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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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Covid Restrictions in Himachal Extended Till Jan 31st, State Reports 11 Deaths in 24 Hours

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Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh 2022

Shimla-Covid-19 restrictions in Himachal Pradesh has been extended till January 31, 2022. Currently, the state is witnessing a sharp spike in daily Covid-19 cases and deaths. Today, despite a low sampling of 7896, the State reported 1766 new cases and 11 Covid-related deaths. During the last eight days,  the State has recorded over 50 deaths due to Covid-19.

The deceased included a 2-year-old female child too. Shimla district reported the highest five deaths. The Covid death toll in the state had risen to 3927 according to the latest update. But the State did not impose any new restrictions, like on the entry of visitors and curtailing capacity of public transport. Further, during the last 24 hours, Shimla, Solan, and Kangra districts reported more than 250 cases each. 

Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh extended

 A notification in this regard was issued by the Government of Himachal Pradesh (Revenue Department – Disaster Management Cell) on Monday. 

“Taking note of the present situation of Covid-19 in the State, the restrictions announced on January 5th, 8th, 9th, and 13th will continue to remain in effect till 6 am of 31st January 2022,” the notification said.

Programs scheduled on the occasion of Himachal Pradesh Statehood Day ( 25th January) and Republic Day (26th January) would be held on the condition of 50% capacity of indoor/outdoor spaces.

The educational institutes, including ITI, polytechnic colleges, and coaching institutes, would remain closed. Online classes, however, would continue in schools.

With the ongoing surge in daily cases and deaths, more restrictions could be in stock.

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Mandi Hooch Case: Political Storm Over Arrest and Expulsion of Hamirpur Congress Leader

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Hamipur district congress neeraj thakur

Mandi-On Sunday, the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee expelled General Secretary of the Hamirpur District Congress Committee following his arrest from Chandigarh in alleged connection with the Mandi hooch case.

It’s pertinent to mention that last week seven persons had lost their lives in two days and eight others are still hospitalized due to consumption of spurious liquor in Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, Mandi district. Following this tragedy, a police SIT was formed, various places were raided, seizures of incriminating materials were made, several persons were arrested. So far, the police have arrested 13 persons in this connection and more arrests could be made as the SIT unfolds layers of people involved.

Neeraj Thakur, who was said to have risen to a political leader from a salesman at a liquor shop, had created an empire for himself allegedly from the illicit trade of spurious liquor. The worth of his properties and assets is being assessed, but the initial reports suggested his assets were disproportionate to his income. Now every political leader he was in contact with is under the scanner of the police SIT.

Also Read: Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

According to Superintendent of Police, Mandi, Shalini Agnihotri, on Sunday, police detained Praveen Thakur, who is a resident of Hamirpur, two persons, identified as Sunny and Pushpender of Uttar Pradesh, AK Tripathi of Jammu and Kashmir, and Sagar Saini of Delhi. The police have claimed that it has also apprehended the kingpin.

The state Congress chief and the opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri who had been issuing statements holding the BJP government responsible for the Mandi hooch tragedy is on backfoot following the expulsion of Neeraj. At the same time, the failure of the state Excise and Taxation Department in checking this flourishing illicit trade of spurious liquor right under its nose is also evident.

State BJP general secretary Trilok Jamwal, State BJP spokesperson Baldev Tomar and co-media-in-charge Karan Nadda on Sunday issued statements referring to the expulsion of Neeraj as evidence that the Congress leaders were involved in, as well as, patron of liquor mafia in the State.

Further, with elections to the Shimla Municipal Corporation and elections to the state Assembly later this year, this issue has turned into a political storm.  

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor.

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Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

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mandi liquor hooch case

Mandi-Mandi hooch case has brought shocking facts to light. An organized illicit liquor trade flourished in a village of Hamirpur district right under the nose of the Excise and Taxation Department and the police. It wasn’t a minor business but had inter-state links too. Named ‘Rainbow Café, a factory was operating in a building in a village of the district.

According to the initial police investigation, it was believed the deaths were caused by either improper mixing of the ingredients, or because a part of the spirit procured for the production of liquor may be impure and contained methyl alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol.

It raises another crucial question; can such an organized, large scale illicit business flourish without political patronage? 

Shaken by the death of seven persons due to consumption of spurious liquor in the Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, the State Police formed a Special Investigating Team to investigate the case. According to the police, as the scope of the investigation had expanded, the state police included Arjit Sen (SP Una), Mohit Chawla (SP Baddi), Arvind Digvijay Negi, ASP Kangra and Yogesh Rolta (SDPO Parwanoo) in the SIT.

The police raided different places in different districts, collected evidence and seized a large amount of incriminating material.

The police had nabbed four persons in this connection. On Saturday, the Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, held a press conference and claimed to have busted the illicit liquor business by arresting the prime suspect who was identified as Narender alias Kalu – a resident of village Maloh in the district. He was on the run following the deaths.

During the questioning, Kalu revealed that the main supplier of this illicit liquor consignment was one Gaurav Manhas alias Goru of Palampur. A police team traced his location and apprehended him from a hotel in Zirkpur on Friday.

On being questioned by the SIT, it was found that Goru belonged to the Panchrukhi area of Kangra. According to the police investigation, Goru was running an illicit bottling unit at Hamirpur in collusion with Praveen Thakur. It was also revealed that the raw material for production and packaging was received from other persons belonging to different states.

One Sagar Saini, who belonged to Delhi, supplied the spirit drums and AK Tripathi, who hailed from Samba, Jammu and Kashmir, provided the formula, the police said.

Further, it was revealed that the bottling unit in Hamirpur was run by two persons who belonged to Uttar Pradesh. The duo was responsible for mixing ingredients for the manufacture of liquor. Empty bottles were procured from ‘kabaddi’ in Hamirpur and bottles, caps, boxes and cartons were supplied from Parwanoo. VRV Santra stickers were created by a graphic designer.

Following Seizures Were Made from Hamirpur

1. More than 6000 bottles filled with illicit liquor labelled as “VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”,
2. five plastic tanks (300 Its each),
3. seven boxes containing bottle caps marked “VRV foods Ltd.”,
4. nine plastic drums (50. Its each),
5. one carton containing 136 strips of labels marked “Santra, VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”
6. 124 sheets containing more than 2500 holograms,
7. 18 plastic tag rolls marked VRV Foods,
8. one carton containing four bottles (500 ml each)
9. one jerry cans (5 Its) containing flavour,
10. three aluminium katchhhi, two bottle sealing machines,
11. one plastic jerry can filled with coloring material for the illicit liquor,
12. 56 plastic bags filled with more than 2500 empty bottles,
13. more than 2000 empty cartons marked “VRV Foods Ltd”,
14. one bottle filling machine,
15. seven stamps marked with impression of Batch No. 61, 62 and 361; 33 distilled water plastic containers (20 Its each)

These items were seized from the illegal premises busted at Panyala village, Hamirpur. The premises was marked as “Rainbow Café”.

At the instance accused Goru, another bottling plant was located under Station Nalagarh which was subsequently raided by police in Baddi.

The suppliers of holograms, labels, cartons, used bottles, spirit, bottles caps and material for the illicit production have been identified and apprehended during searches in the neighbouring districts Kangra, Solan, Hamirpur.

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor. The racket included the following major partners:

1. Gaurav Manhas alias Goru (kingpin),
2. Praveen (owner of the building used as an illegal bottling plant)
3. Pushpender and Sunny (workers in the plant)
4. Manu and Gagan (prime suspects in Nalagarh case)

The DGP said that further investigation is underway and a clearer picture will emerge after the collection of evidence and interrogation of all accused.

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