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Shimla School Bus Accident Again Exposes Serious Lapses on Govt’s Part

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Causes of Shimla School Bus Accident

Shimla-After two weeks of tragic accidents of the overloaded private bus in Banjar of Kullu district in which 46 people had died and 37 were injured, the accident of the school bus in Jhinjhari of Shimla district has yet again exposed lapses on the part of the district administration as well as the State government.

Serious questions are being raised on the working of the government and its attitude toward the safety of passengers in public and private transport. The biggest shocker was the statement of the Transport Minister he had given prior to any investigation in which he had tried to protect the owner of the private bus.

This time, three persons including two students and the driver were killed. The accident occured when the bus fell into a 500 feet gorge while the driver tried to drive through a congested spot on the road. The Bus driver, Naresh Thakur, died on the spot. Two students of the Convent of Jesus and Mary School — Manya and Mehul, both aged between 13-15 years — succumbed to their injuries later on.

The primary reason given by the locals for the accident is congestion created on the already narrow road by wrongly parked vehicles and lack of roadside safety measures like parapets or crash-barriers. In fact, the matter related to the absence of roadside safety measures had been popping up after several fatal road accidents. However, neither the previous government nor the current government considered it a priority.

If the government had attended to these demands and, at least, installed crash-barriers, this accident could have been prevented, the locals exerted.

A wave of rage erupted among the locals, who even gheraoed the Education Minister who had arrived to visit the spot of the accident. He faced severe backlash and had to flee the scene after facing enraged locals.

The locals also smashed windows of the cars parked along the roadside. Following it, they staged a protest near Khalini and blocked the Khalini-Jhinjhari road. Reportedly, media persons, too, faced protest from the locals, who pelted stones at them.

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At the same time, another shocking fact has come into the light. The HRTC bus was in a dilapidated state and its insurance had also expired. As per the former Mayor of Shimla town, Sanjay Chauhan, the bus was introduced in 2008 under JNNURM and was supposed to be decommissioned about three years ago. The bus faced frequent mechanical failures, the locals alleged. The bus driver had complained a fault with the steering a couple of weeks ago.

It’s worth a reminder that after coming into power, despite a debt of Rs 49,000 crore, the state government had bought several sport utility vehicles (SUV) worth over 30 lakh each. However, public transport is left on the mercy of poorly maintained, old buses.

The Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Samiti, in a press note released today, alleged that the locals had brought the matter of road congestion due to wrong parking to the attention of district administration about three years ago. It said, the administration was told that the road is vulnerable to accidents, and demand for installation of parapets/crash-barriers was also raised.

The locals had even undertaken a week-long campaign against roadside parking. Signatures of a large number of locals were taken to highlight the matter. The road was declared as a ‘no parking zone’ after this campaign. But this campaign could not deter people from roadside parking for more than a couple of weeks. The administration also neglected the issue and showed complete laxity on its part.

If the administration had listened to the people, the lives lost today could have been easily saved.

The locals also alleged that the administration never bothered to take in to account the rising population in the area and requirement for parking space.

Sitting MLA, Theog, Rakesh Singha, also termed it as a failure of state government. He said that the real cause of each accident needs to be ascertained but the fact remains the state government has failed to prevent repeated accidents of buses in Himachal Pradesh.

“The major cause of accidents is bad conditions of roads, worn out vehicles having crossed seven lakhs kilometers mileage, failure to provide sufficient workshop staff to undertake timely maintenance and repair of vehicles, massive shortage of drivers and conductors leading to stress conditions of the available staff to carry out the operation of the regular bus route services,”

Singha said.

While Mahila Samiti has demanded a compensation of not less than Rs 20 lakh to the families of the three victims who died in the accident, Sigha has also asked the government to pay compensation beyond the set paraments.

“Loss of life cannot be compensated in terms of money but the state must provide relief beyond the parameters set by it and rupees ten lacks must be the minimum that is expected of any elected government,”

he said.

The Student-Parents forum, that has been demanding implementation of various rules in private schools including the deployment of their own school buses, staged an aggressive protest at the Directorate of the Higher Education. The forum said that it is mandatory rule for every CBSE affiliated school to provide students with its own school buses, which is hardly being followed. The angry members of the forum entered the office of the Director, which was followed by heated arguments. The forum asked why the Directorate has failed to implement directions of the State High Court passed in April 2018 regarding the safety of school children.
Student-Parent forum at HP Education Directorate

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur repeated the usual statement assuring strict action against those who were responsible for the accident. However, now the people appear to have fed up with hollow promises and actions that are taken only in papers.

The opposition Congress, who had been a failure itself (in matters related to road safety) during its tenure, also opened an attack on the current BJP government and demanded the resignation of the Transport Minister.

The continued slumber of the government suggests that loss of lives hardly rings a bell for its officials. Their actions and remedies remain confined to documents and magisterial probes, which are not made public, like the Nurpur school bus accident and the one reported in Kullu’s Banjar.

If the government is actually serious about road safety, then it should undertake an extensive campaign to ensure that all roads are protected by crash-barriers, speed regulators are made mandatory for the public and private buses, old, dilapidated buses are replaced with new once, and black spots are fixed as soon as possible.

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Be Careful About Fake News/Misinformation on Social Media: Education Minister

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HP Education minister Suresh Bhardwaj

Shimla-Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, while addressing youth at the 10th Bhartiya Chatra Sansad in New Delhi said, social media has many benefits like connectivity, easy access but there is a need to exercise caution while using this tool.

Sometimes social media spreads misinformation and fake news, we should be careful about what information we are consuming. We should learn to understand the difference between real and virtual life, he added.

