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Kotkhai Case: HP Govt commits another blunder in haste to calm down angry locals

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School named after kotkhai rape victim

Shimla – In the cluttered state of affairs, the Himachal Pradesh government finds itself cornered in the gruesome rape and murder of a school girl in Kotkhai Tehsil in Shimla. The Assembly polls are a few months away, and the government is in the state of panic owing to the current crisis.

Earlier, the statements of the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh remained in controversy, and now the State government, in a failed attempt to calm down locals, took the decision to name a school in victim’s village after her real name.

The decision was expected to gain sympathy, but it turned out to be a silly decision taken in haste.

A few hours after the notification on July 22, Himachal Watcher (HW) had published a story titled “HP Govt names school after Kotkhai rape-murder victim’s real name against SC directions.”

HW referred to directions passed by the Supreme Court in this regard and pointed out that revealing the identity of a rape victim and survivor in any manner was legally prohibited under Section 228A of IPC.

As the victim was a minor, the decision also violated the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The government soon realized the blunder it committed by violating directions passed by the apex court in this regard and withdrew the notification wherein the school was named after the minor victim.

Before the notification was taken down, the information had reached the media. The HP Public Relation Office uploaded a press note regarding the official notification on their website on the same Day (July 22).

Interestingly, the HP Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has been warning about the use of minor victim’s photos in protests and on social media. The Commission has warned of stern action against the media and anyone who is found indulged in disclosing the identity of the victim. Amid it, it’s was a blunder by the government.

Press Note Still Not Removed from DPR Website
HP DPR Webiste

In another careless act, the press note, in which the name of the victim was clearly mentioned, is still available on HP DPR’s official website at the time of writing.

The press note clearly mentions that the State Government upgraded Government Middle School, Dhar Tarpunoo (Tali) in Kotkhai to Government Senior Secondary School. The school was made functional immediately. As per the notification, the step was taken in public interest.

The government is attracting further criticism from aware citizens and the opposition. Apparently, the government has failed to deal with such a sensitive case with the required level of sensitivity. The locals were already enraged over the alleged shoddy investigation. The killing of the Nepalese accused in police custody worsened the state of affairs and led to riots.

District Administration failed to find way out and deal with the chaos. The head of the district administration, the Deputy Commissioner, Rohan Chand Thakur, is already facing severe criticism for complete inaction. He was criticized over the fact that he did not make any efforts for confidence building in locals when it was the need of the hour.

The Kotkhai Police Station and staff that were injured could have been saved if the administration had directly approached the family and talked to the locals, say critics.

The government is facing the same situation in the case of late Hoshiyar Singh, the forest guard who had died under mysterious condition between June 5 to 9. The probes conducted by the State Police and CID were observed to be unconvincing by the Amicus Currie formed by the State High Court.

The head of the State government, CM Virbhadra Singh, is in no better state. The sub judice corruption case, the internal revolt by his party leaders, MLAs, and party chief are haunting him.

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Road in Mashobra Ward of SMC in tatters for last 10 years

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Road-in-Shimla-MC-Ward-21

Shimla: While the new Government of Himachal Pradesh claims that it has achieved all the targets it had set for the first 100 days, the ground reality doesn’t agree with it entirely.

As per the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Rs. 100 crores were sanctioned for repair and maintenance of roads, however, even the urban Shimla did not witness these repairs.

Some residents of Mashobra – Lower Dhalli Ward (Number 21) of the Shimla Municipal Corporation wrote to Himachal Watcher regarding the pathetic condition of the road in their locality algonwith pictures of the Mashobra market.  

The road has not been repaired from last 10 years. The problem of water-logging pertains from past 5 years, but the civic body did not attend to it, 

said one of the residents.

Bhartiya Janata Party’s Shalinder Chauhan has been elected for the second time as counsellor of the Ward. However, he made only promises to solve this problem, which were never fulfilled,

the resident further added.

Mashobra market

This road leads to famous tourist destinations like Talai, Carignano Nature Park along with government offices like the Regional Horticultural Research Station, Mashobra, and HP Panchayati Raj Training Institute.

Despite the frequent movement of government officials in this Ward, the road did not attract the attention of any single of them.

Several Ministers cross this road and, a few days back, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had organized a national level annual meeting near Talai, but the problem remains invisible to everyone except the locals,

a local youth told HW.

The pedestrians face daily trouble due to the large potholes, which turn into pools of water when it rains. Passing vehicles splash accumulated water on pedestrians. During sunny days, clouds of dust troubles the residents as well as shopkeepers and dhabs located in the market, the residents complained.   

The locals are forced to live in dust and mud for last 10 years, but the problems of the locals did not find a place in media, they further complained.

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Busted: Hindi Daily exaggerated news about delay in handing over dead bodies of Nurpur accident victims

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Tribute to Nurpur school bus accident

Kangra: “If it is published in a newspaper, then the news must be true,” most of the common readers believe.

Unfortunately, journalists do not deserve a blind faith of the people in a country like India where media houses are propelled by profits instead of motives. Journalists often exaggerate and sensationalize reports deliberately, which brings a bad name to the fraternity of journalists.

The most recent reference could be made to a news published by a Hindi Daily regarding the alleged politics over the dead bodies of 23 children who died in the tragic accident of a school bus on April 9, 2018, near Nurpur of Kangra district.

Nurpur School bus accident

Outside Nurpur Hospital on April 10

The Hindi Daily, in  a report published in its April 11 edition, had alleged the district administration of making unnecessary delay in handing over the dead bodies of the victims to their families. The motive, the report alleged, was that the Chief Minister could pay tribute to the bodies as part of a political stunt.

