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Dharamsala Slum Demolition: Apathetic Mayor & civic body take U-turn on rehabilitation, leave dwellers homeless

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“We have been living here for generations. Now that Dharamshala has been included in smart city project our poor homes have suddenly become an eyesore in the town and are being shunted out in the name of development.”

While serving notices and eventually run earthmovers on the slum, the statement given by Mayor of Dharamsala city, Rajani, emphasized that the civic body was committed for the welfare of the community,

We have assured them all the facilities at the place where they want to shift. They have been asked to shift to Sarah, Gamru or Passu villages. We are ready to provide them toilet facilities in these villages. Some of the slum dwellers have already shifted to alternative places,

had said the Mayor.

However, after demolition, the civic body and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor backtracked. They left about 800 dwellers of the 30-years-old slum at Charan Khad in Dharamshala city homeless, forced to spent five days under open sky. Even monsoon arrived early this year and didn’t spare them after MCD demolished their homes without actually making any alternative arrangement for shelter.

View Pictures/Videos: Dharamsala Slum Demolition : 300 families kicked out, left on roads in pre-monsoon rains with absolutely no rehabilitation

After the demolition, when the Mayor was asked about her assurance given to dwellers about rehabilitation, she said,

We can only suggest a place and no guarantee could be given in case they faced an opposition from the locals. We can’t also ignore the concerns of local people.

Member of Passu village panchayat, said the administration had not taken them into “confidence” before deciding to allow the slum-dwellers on their common land.

We will not allow them to settle on our land,

villagers said.  It isn’t expected from the Mayor of the city to not take the locals residing near suggested areas in confidence.

In reality, these were just lies to facilitate eviction and MCD was hoping that (after living in this slum for 30-years) these migrant laborers would just go back to their home states, Rajasthan and Maharastra.

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Credits: Video and Editing: Sumit Mahar, Himdhara Collective  

Even criminals including cold-blooded murders and rapist are given fair trial and provided shelter, food, and basic facility while in prison. However, locals welcomed MCD’s step. The city applauded the action as the slum dwellers were nothing more than disgusting people and slums are filled with anti-social elements, thieves, criminals, drug paddlers, drunkards, and of course, migrants. It won’t be wrong to say that people growing up in slums tend to develop antisocial tendencies. Majority of people showed hate and expressed disgust. People are of the view that the slum-people are actually never poor. They have TVs, refrigerators, and stuff that even lower middle class can’t afford. But people tend to forget that quality of life matters a lot and slum is the last place where anyone should expect to find it.

Locals even claim that they are feeling secure now irrespective of the fact that 800 dwellers including infants and school going children were now homeless, facing hostile response from everyone except some NGOs and kind hearted local activists. No newspaper or media asked people the real cause of formation of slums. Is it so hard to predict future of children growing up in highly unhealthy and psychologically abnormal environment. All children are born with same innocence, but their perception of the world is shaped by the society and the environment in which they are brought up. And we all know how we see  and think of ‘slum people’. We have forgot that they are creation of our ignorance and corruption in our government machinery.

Take a look at the little protest that some school could show. Resistance was met with deployment of police force at the slum.

Homeless dwellers in this case are mostly daily wagers.

Due to the fact that our belongings are lying on the road, most of us who are daily wagers have not been able to earn their living, said a group of dwellers.

According to Hindustan Times, now homeless dwellers have managed to rent small pieces of lands in nearby areas including Passu, Dhagwar, Barwala, Mohli and Badol village. The plight of the families isn’t over because it will take time to resettle, build a new slum. A critical question that must be answered by the MCD is why civic body demolished a slum if it is allowing formation of new ones in nearby places. Five or 10 years later, government would again send noticed for eviction followed by same chain of events.

We have been turned into aliens in our own country. Are we paying price of Dharmashala included in smart city project?,

asks Pinkey- the class 12 student, who led the protest by her community when their shanties were being razed and now helping them in whatever way she can. The unfortunate turn of fate is already caused Pinkey to skip her first term examination. She isn’t the only one. Other school going students from slum, who were seeing some hope to get out of the trap of poverty through education, were shown their place.

With Inputs from Hindustan Times Talking to Himachal Watcher, Mansi Ashe, an activist, told us how NGO run by the monk was bringing the change in the life of ‘slum children’.

 You can’t believe!  The children into studies don’t lack in talent. They speak fluent English and some of them even topped their class. Three of them are in reputed institutes like Symbioses, and reputed engineering colleges in Karnataka and Kerala,

said another source, a local journalist associated with English daily.

When Himachal Watcher talked to one of the activists, Mansi Ashar, she told us,

We have been living here for generations.Now that Dharamshala has been included in smart city project our poor homes have suddenly become an eyesore in the town and are being shunted out in the name of development. They are forcing us out of our home. It’s a violation of human rights as well as right to life given by the Constitution of India. The eviction drive has already affected the livelihood of our community members as they are not able to go to work. If not found for a place is resettlement many families will be driven into hunger,

said Pinky.