The Education Minister also said that the youth should use their own identity and uniqueness and not rely too much on social media while making decisions.

The basic objective of education is to become a good citizen and to become successful in our professional and personal lives, he said.

The Education Minister was delivering a lecture on ‘Learn before you lean: Following social media and celebrities’ at the second session of the event which is being organised from 20th to 23rd February at Vigyan Bhavan New Delhi by Rahul Karad, Founder and Convenor of Bhartiya Chatra Sansad (BCS).

However, the degrading quality of education in the State’s government schools hardly suggests that the education minister is actually committed to create good citizens.

The massive fee hikes by Himachal Pradesh University are making education inaccessible. Private schools are prospering owing to poor quality of education in government schools. Parents are left with no choice but to pay hefty fees to private schools to ensure that their children get a better academic environment and basic facilities. At the same time, the ruling government in Delhi has proved that the academic environment and infrastructure of government schools can be changed for good easily.

Impressed with reforms in education in Delhi, during the United States President Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India next week, First lady Melania Trump is likely to visit a Delhi government school in South Delhi. As a part of various innovative steps to improve the education system, the Delhi government has introduced happiness curriculum. This curriculum was introduced for the students from Nursery to Class 8. Even some private schools later adopted it. Delhi government would be briefing Melania about the “happiness curriculum.”

Though politicians in India hardly follow what they preach, it is indeed the need of the hour that we filter what is being served on media and social media before believing it and making decisions based on it.

After witnessing unethical use of social media by political parties, during 2014 and 2019 General Elections, and lately in the recently concluded Delhi Assembly elections, for hate speeches, propaganda and spreading misinformation to manipulate voters, going completely against the ethics of politics, it is sarcastic to hear a politician asking people to beware of fake news and misinformation spread through social media. Not only politicians but mainstream media has also turned itself into a paid circus.

On some channels, journalists have even assumed the roles of judges instead of simply reporting facts. Together with paid media and social media, India’s politicians and religious organizations are experimenting with a divisive and communally polarizing politics. During the recent Delhi elections, journalists and politicians even turned themselves into jokers without caring about ethics and  their responsibility towards the nation.

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Video: Villagers Carry Pregnant Lady on Shoulders for 18 kms to Reach Hospital in Absence of Ambulance Road

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Kullu-The Himachal Pradesh Government on February 17, 2020, while announcing annual plan budget for session 2020-21, claimed that it has registered “remarkable growth” in health, education, horticulture and social services sectors.

However, the question over government’s claims arises after watching videos where people in Himachal’s rural area still don’t have access to even basic health facilities due to lack of ambulance roads. Residents carry patients on their shoulders in palanquins for several kilometers to reach the nearest road. Videos and reports of such cases regularly appear in regional pages of Hindi dailies, indicating hollowness of government claims of development.  

A video showing the plight of villagers in Sainj area of the district Kullu has been posted by locals where some local men and women are carrying a female on a makeshift palanquin on a tough acceding trail.

On Sunday morning, Sunita, experienced labour pain. The family asked other villagers for help. They prepared a make-shift palanquin by tying a chair to two logs.

When asked about the situation, the women said they are carrying a pregnant woman, Sunita, to hospital because the nearest motorable road is 18-20 kilometres far from their village Shaakati in Garapaarali (गाड़ापारली) panchayat. Two other villages in the same panchayat – Maraur and Shugad-also faces the same problem when they need to access health services.

The women said it took them over eight hours to carry the pregnant lady upto the road from where they arranged motorable transport to reach Banjar hospital.

Furious over the government and politicians, local women can be heard alleging that government of its indifference to their grievances and lack of facilities.

“Government will trace and find us anywhere when it is about seeking votes but no one comes back to attend us. Whenever villagers get sick, we carry them on shoulders to access health services,”

an elderly woman said while describing the plight of villagers.

In another clip, a woman carrying the palanquin can be seen complaining about the lack of an ambulance road.

“We need an ambulance road. That’s our demand,”

she said while gasping due to exhaustion.

As per another media report, the panchayat Pradhan, Bhaag Chand and other members of the panchayat also confirmed facing a huge inconvenience due to lack of a motorable road. They said governments kept changing but their panchayat did not get a road.  

Not just medical facilities, but villagers also complained that even most basic facilities are still out of their reach due to apathy of the government.

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Video of Closest Snow Leopard Encounter in Himachal’s Spiti Goes Viral

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viral Snow Leopard video spiti

Lahaul-Spiti-A video clip showing two Snow Leopards sighted in Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh is going viral on social media. It is being speculated that perhaps this is the closest encounter with a snow leopard, which was captured on a mobile camera by two locals.  

Snow Leopards are also called ghost cat for their solitary and elusive nature and incredible camouflage that makes spotting them extremely difficult. Spotting and capturing these ghost cats have been a dream for wildlife lovers, especially photographers.  

However, opposed to its nature, this majestic feline was seen taking a strolling down the Kaumik-Kaza road on Sunday evening. While one of the leopards-maintained distance from the vehicle,  the other one  came surprisingly close and appeared to be inquiring curiously.  

There are only about 500 Snow Leopards in India. Natives of Central Asia’s higher mountains, these exquisite creatures are only found in the States of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, and Assam at elevations between 3,000 meters and 5,400 meters.

Other than India, these felines are found in Russia, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Snow leopards have thick grey and yellow-tinged fur, with solid spots on their head, neck and lower limbs and rosettes over the rest of the body. Rosettes are large rings enclosing smaller spots.  Snow leopards also have very long, thick tails that they use for balancing on rocks.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the global population of snow leopards is about 7,000. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have listed these animals as endangered.

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