Shimla: District Kangra of Himachal Pradesh on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday recorded another mild-intensity quake. During the last six days, three such quakes have been reported on July 25 and July 27. The epicentres were more or less the same region and same depth of approximately 10 kilometres.
Kangra falls in a highly active seismic zone (V) and is vulnerable to future quakes, which can’t be predicted.
In 2018, by July 31, Himachal has already recorded 13 low-intensity quakes mostly in Kangra, Chamba, Kinnaur, and Shimla. Take a look:
Luckily, owing to the low intensity, no damages to life or property were reported so far.
As per the data of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the frequency of these small quakes in Himachal has increased significantly between 2017 and 2018. In 2012, the State had recorded nine quakes, six in 2013, Zero in 2014, one in 2015, 13 in 2016, and 18 quakes in 2017.
In 2018, the average frequency of quakes during the last seven months is a little higher than the previous year. However, as said earlier, the quakes are still not predictable but the consequences are.
The 1905 quake of 8.0 magnitude had killed 20,000 people, destroyed over 100,000 buildings, and killed 53,000 livestock.
But today, if a quake of same intensity hits Kangra, the number of deaths is not even conceivable due to the over and unscientific construction of multi-story buildings. In 1905, there was hardly any structure that could be called multistory, but still, it had killed 20,000 people.
All the construction was undertaken on a surface that is colluvium in nature. The phenomenon refers to soils moving downhill under the force of gravity or deposited by downhill movement. The gravity-driven processes make colluvial slopes vulnerable to a movement that can bring down buildings having their foundation on these slopes.
It was never a good idea to allow transformation of such a highly active seismic zone (V) into a bustling and congested town.
Not just haphazard and illegal, but these buildings were built without any regard to the standards of the quake resistance features. Buildings with the weaker structural design would be the first to collapse.
This over-construction was a suicidal step. Same applies to Shimla town, which could become one of the world’s largest graveyard within seconds in case of a high magnitude quake struck the region. Both the public and government have left no stone unturned to dig their own graves.
To make it worse, State isn’t making sufficient efforts to sensitize people about the situation.
In 2018, Shimla has recorded three mild-intensity quakes so far.
Though predicting quakes, even major ones, is not possible in the 21st Century, but the seismologists do have far better and advanced equipment and technologies to at least gather data of current tectonic activity.
As per a 2010 research study by H.N. Srivastava, Mithila Verma and B.K. Bansal titled “Seismological constraints for the 1905 Kangra earthquake and associated hazard in northwest India,”
The Kangra earthquake, however, generated immense scientific interest due to the development o two high seismic intensity areas separated by about 250 kilometres, one close to epicentre near Kangra-Dharamshala and the other near the Dehradun-Mussoorie area.
It further noted,
The Kangra region currently has a slip deficit of at least 1.4 m and possibly more than 5 m. The region lies within a 300 km segment of the Himalayan plate boundary that has an inferred slip deficit of 7.5– 9 m and is surrounded both to the NW and SE by regions of large slip deficit.
The study further added,
The Kangra 1905 rupture could host a Mw = 7.5 earthquake, or it could rupture as part of a larger earthquake extending >300 km along strike with a possible average slip of 9 –11 m (Mw 8.6).
Another research published in 2000 titled “A note on the Kangra Ms = 7.8 earthquake of 4 April 1905” by Nicholas Ambraseys and Roger Bilham, have discussed the hazards of future seismic activity.
Seeber and Armbruster interpret the earthquake to have ruptured a 280 × 100 km2 area, that when combined with the inferred rupture areas of the 1897, 1934 and 1950 earthquakes implies that half of the 2000-km-long Himalayan arc has been ruptured by these great earthquakes.
It further added,
The rupture of the remaining half of the Himalayan Arc in future M = 8 earthquakes to the west and east of the Kangra rupture zone poses a significant seismic hazard to the greatly increased population that now inhabit the plains fronting the Himalaya.
Do we need to worry about frequent quakes?
Do such frequent mild-intensity quakes suggest a higher possibility of a major catastrophe in the region?
As per the Director of the Meteorological Department, Shimla, Manmohan Singh, such mild intensity seismic activity of shallow depths (5-10 kms) is normal as well as a common feature of this seismic region due to the geographical conditions. The Director is of the view that there is no need to worry about it at all.
Ambrish Kumar Mahajan, Professor at School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, also shares the same view but he also admits that a major earthquake might occur in the Himalayan belt due to tectonic activity.
In case of any such event, one thing is guaranteed; public and the government are neither in position to respond properly to such natural disaster nor serious about taking measures to minimize damages. The growth of illegal buildings and haphazard overtaking of hills by concrete are apparent evidence of it.
In this regard, another study that is worth going through would be the “Seismicity and Vulnerability in the Himalayas: the case study of Himachal Pradesh” conducted by Dr Vishwa BS Chandel and Professor Karanjot Kaur Brar of Department of Geography, Panjab University Chandigarh. It talks about rampart promotion of infrastructure, tourism and associated building activities, hydro-power generation and allied activities during the last two decades.
