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Firecracker Ban: Why BJP leaders backing up Air Pollution over Swaccha Bharat?

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Firecracker ban in India

While it is certain that the sulphur dioxide does not discriminate between Hindu, Muslim or Christian lungs, the BJP leaders think that the court is taking anti-Hindu decisions and snatching the rights of 85 percent Hindu population to celebrate Diwali.

Shimla: The Supreme Court’s order of imposing ban on the sale on the firecrackers in the Delhi  will be just for the sake of records. There would be no such thing as pollution free Diwali in reality.  As per sources, the Firecrackers’ Association had already stocked huge stock of crackers from last year.

About 50 lakh kg is available at the outskirts of the NCR, and 1 lakh kg in Delhi, said sources.

The traders have already sold huge amount of stocks, which means people have already bought firecrackers.  Secondly, an illegal massive fresh stock is already inside Delhi NCR.

At the same time, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) is demanding a compensation for the loss of stocks worth Rs. 500 crore. The traders are arguing that it was an error on the part of the administration and the court.

The indecisiveness and ambiguity of the court is costing the firecracker traders. One court imposed a ban on firecrackers in November 2016 following the Diwali disaster. Then, in September 2017, the court stayed the ban. The rejoiced dealers obtained licenses and stocked up their shops and godowns. Just 10 days ahead of Diwali, the Supreme Court again changes its mind and extends the ban upto November 1, 2017.

What do the traders are supposed to do with the stock they have already bought? The disgruntlement among traders is logical.

At the same time, some leaders of Bhartiya Janata Party and popular personalities like Chetan Bhagat have openly come out to oppose the orders of the Supreme Court regarding upholding the temporary ban imposed on the sale of the crackers.

However, they are not opposing the order for the traders are in distress. The party has its own agenda.

We are quite confused because theoretically, BJP has been promoting Swaccha Bharat campaign quite vigorously.

Is Swaccha Bharat limited to only solid waste disposal and littering? Isn’t the air pollution associated with climate change or public health?

While it is certain that the sulphur dioxide does not discriminate between Hindu, Muslim or Christian lungs, the BJP leaders think that the court is taking anti-Hindu decisions and snatching the rights of 85 percent Hindu population to celebrate Diwali.

Does the ruling party lacks even common sense?

As a protest, Tajinder Bagga, BJP Spokesperson, Delhi unit, has announced that he will distribute firecrackers worth lakhs to children living in the slums. He justified that the court has banned the sale and not bursting crackers. In fact, he has received donations for this purpose despite court orders.

A BJP leader in Madhya Pradesh invited people to come to his state and celebrate Diwali with firecrackers, without worrying about any sort of restriction.

Officially, the party has not uttered a word against the SC order, but several leaders have made the collective opinion of the Hindutva camp clear. It never occurred to this camp that the right to life is more important than our right to religion.

But BJP camp didn’t hesitate to make the ban a communal issue.

Actually, the Supreme Court of India should have banned firecrackers in all states of India and for all occasions relating to every religion, let it be Dusshera, Diwali, Christmas, Eid or Guru Nanak Jayanti.

In fact, the state High Courts should use the reference of the SC orders to do the same in their respective states. There should be no ambiguity about the matter that pertains to environmental degradation and health hazard to masses.

The ban has nothing to do with religion. Does it? Is not about the rights of one religious community or the right to celebrate Diwali?

We don’t need higher education to understand that air pollution is a real phenomenon and that the most of the Indian cities can’t take any more of our nuisance, utter disregard, and apathy towards the precious eco-system.

What had happened to Delhi during last Diwali was horrifying. The level of the particulate matter (PM.25) had reached an alarming level. The city was doomed for several weeks following the air pollution caused on Diwali.

Moreover, the ban has been imposed only on the sale of the firecrackers, not busting them.

It is not that the Delhi-NCR has arrived at this stage in one single year or due to just bursting of firecrackers on a single evening. The foundation of air pollution was laid gradually and the noose is now tightened. There are several other aspects related to air pollution like industries, vehicular emissions, burning of garbage etc.

Most of all, the government and administrations are ought to deal with the issue of air pollution due to firecracker busting in phases. We need to obtain the trust of masses through effective awareness campaigns. Without the co-operation of the public, the efforts of the court are in vain.

For instance, no one is following the ban imposed by the court on the burning of crop residues like stubble in Punjab and Haryana. There is no surprise that the ban didn’t work because the government didn’t provide even a single alternative to the farmers to dispose of the crop residues.

Farmers always need to remove the stubble to pave way for the next crop. What does the government suppose the farmers to do with the residues?

The point is that the public also needs to realize the consequences of creating excess air pollution.

Children are most excited about firecrackers, but their level of awareness and concern for the environment need to be elevated gradually.

