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Shimla SDA Complex staff deserves a round of applause for littering and incinerating garbage in open

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SHIMLA- A resident of Devnagar in Shimla sent us some pictures depicting disappointing and highly condemnable practice being followed by the staff of nearby offices at SDA Complex, Kasumpti (Block 38 Near CID Office).

Dev Nagar Vikasnagar

The offices dump all their office-waste including plastic packaging, bottles, disposables, discarded tube-lights, construction waste/debris, and surrounding area is covered with “Bitchoo Booti” shrubs. On the top of that, they incinerate it openly, which an offense as its very lethal for environment.

garbage

Inside offices, the administration has pasted messages appealing people to maintain cleanliness in Shimla. These images clearly depict the level of awareness and hypocrisy toward cleanliness and littering among highly educated (as they claim) people sitting on responsible seats in the government departments. We doubt that they have failed the purpose of education.

Garbage in Shimla

Similar situation prevails around entire SDA Complex. For example, the Software Technology Park of India (Block 24). What SMC workers did after HW had posted a complaint was even more absurd. The workers simply set the piles of garbage on fire.

Watch : Ridiculous Action of SMC on our Previous Complaint

Littering and improper disposal of waste is on rise in urban Shimla, which is also struggling with unchecked, rising air pollution due to vehicular emission and blatant burning of various kind of waste by Shimla Municipal Corporation and residents. It’s 2016 and our government has miserably failed to run even a single solid waste treatment plant in the capital city. There are only announcement from SMC about re-opening of the non-operational plant at Bhariyaal.

cid office shimla

The Mayor had alleged that government’s lethargic attitude is causing delay in commissioning of the plant. There is a great possibility that ideological and political rivalry are at work here. The situation has only created ugly scenes in Shimla. The administration hasn’t provided dustbins even at crowded bus stops, and even if they have, then the public still do not show any sign of co-operation and use them.

cid office

No society ever witnessed changes and reforms without participation of its people. The elected representatives don’t have much to do with betterment of the state. Their vision is limited to their chair and perks of power and luxuries they obtain from taxpayer’s money.

We literally wonder whether present old-generation of politicians stands any chance of ever contemplating why they were actually elected by their people. Is there any chance that attitude of government officials and sloth like bureaucracy will ever change? It’s clear sign that we need better people in our assembly.

It’s our kind request to the people to understand their individual responsibility, and we would also like to remind them that there is a section of Indian Constitution that deals with principal duties of an ideal citizen of a democratic state. Please, take time to go through them.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Shimla: Heavy Price Hike in Food, Tea, Snacks, Admin Says It No More Has Power to Regulate Rates

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price hike in shimla

Shimla-What is being reported as the result of not notifying certain rules of the Essential Commodities Act, a chaotic situation is arising in Shimla district, Himachal Pradesh. Though the district administration has not issued any notification regarding it, prices of vegetables, food, meat, tea, parantha, samosa/other snacks etc. have been increased arbitrarily by sellers . The government and the administration is not even aware of this situation, a media reports said.

Reports of over-charging owing to loss of control over the price of commodities are appearing from Shimla, especially the cities, for a couple of days. According to a report, this over-pricing is completely out of control as several dhabas, street-side vendors, tea stalls, and restaurants in Shimla are selling tea, parants, Samoas etc. at almost double the set rates.

According to the reports, where earlier a cup of tea cost Rs. 10, now Rs. 20 are being charged from consumers. Similarly, the cost of a parantha has been hiked upto Rs, 50 as compared to the previous rate of Rs. 20. The rate of a Samosa was reported to be Rs 20 – double the previous rate. While a thali/plate of food is being sold between Rs. 90 to 120 compared to the set rate of Rs. 60, people are paying upto Rs. 80 for chow mein.  

When asked about the matter, the Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, Aditya Negi, said that the district administration used to check the rates as per regular notifications issued related to two rules of the Essential Commodities Act. However, the HP Government has not issued any notification in this regard since December 2020. That is why, the district administration is neither able to decide the prices or take action/conduct checking, he explained. 

