominently labelled as low risk, moderate risk and high risk areas. The entry and exit points of the said centres are required to be secured properly, with proper facilities of sanitation etc. Any mis-management in proper handling of such centres may result into the spread and/or increase of the disease in Bihar.
..The relevance, significance and importance of ensuring proper sanitization, cleanliness and orderliness at the Centres is highly imperative, more so looking into the economic condition, demography and population of Bihar. Today, 1/10th of the population of India lives in Bihar with highest density of population ratio. Hence the need, all the more, for monitoring the centres directly by senior level officer(s) at the level of the Government and with a greater vigil.
..In the response, it be categorically stated, in a tabulated form, district-wise, (a) the number of quarantine centres established in the State of Bihar; (b) number of persons (migrants) housed therein; (c) number of persons who have been allowed to return to their respective places of destination after expiry of the mandatory period of quarantine; (d) total number of persons (migrants), who are further expected to enter the State of Bihar; (e) the capacity of centres to house such persons; (f) whether provision for security, sanitation and food exists at each one of such centre or not; (g) whether such facility stands outsourced or is being provided or sought to be provided directly by the employees of the State; (h) whether there is a provision for providing medical aid/facilities; and (i) mechanism for lodging complaints and its redressal.”
Direction for engaging members of civil society in the fight against Corona Virus.
(C.W.P No.5609 of 2020)
A division bench headed by Justice Sanjay Karol in another order observed that “in a democratic society, the Civil Society cannot be ignored”, Order Stated:
“Well, at this stage, we need not say anything further, save and except, that the role of Civil Society, be it in the form of individuals/ CSOs/NGOs, in helping the orphans; elderly persons; and specially challenged persons, cannot be undermined. Public and private participation to overcome natural disasters and adversities is not alien to the culture and heritage of this great nation. Also Practices and teachings of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira are well entrenched in the State of Bihar. One cannot forget the importance and significance of the Directives Principles of State Policy, Part IV, (Article 39) and Part IV-A Fundamental duties, more specifically, (Article 51-A (h)) of the Constitution of India, while dealing with the problems arising out of the Pandemic Corona Virus (COVID-19).
We are also of the view that for centralized monitoring of the problems faced by the sectors mentioned above and the relief provided/action taken, technology be used. Perhaps, a Website, to be operated at the level of the Government of Bihar can be opened up where any member of the Society (organized or un-organized) wanting to help the Government or the citizenry, in whatever manner, be it in the form of material or human resources, can register their request and the same dealt with promptly by a duly authorized competent and a responsible officer. We only hope that the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar shall have part of this order implemented latest by day-after-tomorrow, 29.04.2020.”
List of verified NGOs, charities and private institutions, which are working on the ground:
- fdci.org or write to them at [email protected]seedsindia.org/covid19/
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