The report went on saying that the bodies of some of the victims, which were already handed over to the families on April 9, were also brought back. The parents kept asking for the bodies while the district administration and a local MLA told them to wait for the arrival of the Chief Minister, the Daily had reported.

It sounds like the cheapest of political stunts. Doesn’t it?

The Chief Minister and the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra, Sandeep Sharma, faced severe criticism after the news was published by the Daily.

pyres of nurpur school bus accident

Pyres of the victims

However, not all the information fed by the reporter of the Daily was factually correct.

Himachal Watcher’s credible friends in media, who were present at the hospital, revealed that there might have been some delay but no dead body was brought back.  The Daily blew the news out of proportion,  we were told.

I was right there outside the mortuary with other reporters and correspondents of news agencies to cover the story. No body was handed over to any of the families on April 9, so there is no question of bringing them back,

a journalist told Himachal Watcher.

Most of the reporters had left the hospital by 10:00 PM, but we stayed there for a while. The gates of the mortuary were locked at about 12:00 PM and no one was allowed to enter thereafter. Therefore, it was a sheer lie, 

the journalist said. 

We also consulted other journalists, who agreed that the news was indeed blown out of proportion.

Such irresponsible and sensational reporting defames the media fraternity, especially the responsible journalists, 

said one of the media persons expressing disappointment with the reporter of the Daily.

The Daily is trying to cover up the matter but the inconsistency in the facts in its follow-up stories is clearly visible.  

The DC, Kangra, on April 12 had issued a press statement terming the news as a misleading one, which turned out to be true. 

The news not only defamed the Chief Minister but also shook the little faith that common men still have in the government and local administration. The newspaper cutting of the Daily did rounds of social media and attracted the wrath of the people.

The message is clear; there is no space for blind trust on media. We need to be careful while going through such sensitive news.

I have just one request to those people who started to share the news clipping on social media. First, try to cross check the facts before opening critical attack on such sensitive matters. It is not about defaming the government but of humanity,

a journalist associated with an English Daily said.   

It was a total breach of trust of the readers as well as those who came across it on social media. 

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CM Thakur, BJP ridiculed for alleged politics of ‘paying tribute’ to Nurpur accident victims

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Politics over Nurpur school bus accident

Kangra: The new Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur were ridiculed for allegedly playing “politics of paying tribute” over the dead bodies of 23 children killed in the school bus accident near Nurpur in Kangra on April 9, 2018.

The Chief Minister also faced the wrath of the public on social media. The people termed it as the “most degraded level” of politics that the nation has ever witnessed.

This widespread criticism compelled the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra, Sandeep Kumar and the local MLA Rakesh Pathania to come out in their defence. The DC on April 12 released a media statement in which he refuted the allegations labelled against them regarding the deliberate delay in handing over the dead bodies deceased children

The DC termed it as an act of irresponsible reporting. The local MLA Rakesh Pathania also came out with an explanation and said that it was decided to transport all the bodies together to avoid inconvenience due to crowdedness.

However, the Daily, in its April 13 edition, has produced a statement of an aggrieved family member and stood by its report.

politics over Nurpur school bus tragedy

Report from Dainik Bhaskar’s April 13 Edition

As per the daily, Gulshan, a resident of Chamba, alleged that everytime the parents asked for the body, they were told to wait for the Chief Minister’s arrival.

Meanwhile, a video of Gulshan repeating his statement has also appeared on the social media. 

It is an illogical explanation of the administration that the parents of the children were not available early morning, the Daily said. All the parents had rushed to the hospital on the evening the accident took place. They waited till morning at the hospital, added the report.

In its April 11 edition, the Daily had alleged the district administration and Pathania of keeping the parents of the victims waiting for about three hours to claim the bodies.

It was further alleged by the Daily that the bodies which already handed over to the parents were also brought back so that the Chief Minister and the Union Minister JP Nadda could perform a political drama of paying tribute to the victims.

A stage was set and mike was installed for the Chief Minister, the report alleged.

As per the report, the post-mortems of the victims including four adults were completed between 7:30 AM to 8:00 AM on April 10. However, the parents were told that the Chief Minister will be arriving to distribute the cheques of the relief money, alleged the report.

When the Union Minister Nadda was asked about the incident, he denied having any knowledge regarding the delay. He said the local administration and the MLA were responsible for all the arrangement.

While the mourning parents had lined up outside the mortuary to claim the bodies, they were made to wait until the Chief Minister and Union Minister arrived at 10:30.

The daily also alleged that the DC, Kangra, and local MLA Rakes Pathania were seen directing the staff regarding Chief Minister’s reception. While there were only two nurses to look after four survived children during the previous night, all the staff along with the district administration swarmed upon next morning to receive the Chief Minister.

However, on April 12, the DC issued a press statement terming the news as false and misleading one. He said an elaborate inquiry was conducted and it was found that no delay was made deliberately. He claimed that the post-mortems were completed at 10:30 AM, and not at 7:30 AM, as alleged by the Daily.

Opposed to the allegation, the DC further claimed that no post-mortem was conducted on April 9. He said as per the rules a post-mortem should be conducted in daylight, therefore, it was not possible to hand over the bodies to the parents on April 9.

The post-mortems were conducted in the morning only in the presence of the parents and they were not available on the evening the accident took place, the DC claimed.

However, the DC did not say anything regarding legal action against the Daily for publishing such defamatory news. 

If the report was, in fact, misleading, then we will be soon reading an apology published in the same Daily or a legal action by the administration. If none of the two situations appears, then it would suggest the ugly allegations made in the report were true.  

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