SHIMLA- Horrific case of abduction and cold blooded murder of 4-years-old Yug Gupta in Shimla has sent a wave of shock across Himachal Pradesh – one of the most peaceful places in India. The family including two sisters aged 8 and 10 is broke.
Protest has erupted in the city as shopkeepers kept shops closed on Tuesday and marched to meet Virbhadra Singh and HP HC Chief Justice.
Preliminary Investigation Suggest Torture to Death
Himachal isn’t crime free; murders, robberies and sexual assaults do happen here, but such insanity was rarely heard before. As more details about the murder case are coming into light, the investigation is suggesting probable torture of the kid like beating, starving, and forcibly making him drink liquor before eventually killing him on June 21.
Although, it is not confirmed, but initial investigation suggest that the boy might have been thrown alive into the Municipal Corporation’s Kelestine water tank near Bharari in Shimla.
The mobile locations of the arrested men showed that Yug was hidden in a flat near Ramchandra Chowk at Navbahar. Chander had rented this flat (number HIG 22).
All Suspects Locals Including a Neighbor
All men, Tejinder Singh, Virkrant Bakshi, and Chander Sharma are locals, residents of Shimla. Chander Sharma is neighbor of Vinod Gupta, father of deceased Yug.
Four Ransom Letters
On June 27, 2014, after 14 days of abduction, the family received first ransom later demanding delivery of Rs. 3.60 crores in Ambala through hands of Vinod’s servant Hari. The letter was inserted into the Shop that Vinod owns in Ram Bazaar. The family immediately sent the servant to Ambala, but no one appeared to collect the ransom. In second letter, Rs. 4 crores were demanded, but again it was not collected by the kidnappers. In third letter, the amount of ransom was raised to 10 crores, and back to Rs. 4 crore in the fourth letter.
According to reports, after kidnapping Yug, Chander, who was studying law, came back to Ram Bazaar and connected to family members as sympathizer. He dedicatedly remained present with family and even police teams during search operations claiming to be a member of International Human Rights Commission. The family begun to trust him and shared all information regarding the plans for search of Yug.
Doubts on Chander surfaced in the minds of family members after he started showing excess interest in matters pertaining to wealth and assets of the family. He used to inquire regarding financial status of the family and relatives.
Later, the family brought this interest of Chander in their financial matters to the notice of CID. The lie detector test of Vinod’s servant had also hinted that Chander could have abducted Yug for ransom. Thereafter, CID increased surveillance and arrested Tejinder and Vikrant in June, but easily secured bail from court.
When CID asked them to take lie detector test, both avoided it stating health issues, which almost confirmed agency’s suspicion. Finally, on Sunday, CID arrested Vikrant from Chandigarh based on strong evidences and made him confess the crime and recovered details of location of the body of the boy. Following this information, CID on Monday exhumed body remains from the said Kelston water tank. Now, all three men have been detained.
CID also used handwriting samples of the suspects that were found identical to ransom letters. Other materials are being recovered from their laptops and cellphones.
Public Blame Shimla Police for Not Taking Interest
Another noticeable aspect is that the family had already given names of Tejinder and Vikrant to police as suspects and both of them also had criminal record against them. Both were found involved in a theft case in Shimla. However, Shimla Police couldn’t materialize such a strong lead at all. Rather, it was carrying one of the suspects with it almost all the time during investigation. Therefore, the case was transferred to the CID.
People Demand Death Penalty, Social Boycott of Families
Enraged hearing heinousness of culprits, people are demanding death penalty for them and made call for social boycott of their families. Protesters also asked lawyer community to boycott culprits, and to not take their case as defense lawyer.
Cleaning of MC Water Tanks in Papers only?
The High Court of Himachal Pradesh is agitated and questioning Shimla MC how it could not spot the skeleton of the boy if it really cleaned the 12 lakh litre capacity tank twice this year, in January and June. Court has questioned affidavits filed by SMC claiming cleaning and supply of drinkable water. It noticeable that this time judges colony located in the posh Kelston area were also receiving water supply from the same tank along with other VIP residences, Police Line Bharari, Bharari Bazaar, Tara Badi, Lower Bharari, and some areas of Kuftadhar.
People and some politicians have opened attack on the MC officials and has demanded action against them as well.
Taking a serious note of the issue of recovery of the skeleton from a water tank, the High Court on Tuesday sought response from the state government and directed the Investigation Officer to file detailed affidavit in this regard. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan passed this order during the hearing of a PIL on the issue of contaminated water supply in Shimla city. Next hearing in the case is scheduled to be held on September 27.
No Locks on MC Water Tanks, No Provision for Security
The case clearly tells the tale of SMC’s ignorance towards security of the water tanks. The suspects were able to open it and dump the body as there was no lock on it. It implies that anyone could contaminate the water in these tanks with anything at anytime, risking lives of public.
