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Credit for zero-emission e-buses in Himachal goes to NGT, not the minister

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HRTC Electric Buses

The actual credit clearly goes to the the National Green Tribunal that cracked the whip on the government for doing nothing for the environmental protection. 

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh became the first state to commission 100 percent battery-powered electric buses in public transport sector when Transport Minister GS Bali flagged off the first bus on September 22.  

However, it was on Thursday, November 14, that two of the newly commissioned electric buses on Manali-Rohtang Pass stretch begun ferrying passengers on a regular basis. The HRTC is charging Rs. 600 per seat for two-way trip starting from Manali to the Rohtang snowline.

India doesn’t have even a single manufacture in the field of electric public transport. Hence, the electric buses are manufactured in a tie-up with Chinese firm BYD Auto Industry Co Ltd. Each bus costs 1.70 crore and Himachal has bought 25 of them and plans to buy 25 more. The Central funding is covering 90 percent of the expenditure.

electric-bus-shimla

The bus model is called Goldstone eBuzz K7 that runs on a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery. This bus offers a 200 kms ride in a single charge. It requires a charging station and hours of time for recharging.

It is a commendable feat to run electric buses at an altitude of 3,978 m (13,050 ft).

It is natural that Mr. Bali would claim credit for it. He said it were the vision and efforts of the government to protect the environment which made it possible.

The actual credit clearly goes to the the National Green Tribunal that cracked the whip on the government for doing nothing for the environmental protection. It is this lash that the government fears, not the environmental degradation.

It was a compulsion for the government as the NGT had left no option for the government except choosing between CNG or electric buses.

This episode had begun in 2014 when the NGT took cognizance of the rise in receding rate of glacier in vicinity of Rohtang Pass due to increase in air pollution.

The Tribunal had asked the government about its strategy and measures to protect the glaciers from rising emissions. The NGT was enraged over the silence of the government.

There is no element of surprise in the fact that the government has always been extremely lenient towards environmental violations. The government or the minister hardly had any vision or will to conceive and implement zero-emission strategy.

Talking of vision, the cab drivers of the Him-Anchal Taxi Union of Manali, on Friday, Nov 17, did not let the newly commissioned electric bus go beyond Gulaba as a protest against this initiative.

They argued that the government is following separate norms for private cabs and HRTC buses. While entry of cabs was prohibited, the electric buses were still carrying tourists, they said.

They said the restriction on ‘fossil fuel vehicles’ and commissioning of electric buses have hit their livelihood.

It is the lack of a vision that has brought the State and its people to a contradictory situation where cab driver facing loss.

A single electric bus can carry 30 passengers excluding the driver. The HRTC has planned more buses on this route from the next season.

The electric mode of public transport is a better deal for tourists as compared to hefty amount charged by the local cabs. The income of the HRTC will definitely grow and the roads will be less crowded when the public transport is available on a cheaper rate.

Currently, the NGT has allowed only 1200 vehicles (800 petrol and 400 dieses) per day.  Rohtang has a heavy footfall of tourists with thousands of them pouring in everyday. Clearly, along with environmental protection, this deal has other benefits too.

The government, however, failed to compensate its effects on the livelihood of the locals. The NGT caught the government off  guard because it hardly bothered to aware the taxi unions about the rising vehicular emission and its negative impact on the very beauty that attracts tourists.

Moreover, if our visionary leaders could use their vision a decade ago, this initiative could have been implemented gradually along with working on a solution for the locals employed in hospitality industry.

Isn’t it expected from our elected ministers to contemplate over the possible solutions?

Earlier, the electric buses or CNG were not feasible, but the lash of the Tribunal made it completely feasible.

The cab drivers should have been offered CNG kits on subsidized rates along with gradually working on the infrastructural needs too.

The Central government paid 90 percent of the cost for the electric buses,  so the state government could have pitched it as a solution long ago.

Other arguments to support the fact that environmental protection was never on the mind of our leaders include rampart illegal mining, illegal tree felling, dumping and illegal construction.

