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HRTC slammed for targeting schoolchildren for profit, burdening parents

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HRTC School bus fee hike

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC), in a recent meeting, has hiked the fare for school buses by 50 percent. It would also apply to the bus passes, which were earlier issued on concessional rates to keep the transportation cost cheaper for school children.

This decision is facing severe criticism from the Parents Teachers Association of various public and private schools and other social organizations. The demand for withdrawal of the decision to hike the fare is being raised.

The HRTC, on the other hand, justified the hike in fare by reasoning that no hike was made since 2010.

The new rates of the HRTC charges (per month) for school bus passes are as followed:

Rs. 900 for five to ten kilometres

Rs.1350 for 11 to 20 kilometres

Rs. 1500 for 21 to 30 kilometres

The Communist Party of India, as well as the parents, have pointed out that the standard fare for a distance of five kilometres is currently Rs. 7. For both ways, it would be Rs. 14, and for a month, it would be Rs. 420. However, the Corporation is now charging Rs. 900 per month, which is a loot, they said. 

On Friday, some unofficial reports suggested that the Chief Minister could roll-back the decision after facing widespread criticism. 

The PTAs expressed anguish by saying that the Himachal Pradesh Government is hardly able to commit itself for the deliverance of quality education in the government schools. During the past two decades, a large number of parents shifted their trust from government schools to the private/convent schools.

The Education Minister and the teachers in the government schools were seen concerned more about transfers than committing to their schools and students.

Parents strive to get their children enrolled in private schools despite the fact that these institutions extract hefty fees, which makes them unaffordable for children of any family below middle class. The middle-class families sacrifice a lot to ensure a better education for their children, the majority of parents in PTAs agreed.

The parents are not only looted by private schools but also pay for cab services, which openly flaunt rules and regulations meant for ensuring the safety of children.

The government has so far never intervened to put a check on the private schools, regularise fee structure, and stop the financial exploitation of the parents.

As a matter of fact, the politicians, bureaucrats, and government officials settle nothing less than the most reputed private schools in the State when it comes to their own children. The congestion in private schools has grown to such an extent that parents seek approach/personal recommendation of ministers, politicians, elected leaders, bureaucrats, and influential people.

It’s ironical because the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, directs the government to ensure free and compulsory school education for all children. The Act specifically mentions that education to children must be ensured in schools located in their neighbourhood.

The Act also states that the governments should ensure that nothing stands in the way of children from accessing compulsory education. The government is supposed to eradicate all barriers or limitations, which keep children from receiving education in schools.

In Himachal, the governments have raised a large number of schools but failed miserably to ensure the quality of education in its schools. The situation is such that the government is proposing to shut down a good number of schools because no students would enrol in them.

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Kotkhai Custodial Death Case: Forced to Consume Liquor, Cannabis, then Tortured, Witness Tells Court

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Kotkhai Custodial Death case trail witnesses

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.

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Himachal BJP Leaders Including President Satti Make Mockery of HC Orders and Laws of Entry on Sealed Roads

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Hp BJP President Satpal Satti Breaks Rule

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…

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई बुधवार, 7 अगस्त 2019

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…

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई गुरुवार, 12 सितंबर 2019

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

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APMC Bill 2019: Will it End Exploitation of Farmers in Himachal? This is What Minister Markanda and MLA Rakesh Singha Have to Say

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APMC Bill 2019 agriculture minister markanda and mla rakesh singha

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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