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Kotkhai Police Probe: Women Commission not convinced either, suspects a cover-up

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Kotkhao Probe National Commisson For Women

Shimla – In the Kotkhai rape and murder case, the National Commission for Women member, Sushma Sahu, came down heavily on the Himachal Pradesh Police, State Government, and the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh in a press conference held in Shimla on Saturday.

The doubts among people have further deepened as the NCW member, too, expressed serious doubts over the police investigation and the attitude of the State Government toward the case.

She rounded up the State Government for highly careless acts such as revealing the identity of the minor victim by naming a school after her real name. Despite prohibition under legal provisions, the name of the victim was mentioned in the official notification issued by the government in this regards, which should invite legal action against it, she said.

Sahu, who is in Shimla regarding the investigation of the rape and murder of a 16-years-old school going girl in Kotkhai Tehsil of Shimla district, has upheld the allegation of locals that the police and the government are trying to shield real culprits, who hail from influential families. She showered several questions over the probe and pointed out several loopholes and the missing links in the police investigation.

Sahu had sent for the Director General of the Police to take stock of the entire investigation. However, the DGP didn’t show up. Instead, another official (ADGP) appeared who wasn’t even aware of the names of the accused and hardly had any idea about the investigation, she said. The ADGP had no answer when he was asked where the DGP was.

On the basis of her interaction, she asked the State Government to provide security to the victim’s family and immediate financial assistance to the wife of Suraj, the Nepalese accused killed in the police custody.

She questioned the government over its inaction and investigation regarding upload and deletion of photos of four persons on the Chief Minister’s official Facebook page on the night of July 11. The government hasn’t given any explanation from where those photos appeared and who was responsible for uploading them on CM’s official FB page, she remarked. She said no FIR was lodged in this regard despite the fact that this faux pas had fueled the chaos in public.

Sahu said during her visit to the family of the victim, she discovered that the wife of the Chief Minister, Pratibha Singh, had insisted the family to not push for the CBI inquiry in the case. However, Pratibha Singh, in a reply to these remarks, said her statement was twisted. She denied allegations of pressing the family to not ask for a CBI inquiry. She said the family was satisfied with the police investigation at that time.

The NCW member raised questions over the post-mortem report and the sequence of the crime given by the police in its probe. She further said that according to the report of the post-mortem conducted on Jul 7, the victim had eaten rice a few hours before her death, but the police probe report establishes July 4 as the date of her death, which is contradictory.

The parents who had seen the body at the spot reported fresh marks on her neck and the body. The father also claimed her leg and arm was fractured, she said. The father also told her that there was no sign of a struggle at the muddy spot and there was no mud on nails of the victim, which goes against the police claim that the crime was committed on the very spot where the victim’s body was found on July 6.

Further, in a sarcastic tone, she asked the police department what the staff was doing when the Nepalese accused Suraj was killed in the police lockup. She further questioned why the two suspects were kept in the same lockup. She said the suspension of the police staff over the killing of accused in the custody is just eyewash.

Mamata, the wife of the killed accused said her husband was detained by the police for questioning. When he returned home at evening, he was in a miserable shape. He told her that he was badly beaten by the policemen who were allegedly drinking while question him, saiid Sahu. Mamata, Sahu added, claimed her husband was working in the orchards with her on July 4 and 5, but police did not verify this fact. Similarly, Raju, another accused, had taken his mother to hospital on July 5, which can be verified through hospital authorities and CCTV footages, she said.

The NCW member also questioned the overall working of the government in the case.

She said the report of the investigation conducted by her will be submitted to the Central Bureau of Investigation so that they could include these facts in the investigation.

Photo: Statesman News Service

Misc News/Press Release

Video: Fire Wreaks Havoc at Solan Mall Road

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Solan Fire Break out 2021

Solan-A fire broke out at the congested Solan Mall Road today evening, which engulfed about three shops including a medical store and garment and shoe shops. According to the initial report received from the district administration, the fire reportedly started from a medical store, which was closed.