According to another report published on February 18, the district administration’s power to regulate prices of these commodities has been taken away as a result of abolishing two rules under the Essential Commodities Act. The report said that the state government is not in favour of issuing any such notification in this regard due to pressure from businessmen and traders.

The Food and Civil Supplies Department said that it hasn’t received any proposal to extend/renew Himachal Pradesh Hoarding and Profiteering Prevention Order,1977. However, ambiguity in information still prevails due to lack of any proper explanation from the government. 

The President of Vyopar Mandal, Inderjeet Singh, according to the report, justified the hikes saying that the cost of raw material has also gone up.  

It’s pertinent to mention that, in the absence of lack of any clarification regarding the issue, this over-charging business also being related to constant hike in petrol and diesel prices for the past 12 days. Transporters and suppliers are already raising their demand to hike their rates in view of rising cost of fuel.

Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla, condemned the current situation and blamed BJP Government’s “free market policy” for it.

“This is the policy of the BJP government of free-market economy. BJP government has withdrawn the Essential Commodities Act in the state and all the orders to check hoarding and profiteering are now ineffective. This has given free hand to market forces to overcharge and this will definitely promote price rise,” said Sanjay Chauhan.

“This action of government will affect the common man and particularly working people, daily wager and poor. This will force poor sections of society which is already in crisis due to economic crisis towards hunger,” he added.

“Government must immediately come with legislation to check prices particularly essential commodities and food items,” he demanded.

Other than food prices, a third report published on February 22, 2020, said that the hike in fuel prices is now hitting developmental works in the state. Contractors of the Public Works Department are demanding a hike in the cost of construction projects, the report said. The head of the association/union for contractors in Himachal Pradesh, Satish Kumar Vij, according to the report, said that the contractors have taken a hit due to the pandemic.

Now, due to the constant hike in the prices of petrol and diesel, they are compelled to pay a higher cost for hiring labour, transportation fare, and other works which require labourers, the report said.

If the government does not revise the rates, the contractors would have to face losses, Satish said. The report said that a delegation of the union would soon reach Chief Minister Jairam Thakur regarding their demand.    

Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Samiti has also launched attack on the government, blaming it for putting more financial burden on commoners. Women are finding it hard to manage household expanses due to inflation in rates. The state government has also washed its hands off from the responsibility of regulating prices of commodities in the market, leaving people on the mercy of sellers/businessmen/traders, the Samiti said. 

“The BJP Government is indifferent towards the people and only misguiding them in the name of development. The government only focuses on diverting attention from critical issues,” said the Mahila Samiti in a press statement. 

“Amidst of pandemic, when crores of people have lost their jobs, the price hike is burning a hole in their pockets. The government need to take back this decision to abolish control of district administration on rates of food and other items of daily use. The fuel prices should be brought down to provide relief to the people, ” the statement said. 

No word regarding the issue has been issued by the government so far. Also, there is no clarity whether a fresh notification would be issued by the government or not.   

Moreover, the opposition also appears to be clueless as no statement regarding the issue has been released.

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After Uttarakhand Tragedy, Several Orgs., Activists Yet Again Express Fear Over Hydro Projects Planned in Himachal’s Ecologically Fragile Regions

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Uttarakhand Tragedy: ‘Natural disaster’ or ‘Willful Negligence’? Asks Environmental Activists and Organizations in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-After a massive flood trigger by what is being called a “glacier bust” swept hydropower plant in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli on February 7, 2021, over 200 workers working at the project site or inside the tunnel are missing, including 10 persons from Himachal Pradesh. So far, bodies of 32 men have been recovered, and it is feared that the number could go higher as rescue operations are still underway. 

Though Centre Government suggests that an avalanche occurred in the upper catchment of Rishiganga River, a tributary of Alaknanda River in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, which led to a sudden rise in the water level of the Rishiganga River, the real cause  is unknown. The Government is calling it a natural disaster triggered. But, was it really a natural disaster or man-made?

