DHARAMSALA- The district administration of Dharamsala has now crossed limits of wretchedness. Allegedly, the administration is using police to silence protesting homeless slum dwellers of CharanKhad slum in Dharamsala. Activists trying to help evicted dwellers are also being threatened by the police.
According to The Tribune,
Requesting anonymity, the activist alleged that they had been called by the police and threatened against raising their voice for the evicted slum-dwellers.
Chased Away by Villagers, Again on Road
People from both Dharamsala town and villages are equally apathetic to these dwellers, who include over 150 school going children, infants, elderly, and daily wagers. It is noticeworthy that this sudden need to demolish such and old slum with just 10 day notice arose only after Dharamsala was listed for smart city project.
About 800 dwellers of 30-40-years-old slum at CharanKhad, which was demolished last Saturday (June 17) after forceful eviction by district administration of Kangra, are still wandering on roads to find shelter.
Villages and panchayats chased them away saying they don’t want “criminals and lowlife migrants” to settle anywhere on their panchayat area. Municipal Corporation of Dharamsala (MCD) and district administration didn’t even arrange for relocation, so there is no question of rehabilitating them.
Rights, it seems, provided by the constitution of India for its citizens do not apply to slum-dwellers because they are poor, unprivileged and deprived section of the society. Poverty-stricken people are not considered as citizens of India. Wealthy and powerful can buy land in Himachal and construct villas to spend summers in Shimla, such as PriyankaVadra. But the government is tightlipped when it comes to rehabilitating some 800 marginalized lives.
According to the Tribune,
Dagwarpanchayat had resolved against those villagers who had given land on rent to the evicted slum-dwellers. After this, the villagers who had initially given land on lease to the slum-dwellers, had now asked them to vacate it. Similarly, at Chatru village a local land owner had initially given land on lease to the slum-dwellers. They cleared the land for setting up their temporary huts, but later the land owner asked them to move away from the place as his kin were averse to slum-dwellers being settled in their vicinity.
Hatred of villagers towards slum people
An activist fighting for these homeless dwellers explained the hatred and intolerance villagers and people in Dharamsala are meting out towards these unfortunate migrants, who are mostly daily wagers or beggars.
“They have given them land on rent to put up their huts. However, nobody was ready to accept the slum-dwellers from Maharashtra. There are about 70 families from Maharashtra who had been staying here for the last about three decades. Most of them are labourers or rag-pickers. They are performing the important job of scavengers in Dharamsala town picking up and selling all recyclable solid waste,” he said.
District administration had given a 10 day notice to slum dwellers asking them to evict their huts. The notice said that open defecation by dwellers is contaminating CharanKhad and poses threat of jaundice outbreak. The admin further went on declaring the slum as a highly unhygienic place that could lead to epidemics. However, there is no word about any sample testing from ChranaKhad or any evidence regarding what the district admin alleged.
The administration had assured the slum dwellers that they would be provided place to relocation and basic facilities like toilets and water supply will be ensured wherever they are relocated. Instead of providing toilets, HP government came up with a much simpler plan to check open defecation – it demolished the slum. The government expected homeless dwellers to capture some other region, out of town where they will be allowed to defecate openly. How did it prevent people defecating in open? This then turns out as MCD’s plan to simply change their location and provide them no place to go.
The dwellers also alleged that villagers told them that administration has threatened panchayatpradhans of legal action if they rented land or helped them to settle on panchayat land. Only a couple of NGOs and some activists are trying to raise the issue but hardly any Hindi or English daily (Except Hindustan Times) is covering their misery.
Surprisingly, a couple of days ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had restrained the Chandigarh Administration from forcibly evicting slum-dwellers from five slums and labour colonies in the city. A vacation Bench of the High Court observed that the City Beautiful would not remain “beautiful” in case the services of slum-dwellers were no longer available.
In a petition, the court was told around 1,500 people putting up in slums and colonies were under a constant threat of demolition and forcible eviction by the Chandigarh Administration. In case the demolition was carried out, the dwellers would be without shelter during the monsoon. The petitioner had also contended that the dwellers should first be rehabilitated by providing alternative accommodation.
However, in Himachal, our honorable High Court rejected the petition filed by slum dwellers and is not interested in taking notice of apathy and injustice done to the poorest section of the society.
Shimla MC allegedly makes insensitive comments over mishap caused by its carelessness
Shimla: The change of power in Himachal Pradesh, as well as in the local bodies, has now begun to manifest itself through the attitude of government staff. Keeping with the trend, the staff of Shimla Municipal Corporation House also seems to have emboldened.
An aggrieved citizen brought to our attention his bitter confrontation with one of SMC’s Junior Engineers, who showed complete indifference to a risk that his own carelessness posed for the public safety.
On March 8, 2018, a lady had fractured her leg after she stepped on an uncovered ‘water valve box’ or road box of the SMC. right outside the gate of Auckland House School for Boys. She was returning home after attending a parent-teachers’ meeting.
Another man, a father of two kids who attend nursery classes at same school witnessed the accident and was one of the first to come to help the woman. The fractured leg had left her groaning in pain.