Shimla MC’s Clarification
After news of recovery of skeleton from SMC water tank broke out, the media tried to connect to corporation officials. However, the Commissioner Pankaj Rai, Mayor Sanjay Chauhan, Engineer etc. did not respond to phone calls. But SMC’s initial clarification said that a skeleton was found earlier during cleaning but it was thrown away as workers took it to be remains of a monkey. As stark contrast to this statement, according to CID, team recovered the remains from the tank and, not from outside the tank.
SMC engineers claimed that they had cleaned not only the Keleston tank in January and June 2016, but also 23 other tanks after the jaundice outbreak.
The tanks were emptied, then were washed by chlorinated water,
the staff claimed.
It is not clear how the skeleton was recovered, but we have sought report from the municipal engineer
, said Chauhan.
The suspects are in custody and have been sent on police remand of five days. More clarity on the details isexpected as investigation continues. CID, based on the scientific evidences they have collected, claims to have a strong case against the suspects and it’s impossible for them to escape the charges. The case has not only shocked people of Himachal, but also revealed lies and eyewash by administration even in matters as sensitive as quality of drinking water.
India’s Revised Vaccination Policy and Supreme Court’s Role Behind This Change in Approach
Shimla-Free vaccine to all Indian citizens above 18 years of age would be available from 21st June onwards, the Government of India announced yesterday. The Centre has also announced that private hospitals would not be able to levy arbitrary charges for vaccination and the rate would be fixed. The government also rolled back its policy for procurement of vaccines, which was under heavy criticism not only from the opposition but also from the Supreme Court of India.
Though, the Centre claimed that the roll-back was a result of the demands raised by state governments, but some believe this decision came right after harsh judicial scrutiny of the government’s previous policy by the Supreme Court, whose initiation is being lauded by the citizens of India amid this pandemic.
“Many states came forward with a demand for reconsideration of the vaccination strategy and for bringing back the system that was there before 1st May,” the Centre said while defending the rollback.
Also, the Centre was even objecting to the court’s jurisdiction in matters related to policymaking and had termed it as an encroachment on the jurisdiction of the executive. However, very mindful of its jurisdiction, the court had mitigated this allegation of the Centre by explaining how policymaking is subject to judicial scrutiny. The court made the Centre aware of the ‘dialogic judicial review’, where the Court can question the executive and demand justifications from it over non-conformity of a policy to the constitutional rights.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court had grilled the Union government over its faulty and discriminatory policy as states were left on their own for the procurement of vaccines. In its orders passed on May 31, a bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat came down heavily upon the central government. The bench had termed the policy approach as “arbitrary and irrational” because it did not provide free vaccination for the 18-44 year age group. The bench had sought clarification on policy and dual pricing in which states were being made to procure vaccines directly from the manufactures and were invariably paying more for vaccines while the Centre procured the same vaccines at lower rates.
“Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis. Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospital for the persons between 18-44 years is prima facie arbitrary and irrational” a bench observed while passing an order on May 31, 2021 concerning a Suo moto case on “Re-Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic”.
Further, the court had also expressed concerns over the digital divide which would make accessing vaccine equally difficult for a large section through online registration.
Earlier, in its orders passed on April 30, the bend had observed that this policy approach would be “detrimental to the right to life and health”. The bench had also observed that this policy requires rethinking, as it needs to be formulated in conformity with the provisions of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The bench aggressively went on to order the government to share all details of the vaccine purchase and distribution, as well as provide information on how the budget allocated for the vaccination (₹35,000 Crores ) was used.
Provisions of the New Vaccination Policy
- Procurement of 25 per cent vaccinations which was earlier with states will now be undertaken by the Government of India.
- The government of India will buy 75 per cent of the total vaccines produced and will provide it to the states free of cost. No state government would be spending anything on vaccines.
- The system of 25 per cent vaccines being procured directly by the private hospitals will continue. Private hospitals can’t charge more than 150 rupees service charge over the decided price of the vaccines.
The Centre said that this policy would be rolled out in two weeks.
“In two weeks, the Centre and states will make necessary preparations as per new guidelines,” the Centre announced yesterday.
Till today, more than 23 Crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country.
To ward off the embarrassment caused by such a contentious policy which was not conforming with the constitutional rights of the citizens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without referring to the judicial review, blamed it on the state governments.
“As the corona cases started declining, questions arose about the lack of choice for states and some people questioned why the Central government is deciding everything,” he said.
“India’s vaccination program was run mostly under the Central government. Free vaccination for all was moving forward and people were showing discipline in getting vaccinated when their turn came, amid all these demands for decentralization of vaccination were raised, the decision about priority to certain age groups was raised. Many types pressures were exerted and certain sections of media took it as a campaign,” the PM said.
