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Rating BJP’s performance in Shimla MC on completion of one year

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Shimla: The public of Shimla town on June 20, 2017, gave the command of the Municipal Corporation to Bharatiya Janata Party for the first time in 31 years. The SMC would complete one year in the office on the coming Wednesday.

Sadly, BJP’s inexperience and choice of candidates for responsible posts of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor backfired at the party. SMC has not only failed to establish coordination with its own Ward Councilors but also with the other government departments.

The SMC couldn’t even run the House or organize its session properly. Last week, the meeting of the House was reportedly cancelled as the Ward Councilors and the Mayor wanted to avoid confrontation over the water crisis. 

The situation of the town is only worsening. For instance, Shimla couldn’t find a place in top 100 cities in Swacch Bharat ranking, which was at 14 in 2014. 

As a matter of fact, the monthly charges for the door-to-door garbage collection were hiked but the facility did not improve. 

Shimla town not only faced loss to the hospitality industry due to recent unprecedented water-paucity but also faced embarrassment at international level as foreign media highlighted it. It was for the first time that the tourists were told to stay away from the town due to the water crisis.

On the top of it, the district administration and the SMC were not accepting that there was actually a crisis due to which public faced hardships for over two weeks and are still receiving rationed supply.

Let us take a look at some of the major promises of the BJP manifesto released before the election to the SMC in 2017. The major promises included: 

  1. 27×4 Water Supply
  2. Construction of Kol Dam and revival of over 30 natural resources to connect them to the town’s water supply through pipelines
  3. Better sanitation facilities and making the town garbage-free by installing dustbins at various places
  4. Introduction of bio-dustbins in the town
  5. Construction of parking complexes for as many as 10,000 vehicles to cut down traffic chaos
  6. Construction of fly-overs, escalators, and attractive footpaths to facilitate both locals and tourists
  7. Construction of gyms and refreshment centres in every Ward
  8. Making the town stray cattle and animal free
  9. Other than these main resolutions, there were several other promises in the manifesto, which are not even in the picture after one year

The water crisis of Shimla town speaks of the efforts made to fulfil 24×7 water supply, while heaps of garbage at market-places and about four strikes of the Shimla Heritage, Environment, and Beautification (SEHB) workers highlights the poor sanitation condition.

The Ward Councilors, as well as the Mayor, remained in news for quarrels over tours. The Mayor left the town and flew to China on a tour amid the most severe crisis it was facing. 

Now, on completion of one year, the Deputy Mayor is reportedly demanding a government vehicle while the Mayor was said to have asked for a new vehicle.

BJP’s poor performance has put it on the target of not only the oppositions but also the people.

Sanjay Chauhan, former mayor of Shimla and a prominent leader of the State Communist Party of India (Marxist), which had completed its five years term at the SMC in 2017, has termed the one year of the SMC as a complete failure.

Neither BJP could run the MC House properly, not it could uphold its dignity. The house hardly recorded any relevant discussions on matters of public interest. Rather, the Councilors were dissuaded whenever they tried to do so, said Sanjay.

For the first time in the SMC’s history, the ruling party had walked out of the House after failing to answer the questions of the Councilors, he said.

He further pointed out that no new schemes were introduced during the last one year. Instead, the MC could not make a progress of even an inch in the schemes that were already passed by the previous MC. Despite the availability of the funds, the new MC did not show any interest in the implementation of these schemes, he said. 

Chauhan said the list of incomplete projects includes the Smart City project (Rs, 2806 crores), World Bank-funded Kol dam drinking water scheme (875 crores) Amrut Yojana (243 crores), Tutikandi rope-way (200 crores), Shimla beautification project (66 crores) and other such projects worth 410 cores. 

Therefore, BJP-ruled SMC has failed to utilize about 4,700 crores sanctioned during the CPI (M) tenure for various schemes, he said. 

The CPI (M) said it was the first time that the city witnessed such chaos over the shortage of drinking water, which has dented the popularity of the town all over the world.

Another jolt to the SMC came after the High Court and the Governor had to take the responsibility of water supply and distribution on their shoulders.