This is what a dozen environmental activists, societies, and organizations including Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective in Himachal Pradeesh are asking, while expressing fear that the similar fate awaits to happen in Himachal Pradesh due to large number of hydropower projects proposed in the ecologically fragile regions of the state. It’s not the first time that these organizations and activists have warned of the dangers of rampart construction of power projects on major rivers. The government, however, neglected not only these activists, but also studies published by several researchers. 

Himdhara had also released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” in June 2019 to highlight the risks associated with hydropower construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh.

But MoUs for construction of over a dozen of projects have been signed by the HP Government in 2019 only. 

Also Read: Ignoring Environmental Concerns, HP Govt Signs 10 More MoUs for Hydro Projects Worth Rs. 25,772 Crores

Yesterday, in a collective statement issued, these organizations/activists and others expressed their grief and utmost anguish for the lives lost in the tragic event that occurred in Chamoli Uttarakhand.

“We hear that hundreds are missing and several feared dead. We are also aware that there is no clear statement from the government or any other State agency about the exact event that triggered the massive flood,” the statement said.  

However, the statement said, considering the location and context of the event conjectures are that this could have been an avalanche or landslide and/or a glacial lake burst of some sort. The high altitudes of the Himalayas have been known, for time immemorial for the harsh conditions of the climate and floods. But in recent decades, these ecologically and geologically fragile and sensitive terrains have become even more vulnerable due to rapidly changing climatic patterns.

“Let us acknowledge that these climatic changes, be it erratic rainfall or deglaciation due to increased warming are not ‘natural phenomena’. These are caused and exacerbated by several anthropogenic factors, the biggest being the rapid exploitation of land, water and forests and the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere given the highly polluting nature of ‘development’ – worldwide,” they said.  

“This crisis is adversely affecting the poorest of communities across the world and in our country, living in frontier regions like the mountains and coasts. Scarcities of water, changing agricultural patterns and deforestation have grossly impacted farmers, forest-dependent indigenous people and the urban poor,” it said.

Also Read: Hydropower Projects in Himachal Not ‘Eco-Friendly, Govt Keeps People in Dark Through Biased Environment Impact Assessment Reports

Let the common people know that in the year 2008 the government of India set up the National Climate Change Action Plan, the statement said. In the last couple of years close to 140 Billion dollars have been spent on various missions under this plan. Thousands of crores have been spent on setting up state climate cells for climate change research in the Himalaya. Apart from this several independent studies have been published over the last two decades on the vulnerabilities of the Himalayan region.

“It is a matter of shame and sheer negligence that the findings of these studies have not converted to policy,” they said.  

They further added that this is why the dam building agenda continues unabated and unabashed in the Himalayas ranging from the East to the West attempting to realise a potential of 118000 MW of electricity involving hundreds of large, medium and small hydropower projects. In Himachal, where projects worth 10000 MW have already been built have changed land use – gobbled forests & farms, caused landslides, soil erosion and impacted the riverine ecosystems at an enormous scale.

According to the State Disaster Management Authority, most of Himachal’s hydropower projects in operation or under construction fall in areas highly vulnerable to various hazards like landslides and floods. The Avay Shukla Committee report presented to the Shimla High Court in 2011 had recommended a moratorium on new hydropower projects in the state for this reason. But the state government dissed the report completely, they said.  

As a matter of concern, these groups and activists highlighted that most of the planned projects that are yet to come up in Himachal are in the climate-vulnerable and ecologically fragile greater and trans-Himalayan regions of Kinnaur and Spiti, located in the Upper Satluj valley and Lahaul in the Chandrabhaga also known as Chenab, where tribal communities are resisting them tooth and nail. These are also geologically unstable terrains prone to earthquakes and avalanches. A study by researchers from the University of Potsdam, Germany, analysing 273 hydropower projects in the Himalayas in India, Nepal and Bhutan found that about 25% of them are likely to face severe damage from quake-triggered landslides.

The 2013 Uttarakhand disaster was an expensive and tragic lesson. The Ravi Chopra Committee and scientific assessments made clear the role of hydropower and mindless construction in exacerbating the impact of the Kedarnath flash flood. But we learnt nothing from it. The reason we refer to this as an ‘agenda’ should be clear by now, the statement said.

