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Mandi Tragedy: Rescue op continues on second day, a village evacuated, alert on 65 routes

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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.

 

Photo: IANS

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.

List of killed in mandi landslide

DC Mandi

So far only 23 bodies were identified.

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.

Mandi landslide survivors

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

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Haryana Tourists Fire Bullets in Air at Hatu Mata Temple, Brandish Rifle, Manhandle Priest

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Hatu temple gun fire by tourists

Shimla-Following regular instances of hooliganism and assaults with weapons by tourists from neighbouring states, especially Punjab and Haryana, the Himachal Pradesh Police had announced regular checking of tourist vehicles on borders to prevent them from carrying weapons into the state. However, the tourists continue to bring weapons, including firearms, into the state.   

In a fresh incident, some tourists from Haryana on October 13, 2021, reportedly fired bullets in the air near the Hatu Mata Temple, Narkanda.  On hearing the sound of gunshots, the priest of the temple, Lalit Sharma, approached these tourists and objected to it. The tourists allegedly grabbed him by the neck and gave him life threats.

The priest freed himself somehow and immediately informed the temple committee about the incident. A member of the temple committee also informed the local police.

The priest said that a special pooja (worship) was organized at the temple on the occasion of Durga Ashtami and a large number of people was present inside the premises to participate in the pooja. This incident created panic among these devotees.

A taxi driver, Shravan Kumar, told police that two cars – HR 16X-3753 MG Hector & PB 26G-5555 Fortuner- were parked in the middle of the Hatu Mata link road, blocking the traffic. The tourists in these vehicles were brandishing guns and creating a nuisance. A short video clip showing one of these men brandishing a gun from their vehicle has also appeared. It was speculated that these men were intoxicated. 

Later, the local police arrived at the scene and apprehended about eight tourists for questioning. The police recovered a pistol, a rifle, and a dozen of bullets from the men. Cases were filed against two of them. When inquired in front of the temple committee, the two tourists told the police their names and addresses. They were identified as Kuldeep, 37, of Tehsil Lauharu, District Bhiwani, Haryana,  and Abhishek Kumar, 27, of district Bhawani, Harayana.

A case was filed at the Police Station, Kumarsain under Section 336, 34 of IPC and 25-54/59 of the Arms Act. The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Rampur, Chandrashekhar confirmed the report.

The temple committee has expressed concern over the incident and asked the police and the district administration to take stringent action against these men for hooliganism and creating a nuisance. The committee also urged that steps should be taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

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New Chief Justice of HP High Court Justice Mohammad Rafiq Takes Oath

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New Chief Justice of Himachal PRadesh High Court justice mohammad rafiq

Shimla-The new Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, Justice Mohammad Rafiq, was today administered the oath of office by Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar in a ceremony held at Raj Bhawan.

Justice Mohammad Rafiq was born on 25th May 1960 at Sujangarh in the Churu district of Rajasthan. He completed B.Com in 1980, LL.B in 1984 and M.Com in 1986 from the University of Rajasthan.

He, later on, joined the Bar and practised as an Advocate after enrolment with the Bar Council of Rajasthan on 8th July 1984. He practised exclusively in Rajasthan High Court at Jaipur in almost all branches of law and specially conducted constitutional matters, service matters, land acquisition cases, land revenue cases, preventive detention cases, customs & excise matters, railway claims cases, tax matters, company matters and criminal matters before the High Court.

He worked as Assistant Government Advocate for the State of Rajasthan from 15th July 1986 to 21st December 1987 and Deputy Government Advocate from 22nd December 1987 to 29th June 1990. He appeared before the High Court as panel advocate for various Departments of the State Government for five years i.e. from 1993 to 1998.

He also represented the Union of India as Standing Counsel from 1992 to 2001 before the High Court. He also represented the Indian Railways, Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board, Rajasthan Board of Muslim Wakfs, Jaipur Development Authority, Rajasthan Housing Board and Jaipur Municipal Corporation before the Rajasthan High Court.

He was appointed as Additional Advocate General for the State of Rajasthan on 7th January 1999 and worked as such till his elevation to the Bench. He was appointed as Judge of the Rajasthan High Court on 15th May 2006. He also worked as Acting Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court twice; from 7th April 2019 to 4th May 2019 and from 23rd September 2019 to 5th October 2019. He was also the Executive Chairman of the Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority and the Administrative Judge of the Rajasthan High Court before elevation as the Chief Justice. He was the Chief Justice of the High Court of Meghalaya from 13th November 2019 to 26th April 2020. Justice Mohammad Rafiq was administered the oath of office of the Chief Justice of Orissa High Court on 27th April 2020, on being transferred from the Meghalaya High Court. He was administered the oath of office of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on 3rd January 2021, on being transferred from the Orissa High Court.

The ceremony took place at the Darbar Hall of Raj Bhawan, where Chief Secretary Ram Subhag Singh conducted the proceedings of the oath ceremony and read out the notification issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Law and Justice regarding the transfer of Justice Mohammad Rafiq as Chief Justice of the HP High Court.

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HP Bypolls 2021: Bragta Doesn’t Withdraw Nomination, Remains Out of Sight Entire Day to Evade BJP Leadership

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chetan bragta's election symbol is apple

Shimla-Chetan Bragta, who has revolted against the Bharatiya Janata Party over denial of ticket to him, didn’t withdraw his nomination. October 13 was the last day for the withdrawal of nominations.  BJP leaders, who had been claiming that Bragta would withdraw his nomination, kept searching for him throughout the day but couldn’t find him or connect to him.

As per reports, Bragta had disappeared this morning to avoid BJP leaders and his mobile numbers were also switched off. However, Bragta posted a video on social media after the time for withdrawal of nomination ended. In this video, Bragta informed that the Election Commission has allotted “apple” as his election symbol. He also said that he would not step back and would fight the elections as an independent candidate.


The reports also said that BJP workers and leaders kept searching for Bragta in order to convince him to withdraw his nomination. However, the reports said, to avoid this pressure for withdrawal, he decided to disappear and switch off his mobile numbers.

Meanwhile, there are speculations that BJP is likely to expel him from the party. BJP, while denying him a ticket for the HP by polls 2021, had cited discouraging ‘dynastic politics’ as the reason. 

Pertinent to mention that BJP had denied a ticket to Chetan Braga – son of former MLA Narender Bragta- from the Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly seat that had fallen vacant after the demise of his father. The ticket was instead given to Neelam Seraik.

While the chances of Neelam’s victory already seems to be bleak, Chetan Bragta has further aggravated the tension for BJP. This rebellion could benefit Congress Candidate Rohit Thakur.

BJP had faced revolt on all three Assembly seats over denial of ticket. However, somehow it convinced the miffed leaders on Arki and Fatehpur Assembly seats to not file nominations as independent candidates. However, BJP failed to do so in the case of Chetan Bragta. BJP had been maintaining that there is no resistance to its selected candidates from within the party.

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