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HP Police hatched a conspiracy, tortured and killed innocent laborer in Gudiya case: CBI

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CBI Chargesheet in Kotkhai custodial death

Shimla: Shocking revelations have come to light after the Central Bureau of Investigation on November 25 filed a chargesheet in the case pertaining to the custodial killing of Suraj Singh, a Nepalese laborer arrested for alleged gangrape and murder of Gudiya in Kotkhai on July 6.

The CBI today, on November 30, submitted its status report over the custodial killing to the Himachal Pradesh High Court. The CBI mentioned their accomplishment in concluding a successful probe and filing of challan against accused police officials in the CBI court. The agency said it is in possession of very solid evidences against the accused.

The next hearing in the case was scheduled for December 20.

If the CBI succeeds in proving every charge labeled against the accused in its chargsheet, then it would read like the following story:

A 16-years-old girl disappears on July 4, 2017, while returning back to home from the Government Senior Secodnary School Mahasu. The naked dead body of the girl is discovered on the morning of July 6.

The local police including the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Theog, Manoj Joshi arrive at the crime scene alongwith the Sub-divisional Magistrate . A FIR is filed under IPC Section 302, 376, and Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse Act (POCSO) against unknown culprits. 

After the medical examination and an initial investigation, the police confirm the victim was gangraped and then choked to death. The report says she died of asphyxiation.

The incident sends waves of horror across Himachal as the peaceful Hill state is not acquainted with such inhumanity and barbarism.

Initially, the local police headed by then SP Shimla, D.W. Negi, investigate the case, and a team of the local forensic lab collects evidences from the spot where the dead body is dumped

Regular reports in various dailies and online news portals appear hitting an involvement of influential person. On July 10, the Director General of the Police, Somesh Goyal, forms a Special Investigating Team. With great expectations, the command of the SIT is given to then Inspector General of Police, Southern Range, Zahur H. Zaidi.

Meanwhile, on the evening of July 11,pictures of four youths appears on Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s official Facebook page with an update regarding the SIT probe. The update says the police nabbed these four suspects in the Gudiya case.

Virbhadra Singh Kotkhai gangrape controversy

The Chief Minister’s Update on Facebook showing four youth as suspects

The pictures went viral on social media within seconds of posting. The update also confirmed interrogation from these suspects. However, the police do not confirm filing of any charges on the suspects.

The IT Cell of the Chief Minister deletes the photos within few minutes of posting. This suspicious move fuels the doubts of public about the possible conspiracy.

In its justification, the CMs IT Cell states that it was a technical glitch, which was not convincing at all

On the morning of July 13, the police arrests first accused in the case – Ashish Chauhan. By evening, five more accused are arrested. Surprisingly, none of these accused include any person who had appeared on the CM Facebook page on July 11. Five of the accused are laborers including two Nepalese

The youth is the odd one as he reportedly hails from a wealthy and influential family. The police do not provide any details about the role of this youth.

The police holds a press conference on the evening of July 13. The SIT and Director General of Police, Somesh Goyal, assure having in possession clinching forensic, technical, physical, and circumstantial evidences to prove the charges. They confirms confession by the arrested accused as well. 

The SIT claims it solved the case within 55 hours of formation, and all culprits are behind bars. The police pats its own back claiming the case as a difficult one to solve.

However, on July 13, the entire story changes like it never existed.

The previous reports based on initial investigation disappear suddenly. Prior to July 13, the reports suggested Ashish Chauhan as the prime accused, and the SIT probe makes Rajinder alias Raju the prime accused.

The public and local media persons do not buy this theory of police. The local takes to the roads and demand a CBI probe. On July 14, a protest in Theog goes violent as enraged locals vandalize the police vehicles and reportedly rough up then SP DW Negi.

The locals demand a CBI probe.

At the same time, the police take to extreme physical torture to extract false confession from five innocent persons it arrested.

Amid public unrest and demand for the CBI probe, on the intervening night of July 18 and 19, the police hack one of the five accused, Suraj Singh, a Nepalese laborer, to death at the Police Station, Kotkhai, while inflicting extreme physical torture.

