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Media aptly promoting Blue Whale in Himachal, flaunting all ethical guidelines

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Blue whale in himachal pradesh 1

Shimla: Researchers in the field of psychology have thrown significant light on the impact of news of suicide on other vulnerable people in the society. Based on researches, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also laid some guidelines that the journalist should keep in mind while reporting news related to suicide, especially those related to celebrities.

These guidelines are based on studies carried on Imitative suicidal behaviours as a response to reportage or portrayal of suicide in news or entertainment media.

However, media hardly cares for these ethics or guidelines to make it more sensational. The way of reporting is only fueling curiosity about this concept among teenagers, who are already prone to high-risk taking behavior.

For instance, in Bagadi village of Deha-Balsan region of Shimla district, a 10-years-old boy said to have ended his life on September 13. Parents found a paper on which the boy had reportedly left a suicide note. The note said “No one loves me”, therefore, “I am going away”.

The parents declined to file any police complaint and did not permit an autopsy.

So far there is no evidence of Blue Whale challenge. We are investigating the case,

said SP Shimla Soumya Sambasivan. However, she suspected involvement of the game. Therefore it is still a suspected case.

As per a report published by Hindustan Times, the father said his son was not well, and he had made a suicide attempt earlier too.

However, the news channels and some national Hindi Dailies have already confirmed that the boy killed himself after playing what called the Blue Whale game. Though this concept has nothing to do with a whale hunting something or someone, the Daily has dedicated a complete page suggesting a unique theory. With a sensational infographic showing a scary aquatic organism with a tortoise clutched between its jaws, the Daily referred to the game as a daring “challenge”. The scary creature shown in the infographic is not even real. Moreover, the daily has also published the suicide note.

Through boxes, the Daily narrated the same old story of how children fall victim to this game. The Daily went on to say that the child hanged himself as a punishment for failing to solve some puzzles given to him by the curator. However, there are no facts or evidence to support claims made in the theory.

Surprisingly, the police have seized a mobile that the boy was using but did not confirm the presence of any sign that the boy killed himself after playing the game.

There is no sign on the arm and no sign of self-mutilation on his body.

As per the report published by HT, the police said

It wasn’t possible for him to play the game. He did not have access to either internet or mobile phone for long. However, for the last few days, he used to play some game on the mobile phone of a carpenter working in their house.

The police said it is yet to investigate the case before it could confirm any relation of the suicide with the sinister game.

Cautions for media in reporting suicides

According to WHO, media plays a significant role in encouraging pre-existing suicidal tendencies in vulnerable individuals like those suffering from depression, emotional stress, or some sort of mental health problems. Other studies and experts in the field of psychology and psychiatry suggest that the extensive, prominent, sensationalist coverage including an explicit description of the method and spot of suicide cast a significant influence on vulnerable individuals.

Media reporting of suicide can lead to imitative suicidal behaviours. The imitation is more evident under some circumstances than others. It varies as a function of time, peaking within the first three days and leveling off by about two weeks, but sometimes lasting longer,

said the WHO report.

It is related to the amount and prominence of coverage, with repeated coverage and ‘high impact’ stories being most strongly associated with imitative behaviors

, it said.

At the same time media shares the responsibility of educating people, creating awareness regarding factors responsible for the majority of suicides like mental health, and encouraging vulnerable people to seek help and prevent suicides.

Cautions to be taken while reporting suicide

Some of the caution that journalists should take while reporting news related to suicide include:

  • To avoid language which sensationalizes or normalizes suicide or present it as a solution to problems
  • Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide
  • Avoid explicit description of the method used in a completed or attempted suicide
  • Avoid providing detailed information about the site of a completed or attempted suicide
  • Avoid using the word “suicide” in headlines
  • Exercise cautions in using photographs on video footage
  • Taking special caution in reporting celebrity suicides
  • Show due consideration for people bereaved by suicide
  • Provide information about where to seek help
  • Use of sources of reliable information

Suggested Read for Media Persons

Media persons could go through a study titled “The influence of suggestion on suicide: Substantive and theoretical implications of the Werther effect” published by Phillips DP in American Sociological Review in 1974.

He had conducted this seminal study to compare the number of suicides occurring in the months in which a front-page article on suicide appeared in the (US) press with the number occurring in the months in which no such article appeared.

Prevention of suicide in children
The best prevention here appears to be giving more time to your children, at least enough to observe changes in their behavior, if any. The advisories are asking parents to reach a counselor if they observe symptoms like isolation, withdrawal from routine activities, and a decrease in the time that their children used to spend with them or the appetite.

If a child is already an introvert, then it must be ensured that he gets more time from parents to express his emotions. A friendly relationship would help bridge the communication gap between the teens and their parents.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Marriage Between a Male And a Transwoman is a Valid Marriage

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Transgender marriage Valid in India says Cout

There are times when one feels proud to be a part of the legal profession, one such moment has come due to a recent judgment passed by a bench of the Madras High Court. The judgement was authored by J. G.R Swaminathan.