It would be a mistake to consider it a trivial and isolated incident as several other spots in Shimla town pose the same threat to the public. While several road boxes are uncovered, some others are placed in a haphazard manner.
As a matter of fact, despite being a public safety concern, none of the local journalists found it worth highlighting.
Himachal Watcher, in its previous article, had also tagged the Mayor, Kusum Sadret, to apprise her of this safety issue.
After the lady was taken to the Indira Gandhi Medical College for treatment, the father made a complaint to the SMC on its helpline number 1916.
He requested the SMC to take up the matter immediately and cover the said box to avert further mishaps, especially with the nursery kids. Moreover, similar mishaps have been reported due to this carelessness of the Corporation, he told the SMC.
However, the SMC still not fixed it properly, rather, did a ‘Jugaad’ job (as shown in the picture below).
The man clicked a fresh photo on March 14 and made another phone call to the SMC to file a verbal complain about the poor job done by its field staff. The official on the other end could not give a satisfactory answer to the queries of the father.
Therefore, the SMC office further diverted him to the concerned Junior Engineer, who looks after the area. The father approached the JE phonically and expressed concern over the safety of his own children as well as several others who use this road.
The father told the JE that the field staff did not take this safety concern seriously despite the said accident and covered the road box with a damaged lid, which was still posing threat to children and pedestrians. The gap in the lid was still large enough to trap foot of a nursery kid. (See photo 1.0)
When questioned about the issue, the JE said the SMC don’t have a proper arrangement to cover it. He said it will be replaced later. The man, however, told the JE that even the temporary arrangement was made with equally irresponsible manner.
He reminded the JE that this box must be covered on priority bases as it is a matter of safety of the public, especially the school kids. The JE tried to wash his hands of saying it will be fixed later but did not give any readdressal period. He asked the JE to define an approximate deadline for the replacement.
The father apprised the JE of the mishap with the lady, who had fractured her leg.
The JE, however, allegedly made a very rude and insensitive comment in the following words,
To logon ko bhi jameen par dekh ke chalana chahiye (People should walk with their eyes on the ground).
The complainant again asked the JE to at least provide an approximate time that the SMC would take to fix the box.
The complainant asked the JE,
Who will take the responsibility if a kid gets injured meanwhile SMC delay replacement of the damaged cover?
To the dismay of agitated father, the JE once again repeated,
Admi ki bhi jimedari hai ki wo jameen par dekh kar chale (It is the responsibility of people to keep their eyes on the ground while walking).
The father was not only offended but also stunned at the insensitivity shown by the JE towards the safety of kids and public in general.
In a way, he told me to apply same to nursery kids. Is it a sensible thing to do to leave the kids on their own and turn a blind eye towards his own error,
the father told HW.
It’s the height of irresponsibility. Despite being the responsibility of JE, he showed indifferent towards the safety of children and ignored his duty he is paid for. To make things more ugly, he did not hesitate to make offensive comments and insult a citizen, who had approached him with a valid complaint.
Woman fractures leg after stepping onto Shimla MC’s trap of negligence
Shimla: The Carelessness on the part of Shimla Municipal Corporation today led to an accident in which a woman fractured her leg. The woman was taken to the Indira Gandhi Medical College where the fractured leg received a plaster cast.
It implies that the woman’s mobility will be restricted for at least one month, affecting her entire routine. In addition, she will have to bear the pain inflicted due to the negligence of the civic body and pay the bill for treatment.
This little gift from the SMC to the lady on the Women’s Day resulted in both physical and mental harassment. The woman can actually sue the civic body and demand compensation for her injury if she wants.
The woman, who was identified as Anjana Janartha, told Himachal Watcher that she had come to attend a parent-teacher meeting at the Auckland House School for Boys.
After the meeting, she had barely taken a few steps when she suddenly stumbled. A few meters away from the school-gate, an uncovered water valve of Shimla MC, which was located in the middle of the road, waited for her.
The woman fell a victim to it as her step landed in the uncovered cavity around the valve, and she stumbled. The other parents present on the spot helped the woman. However, the accident twisted her leg badly.
Some of the parents, who talked to HW, complained that the cover of the valve is missing for years now. The absence of a stop tap cover turned it into a dangerous trap.
It was not an isolated incident. Last year, a woman had stumbled after stepping onto the same trap, but fortunately did not receive major injuries.
The parents said there had been occasions when children either stumbled or had narrow escapes. The children upto primary level are more vulnerable to this trap of ignorance.
There are innumerous underground water valves in Shimla, which are lying without any cover or closure. It is a matter of safety of the public and no compromise should be made in this regard.
The SMC needs to take stock of such spots and cover them properly to avert any future mishaps.
U-turn over ‘Joothan’ book controversy, never had intention to withdraw it from HPU syllabus, says HP Govt
The Chief Minister had sought a reply from the Education Department regarding the controversy, which suddenly popped-up during January 2018.