No progress has been reported in the schemes of the public interest, which were due to be completed in 2017, Sanjay alleged. 

The SMC was supposed to complete the task of replacing meters by June 2017 and start issuing bills generated through meter readings, but it’s still pending in 2018, he said. 

Despite the availability of adequate funds, the task of replacing water pumps and supply pipelines at Gumma and Girri schemes was not undertaken within the provided time-frame.

He further added that no efforts were made for the betterment of sewerage management in some localities like Totu despite the availability of funds.

The work of multi-purpose and modern park at the Rani Ground in Kasumpti was also expected to be completed by June 2017.

In addition to Kaithu, Dhalli, Vikasnagar, Jivaanu Colony, Kasumpti, about 55 spots were already marked for the construction of parking lots in various localities and funds were already sanctioned. However, the SMC has not even started any construction work in last one year, said Sanjay. 

The construction of community buildings in Summerhill, Dhalli, Kaithu etc. is still pending despite funds. Similarly, he said, a provision of funds was made during the previous SMC for the construction of four labour hostels.

He further said the sanitation facilities in the town are in tatters for past one year. The SEHB workers went on strike for four times in one year due to the poor management of the SMC. The charges for the service of garbage collection were hiked and the salary of SEHB workers reduced.

Sanjay alleged that the SMC has handed over the contract of garbage collection to its favourite private company.

Moreover, he said, the court had to intervene during the strike of the workers, which confirms the incapability and insufficiency of the current MC.

The Mayor was most visible in local events as Chief Guest or kept herself tagged to the Chief Minister or Union Minister visits. However, she seems satisfied with her performance and told media that she did her best. 

For her, the inconvenience faced by the public during the recent water scarcity was just a lie told by the oppositions and media. 

The current Mayor and Deputy Mayor also faced criticism from BJP’s own Councilors. The opposition Congress had almost geared up for the dissolution of the SMC after sensing this defection within the ruling party.  

Once again, it would not be wrong to conclude that there has been more politics than efforts to fulfil the promises made in the manifesto.  

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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Plea of 24 children killed in Nurpur tragedy to CM for justice

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no justice for Nurpur school bus victims

Kangra: Five months have passed since one of the biggest tragedy that Himachal Pradesh has ever witnessed, but the parents of 24 kids killed in Nurpur school bus accident on April 9, 2018, are still knocking at the door of the government to get justice for the pieces of their hearts. These kids could not live even their childhood.

This untimely departure left the parents heartbroken and pictures of a mass cremation of these children had given a nightmare to all parents.

Probe report of Nurpur school bus accident

Children killed in the accident being cremated

However, the business appears to be usual for the government. The parents had already approached the State High Court expressing their dissatisfaction with the report of the magisterial probe but to no avail.

On Sunday, a banner was seen hanging near Hanuman Mandir of Dharamshala in which pictures of about 19 children and four others killed in the tragedy were published with a request to the Chief Minister to spare a few moments to the case. The lines written on the poster said “Chand pal hamain bhi de do, Hamari bhi suno Mukhya Mantri Uncle Ji.” (Please, spare a few moments to hear us too Chief Minister Uncle)

Nurpur tragedy banner in dharamshala

It is not known who placed this banner but it did dock the state government, district administration, and the district police. The police has also not filed any charge-sheet in the case, the parents allege.  The parents are demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is another embarrassment for the state police. The people hesitate to lay their trust in the state police due to what it did in cases like forest gaurd Hoshiar Singh and Kotkhai’s Gudia.  

Also Read: Nurpur tragedy: Because Govt did not repair collapsed part of road or bothered about parapets

On April 9, 2018, a school bus of a private school in Nurpur was carrying children back to their homes when it met an accident and fell into the gorge near Gurchal village. In this accident, 23 kids, which mostly included pre-school students, were killed on the spot while remaining one took his last breath a few days later in a hospital. Total 28 people had died including the driver. 

Cause of accidents in Nurpur Kangra

The spot of accident

The spot (shown in the picture above) from where the bus fell down into a 200-feet gorge speaks of the cause of accident itself. The missing piece of the road narrowed the spot. There were no signs of any roadside safety measures such as crash barriers or parapets. Another accident had been reported at the same spot previously too.

