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Did HP Govt finish Dharamshala’s ‘Core Area’ to facilitate illegal construction?

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Dharamshala illegal construction in core area

Dharamshala: One by one, every popular town of Himachal Pradesh is nearing irreparable environmental damage along with adoption of an ugly look due to haphazard and even illegal constructions without facing any resistance from the past or current State Government and local authorities.

After Shimla, Dharamshala is one of the worst victims of lawlessness.

A large number of multistory buildings, including those having as many as seven storeys, mushroomed in the Core Area of Mcleodganj by violating a number of Municipalities, Town and Country Planning, and Environmental laws. Everything happened under the nose of those government officials who were being paid to monitor illegal activities.

The core area was spread from the main crossing to the Dalai Lama temple.

As a shocker, one of such buildings was allegedly raised in front of the office of the Dharamshala MC by one of its own officials.

Meanwhile, in 2005, one Ghazala Abdullah approached the State High Court to bring the ongoing destruction of the internationally acclaimed tourist destination – Dharamshala – to its notice.

A bench of then-Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarklok Chauhan had begun the hearings in the petition and passed some strict orders to prohibit further construction activities in the planning area.

The court had also ordered to disconnect water and electricity connections to such structure that stand in violation of the laws. Surprisingly, the departmental support reportedly continued to these violators. Alongside the hearing, illegal activities also continued. Therefore, in 2018, a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel had to appoint advocate Deven Khanna as the local commissioner as the trust on government machinery was lost.

Prior to it, by the end of 2017, the Town and Country Planning appears to have tried a master-stroke to facilitate illegal construction.

Rajeshwar Goel, Director, Town and Country Planning, had told the court that the development plan for Dharamshala Planning Area was changed and was later notified on January 27, 2018. It made changes to the previous development plan notified on June 15, 1994. The “Core Area” in the previous plan was re-notified as “Mixed Land Use Area”.

At that time, Minister for Urban Development was Sudhir Sharma. 

It would not help to legalise previous structures raised by violating laws but has opened the door for new ones.  Further, the old buildings could be demolished and new ones can be raised at their places. 

The purpose of declaring the area as the Core Area was to protect degradation and natural disasters due to excess of construction. The aim was to keep such activities to minimal.

The TCP had reasoned that no heritage or other such old properties remain in the Core Area so the status was changed, which do not sound a wise decision at all because area falls under high seismic zone v/vi. On the top of that, rampant illegal felling of and damage to trees were also reported.

But to the demise of the State Government, now, the Bench found it fishy, therefore, directed the Principal Secretary, Town and Country Planning, to explain the reasons and circumstances, which led to such change in the rules. The said official is expected to file an affidavit regarding the same by the next hearing scheduled for July 30.

We notice that under the new development plan, certain areas which were defined as “Core Area” stand re-notified as “Mixed Land Use Area,”

the court observed on July 6, 2018.

He shall explain as to whether at the time of taking such decision, the factum of Dharamshala (District Kangra) being prone to earthquake, falling within high seismic zone v/vi, was considered or not. Let such affidavit be filed within a period of two weeks,

the court said.

It’s pertinent to mention that if the court had not appointed amicus curiae and local commissioner, only lies would have reached the court and the government officials would have portrait the situation to be perfectly fine.

The local commissioner Deven who was direct to visit the area physically exposed alleged lies of the officials of the Municipal Corporation, Town and Country Planning, Mining Department etc.

Also Read: Shocking video/photos expose Govt Officer’s lies about illegal slate mining in Dharamshala

Further, if such state of non-governance and lawlessness continued, Himachal’s town would become one of the worst examples of poor planning. Shimla’s Core Area could be the next victim. After all, the government would only need to temper with existing laws.

Sadly, things do not seem to be changing even with the change in the government. 

It is to be seen whether the TCP Director could justify this decision in his personal affidavit to be filed in the court before July 30.

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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Social Media Platforms Agree to Come up With Code of Ethics, says ECI After a Meeting With Representatives

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Lok sabha elections 2019 and social media platforms

New Delhi-The usage of Social Media ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 is one of the biggest causes of worry for the Election Commission of India as well as the people. The social media platforms do not have any provisions like the Model Code of Conduct.

The role of social media in helping spread information as well as curbing misinformation cannot be underestimated. There is a desperate need to come up pro-actively with deterrents like some punitive action against users misusing the platform.

Considering this issue of ethics, the Election Commission of India today had an interactive session with representatives of various Social Media Platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). The representatives from social media organizations such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, TikTok and BigoTV attended the meeting.

The Chief Election Commissioner cited Model Code of Conduct as a unique and historic document, which is followed by all political parties /entities from the date of declaration of schedule of elections till the election process is concluded.

Arora said the Social Media Organizations are formidable force-multiplier and asked them to come up with a similar Code for the ongoing election process in the immediate context and a lasting document in the long run.