The local police again hatch a criminal conspiracy to save itself and file a fake FIR against the prime accused Rajinder alisas Raju for the killing of Suraj. In its statement, the police tell media that Suraj is killed by Raju following a scuffle. The autopsy report also follows the same theory.

(As per CBI chargesheet) The role of doctors who conducts the autopsy of Suraj also comes into question.

The locals and media do not buy this story of the local police either. As a result of it, violent protests erupt in Kotkhai on July 19. The mob vandalizes and almost sets the police station on fire. The government is forced to order an CBI inquiry on July 19.

On July 22, the CBI files two cases – relating to the gangrape and murder of the minor girl and custodial death of Suraj. The agency gets the Body of Suraj re-examined by a team of experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

CBI conducts post-mortem of kotkhai accused

File Photo: CBI taking the body of killed accused for re-exmination on July 25

The findings of the CBI shock the State as the CBI on August 29 arrests eight police officials including Zaidi and Deputy Superintendent of Police, Manoj Joshi in relation to the custodial death.

Shimla Gudiya case

The Sentry, Dinesh Kumar, who was on duty the night Suraj was killed becomes witness and leads to the arrest of the police officials.

On November 14, as another jolt to the State Police, the CBI arrests DW Negi for forging the FIR to save real culprits.

Sp Shimla arrested in Kotkhai Gudiya Case

The CBI finds no evidences against the remaining five accused, who manage to procure a bail.

On November 25, the CBI files a chargesheet against the eight police officials in the special CBI court.

On November 28, two other members of the SIT, ASP Bhajan Dev Negi and DSP Rattan Singh Negi, become eyewitnesses against the arrested officials.

The CBI gives them a clean-chit.

So, if the chargesheet is to be believed, the SIT tried to shield the real culprits, who are still unknown. The police extracted false confession by torturing and threatening the arrested persons. The motivation behind this act is still unknown to even the CBI.

The CBI is convinced that it possesses sufficient evidences to prove all the charges labeled against these nine police officials. The telephonic communication between these officials is said to be one of the strongest evidences against them.

However, the CBI has not made any arrest for the rape and murder of Gudiya. The local police has done a professional job in messing up the forensic evidences. The CBI still continues to visit the Kotkhai region and collect more statements of locals and the classmates of the deceased victim.

As per the reports, the CBI has reportedly seized records of three banks.The agency is either hoping to get a lead from it or already has one.

At the same time, unofficial sources are speculating political influence. They argue that money is not sufficient to lure an IG rank police official to commit such a henious crime.

The family of the victim and the people of the state are still waiting to know what had happened to Guidya and who are the real culprits. Why the police was trying to extract false confession from five innocent persons?

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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Inflation, Increased Cost of Food Items, Ration, Crumbling Health Infrastructure, and 100 Gram Sugar: Govt’s Diwali Gift to People

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hp govt's gift on diwali 2020

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh Government has collected over Rs. 86 crores in the name of the COVID-19 relief fund, but only Rs 25 crore was spent. It was stated by Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a senior CPI (M) leader. It’s a shocker considering negligible relief measures and the state of health infrastructure crumbling amid a pandemic. The unpreparedness of the state government to deal with community spread of coronavirus is coming to light as its COVID-19 hospitals have begun to run out of beds in isolation wards. Two major medical facilities -Indira Gandhi Medical College & Hospital and DDU Hospital in Shimla- are packed to their full capacity. 

What’s not shocking is that Chief Minister did hail the Prime Minister, exactly as he was told, claiming that the nation is out of COVID-19 crisis. It suggests that the Chief Minister is little aware of the surge in cases and over 400 COVID-19 deaths, of which 93 were reported during the last 12 days of November month. Yesterday, the state has reported over 700 cases with six deaths, which is alarming.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves all praise for his dynamic leadership as he is successfully steering the Country amid all troubles and difficulties. He has successfully brought the Nation out of Covid-19 crisis,” 

said Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, while addressing a public meeting at Sihunta under Bhatiyat Assembly Constituency on Wednesday. 

Talking about the real situation and relief measures, the state Government became a laughingstock and was being trolled on social media after it announced 100 gram sugar and 500-gram rice per person to all ration cardholders as a Diwali gift. If that was not enough, according to a media report, this quota has still not reached the depots. There is a possibility that it would reach the cardholders only after Diwali.

