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Torture of 80-Year-Old Jolts Himachal, 24 Villagers Arrested, Women’s Commission Seeks Report from SP

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Mandi old woman case

Mandi-The case relating to the heinous and barbaric incident in Samahal village, Sarkaghat of Mandi district, in which an 80-year-old lady was declared a sorceress and made to wear a shoe-garland and paraded across the village with her face-blackened, has jolted the entire Himachal Pradesh. Hardly anyone had expected that the people of Devbhoomi could to be so insensitive toward a helpless elderly woman.

Now, from the Police, Women’s Commission, and HP High Court have also come into action. 

After two videos of the incident went viral on social media, the district police has lodged FIRs in the case. A total of 21 accused, including 7 females, have been apprehended, at the time of writing. While 17 of them were arrested on Saturday evening, four more were held on Monday morning. Three others were arrested by Monday evening. 

The arrested have been identified as Vavitar Singh, Anil Kumar, Ajay Kumar, Dhantar Singh, Balam Singh, Uttam Chand, Ritesh Parmar, Rajinder Singh, Sonu Parmar, Sunil Kumar, Amit Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Nisha Devi, Dipak Thakur, Amar Deyi, Anil Kumar, Vimla Devi, Kamla Devi, Simro Devi, Salochana Devi, and Shauntla Devi.

All the accused have been produced in the court and taken on police remand, confirmed the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sarkaghat, Chander Paul while talking to Himachal Watcher.

“After the incident came into our notice through the videos, we raided the village on Saturday night and arrested 17 people named in the complaint lodged by the family of the victim,”

the DSP said.

While some of the media sources reported the age of the victim to be 70 years, the DSP confirmed that the victim was 80-years-old.

He further informed that the accused were booked under Sections 47 (punishment for rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 452 (house-trespass), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance), 355 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person) and 427 (mischief causing damage) of the Indian Penal Code.

A mob of villagers on Sunday tried to revolt against the action taken by police. The villagers, as per the local sources, had planned that they would gherao Sarkaghat Police Station to free the booked culprits.

However, as a precaution against any such possibility, the DSP had deployed additional police force in the area.

“We received reports that villager would try to gherao the police station, therefore over 50 additional jawans were deployed to prevent any unwanted situation,”

the DSP informed.

He said that there is sufficient evidence including videos to prove the roles of arrested accused behind this crime. The DSP also said that a couple of more arrest could be made as the victim has named more people in her supplementary statement.

The victim lady with her daughter and son-in-law talked to the media and dictated the incident. The elderly lady and her daughter could not hold back their tears in front of the media. The daughter of the victim was seen requesting media persons to not take photos and videos fearing that it would bring more humiliation to the family.

The family told the media that the incident occurred on November 6, 2019. However, it only came to their knowledge after they saw the video. The victim and her family were in trauma and could barely speak initially.

The daughter said that her family is now receiving life threats from the relative of those villagers who were arrested by police. The daughter told media that she would not let her mother return to that village again.  The daughter also alleged that their own relatives were behind this conspiracy to take over the property. She said these relatives have threatened them earlier too. The son-in-law of the victim on Monday submitted a written complaint to the SP that the family is receiving threats and requested for police protection. 

After the marriage of her daughter, the victim, a widow of an army personal, was living alone in the village. She was on target of some locals who claimed to be agents of the deity and had been receiving threats for a long time. On October 23, she had also filed a police complaint after her house was ransacked by villagers in her absence. But they were forced by section of villagers to withdraw the complaint.

HW also talked to Rajnish Sharma – a social activist – who alleged that this barbaric act could have been prevented if the local police had acted timely. He also alleged that the police was aware of the incident but remained silent. Rajnish demanded that the SHO and DSP, Sarkaghat should be suspended and the Superintendent of Police transferred.

The matter has reached the State High Court. The court has asked the government to file a report regarding this case within a week. The government was also asked to submit details of action taken in the case so far. 

It’s pertinent to mention that no higher official of the Police or district administration approached the victim even after the police had filed a complaint. It was only on Monday that the Chairman of the Women’s Commission, Dr Daisy Thakur, asked the SP to file a status report. The Chairman also visited the victim on Monday.

The MLA, Sarkaghat constituency, Inder Singh, also visited the victim and assured that strict action per law would be taken against the culprits.

Meanwhile, on social media, people expressed concern that emanation of news of such a heinous and superstitious act from Himachal  in the second decade of the 21st Century would tarnish the image of the state not only in India but on global level.  The literary rate of Himchal Pradesh , as per the 2011 census, was over 83 percent. The fact that such crime occurred in a state with high literacy rate makes it even shocking. 

Misc News/Press Release

Dharamshala Hoteliers Say Condition of 5-Days Pre-Booking Unnecessary, Not Acceptable to Tourists  

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Dharamshala hotelier association on opening hotels

Dharamshala-The Hotel and Restaurant Association, Dharamshala, recently held a meeting under the Chairmanship of President Ashwani Bamba to discuss the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the Himachal Pradesh Government.  

