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Illegal construction in D’shala (Pics): Would stop salary if no action taken against erring officials, HC warns TCP Secretary

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Dharamshala: During the last hearing in a petition on July 6, 2018, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had expressed displeasure with the government departments for the way they are responding to directions passed by it regarding action on officials responsible for allowing illicit and illegal construction by violating various construction laws and environmental guidelines.

We may also observe that since the year 2015, no action, whatsoever, stands taken against any one of the concerned officer(s)/official(s), who allowed such unauthorised construction to come up at the first place,

a bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel said during the hearing. 

Himachal Watcher also have some exclusive pictures and a video showing rampant damage to and felling of trees in the Dharamshala town due to alleged illegal construction activities despite court orders against the same.

The visuals show the apathy of the various government departments who are not discharging their duties but are still getting paid.

Ilegal tree felling in Dharamshala town 6

These photos were one of the evidence that exposed the deliberate damage illegal construction has caused to the trees in the town in broad daylight and resistance from concerned departments.

Ilegal tree felling in Dharamshala town

Pictures annexed with Local Commissioner’s report submitted to High Court

The pictures were taken by advocate Deven Khanna, who had visited the area under Municipal Corporation in April after the Court appointed him as the local commissioner.

Ilegal tree felling in Dharamshala town 5

The pictures show how unscientific and excess excavation of slopes was undertaken in such a manner that makes them vulnerable to damages and even felling during monsoon.

Watch Video

In fact, digging out soil beneath trees is deliberately used to fell trees, especially under the cover of monsoon rains. It was one of the revelations made in the local commissioner’s report submitted to the Court.

We have noticed, as is apparent from the report of the Local Commissioner, that private individuals are adopting different ways and means of ensuring that trees over their land, which are not only priceless but valuable from environmental point of view, are allowed to be felled/uprooted so as to make it appear that it is on account of natural calamity,

the bench observed.

It must be noted here that Dharamshala receives third highest rainfall in the entire country. The strategy is to fell trees by exposing their roots to the elements, then by digging out the land beneath them and waiting for the monsoons,

the local commissioner had specifically mentioned in his report submitted to the Court. 

The report had also mentioned that roads have been made in a very dangerous fashion. 

Two roads specifically were noticed (Maclodegunj to Dharamkot road and mountaineering institute road) where at least 500 to 1000 trees can be saved if restoration work is done immediately, said the report. 

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

The remarks made during this hearing aptly confirmed unwillingness of the State government to take action against its erring officials irrespective of the ruling political party. 

Ilegal tree felling in Dharamshala town 4

The Court had pulled up the government for not taking action against erring officials posted during the time of illegal constructions in the town despite repeated directions.

Despite the Court having issued several directions, continuously since the year 2015, calling upon the authorities to check illicit and illegal felling of trees as also check unauthorised construction, there has been rampant, grave, unauthorised and illegal construction and felling of trees,

the bench observed.

Illegal tree felling in dharamshala

It is in 2018 that only after Court’s intervention such unauthorized structures are now being sealed and demolished, the bench further said. The government is not taking any action on its own.

Noticing absolute apathy on the part of the Government in taking action against any one of its officer/official, we do not hesitate to record that despite prodding, the Secretary, Town and Country Planning has not taken any action,

the bench observed.

We would not hesitate in expressing our displeasure on this count. In fact, we are of the view that salaries of all the persons who are supposed to monitor the construction activities, should be withheld, for they have failed to discharge their duties violators were endeavouring to procrastinate the proceeding pending before various authorities so as to obstruct and impede the enforcement of the orders passed by this Court,

the bench added.

As per Mr. Tara Singh Chauhan, standing Counsel, 70 individuals allegedly violating environmental laws were issued notices. This is in addition to the disconnection of water and electricity to 46 violators.

During a hearing on April 24, 2018, the Advocate General had told the court that despite directions passed by the court, the electricity of some of such consumers who had violated the law with impunity was not disconnected.

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

The court also observed that it is only when the Court is passing orders, the officers/officials are taking action, rather reluctantly.

As the Court did not receive any explanation from concerned officials, the Court said it was in favour of stopping the release of their salaries.

We would have directed the salaries of such officer(s) / official(s) not to be released, but are persuaded by the learned Advocate General not to pass such orders,

the bench stated.

We clarify that if no such action is taken, we would not hesitate in stopping the salary of the concerned Secretary also,

the bench warned.

The bench has also directed the Director, Town and Country Planning and Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Dharamshala, to submit the list of all the officers of the rank of Junior Engineer(s) and above, who were posted within the municipal limits of Dharamshala, since the year 2010, within two days alongwith their tenure and place of posting.

The Court has challenged the government’s disinterest in controlling corruption and sluggishness. The action of withholding their salaries would result in a reaction from the government. 