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Rs. 1 Crore to HP Police Department for PPE and N95 Masks

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HP Police PPE kits and masks

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government on Saturday sanctioned rupees one crore (Rs. 50 lakhs from HP COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and Rs. 50 lakhs from State Disaster Response Fund) to Police Department for purchase of high-risk Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and N-95 masks for police personnel of the State in the wake of pandemic COVID-19.

HPSEB Contributed 1.97 crore Towards Chief Minister Relief Fund

On behalf of officers and officials of H.P. State Electricity Board Limited, the Chairman of the Board, Ram Subhag Singh, contributed Rs. 1.97 crore towards Chief Minister Relief Fund on Saturday.

Chief Minister again made a fervent appeal to the people for the generous donation towards this Fund so that needy people could be benefited.

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17 People of Himachal Visited COVID-19 Hotspot Nizamuddin in Delhi: HP Govt

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Himachali's at Nizamuddin, Delhi

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government on Tuesday confirmed that as many as 17 people of the State were on the religious congregation at Delhi Nijamuddeen. All of them are under 14 days surveillance of Delhi Government at New Delhi and till now they have no symptoms of COVID-19.

These persons belong to Chamba, Sirmaur, and Kullu districts.

This large religious gathering at Delhi’s Nizamuddin has emerged as a virus hotspot with links to seven COVID-19 deaths. Among those who had attended the gathering, 50 have tested positive in Tamil Nadu, 24 in Delhi, 21 in Telangana, 18 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Andamans and one each in Assam and Kashmir after attending the gathering. 

Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) shared details of foreign and Indian Tabhlig Jamaat (TJ) workers in India with all States on March 21, 2020, after COVID-19 positive cases among these workers surfaced in Telangana.

All the Tabligh Jamaat workers staying at Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz are being medically screened since March 26. So far, 1203 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been medically screened.  Over 300 of them had symptoms of COVID-19 and were referred to different hospitals in Delhi.

Various nationals, particularly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan had come for Tabligh activities.

Meanwhile, So far, 1339 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been shifted to Narela, Sultanpuri and Bakkarwala quarantine facilities as well as to LNJP, RGSS, GTB, DDU Hospitals and AllMS, Jhajjar. Rest of them are being currently medically screened for COVID-19 infections. No new case has been reported in Himachal. 

Usually, all the foreign nationals visiting India as a part of Tabligh team come on the strength of a tourist visa. MHA had already issued guidelines that they should not indulge in missionary work on a tourist visa. State Police would be examining categories of visas of all these foreign TJ workers and take further action in case of violation of visa conditions.

BACKGROUND

Tabligh Jamaat Headquarter (Markaz) is located in Nizamuddin, Delhi. Devout Muslims from across the country and also from foreign countries visit the Markaz for religious purpose. Some also move out in groups to different parts of the country for Tabligh activities. This is a continuous process throughout the year.

On March 21, approximately 824 foreign Tabligh Jamaat workers were in different parts of the country for missionary work. Besides, around 216 foreign nationals were staying in the Markaz. Besides, over 1500 Indian TJ workers were also staying in the Markaz while around 2100 Indian TJ workers were touring different parts of the country for missionary work. Since March 23, the lockdown has been strictly imposed by State authorities/police across Delhi including in and around Nizamuddin and Tabligh work came to a halt.

As of now, nearly 1400 confirmed cases and 35 deaths have been reported. During the last 24 hours, 227 new confirmed cases and 3 new deaths have been reported.

 

 

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Pandemic – ‘Nationwide Lock-down’ A Tale of Caution & Hope

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Curfew Relaxation in Himachal Pradesh 3

Shimla-It’s for the first time in the history of our planet that the entire Humankind is together and is focused on fighting with one problem.

In India, from many days Doctors have been coming out and demanding a nationwide lockdown fearing the wrath of the virus which has been raging hell all across the world. The State has now responded and has ordered a 21-day lockdown for the entire nation, which is an unprecedented move.

The Lockdown is an extreme step which is demanded by these extraordinary circumstances. And as expected it has and will continue to have a huge impact on the economic health of the country. It has paralysed virtually all commerce and has put millions of people out of work, leaving many struggling with basic requirements like food and medicines. This has caused much debate in the media and elsewhere that whether we are ‘over-reacting’ to the coronavirus outbreak?

In this post, the author argues that the present step of a ‘National Lockdown’ is the most efficient and only available first response which the Government could have taken to tackle the immediate and ongoing existential crisis.

The viability of measures is to be seen through the lens of precaution and what might be the risk to reward outcome of the decision. The ‘precautionary principle’ which has had its evolution through various judgments of our Supreme Court ultimately boils down to an understanding that “if one is bound to err then always err on the side of minimising the risk and the scale of catastrophic harm than to take high-risk measures for immediate gains”.