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa pointed out that today’s has been a momentous meeting for the evolution of ‘behaviour’ of Social Media platforms on Social Media.

Voluntary restraint is a hallmark of civilized society and works as effectively as any regulation, he said. He suggested that the management should consider a clear clause on users’ voluntarily agreeing not to misuse social media platforms for election or political purposes.

The need for the appointment of dedicated grievance channel for expeditious action by the organizations, pre-certification, and transparency in the expenditure of political advertisements was also raised in the meeting. The meeting focused on evolving a notification mechanism by social media platforms for acting upon the violations of Section 126 of R.P. Act, 1951 and preventing misuse of these platforms. 

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Manohar Parrikar Was ‘Chief Minister of Commoners’, Says Cabinet condoling his demise

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Manohar Parrikar Condoloscence messages

New Delhi– The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today condoled the sad demise of Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister on March 17, 2019, at Panaji, Goa.  The Cabinet observed silence for two minutes in his memory.  Parrikar had been in and out of hospitals since February last year after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

He was cremated with full state honours at Panjim’s Miramar Beach this evening. He was 64-years-old.

The Cabinet had also approved observing one day of mourning by the Government of India and flying the National Flag at half-mast on March 18, 2019, in all the States/UTs Capitals including Delhi and throughout the State of Goa.

The Cabinet expresses profound sorrow at the sad demise of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa in the evening of 17th March 2019 at Panaji, Goa. In his passing away, the country has lost a veteran and distinguished leader, affectionately called as the Chief Minister of commoners,

said a condolence Resolution of the Cabinet.

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, also condoled the passing away of Parrikar.

Extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa, after an illness borne with fortitude and dignity. An epitome of integrity and dedication in public life, his service to the people of Goa and of India will not be forgotten.

the President said

About Manohar Parrikar


Born on December 13, 1955, at Mapusa, Goa, Parrikar was educated at Loyola School, Margao and later graduated in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai in 1978. Before entering politics, Parrikar had joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at a young age and became a Mukhya Shikshak (Chief Instructor) in the final years of his schooling itself. After graduating from IIT, he resumed RSS work in Mapusa and became a Sanghchalak at the age of 26.

As a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Parrikar was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Goa in 1994. He became the Chief Minister of Goa for the first time on 24th October 2000 and continued till 27th February 2002. He was re-elected as Chief Minister on 3rd June 2002 and served till 2nd February 2005.  He became Chief Minister of Goa for the third time on 9th March 2012 and continued till 8th November 2014. On 9th November 2014, Shri Parrikar became Union Minister of Defence and continued till 13th March 2017, he was again sworn in as Chief Minister of Goa on 14th March 2017.

He is credited with the building of modern Goa and to the modernization of India’s Armed Forces as well as improvement to the lives of ex.-Servicemen.

Parrikar was awarded the ‘Distinguished Alumnus Award’ by IIT Mumbai in 2001, Honorary Doctorate by National Institute of Technology, Goa in 2018, and the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Award in 2018, among others. He is survived by his two sons.

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Parents Protest Loot by Himachal’s Private Schools, Education Minister Advises Sending Children to Govt Schools

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Loot by Private Schools in Himachal Pradesh 2

Shimla- Levying of hefty fee by private schools in Himachal Pradesh continues despite instructions by the Supreme Court, State High Court and MHRD Ministry. The assurances of the State Government to regulate private schools has also proved insignificant. Parents allege that after court orders to remove the building fund and the admission fee, the schools have only changed the methods of fleecing them with exorbitant fees.

Now, their free booklets have removed the colums of building fund and admission fee and replaced them with annual charges, tuition fee, smart-classroom charges, SMS service charges etc. They have not only adjusted the previously charged funds under new columns but also hiked the total charges, parents alleged.     

Distressed parents have organized under the banner of Parent-Student forum and are again out on the roads to protest against private schools and incapability of the government to take appropriate action. They are asking the government to regulate private schools and make them accountable and responsible. Three main demands of the parents include regulation of fee structure, syllabus, and admission process.

Video

On March 11, 2019, parents gathered outside the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, to hold a protest. On March 13, the forum staged another protest outside the Directorate of Higher Education. The protests are likely to continue until the government addresses the issue, suggested the convenor of the forum, Vijender Mehra.

Parents complained that schools did not consult them before implementing fee hikes for the current session. They also alleged that schools flaunted all regulations while doing so. After extracting hefty fees, some schools were charging an additional Rs. 35-40 in the name of tours, parents alleged. If that was not enough to burden the parents, the schools charge money for their events too, the convenor of the forum said.

My son was in the second class last year, and I paid about 50,000 to the school as various fees. This year, I will have to pay more,

a father told Himachal Watcher on the condition of anonymity.    

Schools have imposed compulsions on parents regarding purchase of books and uniforms. Parents are strictly ordered to buy them from shops selected by schools, where books and uniforms are sold at thrice or four times the normal cost, the convenor said.