The High Court has recognized the marriage between a male and a transwoman. It has held that when both the partners are professing Hindu religion then the marriage is to be recognized under Section 5 of the Hindu marriage Act 1955, like any other Hindu marriage.

Though a path-breaking judgment, the Hon’ble Judges were humble enough to state that;

“By holding so, this court is not breaking any new ground. It is merely stating the obvious. Sometimes to see the obvious, one needs not only physical version in the eye but also love in the heart”

It so happened that Shri Arun Kumar got married to Miss Sarija in a temple as per Hindu rites and customs. The temples authorities though permitted the performance of marriage, but they declined to vouch for it or issue a certificate in this regard. When the parties approached the Government authorities for registration of marriage, the Authority also refused.

When the couple approached the High Court it was argued by the State Govt. that a ‘bride’ can only refer to ‘a woman on her wedding day’. Further they argued that the temple had rightly rejected the certificate as the bride wasn’t a ‘woman’.

The Court would have none of it. The court referred to the judgment on transgender rights in NALSA case and stated that the transgender person’s right to decide their self-identified gender has been upheld by the Apex Court already. The Court in the NALSA case noted that the existence of a third category outside the male/female binary has been recognized in the indigenous Hindu tradition from time immemorial.

Hon’ble High Court further stated that;

“Sex and gender are not one and the same. A persons’ sex is biologically determined at the time of birth. Not so in the case of gender. “

Transgender persons who are neither male/female fall within the expression person and hence are entitled to legal protection of laws.

The court also observed that often the state and its authorities either due to ignorance or otherwise, fail to recognize the identity of such persons or stop discrimination which they are made to face in the society. For too long transgender’s have been made to languish in the margins.

It said

“A person who is in the Third Category is entitled to remain beyond the duality of male/female or opt to identify oneself as male or female. It is entirely the choice of the individual concerned.”

The Court further directed the Tamil Nadu government to issue a Government Order to uphold the NALSA judgment and to “effectively ban sex reassignment surgeries on intersex infants and children.”

The Court also noted that the state should undertake awareness programmes to de-stigmatize the birth of intersex children.

“The parents must be encouraged to feel that the birth of an intersex child is not a matter of embarrassment or shame. It lies in the hands of the Government to launch a sustained awareness campaign in this regard.“

The stand of the court is applaudable and takes our commitment to the constitution further. The dignity of human life, one’s privacy, one’s right of a life partner is a basic part of an individual’s personal autonomy. This autonomy is guaranteed by the constitution, this autonomy is what we fought for in our freedom struggle. This autonomy cannot be made a plaything of the narrow-minded society, government, and political parties which come and go. The judiciary is the only institution which can be a custodian of this autonomy and a protector of the dignity of people in face of such societal, cultural and even governmental imposed discriminations.

A transwoman is a person and she enjoys equal rights. Her self-determination to find a partner and her expression to identify her gender as that of a woman is protected and is guaranteed the same recognition which is enjoyed by a male or a female (person) of the society.

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Group of Youth Try Cleaning Part of Shimla’s Jakhu Hill, Finds More Garbage Than Expected

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Trek A Tribe Cleanliness Driver in Shimla

Shimla-Every year on April 15, Himachal Day is celebrated to mark the day when Himachal Pradesh, among other 30 princely states, came into being as a centrally administered territory. Since the inception of this state, the people throughout the world have admired Himachal Pradesh owing to its tall standing mountains, forests, nature, adventurous trekking trails and the peace and serenity it offers.

However, during the last decade, this love and admiration from tourists have turned into filth and carelessness. Rivers and forests alike have been polluted by broken beer bottles, single-use plastic cups, water bottles, wrappers of crisps and biscuit. Not only do they harm the soil, but also poses a threat to the lives of animals like cows and dogs, who consume littered plastic, causing them extreme physical ailments.

The menace of littering continues despite the claims of the civic bodies as well as the government of India that Swachh Bharat has almost eradicated this ill practice.

As an initiative Trek A Tribe, a tours and travels company, organized a cleanliness drive at Shimla on April 15, 2019 to celebrate Himachal Day. Total 18 youth participated in the cleanliness campaign. As per this team, the campaign began from Sheeshe Wali Kothi and was supposed to end at Jakhu Temple. But they had to abandon their plan of going till the top since the amount of waste was much more than these youth had expected.

Just the starting point consumed over four hours of their drive. We collected 35 bags of garbage at the starting point of their drive,

the team said.

Most of the trash is the plastic left behind by youth who come to the forest to drink and eat, causing harm to the environment,

the team said.