Shimla: Today, the Himachal Pradesh Government took a U-turn over controversy pertaining to the withdrawal of a book titled ‘Joothan: A Dalit’s Life’ – a piece of Dalit literature written in the form of a autobiography by Om Prakash Valmiki – from college syllabus of HP University.
The book is being taught in the sixth semester of English subject in the colleges of the state.
Today, a spokesperson of the state government clearly rejected the controversy over this book written by a Dalit writer saying the government has neither withdrawn nor there is any proposal to take out ‘Jhoothan’ book from the education curriculum.
The novel is still a part of the syllabus and there is no proposal to withdraw it,
the government spokesperson said in a statement issued today.These parties did not verify the facts before making such accusations, said the spokesperson.
However, this statement doesn’t look entirely fair as the Chief Minister had himself taken cognizance of a news published in a Hindi daily.
The book is a based on the horrifying personal experience of the writer while growing up in inhuman living conditions in a Dalit basti (slum) of Uttar Pradesh in post-Independent India. The writer has manifested his anguish against the practice of untouchability, discrimination of various sorts, and exploitation of lower caste people by those belonging to the upper caste.
The book is a compilation of experiences and social and psychological conditioning that a member of the lowest caste goes throw under extremely wretched socioeconomic conditions. It is a record of writer’s grim journey from deprived childhood to prominent social critic and writer. The words which are at the centre of the controversy are used to appraise the reader of the fact that lower-caste people were addressed not by their names but their caste.
To get a better idea of about the content of the book, you can go through an acclaimed review by Namit Arora.
The book was originally written in Hindi. It was in 2003 that the Joothan was translated into English by Arun Prabha Mukherjee, a professor of English at York University in Canada.
Similarly, a column by writer Sheoraj Singh Bechain published in a Hindi daily condemned the efforts to undermine Dalit literature, which was rarely recognized.
Sheoraj is one of the most respected Dalit writers in Hindi. He is best known for his book, “Mera Bachpan Mere Kandhon Par.”
It was alleged the book contains words which are highly casteist in nature and the teachers find the use of these words in classroom awkward as well as inappropriate.
The allegations also speculated that the book was actually encouraging caste discrimination. Majority of the teacher community, as well as student organizations, had made it an issue demanding the withdrawal of ‘Joothan’ from syllabus or removal of several words used in it.
The government is washing its hands of the controversy by terming it an unnecessary political agenda created by rival political parties like the Communist Party of India.
However, it must be reminded that the Chief Minister had sought a reply from the Education Department regarding the controversy, which suddenly popped-up during January 2018.
As a matter of fact, for decades now, the book had been part of the English literature syllabus of over a dozen of Indian universities including some of the Central varsities.
If the report published in Hindi daily Amar Ujala’s January 8, 2018, to be believed, the Director of Higher Education, H.P., Dr. Amar Dev, had ordered a review of the book a couple of days after it. He had said that if needed the book would be removed from the syllabus.
As per the report, the Vice-Chancellor of the H.P.U., Rajinder Chauhan, had ordered the formation of a committee headed by the professor Girija Sharma of the Department of English, HPU, to look into the matter and submit its report within 15 days.
The reaction of the upper caste lobby was such as if the practice of caste discrimination or untouchability exists no more in India.
It still exists in rural Himachal and the recent incident of discrimination against children of a government school in Kullu district is a proof of it. The magisterial probe had confirmed that the incident did take place and police had filed an FIR. Three persons including the headmaster were arrested. But they were released on bail within 24 hours arrest. Dozens of other persons were also named in the case by the police.
The segregation of students during mid-day meals and preference to upper-caste candidates while recruiting mid-day meal workers in schools is another allegation that has surfaced again after the Kullu school incident.
Meanwhile, the Dalit community leaders expressed agitation over the issue and threatened widespread protest in case the government decides to withdraw the book from the syllabus.
The issue could have triggered a nationwide Dalit community protest, which makes it a highly sensitive matter. The step would have hit the Dalit vote bank of the ruling party ahead of 2019 assembly elections.
It is a bitter truth that the caste system is still prevalent in our society. The exploitation by politicians through caste-based politics makes it even worse. This divide in society is deemed beneficial in politics.
Despite being educated, the inter-caste marriages are still not acceptable to the parents and society.
Manual scavenging still exists and labourers, who are mostly Dalits, often die in septic tanks or manholes as they are made to clean them with no gas mask, safety gears or proper equipment. On February 15, 2018, three such workers had asphyxiated while cleaning a septic tank in Ponthur near Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.
Similarly, in October 2017, three workers of a company near Hero Honda Chowk in Gurgaon had died of suffocation while they were attempting to save one of their colleagues from drowning in the septic tank. Again, all safety measures were missing.
A 2017 news report published in the US Today had highlighted how the manual scavengers become the victim of widely flouted laws. At least 750 deaths has been reported from across India since “manual scavenging” was first banned by the Indian government in 1993. The year 2017 had witnessed around 75 deaths during manual scavenging.
So, it would not be correct to say that the young minds do not need to read about this evil anymore.
In Himachal Pradesh, the atrocities on lower caste members may be missing, but the practice of untouchability still continues unabated.
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