The next hearing is scheduled for July 30, 2018. 

Crucial Findings of Local Commissioner’s Report 

The local commissioner had suggested that at least 1,000 trees can easily be saved by putting iron meshes, stones and mud, or by putting retaining walls. The roots have to be covered and the spaces beneath the trees have to be immediately filled and supported.   

As an unfortunate fact, the report had stated that no attempt was being made to restore or protect the trees. 

Other points of the report:

  1. Permissions for felling of trees is not being accorded by tree authority/ tree committee after applying its mind to the situation, no attempt is being made to save the green trees, it was also noticed that the tree authority is not sitting every month as required by the statute.
  2. No tree has been numbered, in fact, the numbering of trees has not even begun, it seems like that the mandatory directions given in the famous forest case in the year 1996 have not been communicated or is being embarrassingly flouted by the forest department and municipalities of the state of Himachal Pradesh.
  3. No attempt is being made by the departments to include technology and use it as a tool to map out and number trees. With the help of satellite, mapping and numbering trees are quicker and one can get an approximation of the total number, same data can be corroborated with drone images to get a more accurate number.
  4. This task won’t ever be done by the forest guards as the area of Himachal is very huge with vast forest cover, this is the sole reason provided by the forest department for not numbering the trees since 1996 mandatory direction of T.N Godhaverman.
  5. That the Tree Authority shall ensure while granting permission to fell/cut trees that the applicant shall plant 10 other trees specifically “Tall Trees” of the same or other suitable species preferably on the same site or close to its vicinity within 60 days of the date when the tree is axed.
  6. The person/entity may also be asked to pay for the environmental damage (which can be the value of the wood + the loss of environment caused to the area), and such fund collected may directly be used by the “plant nurseries” in town for growing and maintaining “tall trees”.
  7. It is seen that, at present, the funds which are collected, are not directly used for restoring the area where felling took place. They are used for “reforestation activities” after a long process and such “reforestation activities” usually happen at some other place and not close to the vicinity of the damaged area.

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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Students Arrested, Stone Pelting Breakout in Himachal: Is Internal Tension Required?

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Kashmiri Students in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla– Two students of the Dr Y. S. Parmar University of Horticulture, Nauni, in Solan district, were suspended following a complaint that these students were allegedly supporting the most dreadful suicide bombing in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, 2019.

The local police, following the complaint, detained both students, who hail from J&K. A local court sent them to a three-day remand, the district police confirmed.

As a case has been registered by the police against the two students of Jammu and Kashmir. The Deans of respective Colleges in which they were studying i.e. College of Forestry and College of Horticulture have on Monday suspended them,

a university official told Himachal Watcher, confirming the report.

Additional SP (ASP) Shiv Kumar Sharma also confirmed the news and identified two students as Peer Jada Tabish, a student of MSc first year, and Auqib Rasool, a BSc student. As per the SP, the action came following a complaint from the university authorities.

Reportedly, students of the university carried out a rally demanding the suspension of the students while shouting anti-Pakistan slogans. An FIR was registered under Section 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the two students.

On Saturday, local police had detained a Kashmiri student of Chitkara University, Baddi, over alleged comments on social media, supporting the suicide bomber.

The police department has reportedly asked all the universities to provide a list of all Kashmiri students enrolled in their respective institutes.

On Tuesday, as per a report by News 18, a scuffle was reported between two groups of students at Abhilashi Memorial Institute of Engineering and Technology in Mandi district. An unverified video of the scuffle was in circulation on social media sites. However, the police did not verify it as communal in nature. It was said to be just random groups of students, who might have clashed over their previous grudges.

Another news report said a panchayat in Mandi district has passed a resolution and asked Kashmiri citizens living in rented quarters to leave the panchayat. Some miscreants also pelted stones on their quarters. The Superintendent of Police, Mandi, Gurudev Sharma, however, said there was no injury or damage to private property and Kashmiris were safe.
Afraid after the stone pelting, they took shelter at police station Baldwara.

Similarly, there were reports from other States where some Kashmiri students were held for either supporting the terrorist attack, anti-national activities, or posting communally inciting posts/comments on social media.  Such incidents are working as a double-edged sword – infuriating the majority, as well as, making all Kashmiri students vulnerable to violence.  

As a result, other Kashmiri students in other parts are also facing widespread backlash. Reports said Kashmiri students were leaving hostels to return to their homes. 

As per The Hindu, over 300 students were said to have arrived at Jammu and Delhi to return to their homes in J&K after facing back-lash, especially from right wing groups. The report also quoted Kashmiri students alleging of receiving threats from right-wing outfits. 

Another report on The Hindu said that some local youth raised slogans against Kashmiri students studying in an engineering college in Panipat with a demand to expel them from the institute.

Regardless of the need of the hour, a large number of Kashmiri students enrolled in other States of India has come under the scanner of right-wing outfits.

