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Shimla MC’s move to privatise sanitation work in controversy over hiring of Rohingya refugees

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Rohingya refugees in Shimla as sanitation workers

Shimla: The alleged entry of Rohingya refugees into Shimla as new sanitation workers after the Municipal Corporation decided to outsource the service from July 1, 2018, has sparked a controversy.

The private company is bringing workers from other states like Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir, but it did not care about verifying their identity.  At the same time, Shimla MC also caught off-guard as it also became care-free after outsourcing the work. 

The SMC has outsourced the sanitation work in five Wards; Tutu, Majyath, Tutikandi, Boileauganj, Kachhi Ghati. The company hired about 40 workers, who were brought from other states. Out of these 40, about 22 were Rohingya refugees, the reports said.   

The Mayor washed her hands-off saying she was not aware of the identification of the workers hired by the company for the sanitation work of her town. 

Further, MC has now decided that no refugees would be hired.  

The private company reportedly justified that he was not aware that they were refugees. He said about five people, who were carrying an identity card of the issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had approached him to seek the job. 

These refugees do not possess any identification given by the Indian government, it was alleged.

Questions have been raised over the functioning of security agencies and the State Police Department. As per allegations, the SMC, district administration, police, and security agencies were unaware of the fact that refugees have entered Shimla without their knowledge.

The district administration and police department have begun an investigation of the allegations. The contractor has been summoned by the Deputy Commissioner Amit Kashyap and Superintendent of Police Ompati Jamwal.

The Mayor has been directed to verify the identity of workers being brought by the company. 

Meanwhile, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Pramod Shukla, said the refugees had returned to J&K and were expected to come back with more workers. He said currently there was no refugee present in Shimla. 

Hire Locals as Sanitation Workers: VHP

The State President of the Vishav Hindu Parishad in Himachal Pradesh has also issued a statement terming these refugees as a threat to the internal security of the state.

The VHP has also questioned the move to hire workers from another state instead of providing employment to locals. 

It’s pertinent to mention that about 40 locals employed as workers with the Shimla Heritage, Environment & Beautification Society have already quite the job as a protest against the privatization. 

Who are Rohingya Refugees?

Rohingya refugees are said to be the result of what was described as one of the largest exoduses of people in which about 500,000 people had to flee the country to take refuge in border areas of the neighbouring countries. It happened after a massacre of the people of Rohingya ethnic group.

Rohingya had been living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for several decades alongside Buddhist population. Their population was estimated to be around 10 lakh. They are not treated as citizens of Myanmar, they do not enjoy rights like citizens, and their access to health, education, supplies, group activities etc. has always remained restricted. They are believed to be Bangladeshi Muslims who were not recognized as citizens by their government and were forced to migrate to Myanmar.

As per the reports of the UN, after facing decades of atrocities including the brutal rape of their women and minor girls, a militant group appeared as a reaction to this long persecution. On August 25, 2017, a genocide begins in Rohingya after the government of Myanmar alleged that this militant group, which was allegedly supported by Rohingya people, launched an attack on security posts and killed a dozen of soldiers.

Though the government refuted the allegations, the UN reports have suggested that armed forces were not only after the militants responsible for attacks but were also raped women and minor girls and slaughtered about 1,000 Rohingya people in the Rakhine state.

As per UNO, these people are one of the most persecuted ethnic groups and have endured atrocities on the hand of the majority for several decades.

These refugees also sought refuge in India; however, the government remained sceptical about them under pressure from internal organizations that termed them as a potential threat to the security of India.

The government had told the Supreme Court that it does not want India to become a refugee capital of the world. As per officials, there are about 40,000 refugees related to the Rohingya community in India.

The Indian government is in favour of identifying these refugees and deport them back to Myanmar. Also, these refugees were not given access to health care or government programs meant to support their survival and protect their rights.

India is not a signatory of 1951 refugees convention meant to extend help to displaced people.

As per reports, mothers and their newborns are also not receiving sufficient nutrition and a large number of still deaths were reported in the refugee camps.

Senior advocate Ashwini Kumar, who was appearing for two Rohingya migrants had stated that “minimum humanitarian morality” should be shown to the refugees at the border.

We cannot push them back to the jaws of death. You cannot deny a man his right to life. The Supreme Court has to intervene as the ultimate protector of life,

he had submitted.

These refugees fear that they would be either massacred or further persecuted if they were deported back to the conflict zone from where they had to flee to save their lives.

Meanwhile, India has initiated talks with the Myanmar government regarding the deportation of refugees.

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.

Misc News/Press Release

Holding Clean Elections India’s Biggest Challenge as Misuse of Money Increases By Leaps And Bounds: EC

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Multi-Departmental Committee on Election Intelligence

New Delhi: Conducting clean elections is now one of the biggest challenges in our democracy given the prevalent abuse of money power, particularly when it manifests in the inducement of voters, the Elections Commission of India said today.

Unfortunately, the use of the money during the elections has increased by leaps and bounds in recent times. Mischief mongers are ever devising more ingenious ways to beat the system, said the EC Larger seizures have been made by our enforcement teams in successive elections.

To address this paramount problem, the Election Commission of India headed by Chief Election Commissioner  Sunil Arora along with Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra today held a meeting of Multi-Departmental Committee on Election Intelligence.  Heads of Tax Boards, Law enforcement agencies, Central Paramilitary Forces and representatives of Financial Institutions attended the meeting.

The Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora along with the Election Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra at Meeting of Multi-Departmental Committee on Election Intelligence, in New Delhi on March 15, 2019.