The reason behind this backlash is not only that 100-gram sugar is too trivial to be called a gift or relief, especially amid a pandemic when common people, especially those falling in middle and lower-income groups, are faced with unemployment and economic crisis.

While the people were hoping for relief from their elected government, inflation was on the rise. Currently, prices of food items including vegetables and other essential commodities have also witnessed a huge increase. Further, cut in subsidy on electricity, hike in bus fare, increase in property tax, rise in diesel and petrol prices etc. have put additional burden on the commoners. 

Then there were other issues like relaxation in garbage collection fee for the period of lockdown. Sadly, the public did not get any relief even in garbage bills despite staging protests. 

Meanwhile, Ministers made news for spending tax money on buying luxury vehicles and VIP numbers. 

Oppositions, Congress and CPI (M) have also targeted the government over its failure to provide any considerable relief to the people when it’s most needed. As per oppositions, the current government has no control over the market or inflation.

Chauhan also raised the issue of thousands of vacant posts of doctors, para-medical staff, nurses etc. at medical facilities across the state. He said that of the total 1000 posts of lab technicians, 700 were still vacant. He said that the government did not prepare for a community spread despite having a time of eight months during the lockdowns. It was due to this lackadaisical attitude of the government that currently IGMC and DDU hospitals have run out of space in isolation wards, he said.

He also said that, in an all-party meeting convened on March 21, CPI(M) had given the government 12 recommendations to effectively deal with the situation. The party had suggested that thousands of vacant posts should be filled at the earliest, all government buildings construction of which were completed should be prepared to accommodate COVID-19 patients. Similarly, at least four blocks of the under-construction building of IGMC should also be equipped with facilities to accommodate patients, the party had suggested. 

On November 8, 2020, the state unit of Mahila Congress staged a protest over a huge increase in prices of food items. They wore garlands of potatoes and onions and marched from the party headquarter to the Office of Deputy Commissioner, Shimla. Women alleged that the people have received no relief despite such a huge crisis. Instead, the current government is encouraging hoarding of essentials.

The opposition also said that the government has increased the rate of cereals provided through the public distribution system. This increase is Rs 5 for cereals and Rs. 9 for mustard oil. Vegetable prices have gone beyond Rs 50 during the festival season. It also said that the registration fees of vehicles have also been increased.

Sanjay Chauhan is of the view that to provide relief, the government should deposit at least Rs 7500 in the accounts of consumers and provide them with 10 kg ration per person for free.

He also said that recently the government has hiked the charges for electricity and installation of meters. The government has now withdrawn its notification restricting schools to charge only tuition fee and allowed them to charge full fees, including those pending for the period of lockdown, he said. This decision has come as a huge financial burden for parents and is causing mental harassment. 

The policies of the current government are only benefiting corporates, while other sections like labourers/daily wagers, small scale industries and businesses, shopkeepers, farmers are faced with financial crisis and unemployment due to lockdowns imposed in view of corona pandemic, Chauhan said. 

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Exam Fees in Govt Schools Hiked Amid Pandemic, Private Schools Allowed to Charge Full Fees Relaxed During Lockdowns

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himachal pradesh - private school fees during lockdowns

Shimla-Amid the pandemic and economic slowdown, the public had hoped for relief from the government; unfortunately, they are only receiving more financial burdens in form of hikes in bus fares, cut in electricity subsidy etc. Now, the Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education (HPBOSE) has decided to implement hike in examination fees on the students of government schools.

A student of class 10 will now pay Rs 600 as examination fee instead of the previous Rs 500. For the students of class 12, this fee has been hiked to Rs 850. Read complete notification below:

Another bad news for parents came after the government, citing orders of the State High Court, allowed private schools to charge all fees which were deferred during the lockdowns. Moreover, in its previous notification, the Directorate of Higher Education had only mentioned deferring the fee, and not waiving it of. This decision has led to distress among parents because pending fees of some of the schools would go in lakhs.

