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Quandary in KCC Bank Recruitment – Himachal’s Unemployed Youth Grinds Between Corruption & Politics

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KCC Bank Recruitments 2017

Shimla- If you search hashtag #KCCB on Twitter, you are likely to find thousands of Tweets where the youth of Himachal Pradesh is requesting the current Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to deliver justice. In every Tweet, the CM can be seen tagged. Since the government chooses to remain tight-lipped, the helpless youth is now cursing not only the CM but also the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for befooling them. 

Shimla– If you search hashtag #KCCB on Twitter, you are likely to find thousands of Tweets where the youth of Himachal Pradesh is requesting the current Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to deliver justice. In every Tweet, the CM can be seen tagged. Since the government chooses to remain tightlipped, the helpless youth is now cursing not only the CM but also the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for befooling them. 

After being versed with entire matter, you will be astonished to find, how far the politicians and corrupt officials can go in playing with the future of the youth and their money.

State’s educated but unemployed youth had been trying to attract the attention of the ruling government towards the mental agony and despair they are going through for the past 18 months due to ugly vendettas of political parties and blatant corruption in the Kangra Central Cooperative(KCC) Bank.

You’ll find a lot of newspaper cuttings, pictures of protests, and memes showing how the politicians and the Bank not just toyed with the sentiments of lakhs of unemployed youth but also extorted crores of rupees from them. 

At the same time, the youth are alleging the Bank officials of lying through their teeth with no remorse at all. Read on to understand the entire issues.

Back in 2017, the KCC Bank advertised recruitment to fill up 216 vacant seats of assistant manager (Grade III), Junior Computer Programmer (Grade III), Clerk (Grade 1V General public, trained secretary, employees of cooperative society quota) and computer operators. Over 1. 26 lakh candidates applied for the recruitment conducted through the HP Board of School Education (HPBOSE). However, while applying, they had no idea that their own government would make a mockery of their unemployed status.

The then Chairman of the Bank, Jagdeesh Sephiya or the ruling Congress government did pay heed to the fact that the recruitment process actually violated the guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India and the Registrar Co-operative Society. It’s important to note, Sephiya is a Congress leader and a close aide of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

According to the applicants, the bank collected between 5-7 crores, conducted a written examination in June 2017 and held interviews of the 750 candidates in September. Before the declaration of the merit list, the Model Code of Conduct came into force ahead of elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

After elections, one of the first decisions of the new government of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was to not carry forward any recruitments made during the period of six months before the elections. The KCCB recruitment process was one of them. Since then, the 750 candidates who had appeared in the personal interview wait desperately for the bank to declare the result.

The BJP governmenthas alleged of nepotism in the recruitment while the members of KCC Board of the Directors allege grieve irregularities in granting loans and manipulation of data related to the Non-Performing Assets, which deem the entire application and recruitment process unlawful.

An inquiry by the then MD of the Bank, PC Akela, into some loans had confirmed a violation of norms by few KCC bank branches including one near Government College, Una. A chargesheet was also issued to the managers of these banks, if the ex-MD is to be believed.

Similarly, Rs 1.30 crore cash credit limit (CCL) extended by the bank to Chunni Lal, brother of Anand Chauhan, LIC agent – an accused in corruption cases registered against the former Chief Minister by the CBI, also came under the scanner.

The then Director of the bank, Keshav Korla, who is also associated with BJP and was in a race to become new MD, labelled serious allegations against the then MD and filed a petition in the State High Court, challenging the recruitment process.

It was alleged that the bank was not eligible to hire since its NPA was higher than 12 percent. According to bank officials, its NPA was about 15 percent. However, Korla alleged that the actual NPA was over 20 percent and that the bank has manipulated the statistics to fool the RBI.

The absurdity of the political drama witnessed a new low when Korla, in August 2017, alleged that he was slapped by Jaswant Singh Rana, another member of the BoD, over an argumentconcerningthese irregularities in the bank.

The new government then ordered a vigilance probe into the alleged irregularities in the grant of loans and manipulation of data related to the NPA. A nod was also given to lodge FIRs against three Chairmen and MDS. However, the vigilance probe was slowed down and no one was held accountable ;perhaps a regular outcome of such probes.

Also, it was found that the HPBOSE had destroyed all records of the recruitment except the personal interviews.

On July 19, 2018, the BJP government dissolved the BoD and the bank worked without the Board for about eight months. The government took its turn to reward its blue-eyed leaders and officials. In July itself, the government re-shuffled the MD of the Bank for as many as three times and made the respectable post a joke.

In November 2018, Rajiv Bhardwaj, a BJP leader from Kangra district and Shanta Kumar’s loyalist, was appointed as the new Chairman of the Bank along with the nomination of two other leaders as members.

