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Town Hall Shimla likely to become library or museum after restoration

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State High Court has finally admitted that such a marvelous piece of architecture cannot be left at the mercy of the ‘bubus’ (clerks or Govt. officials).

Shimla: The Tourism Department of Himachal Pradesh and the Shimla Municipal Corporation are up in arms to claim the possession of the precious piece of heritage property – the historic Town Hall of Shimla, built in 1908 by Scottish Architect James Ransone.

Built in the Gothic style, the Town Hall of Shimla featured the half-timbered Tudor style, all wooden frames and shingles eaves. It originally housed a Library alongwith a few public utility offices in British-era. However, later it ended up in the hands of Shimla MC.

The building is undergoing a complete renovation since 2014, and Rs. 8 crores has been spent on it so far.  The government failed to meet the deadline of 18 months and hope to complete it in 2018. About 70 percent of this cost was provided by the Asian Development Bank as a loan for the purpose of the beautification of the Shimla Mall.

View 18 incredible before and after pictures of ‘British Simla’ vs ‘Modern Shimla’ 

The Corporation had evacuated it for the restoration work in 2014 and wants it back; the HPTDC wish to use it as a tourist attraction; and the High Court suggest making it a Library, Museum or something that would help preserving the heritage property along with catering to larger public interests.

The court has given the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit by January 3, 2018, with proposals for better use of the building other than handing it over to SMC again.

A writer and historian Raja Bhasin, head of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Himachal, and its state convener Malvika Pathania are also of the view that it is a disrespect to a magnificent heritage building to house a government office in it.

After facing a disregard for its value as a cultural, historic, and tourist attraction, the State High Court has finally admitted that such a marvellous piece of architecture cannot be left at the mercy of the ‘bubus’ (clerks or Govt. officials).

The division bench comprising of the acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma called it “an important and significant landmark of the Shimla town and intrinsic part of its heritage.”

The court took a jibe saying that it would be a complete waste of the Shimla Town Hall if it is left to the staff of government offices. The babus would hammer nails into restored wooden works to hang calendars or paste the same all over the walls of a heritage property, which could be used to house library, museum and other public conveniences.

The court said, “under Article 51-A (Part-IVA) of the Constitution of India states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.”

Moreover, the history of the State in preservation and protection has been quite bad. For instance, another Gothic style heritage building Gorton Castle was gutted by fire due to carelessness. 

On the other hand, the former-Mayor of Shimla Sanjay Chauhan argued that only the Corporation and Government are authorized to decide the fate of the building.

“It is a clear attack on the jurisdiction of the local government, and is a violation of the Section 243 W and 12the Schedule described in the Indian constitution,” said Chauhan.

Chauhan alleged that the government is allowing the ADB to intervene in its decision making process. He believes that the building should be returned to the SMC after restoration as decided previous to its evacuation.

However, the court has better logic. Referring to increased activity related to art & culture and tourism at the historic Gaiety Theater of Shimla after restoration in 2009, the court asked the government use the Town Hall in a similar way.

“The culture of knowing and understanding art, in whatever form, is being picked up by the younger generation and solely on account of the exposure, which both the artists, admirers or criticizers have got,” noted the court.

“After all, Art and Culture are also true forms of expression of thought, which, in our considered view, needs to be propagated, inculcated and promoted, more so amongst future generation,” the court further added.

The court also referred to the Vice Regal Lodge as an example of how a heritage property should be treated.

When an attempt was made to convert the same into a hotel, Hon’ble Apex Court had intervened and directed the said property to be protected and preserved, so that cultural and historical heritage of India and beauty and grandeur of the monument is preserved, said the court. 

The court also referred to certain communication between the ADB and HP Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation suggesting that over the years, the woodwork of the Town Hall has decayed, and that it could be restored to its originality like the Gaiety Theater and put to better use. 

The Corporation including the newly elected Mayor and Deputy Mayor believe the SMC is the rightful owner of the building.

In fact, the SMC had refused to vacate the building in 2014 for the restoration work over its demand that they should be given the alternative office within the town. The SMC is currently operating from the building complex of Deputy Commissioner, Shimla.

The extensive restoration work includes fixing washrooms, laying mezzanine floors along with restoring four collapsed chimneys, rickety wooden staircase, and original height of attic (2.4 mts)

Before refurbishing the walls, the cement plaster and plywoods were to be removed along with restoration of the entrance from the Mall side to an open verandah.

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CM Jairam Thakur Tests Positive for COVID-19, Quarantined

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HImachal Pradesh CM Tests Positive for COVID-19

Shimla-Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Jairam Thakur, have tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined at his official residence. The report was confirmed by the Chief Minister through a tweet in which he informed that he was under quarantine at his residence after coming into contact with a COVID-19 positive person. On the appearance of symptoms, he got himself tested and the report was found to be positive, he informed.

According to the initial report, the Chief Minister had come in contact with some COVID-19 positive persons in Manali. MLA of Banjar, Surinder Shourie, who was positive for COVID-19 had participated in the event organized on the occasion of the inauguration of Rohtang Tunnel, had also tested positive. Shourie had spent the entire day with the Chief Minister, reports said.