The best example would be the death of the forest guard under mysterious circumstances in the forests of the Karsog division in Mandi district and the revelations made by him about the nexus of the forest department and the forest mafia.  The local police a shoddy investigation work, therefore, the State High Court ordered a inquiry by the Central Investigation Bureau. 

Instead, the government has switched to the denial mode after facing protest from the locals who lost livelihood  due to the ban imposed by the NGT on entry of vehicles into Rohtang.

The Municipal Commission of Shimla is regularly burning daily solid waste in open despite learning about the emergency in New Delhi due to heavy smog.  

The new Mayor is not even in the scene right now. Most of the time, she was seen holding her party flag. The city has been abandoned by SMC.

Politics and wealth are the only two thing that matters here. 

Nobody cared about the illegal and unscientific construction even in the capital city. Today, the urban part of our beloved queen of the hills – Shimla is in a miserable and helpless condition.

While such evils like encroachment and illegal construction should have been nipped in the bud, the State government formed a retention policy to legalise them.

The State High Court had rebuked the government for such an undemocratic and discriminate attitude towards the honest people. The court had told government that such steps are no less than a state of non-governance.

Last week, the NGT came to the rescue of Himachal and ordered restriction on construction within 3 kms of National Highways and green areas. (We would discuss the NGT’s detailed judgement in a separate article.)  

Further, from the prevailing threat on Shimla-Chandigarh four-lane, the results of an unscientific excavation should be clearly visible to anyone who cares to ponder over it.  During this monsoon, debris and loose rocks kept rolling down due to which two lanes had to be closed for the traffic. Some of the spots have now become landslide prone.

A week ago, residents of the Devdhar village in Kharal valley of Kullu district alleged that the walls of their houses have developed cracks due to a haphazard excavation for the four-laning.

The sale of pollution certificates is not hidden from anyone. We still have visibly polluting HRTC and privates buses on roads.

The dust arising from haphazard construction sites and poorly maintained roads is complementing air pollution.  Did anyone ever heard the administration talking about the dust pollution or visual pollution?

During the election to the State Legislative Assembly, the High Court had issued special directions to the candidates to refrain from defacing public property for their campaign. No one listened to the court. Furious over this contempt, the court ordered action against all the candidates contesting from Shimla (U), Shimla (R) and Kasumpti constituency for defacing public property with their campaigning material.

If the environmental protections is not in the minds of these candidates, then they are not qualified to represent the people.

Even the illiterate tribal people know more about maintaining harmony with the nature and share the resources with all living beings instead of looting them all for their greed. 

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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Ruling Govt taking cover of Congress misdeeds to justify Karnataka episode

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https://himachalwatcher.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Karnatak-governor-decision.jpg

Shimla: Congress party in Himachal Pradesh today staged a protest against the capricious decision of the Governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Vala, to invite Bhartiya Janata Party to form Government despite the written statement of Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) alliance claiming a clear majority. It has created a constitutional controversy.

If that was not enough, Yeddyurappa swore as the Chief Minister without proving a majority and had even announced waiver of all farm loans of up to Rs 100,000. Governor even appointed the BJP’s K G Bopaiah as pro-tem speaker.

This action of Governor has shattered the belief of those who honoured the constitution and political ethics.

A valid point that the Congress has raised here is that the ruling government did not play by the same rule in Manipur elections. In the 2017 elections, Congress won 28 seats in the 60 member House, BJP had managed to win 21 seats. However, governor Najma Heptulla invited the BJP leaders to form the government and denied Congress a chance to form the ministry.

What’s the biggest security a common man has in a democracy like India? It’s the constitution. This single weapon can set the entire country back on track if the people knew how to use it.

Anyway, politicians are taking care of it for you now. The ruling government has just over-rode the constitution, which is going unnoticed because the majority of the public has no idea about the business going on at the top level of governance.

In the present case, the Supreme Court of India intervened and overruled Governor Vajubhai and asked B S Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the assembly at 4 pm on Saturday. Otherwise, the Governor had given BJP 15 days for horse trading. The Supreme Court only followed the constitution. The court has also proved the decision was unconstitutional.