People first noticed smoke rising from inside the building and informed the owner of the shop and fire services. By the time, fire tenders reached the spot, the fire had spread considerably to a large part of the multi-story building. Sounds of explosions from inside the medical store caused a panic among the adjoining shopping mall and people present on the scene. These sounds of explosions reportedly came from bottles of sanitisers and other flammables products kept inside the medical store.

No loss of life was reported.

According to a report, two fire hydrants installed at the Solan Mall Road for such emergency situation did not work, which led to delay in extinguishing the fire. Meanwhile, property worth lakhs in three to four shops turned to ash. It took over two hours to extinguish the fire with the help of locals. 

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Ajay Kumar, had arrived at the spot. The exact losses were yet to be assessed. It’s pertinent to mention that the Solan Mall is a congested place with a large number of shops and the fire could have easily turned into a bigger disaster if it were not controlled. 

The cause of the fire is believed to be a short-circuit. But it would be possible to cite the exact cause only after an inquiry, if conducted. More information was awaited.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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Himachal Records 81% Turnout in 3rd Phase of PRI Polls, Congress Makes a Come Back in Theog MC after 20 Years

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third phase of Panchayat elections in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The third phase of elections to Panchayati Raj Institutes in Himachal Pradesh recorded around 81 percent polling on January 21, 2021. The elections were held in 1137 Gram Panchayats in this phase. The highest 94 percent polling was registered in Lodhi Majra Panchayat of Nalagarh development block in Solan district. This information was released by a spokesperson of HP Election Commission

District-wise, Sirmaur recorded 85% turnout, followed by Solan (85%) Kullu (84%),Chamba (82.8%), Mandi (82.7%), Una (81.1%), Shimla (82%),Una (81%), Bilaspur (80.3%), Hamirpur (78.1%), Kangra (78%), and Kinnaur (70%).

 Further, 48 COVID-19 patients and persons in isolation also cast their votes.

The Spokesperson said that the poll was held peacefully and there was no report of any untoward incident in the state.

Counting of votes for Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti will be held on January 22, 2021, at block headquarters.

Congress made a come back to Theog Municipal Council after 20 years. While Vivek Thapar was elected as the Chairman of the MC, Reen Roy was elected as the Vice-Chairman. Congress has already registered wins in Rohru and Rampur MCs and Chopal, Kotkhai and Sunni Nagar panchayats.

Theog MC Polls 2021

Congress After Registering Victory in Theog MC Elections

The HPCC chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore, while speaking to media persons yesterday, said that of the total seven Wards of the Theog MC, Congress has claimed victory on four wards while remaining three Wards went to independent candidates. Congress alleged that BJP had left no stone unturned to pressurize, lure, and threaten elected members to gain their support. 

Rathore mocked at the defeat of BJP MP’s bother in Mandi district. Further, the candidate in Ghumarwin of Bilaspur – home district of BJP Chief Jagat Prakash Nadda-  had also faced defeat, Rathore said. BJP candidate in Sujanpur – home to Union Minister for State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur-could also not register a victory and lost, he said.

Congress also registered a victory in elections to Parwanoo MC. Kuldeep Singh Rathore, said that winning candidate Nisha Sharma joined Congress yesterday. She had won twice from the same Ward on BJP ticket. This time, she was denied ticket and fought the elections as an independent candidate. 

Parwanoo Counciloor Nisha sharma

Nisha Sharma Joins Congress

Rathore alleged that the government has been trying to threaten Nisha by registering a fake case of illegal construction. Similarly, husband of Chandrawati – another Congress councilor in Parwanoo- who runs a depot was fined wrongfully yesterday, Rathore alleged.   

While BJP has been making claims of victory on the majority of seats, Congress had been terming it as a bluff.  Also, it had been alleging BJP of misusing government machinery. Independent candidates are being bought and allurements are being given to winning Congress candidates, Rathore alleged.  

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