Despite appeals from and protest of 750 candidates, by December 28, 2018,the new BoDpassed a resolution to cancelthe recruitment.Following this decision to cancel the recruitment, the court also closed the petition.

Now, the applicants tuned protestants allege that the bank officials including the new Chairman are lying to the candidates that they had no information regarding the cancellation of the recruitment. In fact, the court has mentioned it specifically that the petition was disposed of after the BoD submitted a written reply stating that it has cancelled the recruitments. The Chairman has held the court responsible for the cancellation of the recruitment. The Bank is treating these youth like primary kids, nothing more.

The reason given for cancellation was that the recruitments were conducted through HPBOSE. The BoD said it was against the Registrar Co-operative Societyguidelines, which instruct that banks can only recruit through IBPS, State Staff Selection Board or State Public Service Commission.  Secondly, the RBI guidelines, the BoD further stated that banks with an NPA higher than 12 percentare not eligible to conduct recruitments.

The candidates, who had no role in this mess created by the previous and new governments, facedmental harassment awaiting their results during all this time. They met several leaders and even the new Chief Minister, requesting him to declare the results. The Chief Minister, during an event in Bilaspur, had assured them that they would not face injustice, which they eventually did.

These youth are questioning how other banks with higher NPAs are able to conduct recruitments and why this rule is being implemented in their case only.

They staged protests and reached media several times since the formation of the new government.

They received occasional hopes from the government, which were ultimately dashed to the ground. These candidates are still not in any mood to give up protesting over their demand.

The BoD members, some of which are nominated, have their affiliations to their respective patron political parties. All the members strive to appease their party through nepotism in recruitments, issuance of insecure loans to politically influential or any mean they can find.

In fact, one of the biggest reason for rising NPA of the Bank is that the previous as well as the current governmentshave been ignoring persons with banking background for the top positions and instead electing those having a political background. This political influence leads to grant of insecure loans to selected candidates or near and dear to leaders of the respective ruling government. These political persons do it to please their masters.

The biggest irony is that despite being such a sensitive issue, no one is held responsible.

Someone must be held responsible for initiating the process of recruitment when the Bank was not eligible to do so officially and legally. Someone must be held responsible for making the Bank BoD a political battleground where anyone hardly has any experience related to banking. Someone needs to lay some eligibility criteria for the selection of the BoD, members and the position of the Chairman.

As far as nepotism is concerned, none of the parties leaves a stone unturned to influence the recruitment process, which is no hidden secret.

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.

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Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases in Himachal, Speculation of Complete Lockdown Gains Momentum

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Himachal Pradesh Lockdown from August 1st speculations

Shimla-The number of COVID-19 cases is rising at an alarming rate in Himachal Pradesh as for the past five consecutive days, the state had been reporting nearly 100 cases per day. With Monday’s 95 new cases, the tally  for the state jumped to 2270. The number of active cases has crossed the 1000 mark to reach 1025 on Monday. So far, 1216 patients have recovered while 12 of them succumbed to COVID-19 infection.

Among Monday’s cases, Sirmaur district reported the highest 31 cases from Govindgarh (mohalla) locality in Nahan. Complete lockdown of two days was imposed in this area but the spurt in cases continues. Fifteen new cases were reported from Baddi and Parwanoo in Solan district while remaining cases were reported from Bilaspur (11), Mandi (10), Kangra (16), Shimla (5), Una (2), Hamirpur (1), and Chamba (3).

In Shimla, five family members of a policeman, who had tested positive a couple of days ago, also tested positive.

HP Health Department’s COVID-19 Bulletin July 27, 2020 (9PM)

himachal pradesh demand of lockdown amid surge in covid-19

Some leaders of the ruling party (BJP) continue to invite criticism for behaving irresponsibly. The government itself is not learning any lesson from the situation in Govindgarh- a hot spot where the outbreak was triggered due to a marriage ceremony.

On Monday, the opposition Congress filed a police complaint against three persons including a BJP leader for violating rules by roaming around and meeting a large number of people instead of placing themselves under home-quarantine. The opposition said that samples of these persons were taken after they showed symptoms of the COVID-19 infection. Still, these persons kept roaming around after giving samples. The opposition has also alleged a discrimination was seen in initiating legal action for violations of social distancing norms. In Spiti, hundreds of tribal women were booked for staging protest against Minister Ram Lal Markanda for not adhering to the resolution passed by the locals regarding mandatory quarantine for all including the residents of the district. Cases have been filed against the opposition Congress too for violating these norms during recent protests. 

Earlier, a leader from Mandi had introduced the coronavirus in Chief Minister’s office and the State secretariat and infected about two dozen of his contacts including the Advocate General and his family. The leader reportedly visited the IGMC, Shimla, State High Court and other offices.

