Mandi: Despite one of Himachal Pradesh’s most tragic accidents in Nurpur region of Kangra district on April 10, 2018, in which total 28 lives were lost including 24 school children, the state of affairs has not improved. The pictures of mass cremation of the deceased children still haunt parents.
Unfortunately, the Himachal Pradesh Government’s claims of taking safety measures and strictness towards overloading of school cabs did not last for even a month.
On Thursday, an overloaded van ferrying children to their homes from a private school, Spectrum Public School in Darwal of Dharmpur in Mandi district, fell down into a gorge. Against a capacity of five passengers, the van was carrying 12 children, who were mostly UKG and LKG students.
Gauri, a 10-year-old girl, succumbed to her injuries while 11 others sustained injuries. Other than head injuries, some children were screaming in pain as their limbs were fractured.
Sakshi, a 6-year-old, was fighting for her life at the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla.
The other students were identified as Anshul (14), Manasi (9), Kavyansh (6), Bhupender (5), Sumit (14), Ashish Kumar (9), Aarav (6), Sara Thakur (8), Lakshay (6), and Lucky (6).
The preliminary investigation has made shocking revelations. An untrained teenage boy was driving the van, which is said to be registered in the name of the Chairman of the school. The reports said the school had been ferrying children in the private car of the Chairman to save taxes.
As per the initial report, the regular driver had handed over the lives of 12 children in the hands of his son, who was said to be a minor. The car owner was yet to submit documents of the vehicle while the driver was carrying no license.
However, the parents of the boy told the transport minister that their boy was 18 years old.
The statements of some of the children, who were in a condition to talk, suggested the driver was looking back at the children for they were making a noise. Initial reports also suggested that the boy was probably only a learner.
The locals, who first heard the screams of children and reached out for help, said it was a spine-chilling scene to see children drenched in blood and screaming in pain. Some locals carried children to the Sarkaghat hospital while others were carried in a 108 ambulance.
The mother of the girl, who succumbed to her injuries, reportedly fainted on hearing the news.
The Superintendent of Police Gurdev Sharma and Deputy Commissioner Rigdev Thakur rushed to the spot, and, in the evening, the transport minister Govind Singh Thakur also arrived at the Zonal Hosptial, Mandi, where the injured children were receiving treatment.
The DC ordered a magisterial probe into the case, as it was done after the Nurpur tragedy. The report had exposed the role of the HP PWD very clearly, but that did not move the government.
Moreover, what was the outcome of the previous magisterial probe? Was anyone held responsible except the dead driver of the bus? Was any action taken against the officials of the HP Public Works Department for not repairing the collapsed part of the road from where the bus had skidded off?
The district administration, police, and government, all moved on within just two months of the tragedy.
The government had talked about implementing rules and regulations in the hiring of the drivers for the school buses and cabs. However, the current case raises the question whether the government was really serious about it or not. Otherwise, how is it possible that the drivers were switched without the knowledge of the school or the parents?
The parents also remain silent to overloading because last time when the school cabs were asked to not overload, they had hiked the monthly charges by two to three times. Overloading saves money for both the parents and the cab owners. But, is such money worth sacrifice of innocent children?
The standard of Himachal’s government schools and lack of quality education leaves no option for parents but to enrol their children in private school that extort hefty and unreasonable amount of money in the name of fees.
There is no policy regarding the responsibility of transportation facility to school children. Some of the institutes have their own buses, while a large number of others don’t. The parents are being looted by both the cab owners as well as the schools.
On the top of it, the inaction of the government against responsible officials is paving way for more accidents and more deaths. This loop will continue until it is not broken, which is next to impossible in our government work culture.
What’s the use of ordering magisterial probes if no action is taken against responsible persons?
Plea of 24 children killed in Nurpur tragedy to CM for justice
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
HP Govt has every reason to terminate contract with GVK-EMRI providing 108 & 102 services
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.
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.
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.
HRTC slammed for targeting schoolchildren for profit, burdening parents
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.
HP Govt prohibits 328 fixed-dose combinations including thousands of painkillers, antibiotics, creams
Jindan Murder: Activist’s wife labels serious allegations against police, demands CBI probe
Mandi’s Thunag gets UHF Nauni’s Extension Center
Confiscating properties of drug peddlers, opening more rehabs could counter drug menace: CM Jairam
Jindan Murder: Team of human rights and social activists visits Shillai, makes shocking revelations
RTI activist murdered in Himachal in broad daylight, had exposed a BPL fraud
Video: People of this village in Shimla repairing road, cleaning drains despite paying taxes
Yug Murder Case Verdict: Court awards death penalty to all 3 convicts
Outrage over brutal murder of RTI activist/SC leader in Himachal, role of state police in question again
College student nabbed with 22 grams Heroin (Chitta) in Shimla
Campus Watch2 months ago
Watch: Student groups clash at Shimla’s Sanjauli College, 7 suspended
Misc News/Press Release2 months ago
Sanjauli-Navbahar Cemetery road has become hub of drug addicts, says women group demanding regular police patrolling
Misc News/Press Release2 months ago
Videos: 2 more die on Shrikhand Mahadev trek, hundreds stranded, Yatra called off
Public Opinion2 months ago
Too much of a good thing
HW Community1 month ago
Yug Murder Case Conviction: Is this crime rare enough to invite death penalty?
Misc News/Press Release1 month ago
Govt declares 7-days State Mourning, 2-days public holiday in Himachal
Misc News/Press Release2 months ago
Villagers fear famine-like situation in Himachal’s Bara Bhangal as they run out of food-stock
Misc News/Press Release2 weeks ago
RTI activist murdered in Himachal in broad daylight, had exposed a BPL fraud