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A 70-year-old, ill Ghumarwin cobbler dies of cold in a rain-shelter

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Under Article 21 of the Constitution provides fundamental right of life and liberty to citizens and according to a 2012 verdict of the Supreme Court of India “right to shelter” is also right to life and had ordered authorities of northern states to gear up to preserve and protect the lives of the people of weaker sections and destitute.

BILASPUR- A 70-year-old man was found dead in a rain-shelter. He was identified as Dharam Singh, resident of Dada in Ghumarwin, Bilaspur. Dharam Singh was a cobbler and used to sit near a rain-shelter at Dakari Chowk and repaired shoes and chappals for living. According to reports, he was ill for last many days due to cold. Owing to illness, he thought of taking rest and went for a nap in the rain-shelter. Eventually, due to lack of any help or assistance in cold winters, he died.

No one knows how long had he been laying dead in the rain-shelter. A lady came to get her shoes repaired and tried to wake him up. She called for him repeatedly, but didn’t receive any reply, so she informed other people, who then gathered and came to know about cobbler’s death.

They informed the police, but no one cared to cover the body with a cloth. After hours of wait, police arrived and sent the body for postmortem after taking it into custody. DSP Ajani Jaswal confirmed the report.

The incident poses serious question on policy makers who have completely ignored interests and rights of poverty stricken senior citizens, like this poor cobbler. There might be a number of schemes for poverty stricken section of the society, which are limited to announcements and official papers even after 70-years of Independence.

Under the Senior Citizen Act 2007, State Governments should set up at least one Old Age Home for every 150 beneficiaries in a district. These homes are to provide Senior Citizens with minimum facilities such as food, clothing and recreational activities.

Under Article 21 of the Constitution provides fundamental right of life and liberty to citizens and according to a 2012 verdict of the Supreme Court of India “right to shelter” is also right to life and had ordered authorities of northern states to gear up to preserve and protect the lives of the people of weaker sections and destitute.

Hearing a PIL filed by advocate E R Kumar alleging seeking its direction to governments to build shelter homes as many homeless people die due to cold in winter, a bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra had said,

Nothing is more important for states than to protect and preserve lives of the homeless people. Threat to life is perceivable in severe cold and states must comply with all its obligations under Article 21 by providing shelter to the homeless people.

The bench had further added,

We direct the authorities, particularly in northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to provide at least temporary night shelters to preserve and protect the lives of homeless people in consonance with the philosophy of the Constitution under Article 21.

In 2014, the apex court headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu had again warned Himachal Pradesh along with UP, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan to build sufficient number of shelter homes for homeless people ahead of the winter season.

In 2015, an RTI by Dev Ashish bhattacharya had exposed that the state received Rs. Rs 6, 04, 45,000 as on March 30, 2015 for the construction of shelter homes for poor in 11 districts under National Urban Livelihood Mission scheme, but the government didn’t built even a single shelter-home.

The number of homeless in Himachal Pradesh might be lower as compared to other states, but there are destitute or poverty stricken senior citizen who have no idea how to approach government for their rights. Mostly, these unfortunate souls like Dharam Singh or people living below poverty line (BPL) aren’t aware of the fact that there are provisions for people like him and the governments have been playing politics over poverty alleviation programmes.

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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Road in Mashobra Ward of SMC in tatters for last 10 years

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Shimla: While the new Government of Himachal Pradesh claims that it has achieved all the targets it had set for the first 100 days, the ground reality doesn’t agree with it entirely.

As per the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Rs. 100 crores were sanctioned for repair and maintenance of roads, however, even the urban Shimla did not witness these repairs.

Some residents of Mashobra – Lower Dhalli Ward (Number 21) of the Shimla Municipal Corporation wrote to Himachal Watcher regarding the pathetic condition of the road in their locality algonwith pictures of the Mashobra market.  

The road has not been repaired from last 10 years. The problem of water-logging pertains from past 5 years, but the civic body did not attend to it, 

said one of the residents.

Bhartiya Janata Party’s Shalinder Chauhan has been elected for the second time as counsellor of the Ward. However, he made only promises to solve this problem, which were never fulfilled,

the resident further added.

Mashobra market

This road leads to famous tourist destinations like Talai, Carignano Nature Park along with government offices like the Regional Horticultural Research Station, Mashobra, and HP Panchayati Raj Training Institute.

Despite the frequent movement of government officials in this Ward, the road did not attract the attention of any single of them.

Several Ministers cross this road and, a few days back, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had organized a national level annual meeting near Talai, but the problem remains invisible to everyone except the locals,

a local youth told HW.

The pedestrians face daily trouble due to the large potholes, which turn into pools of water when it rains. Passing vehicles splash accumulated water on pedestrians. During sunny days, clouds of dust troubles the residents as well as shopkeepers and dhabs located in the market, the residents complained.   

The locals are forced to live in dust and mud for last 10 years, but the problems of the locals did not find a place in media, they further complained.

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Busted: Hindi Daily exaggerated news about delay in handing over dead bodies of Nurpur accident victims

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Tribute to Nurpur school bus accident

Kangra: “If it is published in a newspaper, then the news must be true,” most of the common readers believe.

Unfortunately, journalists do not deserve a blind faith of the people in a country like India where media houses are propelled by profits instead of motives. Journalists often exaggerate and sensationalize reports deliberately, which brings a bad name to the fraternity of journalists.

The most recent reference could be made to a news published by a Hindi Daily regarding the alleged politics over the dead bodies of 23 children who died in the tragic accident of a school bus on April 9, 2018, near Nurpur of Kangra district.

