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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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Misc News/Press Release

Ban Speaker Rajeev Bindal, IPH Minister from Campaigning for Constantly Violating Model Code of Conduct, Misusing Govt Machinery: HPCC to CEO

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Rajeev Bindal and IPH Minister Mahender singh violates Model Code of Conduct

Shimla-Bharatiya Janata Party-led Himachal Pradesh Government is misusing government machinery and power in the by-elections to Pachhad (55) and Dharamshala (18) assembly constituencies, thus, violating Model Code of Conduct, alleged the HP Congress Committee in a memorandum submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer on October 14, 2019.

The memorandum was submitted by a delegation led by Hari Krishan Himral, political secretary to HPCC President, Kuldeep Rathor.

It’s pertinent to mention that Congress had expressed dissatisfaction over the functioning of the Electoral Officers, alleging that they are working under the pressure of the current government. Congress has also decided to hold a protest rally on October 15, 2019, against the inaction of the Electoral Officers against violators of MCC despite the submission of documentary proof.

The HPCC, in the memorandum, said that it has been constantly reporting violations of Model Code of Conduct in the poll-bound constituencies. Dr Rajeev Bindal, Speaker of HP Vidhan Sabha, is violating Vidhan Sabha Act by holding meetings in favour of BJP candidate. Congress said it has given documentary proof of his holding meetings in Naina Tikkar of Pachhad Constituency on October 4, 2019, and in Thakur Dwara on October 10, 2019. Bindal has already received a notice from the Election Commission, seeking his reply over allegations of campaigning in Pachhad constituency.

The Irrigation and Public Health Minister, Mahender Singh Thakur, has been camping in Pachhad constituency to lure voters by adopting unfair means and malpractices, Congress alleged. On his orders, the IP&H Department unloaded trucks full of GI pipes which are now stacked in different locations in Naina Tikkar, Rajgarh, Rasu Mandir, Dilman and Wasni panchayats, Congress alleged.

The Deputy Commissioner, Sirmaur, has been informed through SDM and Police complaints have been filed about violation of Code of Conduct by government officials, Ministers and Speaker. However, the DC is allegedly behaving as an agent of BJP itself, Congress said in the memorandum.

Misuse of government property like rain shelters, National Highway, both in Pachhad and Dharamshala, is being regularly reported, Congress alleged. They are being used to paste posters in favour of BJP candidates which is prohibited in MCC, it said. Congress said it has submitted four different complaints to the State Electoral Officer since October 9, 2019, but it appears that ministers, Speaker and government officials are not bothered to follow directions from the Election Officers and they still continue to violate MCC. BJP wishes to sabotage the by-elections by their misconduct and adoption of unfair means, it alleged. 

Congress has urged the Chief Electoral Officer to ban Bindal and Mahender Singh from campaigning for these elections for their misconduct and violation of MCC along with passing strict instruction to administration and police department to immediately remove stacks of GI pipes from the said locations and remove posters, hoardings and banners from government properties like NH and rain-shelters in both constituencies.

Congress also enclosed photographs with the memorandum as proof.

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Art & Culture

Devdhun Played by 2200 Bajantris at Kullu Dussehra Enters ‘India Book of Records’, Fest Concludes

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Video Dev Dhun at kullu dussehra enters india book of records

Kullu-The international Kullu Dussehra concluded on Monday with great fanfare and enthusiasm. More than 281 deities from various parts of Kullu district participated in this cultural extravaganza.

Other than Mega Natti performed by 4000 women on October 12, over 2200 Bajantris (instrumentalists) congregated at the Atal Sadan ground on October 13 in the presence of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to play ‘Devdhun’

Devdhun is the sound that resonates after playing different traditional instruments when deities move out of their temples to join local festivals. ‘Devdhun’ has been entered as a record in the India Book of Records with a record 2200 Bajantries playing the musical instruments simultaneously.

The Mega Natti performed in 2015 by nearly 10000 women at Kullu Dussehra has already entered into Guinness Book of World Records.

On Monday, Chief Minister presided over the concluding ceremony held at Lal Chand Prarthi Kala Kendra, Kullu. He announced to increase the nazrana (honorarium) of local deities participating in Kullu Dussehra festival by five per cent. He also announced an increase of 25 per cent in distance allowance (Duri Bhatta) given to the deities.

He announced 15 percent increase in remuneration of Bajantaris, who accompany the local deities to the festival besides increasing the amount for celebrating Haripur and Manikaran Dussehra from Rs 75,000 to Rs one lakh and for Vashisht Dussehra festival from existing Rs 50,000 to Rs. 75,000. He said that the ‘Gur’ of the Deities would be provided a separate amount of Rs 1000.

Kullu Dussehra provides a livelihood to the indigenous community as they provide them with a platform to display their products for a much wider audience. This festival was also contributing immensely in promoting tourism in the State with tourists visiting Kullu to watch this cultural extravaganza from the world over.

Jai Ram Thakur said that the State Government would ensure that this event not only become a regular event but also an added attraction of International Kullu Dussehra. He said that in the present era of cut-throat competition, our age-old culture and traditions were slowly vanishing and urged the people to come forward to conserve the same. He announced Rs. 5 lakh from his discretionary fund to the Bajantaries who performed during the event.

The Chief Minister also inaugurated the building of Press Club, Kullu for facilitating the journalists of Kullu district.

He distributed prizes to the winners of different events on the occasion and released Souvenir brought out by the Dussehra Organizing Committee. He also released a poster of documentary ‘Gallantry Saga-BRO, released a booklet published by State Language and Art Academy and a souvenir ‘Atal Samritian’ published by Kullu Sanskriti Vikas Manch.

Chief Minister was also presented with a book ‘Indigenous Building Practice System in Western Himalayas-A Comparative Study’ authored by a young author, Architect and expert in traditional Kathkuni house, Rahul Bhushan.

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Misc News/Press Release

Search Operation in Kangra-Pathankot Bordering Areas Following Terror Alert in Pathankot   

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Terrorist search in kangra district

Kangra- Kangra police on Sunday carried out an extensive search operation in areas adjoining to Pathankot. After inputs by intelligence agencies about a possible terrorist attack, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, and Batala were on high-alert. Punjab police and commandos had already launched a massive cordon and search operation to root out any possibility of possible infiltration and suspected dropping of weapons through drones in these areas.

As a part of the Kangra district falls in the bordering area with Pathankot, jawans of Kangra Police headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police, Nurpur, Sahil Arora, along with commandos have been carrying out search operation in these areas. The search was also carried out in the Chakki Dariya region. The police searched the sheds of the Gujjar community and labourers working at crusher sites.

Other than that, a search was also conducted at the hostels of a private institute in Bhadroyan. The jungle under Dhangu Police Station was also searched as the area is in the vicinity of Pathankot Air Base. There is no habitat or movement of locals in the jungle adjoining to Pathankot Airbase, therefore, it is vulnerable to terrorist activities, the ASP said.

Other than that, areas falling under Indora Sub-Division -Majra, Damtal, Kandwal, Lodhwan etc – were also searched and habitants living in these areas were also questioned.

The Additional Superintendent of Police, Vimukt Ranjan, has warned the locals regarding the entry or movement of suspicious people or sighting of suspicious objects. The locals were asked to inform the police at once in case they come across any such suspicious person or object.

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