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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.

Environment

New Shimla Youth Carry Out Forest Cleaning Drive, Request Residents to Maintain Cleanliness

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Shimla-Littering and waste disposal in forests in Himachal Pradesh is becoming a grieve environmental issue. Not only the tourists, but locals too contributing towards filling the forest with solid waste. The worst affected are the forests in tourist towns. The district administrations, the pollution control board, and the Municipal Corporations and Councils have no plan of action to deal with this problem. As usual, they are in deep slumber. They are only interested in getting photographed with brooms and masks, sweeping floors of some park, which is already clean.

There is only one Solid Waste Treatment Plant in the State, and that’s, too, has been turned into a dumping yard. A week ago, the heaps of waste were on fire, causing air pollution.

Unfortunately, a section of educated youth is responsible for littering. However, at the same time, a section of the same youth is making efforts to rectify the situation and create awareness in the society regarding cleanliness.

The latest example is the forest area near Kanlu Temple in Sector 4 of New Shimla.

The Yatan Youth Club of New Shimla carried out a cleaning campaign and found that not only domestic solid waste is being dumped into the forest but also the construction waste. The members of the club are carrying out this campaign in multiple rounds as it is not possible to collect entire waste in one day.

New Shimla Youth Club Cleaning Campaign
In the first round, the members collected a large amount of beer and plastic bottles, which were thrown into the forest by ignorant locals.

New Shimla Youth Club Cleaning Campaign 2

In the second round, they found plastic bags, baby diapers, sanitary napkins etc dumped into the forest, which are not only an environmental hazard but also a sanitation issue. Diapers and sanitary napkins, especially in monsoons, attracts flies and mosquitoes alongwith emitting a foul smell.

The members of the Club took the pain of taking out this waste from the forest as well, which is highly appreciable.

“Though the door-to-door garbage collection service is available in the locality during morning hours, the locals throw garbage generated during the day into the forest at evening,”

the members of the Youth Club told Himachal Watcher.

“Waste generated from maintenance or construction activity in the locality is also dumped into the forest, which is extremely harmful to the environment,”

the members added.

New Shimla Youth Club Cleaning Campaign 3

Forest After Cleanliness Drive

The Youth Club, through their campaign, has requested the locals to at least keep their surrounding clean and refrain from dumping waste into forests. The locals should take responsibility for their locality instead of indulging in littering, the members said.

At the same time, the Youth Club has sent out a message to youth in other localities to come ahead and take similar initiatives if they really want to bring a change.

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Kullu Bus Accident: Death Toll Reaches 44, About 35 Injured, Several Critical

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Deaths in Kullu Bus Accident in 2019


SKullu-
The bus accident in Banjar sub-division of Kullu district has entered the list of biggest tragedies in Himachal Pradesh. Per the last information received, the death toll has reached 44, and over 30 injured are undergoing treatment at Banjar Civil Hospital, Kullu Hospital, and Hosptial in Mandi’s Nerchowk.

Several injured are in critical condition and have been referred to PGI, Chandigarh. The district administration fears a possible rise in the death toll considering the critical condition of the injured.

All deceased are said to hail from about 20 villages in Kullu and Mandi.

The accident has again exposed the State government’s hollow promises to take measures to reduce road accidents. There is still no check on vehicle maintenance and overloading, leave alone appropriately placing crash barriers on cliff-side of the roads.
Causes of Kullu Bus Accident in 2019

This 42-seater bus was carrying over 75 passengers, there were passengers on the roof as well, eye-witnesses confirm. The bus had left for Gada Gushaini from Banjar on Thursday evening at about 3:45 PM. The bus had not covered more than two kms when it plunged into a 500 feet deep gorge near ‘Bheot mod’ and landed in a Khada fter scraping the mountain face.
Banjar Bus Accident in Pictures

As per a Hindi Daily, the driver was untrained and was perhaps driving a bus for the first time.

Locals, who travelled in this bus daily, told another Hindi Daily that the bus was in poor condition and often developed technical snags. According to the Daily, the driver experienced a problem in shifting gears when the bus approached the ‘Bheot mod’ and began to move backwards uncontrolled before skidding off the road.

The Superintendent of Police, Kullu, Shalini Agnihotri said, the exact cause of the accident could only be ascertained after a proper probe.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, who visited the hospital to meet the injured said,

The road at the spot was not in bad condition. Prima facie it looks like a case of overloading. A meeting was held today to ensure that such incidents don’t happen in future

The driver is reported to have jumped off the bus. A Daily said the driver survived and fled the spot. However, official confirmation was awaited. Hearing the sound of the accident, the locals from nearby Bhumar village rushed to the spot. As per eyewitnesses, the bodies were scattered all over the steep mountain.

Moreover, the condition of crash-barriers install was quite poor. The single-row crash barriers were not installed properly and held no chance of stopping the bus from skidding off the road.