The question which has arisen for consideration is,  ‘what is at stake by acting too strongly versus what is at stake by acting too weakly?.

The answer, when we think about it with any seriousness, is that too strong action will more quickly reduce wealth and economic activity; whereas too weak action could put crores of lives at stake across the country, and a far greater economic impact will await us down the line.

It is here then that the value judgments behind political decisions about pandemics come into full light. Are we willing to risk economic potency, or are we willing to risk our neighbours, friends, and elders’ lives? The United States and the United Kingdom who have not still imposed a complete nationwide lockdown and are also planning to lift the partial lockdown at the time of Easter (as announced by President Trump) have obviously given a very feeble response and have given considerable weightage to their economy rather than their people. India has chosen to completely focus on its people.

Precautionary Principle 

The Global pandemic and nature of this virus is a powerful reason for aggressively employing the Precautionary Principle to reduce our collective exposure to this deadly virus, an exposure which is grave.

It is hoped that a strong regulatory action which includes measures of forced quarantine, curfew and nation-wide lockdowns, (reduction of public transport/movement/contact) throughout the country would go some way towards lowering contagion even if not completely getting rid of it.

The basic point is that we need to consider the viability of measures through the lens of precaution, and always err on the side of minimising the risk and scale of catastrophic harm. We should be willing to make huge economic sacrifices. So that many of our fellow citizens don’t have their very lives sacrificed at the altar of ‘economic growth’.

The individual choices that we are all facing over the coming months should also be shaped by precaution. We need to be aware that passing this virus to others can create huge contagion cascades that infect thousands of people. It is only by taking pronounced physical distancing steps as early on as possible can we ensure that we are not fueling the wildfire of this pandemic. For many, this may mean a lonely few months, but that is by far a worthwhile price to pay to reduce the scale of this catastrophe.

A Caution- Listen to The Cry of the Poor and Homeless

Though the step by the Government of Lock-down is commendable, there are certain extremely important issues to be kept in mind.

Our country is home to the largest undernourished population in the world. It ranks 102 in the Global Hunger Index, has 1 in 5 people living on less than Rs.150 per day. We have the largest number of street children!

We need an Economic Task Force and a distribution strategy for the supply of essential commodities to the needy.

With the massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the country, there is a *huge and urgent* need of ration and other supplies for daily wage workers, workers in the informal sector as well as masks for doctors and nurses at the frontline.

There have been some announcements which have been made by the State to tackle the above situation such as:

  •  Pradhanmantri Garib Kalyan Yojana – Rs. 1,70,000 crore (Rs. 1.7 trillion) package for poor stuck in lockdown Rs. 50 lakhs insurance cover for health workers in Covid 2019 front.
  •  Pradhanmantri Ann Yojana – 800 Mn people will get additional free 5 kg wheat/Rice and 1 kg, Dal, for 3 months from ration
  • Farmers will get upfront Rs. 2,000 in their account directly
  •  MNREGA – Daily wages increased from Rs. 182 to Rs. 202. Rs 2,000 per worker will be an additional income.
  •  Old Age peoples – Poor senior citizen/widow / handicapped will get additional Rs. 1,000/pm for another 3 months.
  • Mahila Jan Dhan Account – Women will get additional Rs. 500/pm for another 3 months
  • Ujjwala Yojana – Below Poverty Level family will get free LPG cylinder for next 3 months
  •  Up to 20 lakh collateral-free loans for the SHGs from earlier 10 lakh crore cap
  • For organised sector employee and others who earn below Rs. 15,000 salary, Government will pay 12% + 12% provident fund (contribution of employee and employer) under EPF for the next 3 months.
  • EPFO regulations will be amended to allow workers under EPFO to draw up to 75% of their non-refundable advance or 3 months of wages, whichever is lower.
  •  State governments to be directed to utilise an existing Rs 31,000 crore welfare fund for the benefit for 3.5 crore construction workers

Hope & Love

Hope now is that the underprivileged will continue to receive help not only from the Government but also from the super-rich and the various religious institutions that India is so infested by and is proud of. If there was any time for religious institutions to shine this is exactly that time.

We live in a world where infinite money is printed to support corporations and banks and millions are donated to ‘Gods and Godmen’, at the same time nakedly excluding the millions homeless, who are left scrounging for their next meal. India can break this vicious cycle and take steps here out of compassion and empathy. India, the oldest civilization of the world can lead the world and show the light of ‘reason & love’ in its civilized response to the present existential crisis.

There is nothing we can do to change the constraints of our existence. Heartbreak and death await us all one day. As  Albert Camus once said;

 Love is not just a confrontation with the absurdity of the world; it is a refusal to be broken by it.  It is our choice whether we shrink from the slings and arrows of fate, or whether we stand in the full light of the sun while it shines above us.

India! its time to stand at a “physical distance” but stand Together.

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