About places suggested by MCD, she said

However, local people are not allowing us to put up our homes there. Even some of the community members were beaten up by the locals when they went to new locations suggested by MC near Passu village. MC officials who had assured help in resettlement also took a U- turn when the villagers protested and maintained that they never suggested the slum dwellers to resettle on the location.

The Union Cabinet led by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, approved “Housing for All by 2022”  Mission and assured rehabilitation of slums by providing them subsidized homes, while the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956, states that eviction of slums without notice and without providing an alternate housing arrangement is illegal. But fortunate people think these dwellers are just nuisance and it is absolutely ethical to leave them homeless.

Slum rehabilitation of slum dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource and promotion of affordable housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy were two essential parts of this mission.

With Inputs from Hindustan Times and The Tribune

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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Video: Three Shimla MC Workers Caught Dumping Garbage in Forest, Suspended After Video Shared on Twitter

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Shimla MC Workers Dumping garbage into forest

Shimla- Three sanitation workers of Shimla Municipal Corporation were suspended after a video was posted on social media showing them disposing of a large amount of garbage in a forest area. The incident became an embarrassment for SMC as the video went viral on Twitter and reached Central officials and green activists.

As per the local who recorded the video, on November 22 at about 1:30 PM; he saw garbage being dumped in the forest near SMC parking on the cart-road.

A green activist of Healing Himalaya organization picked the video on Twitter and brought it to the attention of the officials of the Centre government. The organization tagged BK Agarwal, Secretary Lokpal, Govt. of India and IFS officer Parveen Kaswan.

Sanjeev Gupta, Secretary, ISCS, Home Ministry, also responded on the video and Tweeted,

“An absolute shocker. Stern action should be taken against these reckless murderers of the environment (most likely working for Shimla MC). Will take it up with the State Govt & Shimla MC.”

It’s pertinent to mention that Healing Himalayas had undertaken a cleaning campaign in the said area a few months back. The organization in its Tweet said,

“It is so disheartening to see our work being undone near lift Shimla.”

The SMC was directed to take action. It was found that the sanitation workers of the SEHB society were dumping about two tons of garbage collected from the lift area during one of its cleanliness campaigns.

However, instead of carrying it up to the road for transportation, they dumped it into the forest.  The workers were identified from the video and suspended.

According to the Commissioner, SMC, Pankaj Rai, the Area Supervisor and Sanitary Inspector have been served show-cause notices.

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Baddi Dumping Yard Case: Blow to Solan Admin as HC Directs Relocation of Family, Construction of House, Cow-Shelter

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Solan-As a blow to the trickery of District Administration, Solan, and the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA), the Himachal Pradesh High Court on November 21, 2019, gave a big relief to the families forced to live in inhuman conditions in Baddi’s Kenduwal. These two authorities had been reluctant to relocate or compensate victim families. They went to the extent of not following the orders of the court. In fact, this case has highlighted the hypocrisy of the government over its own Swachh Bharat campaign. 

However, hearing the petition, a bench of Chief Justice L.Narayana Swamy and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua on november 21, 2019, passed orders directing the Deputy Commissioner, Solan, to identify a piece of land to relocate the family, provide them with a house, electricity and water connection, and consider construction of cow-shelters for their cattle to the satisfaction of the families.  The court also appointed Rajnish Maniktala, a senior advocate as Amicus Curiae to assist the court in this petition. Further, the implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules in the entire state has come under the ambit of this petition, which was filed by Shimla-based Advocate, Deven Khanna. 

The BBNDA and Baddi Municipal Council had turned the site at Kenduwal into an illegal dumping yard. The Authority was supposed to construct a Solid Waste Treatment Plant years ago, however, instead, it simply created a dumping yard and violated several environmental laws and guidelines. As per the petition, none of the 36 Conditions mentioned in the Environment Clearance letter are fulfilled by BBNDA. Such grieve environmental violation under the patronage of the state government is a matter of huge concern for the state. 

The houses of about 32 members of four families belonging to Gujjar families were located at this site. These families had been living here for over three decades. Creating dumping yard around their habitat had made their lives unbearable as well as unsafe due to unhygienic conditions arising due to this illegal dumping yard.

 

These families had been running from pillar to post seeking relief. However, none of the state government bodies, district administration, police, or the BBNDA authority listened to their grievance. Eventually, Suleman, on behalf of these families, approaches the court to file a PIL.

About six months ago, the court had eventually asked the Authorities to relocate the family to a piece of land that is located at a considerable distance from the dumping yard.

However, BBNDA defied the orders of the court and, in a bid to allegedly threaten the families, it demolished their cow-sheds last month. Over 80 cattle, including about 40 cows and newborns, were left shelter-less to face winters under the open sky.  The families had alleged that officials trespassed and demolished their cow-sheds without showing any orders from any authority. Instead, the officials used police force, including armed jawans, to scare them. Himachal Watcher had published a story regarding the same along with a video of the said demolition being carried out.

Surprisingly, none of the other media (dailies and regional news portals) covered this news. In fact, media hardly showed any interest in this petition ever. It appears, belonging to minority community, the suffering of these Gujjar families did not appeal to anyone except the State High Court. 

Through their advocate, Khanna, the families have also filed a contempt petition in the court, which is pending.