It is an agenda because no amount of evidence presented to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to state departments, to CWC, to courts has led to a reconsideration or review of the hydropower policy of the Government of India or the state governments of Uttarakhand, Himachal, Arunachal, Sikkim etc. Lack of adequate and thorough scientific planning and shoddy impact assessment studies are approved by Expert Appraisal Committees with members who are clearly in support of projects. The Asian Development Bank which has funded the expansion of NTPC projects in the Dhauliganga river approved an EIA report of Tapovan Vishni gad which doesn’t have a single mention of the threat of flood or glacial lakes, avalanches. International Financing agencies are thus also complicit in this negligence. 

Once clearances are granted non-compliance of environmental norms and social accountability laws is rampant. No safety monitoring is undertaken and the lives of workers and people of affected villages are constantly at stake.

“Have we ever heard of an Environment Clearance of a dam being cancelled because of non-compliance?” they asked. Diminishing space for democratic public participation in decision-making processes have further worsened the situation in the past few years. With the EIA 2020 the MoEF&CC and government are completely finishing this space, they alleged. What is worse is that the central government, despite the obvious hazards associated with large hydropower projects, has in 2019 classified projects above 25 MW as ‘renewable’ which will be able to avail subsidies and the power produced by these will be subject to obligatory purchase norms. 

“We express our collective rage at the inaction by the government at multiple levels and its repeated thrust on large dams in the Himalayas. No amount of monetary compensation can placate the anguish of those who have suffered irreparable losses. No amount of trying to hide behind words like ‘natural disaster’ and ‘act of god’ can deceive the people. The lack of accountability and intent of all the institutions, agencies and political representatives involved stands amply exposed,” the statement said.  

Signatories 

Himalayan Students Ensemble; Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective; Himalaya Bachao Samiti, Chamba; Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur; Nagrik Adhikar Manch, Kangra; People’s campaign for socio-economic equity in the Himalaya; Save Lahaul Spiti, Lahaul; Spiti Civil Society, Spiti; Sutra, Himachal Pradesh; Towerline Shoshit Jagrukta Manch; Zilla Van Adhikar Samiti; Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch

 

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Supporters in Himachal Displaying Solidarity With Protesting Farmers, Term Delhi Violence a Failed Conspiracy to Discredit Movement

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Tractor rally in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Stabbed in the back by internal enemies – miscreants among them who had segued into the tractor rally held on the Republic day and sparked violence- farmers protesting for over two-months on Singhu, Tikari, Ghazipur boarders appeared to had lost the battle against the government. But, as more facts are appearing, the agitation is again gaining momentum and receiving the support of farmers from other states including Himachal Pradesh. Further, arrest of a freelance journalist, Mandeep Punia who was reporting the farmers protest for the Carvan Magazine from Singhu boarder, has led to outrage among press community.

Though people/farmers unions in Himachal are still refraining to come out openly in support of the protesting farmers, small groups have been extending their support once in a while.

On Saturday, a group of eight to ten people, including an elderly person, held a peaceful demonstration at the busy Cart Road of Shimla city in support of the ongoing farmers protest. They said, they were only local individuals who doesn’t have any political leader or affiliation to any party or organization. Himachal Watcher spoke to some of them. Here is what they said (video):

They stood on the roadside, holding posters and placards demanding inquiry into 26 January violence in Delhi, withdrawal of police cases against journalists reporting the protest, and expressing solidarity with the farmers protesting against the Farm Bills passed by the current government. Their number was very small, but still they attracted attention of the locals and tourists.

Famers protest in himachal pradesh
Some of the tourists spoke to them and shared their opinion.

SHimla farmers support

Within the next 20 minutes, police personals arrived at the spot and inquired these persons for permissions to hold this demonstration. They were also asked as to who was their leader and that whether they were planning more demonstrations or protests in future. One of these officials claimed to be a CID official. The police noted down addresses of all these persons. 

