Mandi Tragedy: Rescue op continues on second day, a village evacuated, alert on 65 routes
Ecologists, environmental activists, and organizations are criticizing the NHAI and the PWD for not conducting surveys in the regions that are more prone to landslides.
Mandi -The massive rescue operation at the Mandi-Pathankot National Highway 154, where a monster landslide swept away two buses along with several passengers on Saturday night, was resumed by the teams of National Disaster Relief Force, Army, and district administration.
Monsoon could hamper the rescue operation as there are chances of heavy rainfall in Mandi and Kangra districts, Manmohan Singh, the meteorological office director, told IANS.
One of the most tragic incidents could have killed over 50 people. As per the district administration, the rescue teams had recovered 46 bodies by last night.
Special Secretary, Disaster, and Revenue, D D Sharma informed that over 46 bodies were recovered and the rescue operation is still underway.
Today, the death toll is said to have risen to 50. There is a possibility of more people being buried under enormous mounds of debris.
The landslide was so massive that rescue teams couldn’t find the complete wreckage of the buses. They are recovering pieces of the bus. Several bodies could not be identified as they were badly mutilated.
So far only 23 bodies were identified.
Himachal Pradesh: Relief materials being distributed in Mandi, 46 bodies were recovered yesterday following landslide in the area.
— ANI (@ANI) August 14, 2017
Deputy Commissioner, Mandi, Sandeep Kadam informed that in view of the possible landslide, a village in the area was declared unsafe and residents were asked to move to safer places.
The traffic was diverted via IIT Kamand while Mandi-Aut section of Chandigarh- Manali road was closed for the traffic. The administration advised the commuters to take the Mandi Kullu Road via Kotla.
The Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation has issued an alert over possible landslides in over 60 routes in parts of the Shimla district. These routes are not canceled but the people were advised to be careful.
These routes fall in regions more prone to landslides during monsoon. The night services to the upper regions of the capital were also canceled.
Moreover, the HRTC drivers were given liberty to assess the situation on a route and act accordingly.
Other than the buses, half a dozen houses, a few shops, and several other vehicles were also swept down the gorge. The landslide was massive and affected over 250 meters patch of the NH 154. While the house owners and shopkeepers were alarmed as some debris started to roll down prior to the landslide. Survivors and eyewitnesses said, they heard a thundering sound too.
Though, it is not confirmed why a huge portion of the hill broke apart, initially the administration expressed the possibility of a cloudburst.
Meanwhile, several stories including those of the survivors appeared in daily newspapers and online news portals.
Among survivors was a boy, Sunny, who was traveling on a bike with his friend. Sunny managed to escape while his friend was lost forever.
A woman, who had lost her husband last year, lost her two daughters and a son traveling in Chamba-Manali bus.
Three girls also survived the terrifying incident. Two of them were discharged after some treatment while two others were referred to the Indira Gandhi Medical Collage, Shimla.
The State Health Department has announced a relief of Rs. 4 lakh to the families of the deceased while the Transport Minister had granted Rs. 1 lakh.
After the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited the spot, the former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had also paid a visit.
NHAI and PWD Under Fire for Callousness
At the same time, ecologists, environmental activists, and organizations are criticizing the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the Public Works Department (PWD) for not conducting surveys in the regions that are more prone to landslides.
The majority of people agreed that Himachal’s ecology is much more sensitive than other parts of the world. The government can’t apply common norms and methods while widening the roads or digging tunnels through mountains.
The effect of unscientific cutting of hills for four-laning is clearly visible on Shimla-Kalka NH that has become landslide prone.
Such disasters could be averted if these authorities could learn from the previous landslide in the same region.
The Geological Survey of India regularly releases a list of high-risk zones. However, the state government of the NHAI never bothers to neutralize these threats.
Scientifically, say experts, it is possible to assess the possibility of a landslide from hills directly above the roads. Moreover, the region where this landslide wasted so many lives occurred has reported several landslides recently.
The government does announce monetary relief and pray for the well-being of the survivors but entirely neglect deeper contemplation over possible measures to loss of life and property.
Top Images: Tribune/ANI/Amar Uajal
HP Govt Employees to Get Higher Pay Scale on Completion of Two Years of Service: CM Jairam
Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government employees working in different departments before January 3, 2022, would be given a higher scale at par with other employees on completion of two years tenure of regular service. A higher pay scale was also announced for the Junior Office Assistants (IT) on completion of two years of regular service.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur made these announcements during the Karamchari Maha Sammelan of the Himachal Pradesh Non-Gazetted Employees Federation at the hotel Peterhof on Sunday.
He appreciated the role played by the employee especially frontline workers in the battle against the pandemic.
He said most of the government employees in the state have been given revised pay scales and on average, every employee has got the benefit of a 12 to 15 percent salary hike. There has also been an increase in the pension of about 1.50 lakh pensioners of the state. The financial benefits of Rs. 7801 crore have been given to state government employees and pensioners from the year 2018 to 2022. The pensioners who retired before 2016 are getting the benefit of a 15 to 20 percent increase in the pension while around 40 thousand pensioners who retired after 2016 would be benefitted soon, he said.
