Connect with us

HW Community

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

Published

on

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 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.

HW Community

Viral Video: HP PWD Tarring Puddled Road in CM Jairam’s Home District

Published

on

Viral Himachal pradesh road tarring video

Mandi– There is no dearth of shocking and bewildering incidents when it comes to corrupt nexus of Departments of State Government and private contractor. The people of the State already know about the alleged ‘PPE kits purchase’ scam of the Health Department in which a higher official was arrested and suspended. Then, there is a separate alleged scam related to purchase of sanitizers at the State Secretariat in which an high rank official has been booked. In Bilaspur, district health authority had allegedly supplied raincoats to health staff instead of PPE kits. The case is being investigated by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Also Read: Vigilance Probe Begins into Alleged Delivery of Raincoats to Health Staff Instead of PPE Kits

Today, the HP Public Works Department is in news. While, the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur claims that Himachal Pradesh has touched new heights in terms of development under his and Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, a video showing a complete waste of public tax money in CM ‘s home-district went viral on social media yesterday.  

The video showed labourers throwing tarring material onto a road-cum-pool of accumulated rainwater. The video was reportedly recorded near Bhantal in Karsog area of Mandi district. The contractor was tarring the road without soling/filling potholes. Take a look.

The road is in tatters and impassable, locals said.

It’s not new for contractors to undertake tarring work in the rain, and Himachal Watcher has reported such incidents earlier too. However, this one depicts widespread corruption in a more ugly form. 

When the video went viral on social media, the work was stopped. An official of HPPWD reached the spot and informed that this work was given to a private contractor.

In a live video on a regional Facebook page, the official can be heard saying that the work was being carried out under the supervision of an HPPWD official. The supervisor was also present at the spot. When the supervisor was asked as to why he did not stop the contractor from undertaking the tarring job amid rain, he replied that the contractor did not listen to him and continued the work despite being told to stop it.

Posted by करसोग अब-तक on Thursday, 25 June 2020

While the locals want action against erring officials and contractor, neither PWD nor the State Government has given any statement regarding this video. The chance that the contractor and responsible PWD officials would be held accountable is almost negligible, as always.  

These days, the Chief Minister, his MLAs and Cabinet Ministers are busy in organizing virtual rallies and count achievements of the BJP Government. In statements given by leaders in these rallies, everything is perfect, there is no corruption and the State has witnessed unprecedented development.

Continue Reading

HW Community

Himachal: Private Schools Only Asked to Defer Fees During Lockdown, Not to Waive Off, Thanks to Helpless Edu Minister

Published

on

Shimla- Education Minister Suresh bhardwaj helpless in front of private schools

Shimla-Private Schools in Himachal Pradesh, especially the bigger and famous ones, are in no mood to give parents relief from fee payments for their wards. In normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have been a surprise or unexpected from these schools, but relief from them was expected on humanitarian ground amid lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. More so when even employees of private companies and businesses have taken a hit financially. They want their fees at any cost irrespective of the fact that schools are closed for over two months now. Not all private schools could be blamed here. There are small schools in other towns and rural areas who would actually find paying salaries to teachers difficult, but in Shimla town, there are bigger and more expensive schools that have enough in store for such times.

After a backlash over failure to make private schools provide relief in fees, the State Government, Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, and the Department of Higher Education did announce some decisions and the Directorate issued notifications directing private schools to cut down their fees and charge only tuition fees during the lockdown.

But these schools don’t give two hoots to these orders and notifications. In fact, the Education Minister and the Department of Higher Education have no guts or willingness to regulate the fee structure of private schools. For that matter, these schools have found ways to defy court orders too.

Also Read: Is This The Best Himachal’s Education Minister Can do to Regulate Private Schools, Make Them Obey Govt Orders?

In a recent case on May 23, 2020, the Cabinet took a decision that private schools would charge only tuition fee during the period of lockdown, and only those school which are imparting online education could charge this fee. The Education Minister had also assured the implementation of this decision.

In a notification issued by the Director of Higher Education, Amarjeet Singh on May 27, 2020, the Government seems to be facilitating private schools by manipulating its own orders.

In the notification, one of the directions said,

“Other funds like building fund, maintenance fund, sports fund, computer fee, co-curricular fee etc. may be deferred during the period of lockdown.”

This fee includes annual charges, security charges, admission fee, and miscellaneous charges.