SHimla farmers protest 2

Earlier, farmers in Una district on January 27, 2020, had held a tractor rally to express their anger over the ruling party for allegedly trying to malign the image of the farmers by conspiring violence that had erupted in Delhi on the Republic Day. Hundreds of farmers had participated in the rally with their tractors, cars, and bikes to express solidarity with the farmers who had been protesting against the three contentious Farm Laws for over two months now.  

Tractor Rally in Una himachal pradesh

It was a deliberate attempt to brand all farmers as anti-nationals and terrorists, thus, break the otherwise unbreakable farmers protest, which has been giving nightmares to the Union Government, the farmers in the rally alleged.

Starting from Dulehar, the rally passed through Tehaliwal, Santoshgarh, Mehatpur to reach the district headquarters. Up in arms, they shouted slogans in support of the farmers and against the Centre Government.


Though the people claimed that it was an apolitical rally, some of the people, namely Ashu Puri, Gurmukh, and Rajender Singh played a leading role in organizing the rally.  

Ravikant Bassi, a farmer and former Councilor of Santosh Nagar, told Himachal Watcher that about 150 tractors took part in the rally, while several other farmers flocked in their four and two-wheelers to extend their support to the farmers’ protest.

“Violence was a conspiracy as it was the only way to defame such a massive protest, which is receiving widespread support across India,” said Bassi.

“The purpose of our rally was to attract the attention of other farmers in the district and the state towards the Farm Laws, which are not in the interest of farmers. We only want that the respected Prime Minister of India, Narender Modi, withdraw these laws so that more damage of lives and property could be avoided,” he said.  

“The Government need to listen to everyone; be it farmers, labourers, or any section of society,” he said.

“When the country needs us, the farmers need us, we must unite to support them and to uphold the democratic values. If we do not support them now, then what would we eat? ”

“Look at the situation in Bihar. People migrate to other states to work as labourers. If we lose our farming land, then we are destined to face a similar fate,” he said.

“Another purpose of this rally we had organized was to create awareness among other farmers that these three Laws passed by the Centre Government are not in the interests of the farmers. The Government should withdraw them,” he said.

“Today, farmers need your support. Stand by them, and they will stand by you when you would need support,” Bassi urged to other farmers in the district and the state.

Earlier, on January 26, Youth Congress had also held a tractor rally to support the farmers.

It’s pertinent to mention that a group of alleged miscreants, which the farmers allege was a part of the trickery to defame and weaken the protest by exploiting sentiments of the common people, had sparked violence on the Republic Day. During this violence, hundreds of policemen were injured. Horrible scenes from the violence had shocked the nation. The unfurling of religious flag of Sikh’s – Nishan Sahib-at the Fort had further aggravated the situation. However, as more facts emerged, the movement again started to gain momentum. A huge crowd of farmers continue to arrive at the protest sites, especially after an emotional video of farmer leader, Rakesh Tikait, surfaced media and social media. 

The leaders of Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a joint front of farmer unions, observed January 30 as “Sadhbhawna Diwas” (Goodwill Day) and observed a day-long fast at all protest sites. They appealed to the public to join them. 

Recently, the farmers alleged, another attempt to spark violence was made when some people who claimed to be locals entered the protest site without any check from the police force and started vandalizing tents and trolleys of the protesting farmers. It resulted in a clash and stone-pelting from both sides. The SHO of Alipur, Pradeep Paliwal, was injured after he was hit on his left palm by the sword. However, a fact-check by Alt News claimed that it’s indeed workers of a particular party who were posing as locals. In another report, the actual local people were said to have rubbished the claims of facing inconvenience due to farmers protest. 

According to a report published by English Daily Hindustan Times,

“They were raising slogans of “goli maaro…” (shoot the traitors) and branding the farmers as “Khalistanis”. Some of them had covered their faces with mufflers and handkerchiefs.”

HT reported that the protesters included members of groups called the Hindu Sena, the Hinda Yuva Seva Sangh, and the Delhi Dehat Vikas Manch (DDVM).

During the two-month-long protest over nearly a hundred people have died either due to cold, accidents or other health-related problems. 

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