The Association said that the Tourism Department has made the condition of pre-booking of minimum five nights stay in a hotel mandatory. But prospective guests are not willing to accept this restriction.

“As even in the peak summer season, the average stay of a guest in any destination in the state is only for two nights. We cannot force the guest to stay for five nights in the rainy season,”

Ashwani Bamba said.

He said that the Association has also received feedback from its online as well as offline travel agents, who suggested that guest are not willing to travel to Himachal on these conditions.

“We fail to understand that when producing COVID-19 negative certificate has been made mandatory for entry to the State, what is the logic behind five nights mandatory stay,”

he questioned.

The Association also raised questions over the feasibility of implementing SOP regarding obtaining a certification declaring that a vehicle is sanitized.

“Who are the agencies authorized by the State Administration to issue such certificate and the validity of such certificate? Association feels that this is unnecessary and impractical and will only cause harassment to tourists,”

Ashwani said.

He suggested that instead of this condition, a self-declaration by the guest should suffice.

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

Further, the SOP asking hotel owners to allow guests to check-in even if they have high temperature and showing visible symptoms of cough and breathlessness is not acceptable to the hoteliers, the Association said.

Further, there is a fear among hoteliers that in case a guest turns out to be COVID-19 positive, hotel premises may be sealed. Also, the SOPs do not mention any directions/instructions regarding the period for which premises of such hotel would be sealed and the staff will be quarantined, the Association said.

 “We suggest that instead of check-in the hotel, such symptomatic guest should be straight away sent to the Government COVID-19 health facilities for further medical check-up and quarantined at designated quarantine facilities till the arrival of his/her report,”

the Association said.

Further, the President said that due to the above-cited SOPs issued by the Department, the majority of the hoteliers are not willing to open.

The Association said that as the present set of SOPs is not favourable for prospective guests and hoteliers and there is an alarming rise in corona cases in Punjab, Delhi, UP, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, they were not expecting many tourists to visit the State. Therefore, the Association said, it’s not advisable to open the hotels till July 30th.

“We are requesting the Government to take into confidence the stakeholders and revise the SOPs, where it incentivises guests to visit the State and to remove unreasonable restrictions,”

the Association said.  

Further, Ashwani informed that the Association has decided to review the SOPs and situation regarding corona cases on July 31 and the next course of action would be decided thereafter.

The Association has made it clear that if any hotel wants to open its premises with the present set of SOPs for the tourists, it may do so at his own risk.

What Hoteliers in Shimla Say About Opening Hotels

About 700 Tourist Visited Himachal During Last 5 Days

About 700 tourists visited the State in the last five days, informed Secretary, Tourism and Civil Aviation Devesh Kumar on Saturday.

He said that before framing the SOP for the opening of tourism units in the State, the Tourism department has examined the SOP of other states who have also opened the hotels for tourists in their respective State.

Advisory to Tourists Planning Visit to Himachal

As per the advisory issued, the tourists who wish to visit Himachal Pradesh are required to register themselves on the E-Pass web portal before 48 hours visiting Himachal under tourist category. The tourists have to carry COVID test certificate (RTPCR) issued by ICMR certified laboratory with a negative report and this should not be more than 72 hours. In addition, the tourist must have downloaded Aarogya Setu App on their mobiles.

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COVID-19: Kangra Crosses 300 Mark, Over 30 Including Policemen Quarantined After Rape Accused Tests Positive in Una

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Himachal pradesh rape accused test covid positive in una

Una-The Amb police station in Una district was sealed and over 30 people including policemen were home-quarantined after a rape accused tested positive for COVID-19. According to the initial information, the police had nabbed the accused in Tarn Taran, Punjab, on July 9 and brought him to the Amb police station. SP, Una, Karthikeyan Gokulachandran confirmed the report.

On Saturday, 11 new cases were reported in Himachal Pradesh. On Friday, the State had reported 31 new cases. On Sunday, two new cases were reported from Chamba district till noon. The COVID-19 tally for the State has now jumped to 1184, of which 262 are active cases, 898 cured, nine died, and 13 migrated to outside the state.

In Kullu district, after a COVID-19 case was reported from Ward Number 7 of Kullu Municipal Council, the district administration has sealed area falling between Loarn, Khalada road on the northern side and Sarwari Khad on the southern side and declared it as containment zone. The remaining area of the ward has been declared as a buffer zone.

 Earlier, the police line in Solan district was sealed and about 30 policemen were quarantined after two constables tested positive on Friday. Their samples were taken as part of routine sampling, and it was yet to be ascertained as to how they got infected. SP, Solan, Abhishek Yadav, confirmed the report.

 ESI Hospital, Parawanoo, was also sealed after a doctor tested positive. The doctor is believed to have contracted the disease while taking samples for testing.  

According to the official statistics released by the State Health Department on July 11 (9 PM), a total of 98367 persons have been tested for COVID-19 in the state. Currently, 20392 persons are under active surveillance.