It is not that opposition parties have always played fair, but the ruling party is taking unfairness to the next level.

There are only three ways in which BJP can form a government in Karnataka: by convincing elected lawmakers of Congress or JD (S) to resign or make them disappear today before floor test or create defection through horse-trading. Sadly, the Governor listened to the high-command and opted to be part of this game.

Another ironical fact is that BJP is trying to counter the resistance to its game plan by referring to Congress’s decades-old controversial decisions like the emergency imposed in 1975 and taking down BJP governments in four states including Himachal using tactics of defection. This is what the Spokesperson of BJP in Himachal, Shashi Datt Sharma said in a press statement on Friday.

The BJP followers are saying that the party is taking revenge from Congress.

Sharma alleged that Congress has always used politics of repression and at the same time the party is adopting the same tactic.

Why is the ruling government criticising as well adopting the same tactics at the same time? Why take the shield of bad deeds of past governments to justify own misdoings? What would be the difference between two parties then? Why is the public ok with it?

This trend of over-riding the constitution will take a toll on the public. No one is supposed to be above the constitution in India. However, this seems no more a rule of the political game.

One should wonder who will protect honest RTI activists, journalists, judges, or anyone resisting against government’s dictatorship when the constitution mo more has their back.

But, for now, no one is even close to understanding why they should be scared about it.

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Findings of magisterial probe into Nurpur Tragedy exposes HPPWD’s blunder

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Probe report of Nurpur school bus accident

Kangra: The Additional District Magistrate (ADM) has completed the magisterial probe ordered into the school bus accident in Nurpur on April 9, 2018, and submitted the report to the Deputy Commissioner.   

The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur-led State Government had ordered the inquiry after unrest broke out among the people following the tragedy, which caused loss of 28 people including 24 children.  While 23 had died on the spot, one succumbed to injuries a few days later at a hospital. 

While Hindi and English Dailies told an altogether different story related to the report of the magisterial probe, a Government spokesperson today made some of the original findings public.   

Findings of the magisterial probe into Nurpur School Bus Mishap

1.   The driver was never challaned/charged even once for the offence of over speeding, drunken driving and rash driving. 
2.   The accident did not seem to happen due to any mechanical failure.
3.   The site of the accident was a black spot with loose soil and damaged edges abutting a landslide zone with cliff and did not have any crash barriers and the road formed sort of craters.
4.   The bus should have been on the left-hand side but due to the absence of eyewitnesses, it couldn’t be ascertained how and why the bus went to the right side of the road.
5.   As per a survivor, a 10-year-old, who was sitting on the right side window seat, divulged that a motorcyclist came from opposite direction after which the bus rolled down
6.   Since there was no eyewitness of the accident,  it is believed that just to save the motorcyclist, the driver, in a reflex action,  had negotiated the bus to the right-hand side, misjudging the space on the right-hand side road. He could not have been able to control the bus which had reluctantly rolled down. 
7.   The accident has occurred under unverifiable circumstances. The road was straight, not sloping up or down 
8.   The driver was never seen driving bus in a rash manner and reported to be a mature person
9.   The road on this point is in very poor condition, uneven and forming fatal craters. The edges of the road on this spot are badly broken supported/reinforced with no crash barriers/parapet.

 

What caused misreporting?

Surprisingly, the Dailies reported that the inquiry found a human error on the part of the driver Madan Lal (67).  These reports further said the driver was looking back as children were making noise or suggested that the driver might have dosed-off on a duty, which is not hectic in nature and includes boarding-off children after every 10 minutes.

The road was tip-top and was not in poor condition, these reports said.  It is not clear who fed the media this story.

However, the findings of the report have made it clear that the Public Works Department shares the responsibility for the massacre.

That’s why the government has haphazardly tarred the patch of over one kilometre and constructed new parapets on the spot from where the bus had skid-off the road.

Now, the PWD is also installing crash barriers too.

magisterial probe report in Nurpur Bus accident

Photos: Amar Ujala

Take a look at the two pictures. One of them was taken on the day of the accident and the second one clicked recently and published in the Hindi Daily Amar Ujala in its May 9, 2018, edition. The picture speaks itself. 