The parents are alleging that the government is protecting the officials of the Public Works Department and the contractor responsible for not repairing the collapsed part of the road.

magisterial probe report in Nurpur Bus accident

Photos: Amar Ujala

The authority was not ready to admit that the road was in poor condition. However, within a month of this tragedy, the spot was repaired and parapets were also installed. A few kilometres length of the road around the spot was also metalled in a haphazard manner.

Though the report that wasn’t made public might have been modified later, Himachal Watcher had obtained some of the facts cited in the findings of the magisterial probe.  

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

The district administration has not made the findings of the report public, the parents allege. Some of the parents said they were told that the driver suffered a heart attack which caused the accident. The parents alleged the government is trying to hush up the matter and is denying justice to their children.

On the other hand, the administration has told the parents to file an RTI to obtain the copy of the report. The administration said the report is prepared after a fair probe. It also claimed that parents never asked for a copy of the report. 

Protection of its officials even when their callousness and corruption have led to a loss of lives is one of the several things in which the current government agrees with the previous one.  This attitude is less likely to witness any change as the government is always sparing the road and spoiling it departments and officials.  

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HP Govt has every reason to terminate contract with GVK-EMRI providing 108 & 102 services

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HP Govt GVK-EMRI contract termination

Shimla: The 108 and 102 emergency services provided by the GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (GVK-EMRI) have become a mockery of the very purpose of an “ambulance.”

Yesterday, a 108 ambulance killed a 70-year-old lady and injured three others as it rammed into a ‘dhaba’ in Saho in Chamba district. The ambulance, as per the report, was in bad shape and mostly needed push-start. While doing so, neither the vehicle got started neither the break worked, and it rammed into a dhaba.

In another incident in Nauradhar – a Trans-Giri region of Sirmaur district – the driver and technician of an ambulance had a narrow escape as the driver lost control after a tyre burst. The driver managed to gain control and prevented an accident.

GVK ambulances in bad shape

108 ambulance after tyrebust in Nauradhar

On August 25, a case of break-failure was reported in Sangdah (संगड़ाह) region of the district. The driver had to crash the ambulance against the hill.

Currently, these emergency services are like a lifeline for patients and a large population depends on t

The staff of the GVK had been trying to highlight the plight of the ambulances, which are not fit to be emergency vehicles. Tyre bust, brake failure, and other mechanical faults have been officially reported by the staff of these ambulances to the company, the State Health Department, and the National Health Mission.

The staff had even highlighted that despite being in unfit to be on road, the ambulances are passed by the government every year.

The staff has alleged the company of using repressive means to discourage such employees trying to raise their voice against blatant violations of rules.

These ambulances are supposed to run as much faster as the road and traffic conditions allow while carrying all mandatory life-saving tools, devices, medicine, and technicians. The 102 service dedicatedly serves for the pregnant women under a maternity scheme. The vehicles are supposed to be maintained regularly. Ambulances can’t afford to have worn-out tyers and mechanical errors.

These vehicles, especially those rendering 102 services should be maintained regularly so that they to endure the impact of bad road conditions. However, the situation is quite opposite to it.

Previous Story: 108 and 102 ambulance staff on strike again as their demands not met despite agreement

A month ago, the staff of the company had gone on strike over pending salaries, delay in payment of monthly salaries, and irregularities in the benefits offered by the company. As per the drivers, the company not only made them drive mechanically unfit vehicles but also exploited them by not paying for overtime.

There is no standard policy regarding the salary of the staff. While some employees receive Rs. 6,000 to 8,000, others are being paid 12,000 to 15, 000. The company is paying the salary in an arbitrary manner. Newly employed staff is offered more salary than what is being paid to employees who are serving for past five to eight years,

Puran Chand had told Himachal Watcher during the last strike in August.

Earlier in June, the company had given false assurance to the employees that all their demands would be met within a month. However, after the end of this deadline, the GVK had again failed to meet any of the demands.