A sort of communal tension is growing in the society, which is exactly what the terrorist outfits want. Harassment or boycott of Kashmiris would only make them more susceptible to separatist agenda.

The reports also suggested that natives of the valley were receiving warning from their landlords to evacuate their property, fearing vandalism.

As per a report, some right-wing outfits roughed up a dozen students in Dehradun and forced the Kashmiri girls to lock themselves inside hostel rooms.

Feeding over the distress and anguish among the people over the Pulwama massacre, the right-wing outfits are upto fueling the nationalist agenda they had been cultivating since last five years.

Patron media channels had straightway started demanding revenge through bigger surgical strike or a full-fledged attack on Pakistan. Hashtags like #BadlaKab trended on Twitter.  

Though the police did not confirm it, a video appeared on media websites showing a bunch of people allegedly assaulting Kashmiri labourers (Khans) in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, which also lost one of its bravehearts, Tilak Raj, in the attack. 

To deal with this problem, the J&K Police has established a helpline for the assistance of students and general public who are presently staying outside the state.

In case they find any difficulty. The students are advised to call for any kind of assistance on 0194-2451515,

said J&K police advisory. 

The Union Government has already issued warning to all states to ensure safety of Kashmiri students and citizens.

The J&K administration on Monday said that the local administration and college authorities have given full assurance about safety of the students.

The state administration is advising all the students and their parents, not to pay heed to any rumours, try to stay put at their respective places and contact the LOs or local police administration for help. The mobile numbers of LOs have already been distributed among the students,

a spokesman said.

The Union Government had defended the demonetization move by citing it as a deterrent to terrorism in the valley. The terrorist organizations would be financially drained, thus, rendered helpless, the government and the leaders of the ruling party had claimed.

However, there seems to be no let up in the situation. Terrorist activity and attacks have not declined. Instead, more encounters were reported in 2018. 

Terrorist incidents in J&K increased 177% over four years to 2018, from 222 to 614; 838 terrorists were killed over the last five years, a 134% increase from 110 in 2014 to 257 in 2018. As many as 339 security forces died–a 94% increase from 47 in 2014 to 91 in 2018–in 1,708 terrorist attacks over the five years ending 2018 in J&K,

the J&K minister of home affairs had stated in his reply in the Lok Sabha on February 5, 2019,

The fact that the suicide bomber responsible for the Pulwama attack was a home-grown terrorist is a big reason to worry. 

Stories regarding the suicide bomber suggest that while the young boy had already been inclined towards militant groups, his bad experiences with Indian forces or local police pushed him further to join Jaish-e-Mohhammed – the militant group that claimed the full responsibility for the Pulwama attack.   

Negativity would only fuel negativity, which J&K cannot afford right now. Indian Government will have to fight this war at International level to isolate Pakistan and convince other nations to cut supply of resources to Pakistan – a patron of these terrorist organizations.

The only way to ensure that no more lives are lost is to break the cycle of violence. As witnessed in the past couple of decades, the call for counter-violence has become a part of this vicious cycle. Ending terrorism in J&K depends on the will and vision of the political leaders of the country, and not in using defense forces to roast political cookies.

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Viral Video of Overloaded Bus in Sirmaur Points at Inadequate Transportation Service

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OVerloaded Bus In Sirmaur of Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-Overloading in private as well as the government buses in Himachal Pradesh, especially, in interior areas has always been a hazard. Despite several bus accidents that claim thousands of lives every year, there does not seem to be any let up in the situation.

As per the statement made in the State Assembly by the minister of the opposition party, MukeshAgnihotri, over 1200 lives were lost while thousands of others sustained injuries in various accidents across the Stateduring 2018.

While the government tries to justify itself over road accidents, a fresh picture and a video of an overloaded private bus are making rounds on the social media, raising questions over the efforts of the government to discourage overloading.

As per reports, this bus was on its way to Manva from Rajgarh in Sirmaur district on Tuesday. The bus was jam-packed and over a dozen passengers could be seen sitting on the roof of the bus. On a complaint, the local police intercepted the bus near the Forest Colony.

When the police counted passengers standing inside the bus and those sitting on the roof, it was found that the bus was carrying 95 passengers, excluding the driver and the conductor, against its seating capacity of 37.

However, when the police questioned the driver for grieve violation of traffic laws and endangering lives of the passengers, the driver argued that it was not only his bus that was overloaded, that this is a normal scene in all buses. The driver can be heard saying that government buses were also overloaded.

When police told the passengers to avoid traveling in overloaded buses, they replied that they don’t have any option, suggesting inadequate public transportation servicesas the cause. Police advised the people to approach their Sub-Divisional-Magistrate (SDM) to solve any problem relating to inadequate public transportation.