(Scroll Down to View HP Education Department’s Notification Issued on May 27, 2020)

This direction implies that the said fees are not waived off, but merely deferred. The schools can demand payment of these funds after the period of lockdown. How did the Government provide parents a relief?  There were no classes, no sports-related activities, no computer classes or any other activities in schools for the last two and half months, therefore, the schools should have been directed to waive off these charges from their bills, and not defer them.

Moving on to other directions given in the notification, the Department had stated,

“The tuition shall not be demanded and collected on a quarterly basis, and should only be collected on a monthly basis.”

First, the schools have already extracted their fees for March, April, and May by pressurizing parents to deposit fee by the end of March. At that time, the Education Minister had directed schools to not compel parents to deposit fees before March 30, but schools didn’t care and made parents pay the first installment within the given deadline. Parents don’t come out openly to speak of their distress and dictatorial attitude of these schools alleging their children would be harassed by schools for speaking up against them. This is an advantage these schools are exploiting even in times of a grieve crisis.

Another direction said,

“There shall be no increase in tuition fees and no additions of any other fee/hidden charges in tuition fees.”

Also, the Cabinet had decided that private schools would charge the same amount for tuition fee as charged in 2019.

The student-parent association on June 8, 2020, wrote a letter to the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in which it is alleged that not only schools increased tuition fees by eight to 20 percent but also defied orders of the court passed in 2016 to adjust excess fees charged by schools in next sessions.

To defy this order, some private schools allegedly removed titles of other funds from their fee booklets and increased the tuition by three to four times.

As evidence, the student-parent association has produced receipts of fees issued by the DAV Lakkar Bazaar.

Himachal Pradesh Private School Fees during lockdown

The parents alleged that the tuition fee which was Rs 2,400 in March was increased to Rs 11,290 by May. The Government prohibited schools from making any hikes in fees or include hidden charges in the tuition fees, but the schools are least concerned about power-less Education Minister and the Director of the Department.

Himachal Watcher spoke to the Principal, DAV School, Lakkar Bazaar, to confirm whether tuition fee has been hiked or not. The principal denied hiking tuition fee and said the only monthly tuition fee was being charged in accordance with the notification.

“Someone is trying to create confusion about the fees. But we don’t have any confusion regarding it. We are charging the same amount as we had charged in 2019. Whatever was the fee, the details have been shared with the parents,”

the principal told HW.

Shimla DAV School Fee in 2020

Further, concerning the payment of salaries of the teachers during the period of lockdown, the Cabinet had decided that schools won’t be allowed to cut employee salaries, put the salaries on hold, and fire any teacher.

According to the notification of the Education Department issued on May 27,

“Private School Managements/Trusts shall neither stop payment of monthly salary nor reduce the existing total emoluments being paid to the teaching and non-teaching staff of their schools in the name of non-availability of funds and arrange the funds in case of any shortfalls from the Society/Trust running the school.”

In the letter to the Chief Minister, the association has alleged private schools of adopting immoral means to make cuts in salaries. It alleged that some schools transferred full salary to the accounts of teachers through online banking, but asked the teachers to physically appear in schools and deposit half of the amount in cash.

The notification has also barred schools from charging transportation fees and denying online classes to students even if they failed to deposit fees timely.

“No Students shall be deprived of online classes/reading material in case of inability to pay the fee because of financial crisis due to lockdown,”

the notification said.

“If any parent did not deposit the tuition fee during the lockdown period, no fine be charged and name of the students may not be struct off from the school roll,”

the notification further said.

The association also alleged that some schools are only sending assignements through Whatsapp to students and terming it as online learning/classes so that they could charge fees. 

The schools were asked to comply with these orders strictly. The schools were also warned of strict action in case of defiance of these orders. However, neither the schools are complying nor the Education Minister and the Director are in a position of taking any real action against schools for defying the orders. Apparently, the Education Minister’s warnings of action are as hollow as his assurances to the parents.

HP Education Department Notification Issued on May 27, 2020

Continue Reading

HW Community

Response of Judiciary to India’s Migrant Crisis During Lockdown- Part-II

Published

on

Mingrant labourers crisis in India and indian judiciary

Shimla--The real competency test for the Nation isn’t ordering lock-down – it’s coming out of it. Some of the questions facing us amid these crises are; How civilized we are as a nation during this time of scarcity and fear? Are we helping the poor and needy or are we allowing them to be disproportionately impacted by this lockdown? Do we have adequate shelter homes for Migrant workers? Do we have enough food and transportation arrangement for them? Did our Government and administration use this expensive time of lockdown to prepare to “test and track” infected individuals, make provision for providing masks to the population, build isolation facilities, and other required medical facilities? These questions are haunting our nation in the present and will haunt us in the future too.