The staff was so distressed that it did not resume duties despite the imposition of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). The State High Court, like it happens in almost every important issue, had to intervene to make the staff call off the strike. It was after the court termed their strike illegal and threatened them with committing a contempt of court by not joining back that the drivers and technicians called off the strike.

The service provider had also terminated about 63 employees to create panic among the others striking. However, instead of threatening them, the termination fueled the anger among the employees.

An FIR has also been registered against a senior Employee’s Provident Fund Organization Officer and an intermediary of GVK Company for offering and accepting a bribe. The middleman had paid a bribe of Rs. 80,000 to the officer of the EPF office in exchange for reducing EPF liabilities of the company, the striking staff allege.

The court had directed the district administration, the State and Centre Health Departments, and NHM to resolve the grievance of the staff.

Mr Ranjan Sharma, Additional Advocate General had told the court that the Mission Director, National Health Mission, HP, should ensure that the salary to the employees, on the due date, as per the agreement, is released, in accordance with law.

The contract between the State government and GVK should have been terminated long ago considering all above grievance. The contract was renewed in 2017 before the elections to the State Legislative Assembly and is valid till 2022. 

After pressure from the court, it is now that the Health Minister Vipin Singh Parmar is speaking about taking note of these grieve issues and reviewing the contract. He today said that this step was taken after receiving regular complaints about the service provider. The Minister has suggested that the contract could be terminated soon depending upon the outcomes of this review.

The government has every reason to take this much-needed step as the company is showing no signs of betterment in its attitude towards the emergency services and its staff.

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HRTC slammed for targeting schoolchildren for profit, burdening parents

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HRTC School bus fee hike

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC), in a recent meeting, has hiked the fare for school buses by 50 percent. It would also apply to the bus passes, which were earlier issued on concessional rates to keep the transportation cost cheaper for school children.

This decision is facing severe criticism from the Parents Teachers Association of various public and private schools and other social organizations. The demand for withdrawal of the decision to hike the fare is being raised.

The HRTC, on the other hand, justified the hike in fare by reasoning that no hike was made since 2010.

The new rates of the HRTC charges (per month) for school bus passes are as followed:

Rs. 900 for five to ten kilometres

Rs.1350 for 11 to 20 kilometres

Rs. 1500 for 21 to 30 kilometres

The Communist Party of India, as well as the parents, have pointed out that the standard fare for a distance of five kilometres is currently Rs. 7. For both ways, it would be Rs. 14, and for a month, it would be Rs. 420. However, the Corporation is now charging Rs. 900 per month, which is a loot, they said. 

On Friday, some unofficial reports suggested that the Chief Minister could roll-back the decision after facing widespread criticism. 

The PTAs expressed anguish by saying that the Himachal Pradesh Government is hardly able to commit itself for the deliverance of quality education in the government schools. During the past two decades, a large number of parents shifted their trust from government schools to the private/convent schools.

The Education Minister and the teachers in the government schools were seen concerned more about transfers than committing to their schools and students.

Parents strive to get their children enrolled in private schools despite the fact that these institutions extract hefty fees, which makes them unaffordable for children of any family below middle class. The middle-class families sacrifice a lot to ensure a better education for their children, the majority of parents in PTAs agreed.

The parents are not only looted by private schools but also pay for cab services, which openly flaunt rules and regulations meant for ensuring the safety of children.

The government has so far never intervened to put a check on the private schools, regularise fee structure, and stop the financial exploitation of the parents.

As a matter of fact, the politicians, bureaucrats, and government officials settle nothing less than the most reputed private schools in the State when it comes to their own children. The congestion in private schools has grown to such an extent that parents seek approach/personal recommendation of ministers, politicians, elected leaders, bureaucrats, and influential people.

It’s ironical because the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, directs the government to ensure free and compulsory school education for all children. The Act specifically mentions that education to children must be ensured in schools located in their neighbourhood.

The Act also states that the governments should ensure that nothing stands in the way of children from accessing compulsory education. The government is supposed to eradicate all barriers or limitations, which keep children from receiving education in schools.

In Himachal, the governments have raised a large number of schools but failed miserably to ensure the quality of education in its schools. The situation is such that the government is proposing to shut down a good number of schools because no students would enrol in them.

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