Meanwhile, hearing the main petition, the said orders were passed by the court.

“In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we permit the petitioner to approach the Deputy Commissioner Concerned by filing a separate application with a prayer for relocation of his house to the extent of land, which is in his occupation, to any other suitable area to the satisfaction of the petitioner,”

the bench said in its order.

“If such approached by way of application is made to the DC concerned, the said Authority shall consider his request and pass appropriate order at the earlier,”

the bench said.

“It is stated by the learned counsel for the petitioner that the cow-shed, having cattle, was demolished. For this purpose, DC concerned to also look into the matter while considering the application of the petitioner for relocation/construction of house/ow-shed as well as providing electricity and water connection for the decent living of the petitioner,”

the bench directed the DC referring to the act of demolishing petitioner’s cow-shelter.

It’s pertinent to mention that when previously contacted by HW, the DC, Solan, had termed this as a case of encroachment, and had said that these families are not eligible for relocation as they are not covered by any such policy.  Considering the indifference of the district administration, the current order has come as a blow to it.

The next hearing has been scheduled for December 16, 2019. 

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CBI Probe in Kotkhai Gudia Case Under Scanner, Forensic Report Suggests Involvement of More Than One Person

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Kotkhai Gudia case forensic experts report

Shimla-Gudia Nyay Manch has demanded fresh probe into the ill-fated 2017 Kotkhai Gudia rape and murder case after new revelations were made in the recent hearing in the case.   

The case was closed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team after booking and arresting a woodcutter for the said crime with a conclusion that it was not a gangrape and only one person was involved. The turn of events left the family of the 16-year-old victim and the people of the state stumped and unsatisfied. Media reports had also challenged the probe

While CBI claimed to have solved the case after eleven months of investigation, hardly anyone was convinced that a woodcutter could have possibly committed this crime and managed to fool CBI and bribe nine police personals including IG, SP, and DSP to frame wrong people.

The accused police officials, who were booked for the custodial killing of Suraj – one of the six suspects allegedly framed by them, were defending someone, the public suspected. There were many other questions which remained unanswered thus the CBI’s claim failed to convince anyone that justice was done to Gudia.

After a silence of about one year, the inquiry conducted by the CBI is in the public court. During the hearing of the case of custodial death at Chandigarh-based CBI court, forensic experts claimed that there is a possibility that more than one persons were involved in the rape and murder of Gudia.

These forensic experts – HV Acharya, Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory, Gandhinagar, and Hemangi Shah Assistant Director, Forensic Psychological Division, Directorate of Forensic Science, Gandhinagar- had conducted polygraph and Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Profiling (BEO) tests on the five accused – Rajinder Singh, Lokjan, Deepak, Ashish Chauhan, and Subhash Singh.

During this hearing, they were cross-questioned by the defense counsel, Atvinder Singh.

Singh asked Dr Acharya if he still stands by his observation that the crime in Gudia was conducted by more than one person, Acharya said “Yes” as an affirmative response. Dr Shan also supported Acharya.

A joint observation report was compiled by the two experts and submitted to the CBI.

While their report clearly said that no role of these five accused was observed in Gudia case. Their report had also said that no role of Rajinder was observed in killing of Suraj.

Moreover, the report of these experts has also observed that there was “definite police effort to defend someone”.

The experts stood by their observation that these six accused were arrested and tortured without any direct evidence.

The Gudia Nyay Manch is up in arms again against CBI for an allegedly botched up investigation in the case. The Manch said it would be staging fresh protest against CBI soon.

What is Kotkhai Gudia Case

On July 4, 2017, a 16-year-old girl, who was returning home from her school in Mahasu are of Kotkhai, Shimla, went missing. Her naked body was found in the forest of Halaila on July 6. As per the initial investigation by the police SIT, Gudia was gang-raped and then murdered. The SIT on July 13 arrested six persons claiming that they cracked the case.

However, the family and locals were not convinced that these six accused, five of which were laborers and daily wagers, had committed the crime. The pubic, as well as the media, wasn’t convinced with the theory given by the police SIT. On July 18, public outrage was witnessed after one of these accused was killed in the police custody while locked up at the police station, Kotkhai. The locals pelted stones on the police staff and compelled them to leave the station. The station was then set on fire.

Under huge pressure from the public, then Congress-led state government asked the CBI to investigate the case. By the end of August 2017, CBI had arrested nine police officials including the head of the SIT Zahur H Zaidi, IG, Southern Range, DSP, Theog, Manoj Joshi, and six others for the custodial killing of Suraj. Later, the CBI also booked then Superintendent of Police, Shimla, D W Negi.

In its charge-sheet submitted to the court, the CBI had said that all six accused were falsely framed by the SIT.

The CBI had filed a separate case to investigate rape and murder of Gudia. The CBI team investigated for next eleven months without any success, thereby, facing backlash from the state high court over delay in the investigation. Ultimately, disappointed with the CBI, the court questioned the competence of CBI and asked its Director to appear personally before it.

Immediately after this summon, CBI claimed to have cracked the case in which a woodcutter was arrested. The case was considered to be closed thereafter.

However, doubts remain over botched up CBI investigation in the case.  

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