Now, another ex-MLA from Nadaun and the Vice-Chairman, HRTC, was reported to have met several party workers and even attending an event as the chief guest. Vijay Agnihotri reportedly continued shopping, roaming around, and meeting people after giving a sample. Reportedly, he also attended a marriage ceremony. The district administration would now have a task to trace all his contacts.

At the sametime, the Congress was also seen disregarding the social distancing norms during their recent protests against the hike in bus fare.

Laxity in Organization of and Checking Gathering in Govt Events

While the state government has issued guidelines for attending funerals and marriages, there is hardly any seriousness when it comes to organizing government or the party events. The ‘havan’ organized in Shimla where hundreds of people had gathered and several party leaders including Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had visited it. The event had invited criticism as the Chief Minister and workers of BJP Mahila Morcha were seen disregarding every social distancing norm. 

An employee of HP University also tested positive recently. A few days prior to the confirmation of this case, an event was organized at the varsity on the occasion of the Foundation Day a large number of people including media persons were present.  

Amid such a sharp increase in cases, instead of being so lax, the government is supposed to prohibit any such gathering or at least issue guidelines regarding the maximum number of persons allowed to attend such events/functions.

Solan district where the total COVID-19 cases have reached 553 has begun to witness a shortage of health staff.  The BBN area is the worst hit and has reported about 80 percent of the total cases in Solan. According to a media report, there are only 10 doctors at the CHC at Nalagarh and six at the Civil hospital, Baddi. There are only 28 nurses.

Amid this panic, the public, especially from Shimla district has been suggesting the imposition of a lockdown and questioning the government over still keeping the border open for tourists. To make thing even worse, there are instances where people violated quarantine rules after their samples were taken or were not monitored properly. In Mandi district’s Bagsaid market, a person had opened his meat shop giving a sample. It was after the arrival of his report that the shop was closed. 

Further, the online opinion poll of the State Government inviting public opinion over the imposition of a complete lockdown in the state has led to speculations of a possible lockdown from August 1st.  The matter regarding a lockdown is expected to be taken up in the Cabinet meeting to be held on July 30. The public is confused and preparing to stock up ration/essentials or planning to leave for villages. Several readers have also been writing to Himachal Watcher to inquire about the possibility of imposition of a complete lockdown.  

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First Open for Tourism, Then Train Staff, HP Govt Goes Topsy Turvy

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Himachal pradesh CM jairam thakur on hotel staff training

Shimla- In the last week, the Himachal state government has taken decisions that could have a long-lasting impact on citizens without consulting or even informing all stakeholders.

First, it came out with guidelines for tourism that did not have any inputs from the tourism industry. Second, it decided to open the state for tourism without consulting hotel and travel industry or keeping village pradhans in the loop.Six days after the decision to allow tourist activity and opening State borders for tourists, the state government of HP has decided to train people employed with the industry.

“Online training for the Hospitality sector would also be held in wake of COVID-19. About 10,000 candidates would be provided one-day training on hygiene and sanitation procedures. Three weeks training on basic essential of a tourist guide communication skill etc. would be provided to about four hundred candidates,”

said Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in a review meeting with Tourism Industry officials on 8th July. It’s surprising that the Government did not find the time to either have this ‘1 day training’ program ready or train the staff of hotels and restaurants before throwing open state borders for tourists. The government gave no time to the hotel industry to understand, prepare and implement directions given in the issued SOPs.

Major Hotel Associations have already decided to keep hotels closed at least till September and  Village Pradhans have also refused to allow tourists into their jurisdiction. The Chief Minister said that the State Government is following the lead of states such as Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala etc. where the Governments have decided to open the State for tourists.

To enter Himachal Pradesh, tourists have to meet three conditions, a valid booking for at least five days, a COVID-19 test report from an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) certified laboratory not older than 72 hours and their vehicle should have a sanitisation certificate.

About 600 tourists have already entered Kangra district. Police arrested a couple in Kangra district who managed to enter the State by furnishing a fake COVID-19 negative report.

“A case was registered at Damtal police station against a couple who entered HP from Bhadroya barrier based on fake COVID Negative test report. Legal action is being initiated against them for cheating, fraud & forgery. They are currently lodged in an institutional quarantine facility at Parour,”

SP, Kangra, Vimukt Ranjan, said confirming the report. In another case in Kullu, five tourists, who managed to enter the State and reach Bajaura barrier in Kullu, were detained for not carrying required documents. A total of 12 tourists have been allowed in to Kullu district after they met the three conditions needed for tourists.

According to Kullu district police, about 70 tourists from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh etc. were sent back for not fulfilling conditions prescribed by the State Government. Tourists who should be sent back for a lack of required documents and fulfilling conditions given in the SOPs issued by the State Government are able to cross barriers at borders, like Parwanoo and Swarghat.

Police manning barricades are also frontline staff who are at risk.

