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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.

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Himachal: Cloudbursts, Landslides Claim 9 Lives in 48 Hours, 7 Still Missing, Met Issues Alert Till August 1st  

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monsoon damage in himachal pradesh 2021

Shimla-Monsoon continues to pummel Himachal Pradesh with deadly ferocity, leading to more cloudbursts, landslides, and flash floods. Several rivers and rivulets are in spate. Incessant rains could bring more destruction as the HP Meteorological Department has forecast widespread heavy rains till August 1st. While a red alert was issued for July 28, an orange alert has been issued for July 29 and July 30 and a yellow alert for July 31st and August 1st.

An advisory has been issued for locals and tourists to not venture near the river banks and avoid unnecessary travel as incessant rains could lead to more landslides, flash floods, and uprooting of trees.  However, tourists could be seen resolutely ignoring these warnings and partying near river banks and water bodies.

As devastation unfolds, the death toll due to monsoon induced calamities has reached nearly 200, while damages to property were assessed to be in hundreds of crores. Over 350 roads, including Manali-Leh, Pathankot-Chamba, and Shimla-Kalka, were blocked due to landslides.  Half a dozen bridges, as many as 30 houses and several vehicles were destroyed. Hundreds of tourists were reportedly struck in Lahaul.

lahaul-spiti cloudburst

After a flash flood in Dharamshala, a massive landslide in Shahpur constituency, and a horrid rockslide in Kinnaur district that killed nine tourists and injured four people, a cloudburst triggered a flash flood in Lahaul-Spiti district on Tuesday that washed away over a dozen of people, who were said to be labourers.  

cloudburst in lahaul-spiti

According to the Director of the State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar, at the time of writing this report, seven bodies had been recovered while four others were missing. The cloudburst occurred over Tonzin nallah in the Lahaul region of the tribal district. Rescue operations were in progress to trace missing persons.

A team of the National Disaster Response Force, which was on its way to Lahaul-Spiti through road, remained stuck in Mandi for several hours.  

On Wednesday morning, cloudburst was reported in Kullu district resulting in deluging of Bhramhaganga – a tributary of Parvati river. A  tourist, a 25-year-old mother along with her 4-year-old son, and a hydropower official came in its spate and were yet to be traced. Beas river was also in spate and people living in shanties on its bank were evacuated. 

Beas in spate

Rackham area in Kinnaur district also reported heavy losses due to a cloudburst on Wednesday morning.

While a rockslide killed one person in Chamba’s Saluni, a helper tagged with a JCB deployed for clearing Bharmaur-Pathankot National Highway was swept away by gushing waters of a nullah on Tuesday night. His body was recovered on Wednesday.

In Shimla, a landslide between Vikasnagar and Panthaghati crushed a vehicle and caused damaged to some others. Gumma khud in Chirgaon was also in spate and reportedly swept away a bridge and about four vehicles. 

landslide in shimla crushed car

Dharamsala received the highest 122 mm of rain, followed by Una 119 mm. In Solan district, Kasauli and Nalagarh also received over 105 mm rain. 

This widespread destruction has worried climatologists and environmentalists who are linking increased instances of landslides and cloudburst to environmental degradation and destabilization of hills due to developmental projects, including cutting of hills for widening of roads, construction of four lanes, hydropower projects etc. 

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Kinnaur: Massive Landslide Caught on Camera, Kills 9 Tourists, Injures 4, Destroys Bailey Bridge

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kinnaur landslide in batseri

Kinnaur: A massive landslide in Batseri on Sangla-Chitkul road in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday killed nine persons and injured at least four others. Huge boulders rolled down the mountain following the landslide and destroyed an iron Bailey bridge and many vehicles parked along the road within a few seconds.

A tourist vehicle, which was reportedly carrying about 11 tourists from Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Chattisgarh, was hit by boulders near Gunsa, killing nine tourists. A couple of videos of this heart-wrenching incident went viral on social media. In the video, some people can be heard whistling and shouting to warn others.

“Nine people died, and three were injured after boulders rolled downhill due to a landslide in Kinnaur district. Batseri bridge collapsed in the incident. A rescue team is present at the spot,” Superintendent of Police (SP), Kinnaur, Saju Ram Rana said.

The intensity with which boulders hit could be assessed from the fact that the iron bailey bridge on the Baspa river collapsed instantly. 

Video of landlside in himachal pradesh

On receiving the information, teams of district police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police rushed to the spot and initiated a rescue operation. The district administration was also assessing the situation. As per reports, rocks sliding down from the hilltop made the rescue operation difficult for the teams.

sangla valley landslide

As per initial reports, a request was made to make a helicopter available to aid rescue work, which was yet to be fulfilled.

landslide in himachal pradesh

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur also expressed grief over the incident. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the deceased while injured would be given Rs. 50 thousand.

The exact cause behind the landslide was yet to be ascertained.

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Pratiksha Sunil Patil (27) from Sadhbhawna Nagar, Nagpur, Maharashtra
  2. Deepa Sharma (34) from Jaipur
  3. Amoghi Bapat (27) from Korba Darri in Chhatisgarh
  4. Umrab Singh (42) of Tagore Garden West Delhi
  5. Kumar Ulhas vedpathak (37)
  6. Anurag Biyani (31) from Sikar in Rajasthan, his mother Maya Devi Biyani (55) and his sister Richa Biyani (25)
  7. Satish Katakbar (34) from Chhatisgarh.

Those injured have been identified as Shiril Obroy (39) from West Delhi, Naveen Bhardwaj (37) from Kaharar in Mohali and Ranjeet Singh (45) from Batseri in Sangla.

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Himachal Reports Rise in Covid Deaths, No Vaccine for 18-44 Age Group Till July 22

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vaccination of youth in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh has reported a rise in daily casualties during the last three days. While 437 new cases were detected, 10 persons succumbed to the infection. in the last three days. According to the HP Health Department, state’s positivity rate for the last week – from July 5-July 11- was 1.0. Compared to a total of eight deaths in the entire week, Himachal has reported 10 deaths in the last three days of the ongoing week.

The State’s Covid death tally has now reached 3486. The number of active cases was 1150 on Thursday. The daily sampling remains between ten 10,000 to 15,000.

The state government has further discontinued vaccination for the 18-44 age group till 22 July. However, vaccination of other groups will continue. 

Himachal’s tourist spots continue to receive a large number of visitors daily. During the last month, after the HP government lifted all restrictions on inter-state movement, tourists had been over-crowding popular tourist destinations, especially Dharamshala, Shimla, and Manali, to such an extent that the Union Health Ministry, as well as, the Prime Minister had to warn states over the violation of guidelines regarding the “Covid-Appropriate Behavior”.

As both locals and tourists were observed to have become carefree and caring a little about social distancing or creating large gatherings, the state government on July 14 issued a fresh advisory to follow the “Covid-19 Appropriate Behavior” (CAB) to mitigate the third wave.

However, a widespread lack of awareness has been reported, due to which the public is not taking the warnings of the third wave and CAB guidelines seriously.  

In several instances, the state government found itself helpless in preventing large gatherings and violation of CAB guidelines. Over-crowded buses and carriage vehicles, for instance, is a common scene against the permitted capacity of 50%. The health experts had been insisting that successful implementation of SOPs at the mass level is not possible without the co-operation of the people. However, the current methods of the state government for creating awareness has failed to appeal to the majority of the people, which is making compliance of guidelines next to impossible. 

 

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