Also Read: Himachal: Private Schools Only Asked to Defer Fees During Lockdown, Not to Waive Off, Thanks to Helpless Edu Minister

Private schools are not funded by the government and they depend entirely on fees to meet their expenditures, the government said.  The state government had directed the schools to not cut salaries of teachers or fire them during lockdowns. However, despite the pandemic, the state government did not consider compensating these institutes. Similarly, bus fares were also hiked instead of compensating transporters.

Earlier, the state government had yielded to the pressure from parents to relax all fees except tuition fees as the educational institutes were closed and no facilities were availed by the students.

Further, it’s pertinent to mention that the Ministers of the state government are making headlines for allegedly wasting money on buying luxuries with the public tax money. Recently, Education Minister Govind Singh Thakur remained in news for buying a luxury vehicle amid pandemic even though he already had a Fortuner. Prior to that, the IPH Department has been in news for buying not only an SUV for a XEN but also purchasing a VIP number for Rs. 1 lakh.

At the same time, huge wastage of money was seen during the commissioning of the Rohtang Tunnel on publicity to claim the credit. Large hoardings with the faces of CM Jairam Thakur and PM Narender Modi can still be seen throughout the state publicizing commissioning of the Tunnel. Money was spent on installing LEDs across the state to live telecast the event. There is distress among the people over the debate that, amid pandemic, this money could have been used to provide the public with some relief, but instead, the government seems to be insensitive enough to put personal interest first.

Earlier, the government had hiked vehicle registration fee and cut electricity subsidy to generate resources. The vehicle registration fee was increased to 7-10% of the existing 2.5-4% in June.

Feature Photo: [email protected]

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Himachal Pradesh: A Report on ‘Plight of Migrant Workers’ during the Lockdown & Need for Protection of their Rights

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Himachal pradesh - a report on migrant labourers during lockdown

Shimla-Poor people like migrant labourers and workers are nothing more than insects for the governments in India. The attitude of the government and its treatment of the poor workers, who had migrated to other states in search of livelihood, during the lockdown is a very clear evidence of it. What is more pathetic is the fact that that their plight remained invisible to the remaining public as mainstreamed media was being paid more by their political masters for diverting public attention from real issues to rubbish, spicy news. Our society is rotten to such an extent that public also preferred the rubbish served by the media over the bitter truth. Except for a small section of people including social activists, volunteers and non-profit-organizations actually worked to provide some relief like ration to the poor. Spare some time to go through a report on the plight of the migrant workers prepared by the Himachal Pradesh Workers Solidarity (HPWS) – a voluntary solidarity platform.

The first day of Lok Sabha’s monsoon session earlier this week saw MPs raising questions about the condition of Migrant Workers during the lockdown. The response of the Labour Minister that no data on migrant deaths for the period was available has drawn much flak. Additionally, no data on return of migrant workers was available for many states including Himachal Pradesh.

The issue of invisibilisation of migrant workers in a state like Himachal Pradesh has now been raised in a report, highlighting the impacts of the ongoing crisis on this community which contributes significantly to the state economy. Himachal Pradesh Workers Solidarity (HPWS) – a voluntary solidarity platform formed in April 2020, in its report, describes the havoc that a sudden, un- facilitated and unplanned national lockdown announced in response to the COVID19 pandemic six months ago had on the interstate migrant workers stranded in Himachal. HPWS ran a helpline during the period, provided assistance in accessing ration and other relief, travel to home states, through administrative coordination, registrations, and information dissemination etc.

Himachal, in the context of migration, is different from neighbouring Uttarakhand, where the rate of migration out of state is higher, whereas in Himachal the rate of in-migration is slightly higher than out-migration.

Gagandeep, a journalist based in Karsog and part of HPWS, elaborates,

“Post the decade of 1980 -90, expansion of industrial activities in the Shivalik hill region, multi-level infrastructure and development projects, growing local interests in horticulture, and cash crop farming alongside tourism-dependent economy made Himachal an emerging centre for in-migration.”

Today, workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Nepal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Kashmir constitute a large chunk of the migrant population in Himachal. Most of them are from Scheduled Caste, OBC, STs and minority communities. Difficult work areas and geography, insecure and unsafe living conditions, along with payment and other labour law violations, makes the situation even more difficult for them in mountain state like Himachal.