The end solution, however, does not lay in repetitive cleanliness drives, but in the conscious awareness of the people. They should be aware enough to not leave their trash behind, it said.  

These cleanliness drives, the team said, do help in cleaning the surroundings but they do not solve the purpose if the people keep littering the same place over and again. The team said that the purpose of its cleanliness drive was also to raise awareness among the people by initiating a dialogue towards the protection of the environment. This drive urged people to raise voice against plastic pollution and to lead their lives more consciously. They need a more aware lifestyle.

The Municipal Corporation, Shimla, provided transportation and disposal facility for the garbage collected by these youth.

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Now, Himachal’s Private Schools Warn Govt of Protest, Term Ongoing Inspections Wrongful

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Himachal's Private Schools Inspection Report

Shimla-Under immense pressure from parents, who have been protesting for last one and half month, private schools in Himachal Pradesh are finally undergoing inspections from April 9, 2019.  As per reports, the committees formed by the Directorate of Higher Education, H.P., inspected dozens of schools in Shimla and took records related to fees charged during last three years, salaries of staff, number of students, facilities, qualification of teachers, expenditure on school etc. into possession.

Though the Department did not comment about these schools officially, the inspected schools of Shimla included St. Edwards, DAV Lakkar Bazaar, Dayanand Public School, Auckland House, St. Thomas, Convent of Jesus and Mary, Secret Heart Dhalli, DAV Totu, Mount Shivalik in Jubbarhatti, Rising High etc. There are over 150 private schools running in Shimla.

Internal sources from some of these schools, on the condition of anonymity, told Himachal Watcher that committees are executing directions of the Directorate strictly. The officials are not soft on the management. It has created a stir among these schools.

By issuing a notification, on April 8, 2019, the Directorate had formed committees and had asked them to file a report of private schools running in District Headquarters by April 13. However, inspections still continue and the Directorate has not received reports of all schools yet. The report of schools in subdivisions and others is expected by April 22.

As per the student-parent forum, total 1472 private schools are currently running in the State. Further course of action would be decided only after the data of all schools is available, the Director Dr Amarjeet Kumar Sharma  had told media.

Similarly, at least six teams were constituted for inspection of over 180 private schools in Kullu district. Reports from Bilaspur said there are over 80 private schools in Bilaspur and 20 percent of them had not provided data that the Directorate had sought two months ago. It is expected that now these schools would be made to comply with the orders strictly.

It’s pertinent to mention that the Directorate had asked schools to submit various data related to their fee structure, annual hikes, audit reports, funds etc. However, a large number of schools had not responded to it. Moreover, the Government appeared reluctant to take action for this non-compliance. But now the pressure from protesting parents now compelled it to take action.

Private Schools Terms Govt Inspections Wrongful

Reports from Mandi said that managements of several private schools expressed their anguish over allegations labelled by the student-parent forum. In a meeting with authorities of the Education Department, they claimed that annual fee hikes are not as high as alleged by the forum.  The schools said it’s absolutely wrong to term them as looters. Justifying annual hikes, they said that in order to provide facilities to students and to hike salaries of teachers every year, it becomes unavoidable to make hikes in school fees and funds.

Association of Private Schools in the State has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister and warned that they would stage a protest at the Directorate of Higher Education, Shimla, if these inspections weren’t stopped. 

The Association alleged that the government did not provide them with any aid despite fulfilling criteria of reserving 25 percent seats for poorer section of society.

The Association argued that the government’s interference in deciding fees of these schools is unwanted and wrongful as they do not receive any funds. They also argued that parents send their children to private schools willingly.

The Association asked that if the schools are not running as per the government rules, then how they obtain renewable every year. The Association termed this action as a haphazard response to the protest of the student-parent forum. 

Management or owners of these schools termed it a favor to the society to make quality education accessible to them through private institutes.

Schools Targeting, Mentally Harassing Children: Student-Parent Forum

On Friday, the forum alleged that a reputed private school based in Khalini of Shimla targeted children of those parents who had participated in the protest held on April 8.  The convener of the parents’ forum Vijender Mehra alleged that children complained to their parents that they were threatened in the classroom. The forum demands that action should be taken against this school under the Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act 2005.  Also, it violates rights and protections given to children under Article 39(f) of the Constitution.

 Mehra, who had been leading back-to-back protests against various schools and the Education Department, terms it a victory of the parents who came together to protest. He expects that now parents would receive some relief.

The forum is demanding that the Department should ensure solid action at the ground level.  The forum has warned of more protests if the government tried to manipulate the situation to protect private schools.

Enrolling children to private schools is a huge financial burden on parents.  Deteriorating quality of education being provided in government schools has facilitated the monopoly of private schools. The people do not trust government schools when it comes to education and the future of their children. The government’s will to improve academic standards in public schools is absent. At the same time, the government had been avoiding regulation of private institutes in the State.

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