Pictures of Kullu Bus Accident in 2019
The bus was shredded into pieces and its parts were mangled all over the hill and the stream at the bottom of the gorge. The locals had a tough-time descending the steep hill. With the help of ropes, the bodies and injured were extricated and brought up to the road. Further, the locals formed human chains to carry the injured across gushing water of the stream.

Death toll in kullu bus accident

The accident is not the first of its kind. There have been several such accidents in the past in Himachal Pradesh. On April 9, 2018, 27 people including 24 children were killed in a school bus accident in Nurpur in Kangra district. In April 2017, 45 people had died when an overloaded bus had plunged into a gorge near Nerwa in Shimla district. In 2016, 17 had died when a bus fell into Beas river in Mandi district, 25 in Rampur in 2017, 31 in July 2015 when a bus fell into the Parvati in Kullu. Before that, May 2013, 42 people were killed as a private bus plunged into Beas river.

In 2019 alone, 430 people have died in 1,168 road accidents in Himachal Pradesh by May 31. Between 2009 and 2018, over 11,000 people had died in nearly 31,000 different road accidents in the state.

Every time an accident happens, probes are ordered and government issues statements taking vows to fix black spots and implement violation of traffic rules like overloading and rash driving strictly. Further, assurances are provided to take strict action against all government officials and those responsible for the accident. After a few months, the usual business continues as the government officials go back into deep slumber. No action is ever taken against government officials responsible for negligence.

It’s no different this time too, the chief minister has ordered a Magisterial probe while the state transport minister Govind Singh Thakur has made similar promises. How and what actions will be taken remains to be seen.

It’s seen over the year that no audits are conducted to assess the need for additional bus services. The rural areas face a huge problem due to the lack of sufficient bus services, which is also responsible for overloading. There are limited buses and people are left with no choice but to board on overloaded buses to reach their destinations.

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The Regional Transport Office also has a role in such accidents because poorly maintained buses are passed easily. The Public Works Department has all the time to build a corrupt nexus with private contractors, but not to care to install much-needed crash barriers. The district administration and police hardly find time to run regular inspections to see if there is a paucity of bus services or buses are being overloaded.

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Campus Watch

Want to Participate in Sports Tournament? Pay Rs 3700: Shimla’s Private School to Students

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Auckland School Shimla making student to pay for sports tournament

Shimla-The Auckland House School, Shimla, had charged Rs. 4200 per student for a three-day picnic tour to Sadhupul organized about 10 days ago. Now, for a sports tournament in Palampur of Kangra district, the school is asking the students representing it to pay Rs 3700. It sounds absolutely absurd that instead of taking responsibility for the expenditure of the students representing it in the sports tournament, the school is asking students to pay a heavy fee for it. The school is already charging hefty annual fees from the students, but still asking for more. This is nothing more than a new way to extort money from parents. All of these allegations were labelled by the Student-Parent Association on Wednesday.

The school, however, defended itself by saying that participation in these events is not mandatory and parents are not forced in any way. Only those students who opt to participate would have to pay the said fees.

As per the parents, a sports tournament of missionary schools is being organized under the banner of Diocese of Amritsar from June 13 to 16 in Palampur. However, instead of incurring the expenditure for sending students to participate in it, the school is charging Rs 3700 from the students.

The parents alleged that to pressurize the parents, the school sends consent letters to parents just a couple of days before these events. The students are exposed to mental pressure and parents are compelled to sign these consent letters at the last moment. The other private institutions are also following the same pattern.

The parents alleged that the school is not refraining from looting students despite notifications and guidelines issued by the Directorate of Higher Education respectively on March 18, April 8, and May 4. The Association has demanded that the Director of Higher Education should take appropriate action to check this unjustified action of charging hefty amounts on the names of various events.

It’s pertinent to mention that the Association has been staging protests for the last four months against hefty, unjustified fees. They have been alleging that these schools have taken a form of mafia and has turned education into a purely profit-making business. Their protests had compelled the Directorate to issue guidelines to private schools to cut unjustified charges from fees. The Directorate had also ordered an inspection of all private schools running in all districts of the state. It was assured that necessary action would be taken after the completion of the inspection. However, no action was taken following the inspections. The Association had even alleged that schools didn’t even cooperate in inspection and did not provide details they were asked to submit by the Directorate. Moreover, the Directorate did not make findings of the inspection report public.

Some parents had also alleged that their children were made to go through mental harassment by school teachers. The children of those parents who were participating or supporting the protest were targeted individually, made to stand in class, and embarrassed.

However, the government did not intervene in any manner and let the schools enjoy all the liberties they wanted to.

The parents have again demanded that the government should form a regulatory body to check the financial exploitation of the parents by private schools. The Association has warned the government of more fierce protests in case it fails to meet the demands.

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