The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Rajgarh, DushyantSarpal, confirmed that the documents of the bus have been confiscated. He said the police has taken such actions on several occasions but the situation doesn’t get any better.

It’s notable that pictures of such overloaded buses keep appearing on social media. There is no dearth of examples that highlight flaunting of traffic laws and rules defined under the Motor Vehicle Act.

The school bus accident in Nurpur in April 2018, which claimed lives of 28 persons including two dozen children, had highlighted carelessness on the part of the government. However, the government washed its hands off putting all the blame on the driver, who had also died in the same accident.

In January 2019, seven children died when their school bus met with an accident in Renuka Ji, Sirmaur district. Later, during the investigation, it was found that the bus was too old with little mechanical maintenance. A magisterial probe cited mechanical fault as the cause of the accident.

Despite being in a poor state, the transportation authority permitted this bus to be operational.  Moreover, like in the Nurpur accident, there were no crash barriers of any sort of roadside-safety measures along that road.

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HW Exclusive: Dirt newbie Sushant Thapa and champion Suresh Rana on Motorsports

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Suresh Rana and Sushant Thapa of Himachal Pradesh

He is a ‘One Man Show’ and people know him as the King of Speed. From Raid de Himalaya to Desert Storm, SJOBA Thunderbolt Rally, Arunachal Speed Fest, Dakshin Dar and many more, there is nothing that has not been written about the Motorsports champion Suresh Rana.

Born and brought up in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, Suresh Rana got a quick fascination with speed when he saw drivers running fast on the roads near his home during the budding years of Raid De Himalaya in the late 90’s. That stuck in his mind and he started running his vehicle on roads where there was less traffic.

Suresh Rana

Once he was riding in Spiti and on the way to Kaza he was spotted by the officials of Raid De Himalaya and they encouraged him to participate. It was the year 2001 when he participated in the Raid for the first time and since then there has been no looking back for him.

11 times winner of Raid de Himalaya, Rana is a power-packed member of the team Maruti Motorsports since 2009. When he started, he was a novice and the scope for learning professional motorsports was nil.

From Rana to dirt newbie: Sushant Thapa of Team Himachal Valley, is Himachal a place for budding rallyists?

Shushant Thapa

Sushant was born in Kullu and brought up in Nahan of District Sirmaur. We spotted him at the Himalayan Auto Cross Rally which happened in Kullu last month. What made us know him more was his passion and extreme driving skills that reminded us of the novice Suresh Rana of the early 2000’s.

It was for the first time he participated in any championship and he surprised us. Sushant finished his race in 1 minute 54 Seconds and stood second on the podium, which is an unexpected achievement for a beginner. He gave tough competition to experienced participants who had already participated in various national rallies including the prestigious Raid De Himalaya.

A student of legal studies from Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) and former football player, Sushant has represented in 17 National Football championships and 1 International under 19 Football championship in Nepal.

On his first experience in the Himalayan Auto Cross Rally, Thapa told Himachal Watcher,


Autocross is quite different from driving on road experience as there is an off road
track in which you have to keep yourself safe from fouls and drive carefully on the corners and beat the speed timings of the other participants. It was my first-time experience so I had to understand each and every detail myself while driving and analyzing the race track. It was quite tough because the other participants were experienced and they had already participated in many other national level competitions.

For talented aspirants like Sushant Thapa, who are full of energy and have the passion for motorsports but are clueless on where to polish their skills, Suresh Rana has started India’s first Mountain Rally School in Kullu and has already prepared three batches since the inception of Raptors RALLY School.

The idea of the Motorsports School was to polish the skills of the aspirants, promote them and give them the training that is required to make it a career. It is definitely a costly game in which financial and family support is a must.

There are many talented youngsters in Himachal Pradesh who are capable of showing their skills and talent through a full-time career in Motorsports, however, with the lack of proper knowledge, guidance and support from the family, they leave their dreams and look for a regular job option.

Speaking to us, Suresh Rana, who believes that Motorsports can be a career option if the aspirants spend some time in improving the performance and learning the techniques said,


There are many talented youngsters but they are not able to give their time in practice. It requires time, at least five years of practice to polish the skills and Motorsports teams are always looking for young and talented people. It can be a good career option if a person starts working on it from a young age.

He further added,


Motorsports is all about techniques more than having knowledge
and speed it is a must to know the techniques to control the vehicle and understand the breaking points. There are many drivers who drive well but when it comes to driving on the off-road with seatbelt on, they just can’t do it. It is quite tough to practice without a teacher and moreover, we don’t really have places to practice however I personally encourage the aspirants to learn and practice with safety. I am always there to help.

Rana while we finished our conversation said:


Newbie Sushant Thapa can do wonders in the field of motorsports. He has the talent, he understands the breaking points and he knows how to control his speed. If trained well, he can be the new champion from Himachal Pradesh,

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