While the 2011 Census suggests that Himachal had approximately 3.10 lakhs migrant workers, this figure seems to be severely under-estimated due to lack of registration (under the Inter-State Workmen Act 1979), non-maintenance of data by State Labour Department and non-publication of all statistics of Census. The lack of data further worsened the pandemic crisis and impacted relief facilitation.

In response to the issues, the focus of the State was limited to distributing ration but ration alone was not enough for survival and sustenance. Ritika Thakur, another member of HPWS elaborates,

“Having some cash in hand was an urgent need to access gas cylinders, milk, medicines and other essential things like phone recharge, so that workers can at least call for support. Most of the people who contacted HPWS”, she adds, “had not been paid their wages and their savings had died out in payment of room rents and ration as loans and debts kept on piling up.”

Many migrant labourers complained about the interrogatory, apathetic and discriminatory attitude of the officials when they were called for ration support. Seeing no transport facility forthcoming, many workers were forced to walk back home on foot. When caught at borders they were put into quarantine centres forced to return or were left with no choice but to escape on foot.

“The online registration mechanism was completely inaccessible for workers and for weeks there was no response to registrations”,

according to Sukhdev Vishwapremi, a social activist and member of HPWS.

The first ‘shramik train’ ran as late as May 22, 2020.

“The government, meanwhile, allowed private bus operators to run on exorbitant prices,”

he adds.

Many workers were pushed to take loans or sell property/artefacts to be able to return home through these buses while 5000 HRTC buses remained standing in bus stands.

“The fact that the Central government shifted the burden of facilitating transport on the states without any significant co-ordination and clarity made matters worse, aided by lack of coordination and communication between nodal officers, both between Himachal and other states and within Himachal”,

Vishwapremi emphasized further.

According to the information shared by an officer from Himachal Pradesh Government (SDMA), 94,819 migrants had gone out from Himachal to various states of the country by June 23, 2020. As per the information received from SDMA under RTI, 14 shramik trains ferried around 13,183 people out of the state.

Himshi Singh from HPWS reminds, “more than 80% of the migrants took the road on their own expense in which the government merely provided e-passes for private transportation, and the number of people who walked on foot is not yet known.”

Adding further she remarks,

“It’s tragic that in the midst of this crisis, FIRs were registered against reporters who did stories on migrant worker’s condition and on the other hand no action was taken against fake news or media who communalised the issue leading to violence on minority communities like the migrant workers from Kashmir”.

The report highlights how Himachal was one of the 12 states who made major dilutions in labour laws in favour of companies and ‘ease of doing business’.

Almost five months have passed living with this epidemic and even as the success and failure of the lockdown are debated- the economy is falling in doldrums and our governments seem inconsistent and directionless. As per the estimate by ILO, 400 million informal workers in India will fall to critical levels of poverty than ever before- a situation that demands urgent cognizance, state accountability and a responsible approach.

In this regard, HPWS in this report has made the following recommendations for the State:

  1. Release in the public domain all the information about relief/support provided to migrant workers
  2. A joint task force be set to bring out a comprehensive report on the conditions and needs of migrant labourers in the state within 6 months
  3. Provide universal Access to Ration, Economic and other Relief Facilities
  4. Housing facilities for Migrant workers who have been living in Himachal and hostel facilities for seasonal labour
  5. Housing facilities for Migrant workers who have been living in Himachal and hostel facilities for  seasonal labour
  6. Compliance of SC/HC orders-setting up helpdesk/grievance redressal centres at Panchayat, Block, Tehsil  and District levels and conducting employment and skill-based survey of the migrant workers who have returned from other states
  7. Dilution in labour laws be withdrawn and all changes scrapped and strengthening the time-bound  ‘Grievance Redressal’ system and Labour Courts Mandate the registration of all migrant labourers working in the state under ISWMA 1979

HPWS will be submitting the report to various state and central agencies for further advocacy and hopes that the HP Government will take adequate measures to protect the interests of the migrant worker communities in the state.

Read Complete Report

Feature Photo: Sumit Mahar, Volunteer HPWS

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