Kotkhai Custodial Death Case: Forced to Consume Liquor, Cannabis, then Tortured, Witness Tells Court
Shimla-In the Kotkhai custodial death case, six more witnesses recorded their statements in the special CBI court in Chandigarh on October 9, 2019. One of the witnesses included Ashish Chauhan – an accused in Gudia rape and murder case, who was later discharged by the CBI.
While three accused – former Inspector General of Police, Zahur H Zaidi, former SP, Shimla, DW Negi, and DSP, Theog, Manoj Joshi-were already granted bail by the court, the bail plea of three others was dismissed yesterday. These three accused included former Station House Officer (SHO), Kotkhai Police Station, Rajinder Singh, head constable Rafee Mohammad, and constable Raneeta.
In his statement, prosecution witness Ashish Chauhan told the court that he was picked up from his home on July 9, 2017, by three policemen and was taken to Bankufer rest house, where he was interrogated. On July 9, he was taken to Chhaila police post where he was kept till July 10.
Ashish, in his statement, told the court that Zaidi, Bhajan Dev Negi, Rattan Negi, PSO Sushil, PSO Sunil, and Manoj Joshi started torturing him from July 11 using different techniques. They asked him to confess to the crime, which he had not committed, Ashish said. He alleged that he was tied upside down with a rope and beaten brutally with sticks and given electric shocks. He also alleged that during this torture, he has sustained grieve injury to his spinal cord.
He also alleged that Zaidi forcefully made him consume neat alcohol. Zaidi smoked cannabis and also forced him to smoke the same, Ashish alleged.
On the intervening night of July 13-14, his signatures were taken and he was told that an FIR was registered. The police was also alleged of keeping him in custody illegally without taking him to the court within 24 hours of arrest. It was only on July 15 that he was taken to the local court in Theog and was officially taken on remand.
Other than Ashish, statements of other prosecution witnesses including Dr HV Acharya, Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory, Gujarat, who had conducted BEOS and narco test on Ashish Chauhan, Rajinder Singh, Lokjan, Deepak and Subhash Singh, was also recorded.
As per the conclusion of the report, no the role of five accused was observed in the act of rape and murder of Gudia as the motive of rape and murder were not established. Similarly, narco and BEOS test did not suggest any role of Rajinder in the killing of Suraj inside Kotkhai Police Station lock-up.
Further, prosecution witness Dr Ashwani Soon, who is a radiologist with DDU Zonal Hosptial, Shimla, Pritam Chand, Amar Singh Verma and constable Ajay Kumar also recorded their statement and were cross-examined.
Earlier, in the previous hearing in the case in September 2019, six prosecution witnesses had recorded their statement in the court. As a crucial revelation, the driver of Zaidi had told the court that he was with the accused from July 11 to July 13, 2017. He confirmed that he took Zaidi to the spot where the body of the rape victim was lying on July 11. Later, the driver said, he took Zaidi to Kotkhai Police Station and then to the Guest House of Public Works Department in the afternoon. Five accused were also kept at the HPPWD guest house illegally after their arrest.
Similarly, during a hearing on August 16, 2019, two villagers, Prashant Negi and Ishan, had given statements that they were illegally detained and kept at the said guest house. They had also told the court that they were brutally beaten, kept naked, and given third-degree torture between July 11 and July 13. These two CBI witnesses had identified Zaidi and then SP DW Negi and other police officials who were present during this time.
There are total 60 prosecution witnesses of CBI in the case. Statements of over 26 witnesses have already been recorded.
On August 29, 2017, CBI had arrested eight Police officials including the IG Zaidi in relation to the custodial killing of Suraj – an accused in the Gudia rape and murder case- on July 18, 2017. Later, then SP DW Negi was also arrested. CBI had later discharged all remaining accused alleging that they were innocent and were framed by the said police officials.
Himachal BJP Leaders Including President Satti Make Mockery of HC Orders and Laws of Entry on Sealed Roads
Shimla-Entry of vehicles on the Ridge Maidan is prohibited except for the emergency vehicles and vehicles of the Governor and the Chief Minister. But this is not the only concern; the Ridge Maidan and the tank beneath it have developed cracks. The movement of vehicles could make things worse. However, the Ministers, MLAs, Govt Officials, and even leaders of the ruling BJP do not care about what the law or the state High Court says or they don’t care about the sensitive condition of the Ridge Maidan.
The Chief Minister Jairam Thakur led Bharatiya Janata Party government had made a promise to the people of the state that it will put a check on VIP culture. However, neither the Ministers nor the MLAs of BJP are keeping this promise. They are openly defying laws related to entry and parking on sealed roads, as well as, showing disregard to the orders of the State High Court. The VIP culture is flourishing.