But with that being said the role of the judiciary in making the government roll back its policy in the interest of the people is being lauded as the victory of judicial review. Also, it has attracted positive response for the apex court which was being alleged of evading several matters related to the public interest under the pressure from the current political regime.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana Extended Till Deepawali.
In another major announcement, the Central government announced the extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Deepawali.
As per the announcement, till November, 80 crore people will continue to get a decided amount of free food grain every month.
Wah Re Corona: Himachali Folk Artist’s Lyrical Satire is Factual Rendition of India’s Agonizing Catastrophe
Shimla-Otherwise blatantly vocal and distinctively mass-mobilizing government of India is suddenly in the most subdued self after its proclaimed victory over the deathly virus; participation in uncontrolled election rallies; and permitting maha melas. The stalwarts are in the hiding, while helpless citizens – who voted them into power not once but in landslide victories twice – are dying due to lack of oxygen, poor – unavailable – medical facilities, and the denial stance of the ignorant in the helm.
Drawing a comparison between the fatal coronavirus and the mismanagement of the entire situation by the appalling government; a Himachali folk artist has released a factually appropriate lyrical satire that will tickle your mind and leave you to imagine what has brought this catastrophe onto us. The song is written by Rameshwar Sharma and music by Lalit Sauta.
With Neighboring States Going to Curfew, Himachal’s Tourism Sector Again Comes to a Halt
Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government may not have imposed restrictions on tourist movement, but the industry is facing the heat of second wave of coronavirus pandemic, which has now reached an alarming level. Alarmed by massive spike in new cases and fatalities, Delhi yesterday imposed a curfew for six days.
Further, with neighboring states including Panjab and Haryana going into a lockdown-like situation with the imposition of weekend curfews, tourist influx in Himachal Pradesh has dropped drastically, hitting the tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh. Last weekend the hotels claimed the occupancy was almost zero. The hoteliers and other stakeholders said the current situation is similar to what they faced during the lockdowns last year. After lockdowns spoiled the peak tourist season of the last year, the industry is hardly in a position to take another blow, hoteliers said.
Conditions in Himachal are no better. In 19 days of April month alone, the state has recorded over 14,000 cases and the infection has claimed 155 lives, which is a massive surge in a very short duration. The rates of the surge in new cases and fatalities have also been recorded to be much higher as compared to the previous year.
The state government on Monday said that all educational institutions of the State would remain close till May 1 2021, and faculty of schools, colleges and universities wouldn’t have to come to duty.
The State Government also decided to put a complete ban on transfers of field functional staff.
Right after getting a nod from the Centre, the state government had also postponed the board and UG examinations. Further, the HP Board of School Education is reportedly mulling over promoting class 10 students.
Chief Minister on Monday also said that the government could take more decisions to contain the spread in the meeting to be held on April 22. Some media reports said that the state government has hinted at the imposition of a curfew. While interacting to media yesterday, Chief Minister had also said that there are no plans for a complete lockdown, but if the situation continues to worsen, a curfew can be imposed. The Chief Minister had been maintaining that a lockdown would be the last resort as it would hurt the tourist influx, thus, cause economic damages.
However, if the businessmen and hoteliers are to be believed, currently keeping the state open for tourism is hardly providing any relief. Moreover, they are not able to differentiate between a curfew and lockdown. They have begun to seek relief from the state government.
On the other hand, in case the state decides to impose a curfew, the situation would get quite difficult for the poor, especially migrant workers, daily wagers, and small street-side vendors too.
Further, fear of the collapse of health infrastructure haunts the state as the government is still in the phase of passing directions to the officers to enhance the bed capacity in the hospitals. As per the statement given by Chief Minister on Monday, the state is yet to take steps to ensure the proper availability of oxygen and staff.
“Steps would be taken to ensure the proper availability of oxygen and medical staff in the State. Bed capacity would be enhanced in Nerchowk Medical College, IGMC Shimla, Zonal Hospital Dharamshala, Tanda Medical College, Sunder Nagar Hospital and various other hospitals. Health workers would be posted in appropriate number for the care of Covid-19 patients,” Chief Minister said.
Chief Minister is being condemned for not completing make-shifts hospitals during the lockdown period along with strengthening the health services the way the it was required.
With the re-notification of Shimla’s DDU hospital- one of the busiest in the state- as a dedicated COVID care hospital, the OPDs has been closed. With the ongoing surge in new cases, more hospitals are likely to be re-notification as dedicated COVID care hospitals, and regular OPDs would be closed for other daily patients.
Moreover, for setting bad examples for the people, all political parties and their leaders, including Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, had faced severe criticism over blatant violation of COVID-19 protocols during campaign rallies for the elections to the Municipal Corporations. As a result, the public is hardly taking the second wave seriously and lowering their guards against the infections, which is only worsening the situation.
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