Vendors selected by schools set stalls inside the campus and parents must buy books from these vendors. It’s a strict instruction given by the school. These vendors sell books at a higher price as parents are rendered helpless by the school,

said another parent on the condition of not mentioning the name of the school.

Schools tie up with these vendors and fetch fat commissions from them every year on the sale of stationary and uniforms, the parents allege.

If the number of students enrolled in these schools is considered, then they are earning almost over Rs.6 crores per year. Including the commissions from books and uniforms, this amount increases to almost Rs. 7 crore. Their expenditure including salaries of teachers doesn’t exceed Rs. 3 crores. Rest of the amount is their surplus,

the convenor of the forum said.

Himachal Watcher talked to some parents of children enrolled in various private schools in Shimla. It turned out that Rs. 30,000 – 50,000 per annum is a common amount for the majority of schools. For reputed ones, this cost reaches upto Rs. 60, 000.

I have two sons enrolled a reputed private school in Shimla. Elder one is in class II and younger one is in LKG. Last year, I paid about Rs. 90,000 as their fee,

a mother – resident of Summerhill- told HW.  

The schools justify annual hike and hefty charges saying that they are fully self-funded. To hike salaries of teachers, the fees are also hiked every year, non-funded private schools argue.

According to Right to Education (RTE), all private schools are supposed to reserve 25 percent of the seats for children hailing from economically weaker sections. In 2014, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had also issued fresh guidelines to private schools. The parents alleged that schools are not following these rules. The government, they alleged, is behaving like a mute spectator.

It is seen that MLAs, bureaucrats, leaders of the ruling, as well as the opposition, enroll their children in reputed private institutes because they don’t believe in the quality of education and facilities provided in government institutes. While middle class parents also dodge the government institutions because they have begun to find consolation in the fact that their children are at least receiving the best possible education they can afford to secure their future, which government schools cannot provide.

I won’t send my children to government schools because I want them to explore their full potential and develop their personalities. I want them to develop enough self-confidence and communication skills to face the modern, tough competitive world. Currently, government schools are just not able to offer much to children,

said a father of two and resident of New Shimla.

What Does Education Minister Says?

The Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, in response to these protest, told media that he is well aware of this loot. His advice to parents was to send their children to Government schools. As per the Minister, the Government schools are tip-top and quality of education is at par with private schools.

Since assuming the office, the Education Minister was reluctant to accept that a decline in enrollments in government schools is a result of the degrading quality of education. As per his statement in February 2019, parents send their children to private schools for it has become a status symbol. He also claimed that introducing pre-nursery classes in about 390 government schools have resulted in the additional enrollment of 40,000.  He also claimed that 99.7 percent of government schools have toilet facility and that 18 percent of the budget is being spent on education.    

It’s pertinent to mention that the HP Private Education Institutions (Regulation) Act does exist, but its hardly playing any role in regulating schools.

The school aren’t even following the instruction given by the Directorate of Higher Education to submit records of their annual charges for the session 2018-2019.

Other states have developed their own regulatory mechanism to deal with loot by private schools. For example, the State of Gujarat has the Self Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act. It makes State Government competent of forming laws for state boards, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). 

However, it appears that the Government in Himachal is trying to delay forming and implementing any such regulatory law.

Parents also question the government’s disinterest in the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Moreover, irrespective of political parties in power, private schools are hardly audited.

In January 2018, right after coming into power, the Education Minister had assured the people that a policy would be introduced to check arbitrary fee structures of private schools in the State. The laws formed by other states to prevent private schools from exploiting parents financially would be studied, he had said. He had also said that very soon these schools would be brought under the Regulatory Commission.   

In March 2019, the Education Minister has again given an assurance that the Government would make provisions to regulate private schools.  The Government did not mention any deadline or estimated time it would take to frame laws and implement them. Meanwhile, schools have already begun extorting this year’s fees.

The parents also said that they would be meeting the Education Minister during the current week with their plea. The parents have warned the government of more such protests if no action was taken to tighten the noose around these schools.

What Does Law Say?

Operation of private schools and commercialisation of education has long been a matter of litigation across the country. The Supreme Court in December 2018 had ordered a 20 per cent decrease in fees charged by upscale private schools. The schools were ordered to return half the fees they had charged for summer vacations. This order was applicable across the country whose fees were in excess of Rs 5, 000.

The apex court had also ordered that private schools can only increase their fee by five percent each year.

Before it, cases like Islamic Academy of Education versus State of Karnataka (2003) and Modern School versus Union of India (2004) have clearly stated that educational institutions should be allowed to make only ‘reasonable surplus’. The schools were expected to use this profit to provide better facilities and not for profiteering by the school management.

Apparently, the welfare of society lies in putting a check on the commercialisation of education. Good education lies at the foundation of a strong, healthy democracy. At least, education must not be put on sale.

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