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Taxi operators cheer after Manali-Rohtang ‘electric bus service’ cancelled ahead of peak tourist season

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Electric bus service in Rohtang cancelled

Shimla: The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur was supposed to flag-off the much awaited electric bus service on April 30, 2018, from Manali to Rohtang for the tourists.  However, it was cancelled at the last moment. 

It doesn’t sound like a co-incident that the members of the Him Anchal Taxi Union, Manali, had approached the minister urging him to not to begin the service as it was hitting their livelihood. Otherwise, a protest was already planned ahead of the CM’s visit to Kullu.

However, the ceremony was cancelled suddenly.

The peak tourist season beings in May, therefore, the taxi operators are cheering as the tourists won’t have any other option but to hire expensive services of the cabs.  

Himachal Pradesh had not only become the first state to commission 100 percent battery-powered electric buses but also the first in the world to ply them at an altitude of 3, 978 meters (13,000 feet) on mountainous terrain of Pir Panjal ranges of the eastern Himalayas when Transport Minister GS Bali flagged off the first bus on September 22, 2017.

The decision had faced protest from the local cab operators back then too.

However, it was on November 14, 2018, that two of the newly commissioned electric buses on Manali-Rohtang Pass stretch begun ferrying passengers on a regular basis. The HRTC was charging Rs. 600 per seat for a two-way trip starting from Manali to the Rohtang snowline.

The electric buses are manufactured in a tie-up with Chinese firm BYD Auto Industry Co Ltd. Each bus costs 1.70 crores and Himachal had bought 25 of them at that time. The total cost of this deal was Rs. 48 crores.  

The CM, however, said he was not under any pressure and some unfinished formalities caused the cancellation.  He did not mention anything specific about the period for which the introduction of the e-buses would remain pending.

The CM also contradicted his statements given to media in which it was suggested that the government was looking to find a middle-path to provide relief to the taxi operators. Also, the taxi union said the operators were ensured that the e-bus service would be put on hold. 

 The decision was taken by the previous government after the National Green Tribunal had lashed out at it for unchecked environmental degradation around Rohtang Pass due to increasing load of domestic and international tourism.

The taxi operators had been protesting against the NGT orders as well as the plying of electric buses. The previous government could not ignore the orders despite the protests.

In 2014, taking note of research works pointing out fastening of glacier melting in the vicinity to Rohtang and blacking of the snow due to heavy vehicular emissions, the NGT had restricted the entry of vehicles to only 1,000 including both diesel and petrol.

The transport minister is also of the view that the developmental works would be taken up only after considering the interests of the people first.

Though the decision would benefit the local taxi operators and the hospitality industry, it can’t be done at the cost of environmental degradation. It must not be forgotten that the tourism industry exists because of the natural beauty and purity of the air in Rohtang Pass.

Therefore, we should hope that the government would not take such crucial decision to temporarily please a section of the hospitality industry.  The environmental protection lies at the root of human survival and delay in taking measures to avert it will only make it worse.

We hope that the government would actually come out with some productive solution to ensure the protection of both – the interests of the locals as well as environmental protection.    

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Solar Power Plants in Himachal Pradesh to be Set up Soon, Rs. 1000 Crore MoUs Singed: HP Govt

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Solar Power Plants in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-To set Solar Power Plants in Himachal Pradesh, the State Government has signed two Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) worth Rs. 1000 crore with two companies.

One MoU worth Rs. 600 crore was signed between State Government and Renew Energy Pvt. Ltd. through Director of the Company Prabhat Kumar Mishra for setting up of 150 MW Solar Power Plant in the State to produce green energy. This project is proposed to start production from 2021 and provide employment to over 1000 persons

While another MoU worth Rs. 400 crore was also signed with CSE Development (India) Pvt. Ltd. for setting up of 100 MW  Solar Plant to produce renewal energy by Director Business Development & Head Open Access Vikram Madan on behalf of the company.  This project on completion would provide employment to about 700 persons.

On behalf of the State Government, the MoUs were signed by Principal Secretary, Power and Renewal Energy Resources Prabodh Saxena.  

The government said the projects have direct employment potential of about 1700 people besides self-employment avenues to thousands of people.

The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the State Government would facilitate the companies to obtain necessary permissions and clearances etc. from the concerned authorities at the earliest so that work on these projects could be started soon. He said that work to set up the plants would be initiated soon as land had already been identified in Una and Kangra districts.

He said that Union Government has fixed the target of harnessing about 99533 MW solar power in the country through renewal solar energy out of which the State has been asked to achieve the target of exploitation of 776 MW solar power by the year 2022.

 

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Video: Leopard Sighting in Shimla on NH-5 Near Kanlog

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Leopard sighting in Shimla city

Shimla-Leopard sightings in residential areas and on roadsides in Shimla is becoming frequent. Last week, a leopard was spotted near Kanlog on Tutikandi-Dhalli bypass. The leopard was captured on a mobile camera by some commuters. The leopard disappeared into the adjoining forest later.

Similarly, a sighting was reported by a local from Chaura Maidan area very recently.

Mostly, the leopards enter residential areas looking for dogs. Littering and inappropriately disposed of garbage attracts dogs and dogs attract leopards.

However, their sighting creates panic among residents. The Forest Department has been trying to capture these leopards by placing cages in the areas from where reports of sighting were received. However, so far, the department did not get any success.

Wildlife experts advise people to not bend down or look into the eyes of a leopard directly in case they encounter one. Bending down or looking directly into their eyes are perceived by these animals as preparedness for attack or a challenge.

Also, as per the experts, leopards are shy animals and avoid humans. They prefer to hunt down prey that doesn’t weigh more than 30-40 kg. That’s why a person in a crouching position would appear like a smaller animal to leopards and the chances are high that they would attack. This also explains why children are more vulnerable than adults.

Make sure that there is no garbage littered near residential areas to avoid attracting dogs.

To be safe, while crossing vulnerable areas, playing loud music on the mobile phone is also advisable. In that case, a leopard won’t mistake a human for another animal.

If you have pets, keep them in enclosed spaces after it gets dark. Do not form a crowd on seeing a leopard. It would frighten the animal and make an attack imminent, say experts.

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HP Sports Policy Will be Amended For Specially Abled Students: Govt

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HP Sports Policy Amendment

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Sports Policy will be amended to provide equal participation in sports to visually impaired and specially-abled students, announced the state government on August 7, 2019.

This announcement was made by the Sports Minister Govind Singh Thakur during Van Mahotsav function at Baldeyan panchayat of Shimla district. The event was organised by the Non-Profit Organization Umang Foundation for visually impaired and specially-abled students.

About 200 specially-abled students of Himachal Pradesh University, Govt. Degree College Sanjauli, Special School Dhali and Portmore school along with members of Umang Foundation planted around 250 Deodar plants in association with the forest department.

Visually impaired and other specially-abled persons could also equally contribute in the society if given ample opportunity, the Minister said. He also announced to provide 15 laptops to Umang Foundation for visually impaired students for pursuing higher education. Rs 50 thousand were also announced for these students.

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