Nurpur School bus accident

Outside Nurpur Hospital on April 10

The Hindi Daily, in  a report published in its April 11 edition, had alleged the district administration of making unnecessary delay in handing over the dead bodies of the victims to their families. The motive, the report alleged, was that the Chief Minister could pay tribute to the bodies as part of a political stunt.

The report went on saying that the bodies of some of the victims, which were already handed over to the families on April 9, were also brought back. The parents kept asking for the bodies while the district administration and a local MLA told them to wait for the arrival of the Chief Minister, the Daily had reported.

It sounds like the cheapest of political stunts. Doesn’t it?

The Chief Minister and the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra, Sandeep Sharma, faced severe criticism after the news was published by the Daily.

pyres of nurpur school bus accident

Pyres of the victims

However, not all the information fed by the reporter of the Daily was factually correct.

Himachal Watcher’s credible friends in media, who were present at the hospital, revealed that there might have been some delay but no dead body was brought back.  The Daily blew the news out of proportion,  we were told.

I was right there outside the mortuary with other reporters and correspondents of news agencies to cover the story. No body was handed over to any of the families on April 9, so there is no question of bringing them back,

a journalist told Himachal Watcher.

Most of the reporters had left the hospital by 10:00 PM, but we stayed there for a while. The gates of the mortuary were locked at about 12:00 PM and no one was allowed to enter thereafter. Therefore, it was a sheer lie, 

the journalist said. 

We also consulted other journalists, who agreed that the news was indeed blown out of proportion.

Such irresponsible and sensational reporting defames the media fraternity, especially the responsible journalists, 

said one of the media persons expressing disappointment with the reporter of the Daily.

The Daily is trying to cover up the matter but the inconsistency in the facts in its follow-up stories is clearly visible.  

The DC, Kangra, on April 12 had issued a press statement terming the news as a misleading one, which turned out to be true. 

The news not only defamed the Chief Minister but also shook the little faith that common men still have in the government and local administration. The newspaper cutting of the Daily did rounds of social media and attracted the wrath of the people.

The message is clear; there is no space for blind trust on media. We need to be careful while going through such sensitive news.

I have just one request to those people who started to share the news clipping on social media. First, try to cross check the facts before opening critical attack on such sensitive matters. It is not about defaming the government but of humanity,

a journalist associated with an English Daily said.   

It was a total breach of trust of the readers as well as those who came across it on social media. 

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CM Thakur, BJP ridiculed for alleged politics of ‘paying tribute’ to Nurpur accident victims

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Politics over Nurpur school bus accident

Kangra: The new Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur were ridiculed for allegedly playing “politics of paying tribute” over the dead bodies of 23 children killed in the school bus accident near Nurpur in Kangra on April 9, 2018.

The Chief Minister also faced the wrath of the public on social media. The people termed it as the “most degraded level” of politics that the nation has ever witnessed.

This widespread criticism compelled the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra, Sandeep Kumar and the local MLA Rakesh Pathania to come out in their defence. The DC on April 12 released a media statement in which he refuted the allegations labelled against them regarding the deliberate delay in handing over the dead bodies deceased children

The DC termed it as an act of irresponsible reporting. The local MLA Rakesh Pathania also came out with an explanation and said that it was decided to transport all the bodies together to avoid inconvenience due to crowdedness.

However, the Daily, in its April 13 edition, has produced a statement of an aggrieved family member and stood by its report.

politics over Nurpur school bus tragedy

Report from Dainik Bhaskar’s April 13 Edition

As per the daily, Gulshan, a resident of Chamba, alleged that everytime the parents asked for the body, they were told to wait for the Chief Minister’s arrival.

Meanwhile, a video of Gulshan repeating his statement has also appeared on the social media. 

It is an illogical explanation of the administration that the parents of the children were not available early morning, the Daily said. All the parents had rushed to the hospital on the evening the accident took place. They waited till morning at the hospital, added the report.

In its April 11 edition, the Daily had alleged the district administration and Pathania of keeping the parents of the victims waiting for about three hours to claim the bodies.

It was further alleged by the Daily that the bodies which already handed over to the parents were also brought back so that the Chief Minister and the Union Minister JP Nadda could perform a political drama of paying tribute to the victims.

A stage was set and mike was installed for the Chief Minister, the report alleged.

As per the report, the post-mortems of the victims including four adults were completed between 7:30 AM to 8:00 AM on April 10. However, the parents were told that the Chief Minister will be arriving to distribute the cheques of the relief money, alleged the report.

When the Union Minister Nadda was asked about the incident, he denied having any knowledge regarding the delay. He said the local administration and the MLA were responsible for all the arrangement.

While the mourning parents had lined up outside the mortuary to claim the bodies, they were made to wait until the Chief Minister and Union Minister arrived at 10:30.

The daily also alleged that the DC, Kangra, and local MLA Rakes Pathania were seen directing the staff regarding Chief Minister’s reception. While there were only two nurses to look after four survived children during the previous night, all the staff along with the district administration swarmed upon next morning to receive the Chief Minister.

However, on April 12, the DC issued a press statement terming the news as false and misleading one. He said an elaborate inquiry was conducted and it was found that no delay was made deliberately. He claimed that the post-mortems were completed at 10:30 AM, and not at 7:30 AM, as alleged by the Daily.

Opposed to the allegation, the DC further claimed that no post-mortem was conducted on April 9. He said as per the rules a post-mortem should be conducted in daylight, therefore, it was not possible to hand over the bodies to the parents on April 9.

The post-mortems were conducted in the morning only in the presence of the parents and they were not available on the evening the accident took place, the DC claimed.

However, the DC did not say anything regarding legal action against the Daily for publishing such defamatory news. 

If the report was, in fact, misleading, then we will be soon reading an apology published in the same Daily or a legal action by the administration. If none of the two situations appears, then it would suggest the ugly allegations made in the report were true.  

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