At the same time, the parents, based on the said media reports, questioned the findings and demanded a separate, most preferably a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The shattered parents of the 24 children including some who had joined the school a day ago killed in the perhaps one of the most tragic and heart-breaking road accident in Himachal Pradesh.

Most of the kids aged between five years to 10 years and some families lost more than one child, which was the worst part of it. It is too early for children of this age to die a horrible death, which cannot be called an accident in a literal sense.

The mass cremation of small pyres weighed heavy on everyone who keeps a heart.

However, it is to be seen whether the State Government would take a action this time or will opt to save the skin of responsible bureaucrats and just move on like the governments have been doing in previous cases. 

If the Government would not deliver justice to the victims of this massacre by taking action this time, there would be more such tragedies.

In fact, the reason the people keep dying in road accidents or due to jaundice outbreaks is that no action is ever taken against the responsible government officials, especially the bureaucrats.

In case the Government chose to patronize the sinful officials, the public must not remain silent this time.  

We believe the mass cremation of small pyres is too heavy to be overlooked for anyone who keeps a heart.   

Top Photos: Amar Ujala

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Amid Shimla city’s water-crisis, MC alleged of putting people on hold for Hotels, VIP areas under central zone

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Shimla city's water crisis

Shimla: Amid Shimla Municipal Corporation’s poor response to acute water crises in the city, the allegations have appeared that the VIP areas and hotels under the central zone are being given priority in the distribution of water. The tanks in VIP areas and hotels were full while the commoners were put on hold for them.

Opposed to equal distribution of the available supply, on Tuesday, as per the May 09, 2018, edition of a Hindi Daily and other media reports, the SMC supplied water to localities under central zone like the Mall Road, Ridge, Lower Bazaar, Ram Bazaar, Middle Bazaar, and some areas of Sanjauli. The reports alleged that these areas house majority of hotels, VIP residents, and officials.

Even BJP’s own Ward Councilors are now feeling agitated over the poor management of the SMC under the command of new Mayor. The people are questioning whether the Mayor and Deputy Mayor possess enough knowledge about managing a city with 1.70 lakh population?  

However, these Councilors are not able to muster enough courage to criticize their own party.  

The manifesto of the Bhartiya Janata Party for the SMC elections in 2017 had promised betterment in the water supply. It was one of the most important agenda before the elections.  

However, the situation has become so ugly that public toilets in the city were locked as there was no water for cleaning.  The government, as well as private offices, are also bearing the brunt of SMC’s miss-management.

For last two weeks, the people have no option but to buy water even for drinking. The SMC is receiving over 50 calls per day seeking supply through water-tankers.

The peak tourist season has begun on a bad note for Shimla. The hospitality industry is also surviving on either SMC’s alleged favouritism or through private tankers.

Betterment of Water-Supply in BJP’s Manifesto for SMC Elections  

The party had promised in the manifesto that the leakage in the main pipelines of the water supply schemes would be fixed to improve water supply. Natural resources would be cleaned and used to supplement the main water supply. The BJP has promised to cut water-bills and that the water would be lifted from Kol Dam to fulfil the demand of water in the city.

Unfortunately, a large amount of water is either wasted due to leakage in pipelines that awaits repair and water-tanks in the city including those of residential, commercial and government buildings. The water-tanks of the SMC can still be seen overflowing.

The State High Court has also noted that either water is waste in leakage in supply pipelines or being stolen through illegal connections. 

The supply to the city has dropped down to 23 – 27 MLD per day against the demand of about 45 MLD per day.  About 10 MLD is wasted due to the leakage.  In times of water-crisis, there is no effort to encourage people to not overlook leakages in their tanks or pipelines.

Rainwater harvesting is not even in the SMC books. 

The SMC has faced water crises earlier too, however,  but nothing was learnt to deal with water-shortage in future. Moreover, the formation of Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Limited (SJPNL) will take its time.     

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