We have provided police who are manning the barricades with N95 masks, raincoats that will serve a double purpose for rain and COVID protection and long gloves, policemen over the age of 50 years and those with existing conditions are not deployed at barricades,

said DSP, Kullu, Priyank Gupta.

While the majority of the hospitality industry players, (which is worst hit by the loss of business), is against opening the State for tourism, there are some, especially those who have leased hotels and taken loans who want to open for tourism. However, until the state government takes steps to add healthcare facilities and make more dedicated COVID hospital wards especially in rural areas, large scale tourism could endanger locals.

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Govt Legitimizing and Legalizing Environmental Violations for Business by Amending EIA Rules: Activists  

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Himachal pradesh EIA Notification 2020 Amendments news

Shimla-While in statements, the politicians in power at the Centre and State Governments have been expressing concerns over environmental issues and ensuring the people that they are committed to protect and preserve the environment, the reality is contrary to it. The most recent evidence is the proposed 2020 draft amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification. With these amendments, the process of environmental assessment before granting permission to execute commercial projects, like hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, would be reduced to merely a formality.

Environmental activists and people’s organisations from across Himachal have written to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to scrap the 2020 draft amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification proposed by it.

These activists and environmental protection groups are of the opinion that the EIA Notification, first issued in 1994 under the Environment Protection Act 1986, is a critical mechanism that regulates clearances granted to all kinds of development projects and economic activities in the country. It is one of the environmental decision-making processes that makes it mandatory for project developers to not just study the socio-economic, ecological and other impacts of a proposed project but also place them in front of the affected communities for their opinions and objections, thus, ensuring the process of a free, fair and informed consent. However, this notification has been amended and read down several times in the last two decades, in favour of ‘easing the norms’ for business. The latest draft continues to move in the direction of rendering the EIA process a mere formality. 

The submission made by HP groups states,

“In the context of the already vulnerable and sensitive Himalayan region, flouting of various provisions of even the present EIA notification has heavily impacted the local ecology and livelihoods of the people. The new amendments will only legitimize and legalize these violations and this will mean irreparable damage to the Himalayan ecosystem”. 

The key objections raised are around exemptions of a variety of projects from the mandatory  Public Consultation’ process as well as the dismantling of this process itself.

“The reduction of the time prior to public hearing from 30 to 20 days is also highly objectionable. In the given 30 day period itself, the information about Public hearings does not reach all the affected areas which are often spread out widely in case of mountains with some project-affected communities residing in remote and inaccessible terrains. Here accessing information takes a long time and reducing this time to 20 days will completely exclude such people from raising their grievances and suggestions in the public consultation. This is a clear attempt to block their participation in the environmental decision-making process”

said R.S Negi of Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur. 

 

“It is shocking that the amendments include allowing post-facto clearance, which means that the project proponent can start work and before they have obtained environmental clearance. If the basic precautionary principle on which the EIA notifications is grounded is itself not followed it can lead to a disastrous situation for the ecology and local people. In this situation who is going to be responsible for the losses? If the project proponent is not in a position to pay for losses, will the MoEF&CC take the responsibility of losses? This provision will encourage project developers to bypass the process of environmental decision making. We absolutely oppose this amendment”,

said Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara Collective.  

The 2020 draft also dilutes the guidelines for monitoring and compliance of Environment conditions.

“Already the system of monitoring is weak, the conditions lose, the pollution control board and companies non-accountable, thus, leading to widespread destruction of local ecology and impacting health, lives, and livelihoods of project-affected communities. In the case of hydropower projects, for instance, the illegal and unmonitored dumping of muck along river beds, in forests and on common lands, has damaged pastures, disrupted the flow of the rivers, and caused massive disasters when floods occur. The proposed changes will give a free reign to those profiting from extractive and polluting projects,” 

according to Kulbhushan Upmanyu of Himalaya Bachao Samiti. 

It is ironic that on one hand, the global COVID crisis has thrown up several studies showing that pandemics like COVID emerge from ecological degradation and forest loss, and on the government is pushing for policy changes which will accentuate the environmental crisis that the country is already reeling under.  

“If the MoEF&CC wants to change the environmental laws, it should carry out countrywide regional consultations”,

added Uma Mahajan of Himachal Van Adhikar Manch.

The country, especially ecologically diverse yet climate-vulnerable regions like the Himalayas need a robust and strong environmental regulatory and governance regime that makes project proponents accountable and keeps the affected communities and ecological concerns at the centre of the EIA and environmental decision-making process. 

Notably, MoEF&CC had called for citizen’s comments before May 11 but this deadline was extended upto  June 30 and now August 11 as environmentalists and concerned groups expressed outrage that calling for public inputs on this critical law amidst the COVID led lockdown was unjustified. The MoEF&CC has in this period received thousands of objections highlighting the new draft as anti-people and environment.

The demand is to scrap these proposed amendments for the sake of the environment. 

Submission Made to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by Activists and Organizations

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