In such an instance, on September 25, 2019, on the occasion of Birth anniversary of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya, a drive to clean statues of great leaders of the Nation established in Shimla town was organized. The Chief Minister also took part in the drive and cleaned the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, former Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi, and first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Dr. Y.S. Parmar and Lt. Gen. Daulat Singh situated at The Ridge Shimla.
BJP State President Satpal Singh Satti also took part in it. But he forgot to show regard to rules and regulations and to the orders of the state High Court. His car was seen parked in front of the state library on the historic Shimla Ridge Maidan. Some other government vehicles including that of the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur was also on the sealed road.
As per the rules, as well as, the High Court orders, except emergency vehicles and vehicles of the Governor and the Chief Minister, no vehicle is allowed to enter the sealed road. However, enjoying the perks of power, the BJP President, displayed how political power allows leaders to over-ride rules and regulations.
This is not the first instance. Earlier, on August 28, 2019, at an event organized by BJP to pay tribute to their senior party leader Arun Jaitley, several ministers, MLA, and other government officials reached the Gaiety Theatre in their vehicles. The police was helpless and instead of enforcing the orders of no entry on the sealed Ridge Maidan, they were seen facilitating them.
Moreover, neither the Dailies nor online news portals highlighted it.
Even the Chief Minister isn’t following the orders of the Supreme Court regarding the ban on usage of the multi-toned horns in official vehicles. As per information obtained through an RTI, the vehicles of the Chief Minister and several other ministers were allegedly still using sirens/multi-tone horns in their official vehicles. A Division Bench comprising acting Chief Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua has sought a reply from the state government in its order passed recently. The order was passed on a petition filed by the HP High Court Bar Association.
Then, daily, several VIP cars with stickers of MLA could be seen parked on the sealed road near Clarks hotel. Pictures of these vehicles could be seen on social media posted by commoners. Several readers have shared these images with Himachal Watcher too. These posts receive a lot of critical comments from the people, but it never bothers these VIPs.
Parking on Sealed Roads Is Prohibited by Court Orders?Though the parking is prohibited on sealed roads of Shimla for…
Then, there are VIP cars breaking traffic queues and parked wrongly, causing traffic jams.
#HPGovt Vehicles Continue Creating Traffic Nuisance With govt stickers on their cars, govt officials continue to…
What message the ruling party and the government want to send to the people? Do they want to make it a matter of prestige to violate laws and defy court orders
APMC Bill 2019: Will it End Exploitation of Farmers in Himachal? This is What Minister Markanda and MLA Rakesh Singha Have to Say
Shimla-The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Bill 2019 would check exploitation of farmers and apple growers by commission agents and traders, says the Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda. Unless this Bill is passed, the government has no control over existing APMC, thus, despite being the Agriculture Minister, he is helpless to get justice for the farmers, Markanda had told media couple of weeks ago.
However, Rakesh Singh, MLA of Theog Constituency, has a different opinion regarding the Bill. He said he has gone through the Bill thoroughly. Singha rejected Markands’s claim that the government has no control over the APMC. He asks as to how it is possible when the majority of the APMC members are officials of the state government.
Video: MLA Rakesh Singh on Agriculture Minister’s Claim That He Has No Control Over APMC
When asked whether the new APMC Bill would actually benefit farmers and fruit growers of the state, Singha said it was the other way round. With this bill, the government would permit that anyone from anywhere in India could open a market in Himachal. It’s natural that giant firms would use this opportunity, leading to shut down of small local businesses. He asserts that existing laws are equally strong.
Video: Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda and MLA Rakesh Singha on APMC Bill 2019
It’s pertinent to mention that apple growers, as well as, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti had been protesting over pending payments of hundreds of apple growers, which were not being paid by commission agents. Then there were complaints of unregistered and even blacklisted commission agents infiltrating the market and depriving growers of receiving justified prices for their produce. The growers approached the APMC and the state government several times with pleas to help them in recovering their payments worth lakhs of rupees. None of the two came to their rescue.
Led by the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, the growers were forced file FIRs against commission agents, following which some of the pending payments were recovered.
The response of the Agriculture Minister to these repeated instances of frauds and exploitations by traders and commission agents despite provisions of rules and regulations regarding the payments and conducting business in the markets was that he has no control over the APMC at all. As per Markanda, the solution lies in the new APMC Bill 2019, which was to be passed in the monsoon session of the HP Legislative Assembly. However, it was deferred till the winters session and was sent to Select Committee after some MLAs pointed out that the Act should be carefully analysed before passing and implementing it.
Markanda says that the APMC Bill 2019 would be passed in the winter session and it would bring relief to the growers. He asserts that the Bill has provisions to prevent farmers and apple growers from frauds.
The Bill would apply on the commission agents based outside the state. After the implementation of this bill, the market fee would only be charged at markets and all other barriers would be lifted. It would open the market of entire India to growers by facilitating online trading, Markanda claimed.
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