District-wise, Kangra has reported highest 303 cases, followed by Hamirpur (272), Solan (177), Una (138), Chamba (61), Shimla (55), Bilaspur (51), Mandi (38), Sirmaur (42), Kinnaur (35), Kullu (8), and Lahaul-Spiti (4).

HP Health Department’s Daily COVID-19 Bulletin (12 PM) for July 12, 2020

Latest Himachal Pradesh corona updates

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Read HP Cabinet Decisions on Hike in Bus Fare, UG Exams, School/College Admissions, Jobs & Others

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Himachal Pradesh cabinet meeting july 10, 2020

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Cabinet said it is considering to give an approval to hike bus fare by 25 percent in the State.  The decision was taken in a Cabinet meeting held on July 10, 2020. The Transport Minister, Govind Singh Thakur, said a notification regarding the same would be issued soon. Private bus operators had been demanding hike in fares since the opening of public transport services. Most of the private transporters had declined to resume service with the State Government’s condition of 60 percent occupancy. The government had later allowed plying of public transport with 100 percent capacity, but the private bus operators still pressurized the Transport Minister to consider hiking the bus fare.

Though the official notification was yet to be released, the decision has already begun to face resistance from the people and oppositions.

The State unit of Indian National Congress, Shimla Nagrik Sabha and Communist Party of India have released statements questioning the timing of the decision. Former Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, termed this decision against the public interests as a hike has been made when the majority of people are going through a financially tough time due to the lockdowns in wake of coronavirus outbreak.

Further, Nagrik Sabha said that the private transporters and HRTC staff should have been provided relief by the state government but instead, the burden has been put on the public, which is not justified. About 70 percent of people employed in private sector and small businesses are partially or completely hit due to the corona pandemic, the Sabha said. 

UG Final Year Exams and School Admissions

Further, the Education Minister, Suresh Bhardwaj, informed that the Cabinet has given nod to the Education Department’s proposal to start admissions in government schools and colleges from 13 to 25 July. The admissions in schools/colleges would facilitate the students who have passed Class 10 and Class 12. Students can apply for admission online, telephonically, or by physically visiting the schools/colleges, he informed.

Regarding the examination of the final year of under-graduation and post-graduation would be held in August (after 16th) and September respectively. The Minister said that according to the new guidelines issued by the UGC, it would be mandatory to conduct examinations for the students of last semester/year of under graduation. The examination could be conducted at centres or online, the Minister said. In case the students are not able to appear in the examination at the colleges and universities, they would be given a facility to appear in the exam in nearby centres. In case, some students fail to appear in the examination due to some genuine reason, another chance would be given to such students to take the examination in the same academic year.

However, no decision was taken regarding the examination of the first and second years students of under-graduation. In case it is decided to promote students of these years, the criteria would be set after further discussions, the Minister informed. 

Job Opportunity for Eligible Unemployed Candidates

The Cabinet also gave its nod to the draft policy for engaging ‘Part-Time Multi Task Workers’ in government schools. It will initially provide an opportunity for 7852 eligible unemployed candidates to earn honorarium at the local level. These workers will be paid an honorarium of Rs. 31.25 per hour for six hours per day for ten months in an academic year.

State Cabinet approved the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Himachal Pradesh (Amendment) Rules, 2019. The government said it would extend the provision of ‘Fixed Term Employment Workman’ in respect of industrial establishments under their domain as per provisions of Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and Rules made thereafter. This would offer the ‘Fixed Term Employment Workman’ the same statutory benefits as were being proportionately given to regular workers, thus, decrease the exploitation of contract workers as the employer would directly hire the workers without any mediator in the form of contract for a fixed term, the government said.

Other Cabinet Decision of HP Govt

The Cabinet gave its approval to Himachal Pradesh Ease of Compliance to Maintain Register under various Labour Laws, Rules, 2019.

It granted its approval to adopt CPWD works Manual 2019 and other publication of CPWD in Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department.

It decided to open new Horticulture Division in Public Works Department at Shimla. The government said that all the existing Sub-divisions of the Horticulture would be brought under the administrative control of this Division. This new Horticulture Division would help build green roads by ensuring roadside plantation and slope stability activities through bio-engineering technology.

The Cabinet gave its consent to establish a training academy centre at Barchwad in Sarkaghat area of Mandi district to train those youth who are willing to join Indian Army/Navy/Air Force and other paramilitary forces to serve the country.

It decided to enhance the honorarium of part-time water carriers engaged in Elementary and Higher Education Departments of the State Government by Rs. 300 per month from Rs. 2400 to Rs. 2700 per month.

The Cabinet decided to provide a monthly ‘Loktantra Prahari Samman Rashi’ of Rs. 8000 per month to those persons who have undergone 1-15 days incarceration and Rs. 12000 per month to those who have undergone 15 days or above incarceration during the emergency between 25th June 1975 to 21st March 1977 under MISA –Maintenance of Internal Security Act and DIR-Defence of India Rules as a token of respect to them for standing up for democracy and fundamental rights of the people.

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