He said the daily wages were Rs. 210 in the year 2017 which has been increased by the present state government to Rs. 350. Similarly, 12 per cent interim relief annually has been provided to government employees and pensioners during the present government’s tenure. He said the Himachal government has provided Dearness Allowance to its employees and pensioners on the lines of Punjab and Central governments from the due date. The Punjab government has given only 5 percent interim relief to the employees while the Himachal government has provided 21 percent interim relief to its employees.
“Out of the total interim relief amount given to the employees and pensioners amounting to about Rs. 6500 crore, Rs. 3500 crore has been paid during the tenure of our government” added the Chief Minister.
He said that the state government has increased the government contribution for NPS employees from 10 percent to 14 percent benefitting more than one lakh employees. The NPS employees are being given the benefits of retirement and death gratuity at par with employees falling under the old pension scheme. The government has also increased the upper limit of death gratuity from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh.
The Chief Minister said the state government has also increased the honorarium of para-workers working in various departments. The salary of outsource workers has been hiked by Rs 1,500 per month.
Non-Gazetted Employees Federation President Ashwani Thakur thanked the Chief Minister for providing various financial and other benefits to different categories of government employees.
Most Covid Restrictions to be Lifted From March 31, Mask and Hand Hygiene to Continue
New Delhi-The Centre has issued a notification to the States informing that the provisions of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005 will not be invoked in the country after March 31. The Union Health Ministry said that the use of face masks and following hand hygiene will continue.
It implies that most of the Covid-related rules and restrictions would end.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued the notification which said that the decision was taken following the overall improvement in the situation and the preparedness of the government in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, local authorities and State police can still invoke fines and criminal cases against persons violating COVID-19 norms under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a senior government official said.
The DM Act was invoked on March 24, 2020, due to the pandemic
“Over the last seven weeks or so there has been a steep decline in the number of cases. The total caseload in the country stands at 23,913 only and the daily positivity rate has declined to 0.28%. It is also worth mentioning that with the combined efforts, a total of 181.56 Cr vaccine doses have been administered,” the notification said.
“I would like to mention that in view of the nature of the disease, we still need to remain watchful of the situation. Wherever any surge in the number of cases is observed, the States/UTs may consider taking prompt and proactive action at a local level, as advised by MoHFW (Health Ministry) from time to time,” the notification said.
The Indian government had issued various guidelines and measures for the first time on March 24, 2020, under the Disaster Management Act to curb the COVID-19 situation in the country, which have been modified several times thereafter.
India currently has 23,087 active COVID-19 cases and recorded 1,778 new cases and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours. The daily positivity rate has also declined to 0.28%.
HP Cabinet Decisions: Country Liquor Made Cheaper in New Excise Policy, Read All Decisions
Shimla-A meeting of the Himachal Pradesh Cabinet was held on March 20, 2022, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
The excise policy for the financial year 2022-23 was approved. Approval was also given for the renewal of retail excise vends in the state for the financial year 2022-23 at the renewal fees of 4% of the value of unit/vend.
The State Government said that wants to enhance the government revenue and curb the smuggling of country liquor from the neighbouring states by a reduction in its price.
The brands of Country Liquor will be cheaper as license fees have been reduced. This will help in providing good quality liquor at a cheaper rate to the consumers.
In the new excise policy, the 15% fixed quota of country liquor for manufacturers and bottlers to be supplied to the retail licensees has been abolished. According to the government, this step will give the retail licensees to lift their quota from the suppliers of their choice and further assure the supply of good quality country liquor at competitive prices. The MRP of country liquor will be cheaper by 16% of the existing price.
In this year’s policy, the Gaudhan Vikas Nidhi Fund has been enhanced by Re.1/- from the existing Rs.1.50 to Rs.2.50.
The fixed annual license fee of Bars has been rationalized by abolishing the area-specific slabs of license fee. Now throughout the State, there will be uniform license slabs based upon the room capacity in hotels.
Rates of the annual fixed license fee of Bars in the tribal areas has been reduced considerably.
Further, all the above stakeholders will have to install CCTV cameras at their establishments as it was made mandatory for them.
Wholesale vends and retail vends, the penalty provisions under the H.P. Excise Act, 2011 have been made more stringent.
An end to end online Excise Administration System would be established in Himachal Pradesh, the government said.
HP Government estimates a collection of Rs 2131 crore revenue during the year, which will be Rs. 264 crores higher than the financial year 2021-22 – growth of 14% in state excise revenues.
The Cabinet also gave its nod to amend Himachal Pradesh Disaster Relief Manual-2012 to include deaths due to biting of honey bees, hornet and wasps, accidental drowning and deaths due to accidents of vehicles (including land, water and air) under this Manual.
The Cabinet gave its approval for filling up 11 posts of ‘A’ Class Tehsildar in Revenue Department through direct recruitment on regular basis through Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.
HP State Toll Policy 2022-23
The HP Cabinet also gave its nod to HP State Toll Policy for the year 2022-23 which envisages auction cum tender for all the toll barriers in the State. During the year 2021-22, toll revenue has registered a growth of 20 percent of the previous year’s revenue.