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Shimla’s Popular Baljees Restaurant Shuts Down, Workers Protest Over Unpaid Dues Worth Crores

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Baljees shimla closed, workers protest

Shimla-Today, the iconic Baljees — a 65-years-old restaurant located on the Shimla Mall will be winding up its operation. While the media is highlighting Shimla’s mourning over the closing of Baljees, its 70 workers, who are now rendered jobless, are protesting for the last two days for their unpaid dues. Several of these workers have been serving in the restaurant for over four decades and have contributed a lot towards its growth.

The workers alleged that the restaurant has not paid their dues worth about two crores. As per the workers, these dues include gratuity, bonus, leave encashment, notice pay, retrenchment compensation etc.  However, the Baljees management had earlier assured that all the dues would be cleared before closing.

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has also come in support of these workers. It said the Baljees not only violating the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 but also going against the orders passed by the State High Court on July 12, 2018. In its July 12 orders, the court had made it clear that the management of the restaurant would have to pay all the dues before handing over the building to its owner.  In case the management fails to do so, this action would be considered as a contempt of the court orders, the CITU said.

The workers have urged the district administration and district police to make the management of the restaurant comply with the orders of the court. Otherwise, the workers said, they would file a contempt of court petition along with more protests.

 The Baljees, which was considered a destination restaurant, had gained popularity among both locals as well as tourists. Several influential political names from Virbhadra Singh to Prime Minister Narendra Modi used to visit the restaurant, it is said.  

Chandra Baljee had set up this restaurant in 1954. It was expanded in 1972 after which it became famous for Indian and continental food. The decision to close the building had come in 2018 after Baljees management lost the legal battle against the owner of the building, Lok Nath & Sons. The battle had started over operation charges for the building.

In 2015, the District and Sessions Court had ordered eviction. Later, the matter reached the state High Court where operation charges were hiked from Rs 18,000 to 1.35 lakh per month.  However, the owner was demanding. Then, the case reached the Supreme court, and then back to the High Court. Finally, in July 2018, Baljees management and Alok Nath & sons arrived at a mutual compromise. The management decided to evacuate the building and sought one year’s time to wind up its operation. This deadline ended today.   

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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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Fresh Spell of Snow in Himachal’s Higher Hills, Mercury Drops, Traffic Movement Hit

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Snowfall-in-Shimla-in-February-2020-m2

Shimla– As predicted by Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department, after a short sunny and warm spell, the weather conditions have taken a turn in the state, which has led to a sharp drop in temperatures. On the night of February 20th,  Shimla’s upper regions and higher hills of Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Chamba, Kinnaur received a fresh spell of snow.

In fact, the Met Department had issued a yellow warning for February 21st.

Snowfall-in-shimla-feb-2020

Shimla city, Jakhu hills and Sanjauli witnessed a short and very light spell of snow on early Friday morning. While the snow did not affect traffic movement in urban Shimla, the Kufri-Narkanda road was closed for traffic as the region received comparatively more snow. Other than these places, Narkanda, Khidaki, Kharapathar were also closed for traffic due to snow.

Snowfall-shimla-2020

 The traffic movement towards Rohru, Chaupal, Theog, and Nerwa was also hit. Vehicles on their way towards Shimla from Rampur were being diverted via Basantpur. According to Shimla Police, roads to Khidaki, Kharapathar, Narkanda and Kufri were opened for small vehicles by Friday evening. However, police has advised people to avoid driving on these roads till Saturday morning as the roads are still slippery. Further, district police has asked people to contact on 112 or 1077 in case they get stuck and require assistance. 

Jalori pass was also closed and some buses were said have been stuck. Traffic movement on National Highway 305 was also affected.

The lower hills or plains witnessed rain with gusty winds. In some regions, the wheat crop was destroyed by gusty winds.

Weather-Prediciton-Himachal-PRadesh-2020

The Met Department has predicted rain/snow in middle and higher hills till February 25th. For plains, the weather is likely to be dry from February 22th onward.

 

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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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