He said Commission is determined to curb this menace and has issued detailed guidelines to monitor election expenditure incurred by candidates and political parties.  He said individually and collectively the agencies participating in the meeting are the bulwarks of clean elections. The outcome of synergised action should exceed the commitments made. 

To ensure clean elections, it is vital keeping track of the legal expenditure incurred by candidates and political parties for election campaigns. More importantly, it is imperative to ensure that there is no illegal use of money and other items for buying of votes, said Election Commissioner Chandra.

Issues Discussed at Committee on Election Intelligence

  • Ways of Curbing of covert expenditure by candidates and political parties
  • Sensitisation of the law enforcement agencies about their role during elections
  • Co-operation and sharing of intelligence of economic offences amongst law enforcement agencies for effective action
  • Preparation of road map for action during the elections
  • Mapping of constituencies by concerned agencies to check transportation of smuggled goods, drugs, liquor, and cash, including fake currency, through seaports, inter-state borders and international borders and pro-active and preventive action by each law enforcement agency

The Heads of Tax Boards, Law enforcement agencies, Central Paramilitary Forces and representatives of Financial Institutions assured the Commission of prompt 24X7 expenditure monitoring and surveillance action.

The Commissions said a greater synergy amongst various enforcement agencies is needed to develop a collective strategy to fight this menace.  Therefore, the Commission expects that all enforcement agencies should have proper sharing of information for taking coordinated action rather than working in silos.

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Campus Watch

Nauni Varsity’s Apiculture Centre Judged as India’s Best Research Center, Bags Award

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Nauni Varsity’s Apiculture Centre bags award

Solan: The apiculture research centre of the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, has again bagged the ‘Best Research Center (2016-18)’ award. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) confers the award every year.  This is the second year in a row that the centre has bagged this award.

 University’s Department of Entomology runs the Solan centre of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Honeybees and Pollinators AICRP (HB&P).

Scientists from 27 AICRP centres from across the country participated in the meet and presented their work. Three scientists from the UHF centre; Dr Harish Kumar Sharma, Dr Kiran Rana and Dr Meena Thakur also attended the meeting.

The Principal Investigator Dr Harish Sharma said that the centre is engaged in research in diversified aspects of apiculture including managed honeybee pollination, bee botany, bee breeding, honeybee disease identification and their management, and standardization of technology for hive products.

This is the only centre in the country where bumblebee rearing and its utilization in protected cultivation has been standardized.

he said.

Elaborating on the work done by the entomology department of the university, HOD Dr Divender Gupta told that the centre has been working for the overall upliftment of apiculture in the state with special emphasis on pollination management.

In addition, the centre has been providing specialized training on queen breeding and bee breeding to beekeepers from across the country including the north-east. 

In order to establish bee breeders, the scientists have been providing technical backup for production of quality queens for increasing honey production and pollination efficiency,

he added.

The award was given at the Biennial Group Meeting of AICRP (HB&P) organized by ICAR at the School of Agricultural Sciences and Rural Development, Nagaland University last week.

Dr PK Chakravarti, ADG ICAR conferred the award at the plenary session of the workshop in the presence of eminent apiculturist and former national coordinators of the AICRP (HB&P) Dr RK Thakur and Dr RC Mishra. Dr RK Thakur, who is currently serving as the Joint Director (Communication) at UHF also delivered the lead lecture during the event.

UHF VC Dr HC Sharma and Dean College of Horticulture Dr Rakesh Gupta congratulated the whole team for bringing laurels to the university.

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Misc News/Press Release

Kinnaur Avalanche: 4 Bodies Including 3 Jawans of Himachal recovered, 2 Still Missing

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Army jawans killed in avalanche in Kinnaur

Kinnaur-The search operation for the missing jawans of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, who were buried in an avalanche in Himachal Pradesh about three weeks ago, has entered its 20th day on Monday.

On February 20, 2019, an avalanche hit a patrolling party in Namgia Dogri region in Kinnaur district along the  Indo-Tibetan border. It swept away and buried six jawans of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.

Bilaspur Jawan Rakesh Kumar Martyred in Avalanche
Bilaspur Jawan Rakesh Kumar Martyred in Avalanche

One of the jawans – Rakesh Kumar (41) of Bilaspur district – was rescued on the same day, but succumbed to injuries on the way to Pooh hospital.

The body of Rajesh Rishi (25), a native of Nalagarh sub-division of Solan district, was recovered on March 2. It was followed by recovery of another jawan Govind Bahadur Chhetri’s body on March 4. Govind hailed from West Bengal. 

On March 9, the search team recovered the body of Rifleman Nitin Rana (27). Nitin was cremated with state and military honour on March 10 in his native village Ritt in Jaisingpur of Kangra district.  His father is an ex-serviceman, and his brother is also serving in the Indian Army.

Three of the jawans martyred hailed from Himachal.

The search operation continues and the team is likely to find two more jawans soon.

In a separate incident, Amit Kumar (29)- a Garud Commando in special forces unit of the Indian Air Force – was killed during a parachute jump in Agra on March 7, 2019.  Amit belonged to village Bussal of Kangra district. 

Almost 500 jawans of Indian-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Army have been searching for the missing jawans since their disappearance. Villagers were also assisting in the operation. The teams are using everything from machinery, metal detectors, sniffer dogs to thermal sensing equipment to find the jawans.

A team of the Defense Research Development Organization(DRDO) also visited the site.

Meanwhile, the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), a wing of the Indian Army, has also deployed its machinery to remove snow.

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