In this series of articles, we are discussing the role that judiciary has played during the time of this crisis. We have already gone through three orders of the Patna High Court.

Also Read: Response of Judiciary to India’s Migrant Crisis During Lockdown Part-I

Last month Madras High Court issued an order laced with emotion, something unusual for the courts. In a habeas corpus petition asking the government to produce 400 Tamil workers stuck in Maharashtra, a bench observed:

“One cannot control his/her tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers shown in the media for the past one month. It is nothing but a human tragedy.

It is very unfortunate that those persons were neglected by all the authorities. The heart breaking stories are reported in the print as well as visual media that millions of workers were compelled to start walking to their native States with their little children carrying all their belongings over their head, surviving on the food provided by good Samaritans, as no steps were taken by the Governments to help those migrant workers.

..it is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers.”

In another case, the Andhra Pradesh High Court cited disturbing news reports to order the state government to take specific measures under seven different heads, including medical, transportation and food.

The court began the order thus:

“This court notices that the labour who have left their ancestral homes and villages and moved to the cities for better livelihood to ensure that all of us live in comfort are on the roads today.

If at this stage this court does not react and pass these orders, this court would be failing in its role as a protector and alleviator of suffering.”

The Karnataka High Court has directed the governments to decide on paying the transportation cost of workers going back to their villages and towns. It reminded the governments of the huge contribution the workers have made to the country’s development, insisting that the executive should come forward to help them at a time when they have lost their livelihoods.

TheDelhi High Court has also taken up this issue and has sought the response of the governments. Further, it has asked the government to take “all care” for repatriation of migrant workers, as and when they approach their concerned nodal officer and has directed

“So far as restoration of helpline number is concerned, we direct the Delhi government to ensure the uninterrupted working of their helpline number so that people may approach the Nodal Officers through the helpline numbers. The very purpose of helpline number is to help the people and, therefore, the same must be functional.”

The Gujrat High Court also took up the matter Suo Moto and observed:

“Everyday hundreds of migrant workers with children are seen in different parts of the state, more particularly on the highways. Their condition is pathetic. They are living in the most inhumane and horrendous conditions. As we have observed earlier, although all necessary steps are being taken by the state government, more modalities need to be worked out at the earliest to ease the suffering of the people at large.”

 

In another case the Uttrakhand High Court took notice of the Report filed by  District Legal Services Authorities which stated that;

“…quarantine centers which have been established at Village level are the worst of the lot.”

No facilities in these centers to provide food to the inmates. Food is being provided by the villagers and the family members of the inmates.

In many of these quarantine centers where the inmates are more than 20 to 30, there are only 1 or 2 toilets. What is most shocking is that the hygienic condition of these toilets is also extremely poor.

Apart from this, many of the toilets which are in urban areas are in bad conditions, as these toilets are not being cleaned regularly.”

The Court directed the Secretary, Health and the Secretary, Disaster Management, Government of Uttarakhand, to pass appropriate orders to District Magistrates so that their Order dated 4th May 2020 be implemented in letter and spirit and so that there are enough of funds with the “Gram Sabhas” to manage and run these quarantine centres. Secretary, Health, Government of Uttarakhand and the concerned District Magistrate were directed to remove all the shortcomings in these quarantine centres.

Court also observed,

What is absolutely necessary is to maintain the quarantine centers at village level, for which proper funds be provided to the “Gram Sabhas”, as contained in the Government Order dated 04.05.2020, for which there has to be a proper coordination between District Magistrates and the panchayat level officers and the elected representatives of the people.

Matter be listed on 17th June 2020. [Sachdanand Dabral v. UOI, WP (PIL) No. 58 of 2020].

In another case, the  Allahabad High Court ordered the State Government to ensure that persons who have completed their quarantine period be released from the Quarantine Centres provided they have tested negative. The Order stated;

‘Persons, who have completed their quarantine period and have tested negative can not be further detained in the Quarantine Centers against their wishes. It would be in violation of personal liberty under Article 221 of the Constitution of India.’

The Bench also directed the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh to set up a three members committee in every district to ensure smoother, greater and more effective functioning of the Quarantine Centers.

(The post was first published in https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/ )

(To Be Continued)

Continue Reading

Trending