His private secretary had also tested positive, and there are chances that the Chief Minister might have contracted the infection from him. However, there is no certainty regarding the contact who infected the Chief Minister.

Other than Chief Minister, three Cabinet ministers – Urban Development Minister Suresh Bharadwaj, Power Minister Sukh Ram Chaudhary, Jalshakti Minister Mahender Singh- have tested positive so far.  Over ten MLAs have already tested positive and some of them have recovered too.

Meanwhile, despite community spread, the testing and tracing seem to have fallen and the fatality rate has witnessed a steep rise. Till 12 pm today, the COVID-19 death tally for the state was 245, and the total number of cases registered was 17414. But these are official statistics and these numbers are likely to be much higher. 

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Himachal: COVID-19 Kills 59 in 9 Days, Govt Still Clueless About Actual Number of Cases

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Himachal PRadesh Jairam Thakur

Shimla-COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc in Himachal Pradesh as the death tally spirals upward rapidly. Currently, 240 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Fifty nine of these deaths have been reported during the last nine days of October month, which is quite alarming. But contrary to that, the attitude of the state government, as well as, the public is becoming more casual. The SOPs issued by the government are hardly being followed anywhere. The fact that with the community spread, the cases of COVID-19 are falling in the official information released by the state Health Department.

On October 9, the Department traced only 199 cases but reported seven deaths. The total number of active cases was cited to be 2856. The deceased included three females and four males aged between 49 -75 years. View details of the deceased in the below-given table:

Shimla-covid-19 deaths in himachal pradesh

The total number of cases, as per the official statistics, had reached 16977 till yesterday evening (9 PM). But these are official statistics and the real number is likely to be much higher due to a community spread. Similarly, the actual number of COVID-19 deaths could be higher than the official statistics. Despite it, the state government is reluctant to release any projection regarding the real numbers. No statements have been issued regarding the current situation and strategy to combat the rising fatality rate. Rather, the state appears to be refraining from bringing up the matter.

The oppositions, HP Congress and CPI (M), are targeting the government over its failure to combat the spread of COVID-19. However, this opposition is quite feeble and hasn’t resulted in any reforms in the attitude of the government.

In a statement to media, Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a senior CPI (M) leader, said that the rise in fatalities is the result of the government’s lackadaisical attitude. The suicide committed by a positive patient at the DDU COVID-19 hospital is evidence of it, he said. He said this approach has endangered health lives of ministers, officials, and the staff at their offices. Further, he said, health staff, paramedical staff, and police staff are getting infected, and even losing lives due to the government’s unpreparedness.  The government had even compromised the safety of the Prime Minister and Education Minister by violating norms set regarding COVID-19, he said.

HP Congress chief, Kuldeep Rathor also expressed shock over the presence of COVID-19 positive MLA of Banjar, Surender Shourie, in the event organized for the PM. He alleged that by violating all norms, the MLA concealed information regarding his COVID-19 positive status and did not quarantine himself, which reflects the state government’s attitude toward management of the corona pandemic. He had demanded registration of an FIR against Shourie and action against erring officials.

Sanjay Chauhan, further said that the government did not prepare itself to combat the pandemic the way it was expected to. The people of the state had followed the lockdown and sacrificed their livelihood with a hope that the government would prepare itself during this period to combat the spread and to strengthen the health infrastructure and services. But instead, the government indulged itself in making people clap and beat ‘thalis’.  The Chief Minister adopted and preached unscientific practices like performing a ‘havan’.  Despite a steep rise in fatalities, the government is still not serious about the situation, he said. 

He said the CPI (M) demands that the government starts working on war footing to prepare a strategy by involving health experts, strengthening the health services by recruiting doctors, para-medical and other staff, and constitute a task force to deal with the situation. The government should work diligently on following the norms set for prevention from COVID-19, he added.  

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Shocker for Himachal as Ex-CBI Chief & Governor Ashwani Kumar Found Dead at His Shimla Residence

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Himachal IPS Officer Ashwani Kumar found deat in shimla

Shimla-Ashwani Kumar – 1973 IPS officer from Himachal Pradesh cadre who had served as the Director-General of HP Police (2006-2008) and CBI chief (August 2008 to November 2010), and was later appointed the Governor of Nagaland in 2013-was found dead at his residence in Shimla on Wednesday evening. The news came as a shocker as Kumar was considered as one of India’s finest and honest officers.

Superintendent of Police, Shimla, Mohit Chawala, in statement to news agencies, confirmed the report. According to the initial report, he reportedly hanged himself and ended his life. However, no formal statement was issued regarding the suicide. According to the police, a suicide note was also recovered from the spot. However, the note was yet to be verified.

Kumar was a well known name as he had dealt with famous cases including that of Arushi Talwar murder and fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which current Home Minister Amit Shah was arrested in 2010.

He was one of the first appointees made to resign from the post of Governor, Nagaland, as soon as the current ruling party came into power in 2014. He also remained Governor of Manipur for a short period of time. After his retirement, Kumar was serving as the Vice-Chancellor of a private university in Shimla.

The officials who have served under Aswani Kumar have expressed shock over his demise in such a manner. 

Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, and a team of medical staff was rushed to the spot. More details are awaited as the district police have not issued any formal statement regarding the incident.

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