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Watch: Rioting in Shimla’s Kotkhai after accused killed in custody, police reportedly fire warning rounds

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Shimla– Following the reported killing of one of the Nepalese accused of rape and murder of minor girl in police custody on late Tuesday night, angry locals gheraoed the Kotkhai police station. People ransacked the police station and scuffled with police staff in which some policemen were injured. Police lathicharged the mob, which further infuriated people. The locals took to stone pelting on police force and vandalized and set the police station fire.

Police had to retreat, and reportedly fired about two to three warning rounds in the air to disperse the mob. Policemen had to retreat and flee the station, said sources.

The Kotkhai has come to halt as locals have blocked the entire traffic (chakka jam). Reports of chakka jam in Dhalli and other parts of Shimla are coming as situation is getting uglier.

As per initial reports from police, one of the accused in the rape and murder case of a schoolgirl in Kotkhai, Shimla, was allegedly killed by a co- accused in police custody. The initial reports from police and media said Rajinder (32) smashed Suraj Singh (29), one of the Nepalese accused, on ground. The time of the brawl and murder is said to be around midnight. Two accused were in the same locker, said initial reports.

The Superintendent of Police, Shimla, D.W. Negi, confirmed the killing of Suraj Singh (29) in police custody. The entire police staff deployed at the Kotkhai station on the night the Nepalese accused died was replaced by morning. Reportedly the staff was suspended following the killing, and the Director General of Police has also been summoned by the Himachal Pradesh High Court and the Governor over the case.

Locals alleged that police is trying to cover up its conspiracy to save the main accused before the case is handed-over to Central Bureau of Investigation. The Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had claimed that he had requested the Centre to order CBI to conduct probe into the case.

However, CBI didn’t take charge of the case even on Wednesday. Locals are alleging that the killing of the accused is an effort to erase important links in the case.

 

Art & Culture

Wah Re Corona: Himachali Folk Artist’s Lyrical Satire is Factual Rendition of India’s Agonizing Catastrophe

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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. 

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HP Govt Faces Backlash Over Fake Covid e-Passes Issued in the Name of Trump and Amitabh

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Shimla-Two fake COVID e-passes in the name of Donald Trump and Amitabh Bachchan for obtaining permission to enter Himachal Pradesh, which were approved by the state government, have raised questions over the validity of the registration process. The passes reportedly cited addresses of  Sector 17,Chandigarh, and had the same Aadhaar number and phone number. The vehicle is also registered in Chandigarh. 

The Himachal Pradesh Government has made it mandatory to obtain permission through Covid e-pass registration on its official web portal in order to enter the state. 

Pertinent to mention that the state government is already facing flak over flexible rules of corona curfew imposed in the state at a time when the fatality rate is spiking massively.

The state police, through its Twitter handle, confirmed receiving a complaint and has registered an FIR under relevant sections and the IT Act.  

The Covid e-pass software has been developed by the State Information Technology Department The purpose is to keep records, the department says. People desirous of entering the state are supposed to get the names and addresses registered in the software so that their travel history could be tracked and traced. However, the current incident of approval to fake passes has brought the system under the scanner.

After facing a backlash on social media from people and opposition, Urban Development and TCP Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, and Information and Technology Minister Dr. Ram Lal Markanda issued a statement today.

Without clarifying the cause, the statement said,

“State Government has allowed free movement to the State from other parts of the country with few conditions, but at the same time was also ensuring to maintain a proper record of those visiting the State.”

“It was unfortunate that some mischievous elements with ulterior motive and nefarious designs were furnishing fake names and addresses while applying for Covid e-pass which was unfortunate and uncalled for. Such cheap deeds  were not only unlawful and illegal but were also against the safety and security of the people,” the statement said.

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With Neighboring States Going to Curfew, Himachal’s Tourism Sector Again Comes to a Halt

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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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