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Voices Rising in Himachal Against Citizenship Act, NRC Amid Nationwide Protest

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Protest against Citizenship Act in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The resistance to Bharatiya Janata Party-led Indian Government’s controversial Citizenship Act, 2019, continues to grow as more and more people pour in on roads to join protests. Today violent protests were reported in Lucknow in which several vehicles were set ablaze and stones were pelted on the police. One protester was said to have died during the clash with police. Police is also facing hard-time in controlling the situation as protests continue to grow larger.

The politics is at its cheapest with the sabotage of peaceful protests through anti-social elements and BJP’s IT Cell trolling anyone who does not support CAA. Police forces are also bearing the brunt of this contentious legislation with reports of injuries to policemen during clashes with protesters.

Protesting voices are also rising in Himachal Pradesh with students of Himachal Pradesh University and some other organizations holding protests in Shimla.

On December 17, the Himachal Pradesh unit of All India Lawyers Union (AILU) had expressed its solidarity with the students of Jamia-Millia-Islamia, JNU, Delhi University, Aligarh Muslim University and all other educational institutes protesting against the CAA and NRC. AILU said it is the right of the students to protest against this amendment which is contrary to the secular structure of India and the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

Today, students affiliated to Student Federation of India burned an effigy of the Home Minister, Amit Shah, at the Summerhill Chowk as a protest against the CAA and NRC. The students also condemned barbaric police action against students of Jamia Millia Islamia Central University. The students said the new Act is outrightly an attack on the Indian constitution’s secular structure. The Act contradicts Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, they argued.

Students asked as to why only persecution wasn’t made a criterion for granting citizenship instead of favouring some religions except for one.

Reportedly, cases were filed against several students over this protest.

The nation has begun to burn in the communal fire sparked by this decision of the Centre Government, the students said.

Akhil Bharatiya Janvadi Mahila Samiti also staged a protest against CAA across the State on December 19. In Shimla, a protest was staged by the Samiti in front of the Office of Deputy Commissioner, Shimla.

The Samiti alleged that this Act was introduced in a time when unemployment is at its peak, the nation’s economy is in the state of coma, and the rate of crime against women is growing consistently. The Samiti argued that education has become more expensive, thus, unaffordable for the poor. At the same time, the government is making cuts in the education budget and inflation is burdening the plebeian, it said.

The Samiti said the Central government deliberately introduced this Act to distract the media and the public from real issues.

This government is dividing the nation on the basis of religion, region, and cast.

The Samiti demanded the withdrawal of the legislation at the earliest.

In the evening today, CPI(M) along with Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Muslim Sudhar Samiti, and some other groups held a separate protest outside the DC Office, Shimla.

CPI(M) said that the Modi-led Centre government is implementing agendas of RSS and setting the nation ablaze in communal fire, and the CAA clearly confirms it.

Under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, every citizen has equal rights irrespective of their religion or caste, the State Secretary, CPI(M), Dr Onkar Shad said.

Families, especially economically weaker sections of minority and landless, would suffer most due to this discriminatory decision of the government to exclude one religion in the legislation, he said.

North-Eastern states will be affected adversely due to this CAA and NRC, he said.

He further said that as public is coming out on streets to protest against this discriminatory act, the government is resorting to use of police force to suppress their voices. The brutality of Delhi police in Jamia Millia Islamia case confirms that this government is inclined towards Fascist and dictatorial ideologies instead of upholding democratic values and respect the Indian Constitution, he further added.

He made a call to come out in protest against CAA and NCR in large numbers to give a befitted reply to the Centre Government.

Amid widespread protests in India against the Act, hundreds of protestors were detained by the police. Fearing more public protests, the government has gone on to impose Section 144 in Bengaluru, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Delhi to suppress resistance. Mobile services were suspended in some parts of Delhi as protesters marched towards the Red Fort.

However, protestors did not stop marching despite the enforcement of Section 144. A large number of educational institutes have now joined the protest across the nation.

A massive protest was reported from Bengaluru’s Town Hall despite the imposition of Section 144. In Mangaluru city, several policemen are said to have sustained injuries and two civilians were in ICU due to violent clashes.

Intellectuals and legal experts are of the opinion that this fire was ignited by the BJP Government’s paranoia to make India a Hindu Rastra by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955, which required an applicant to have resided in India for 11 years to gain citizenship.

There is a strong opinion that the government could have avoided exclusion on the basis of religion and damaging secular principals enshrined in the Constitution.

As per this legislation all persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan, would be given citizenship even if they do not possess any documents. However, this list does not include persecuted Muslims.

Another debate arising is that instead of mentioning religion as a criterion for granting citizenship, the government could have mentioned “immigrant religious minorities”.

Amid all chaos, the most relevant question is whether there was an emergency due to which India needed this new Act and NRC? The NRC in Assam took a decade and Rs 1,200 crore before it was completed. In order to implement this process across the nation, it would not only consume an insane amount of money but a large number of government employees and machinery too.

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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17 People of Himachal Visited COVID-19 Hotspot Nizamuddin in Delhi: HP Govt

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Himachali's at Nizamuddin, Delhi

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government on Tuesday confirmed that as many as 17 people of the State were on the religious congregation at Delhi Nijamuddeen. All of them are under 14 days surveillance of Delhi Government at New Delhi and till now they have no symptoms of COVID-19.

These persons belong to Chamba, Sirmaur, and Kullu districts.

This large religious gathering at Delhi’s Nizamuddin has emerged as a virus hotspot with links to seven COVID-19 deaths. Among those who had attended the gathering, 50 have tested positive in Tamil Nadu, 24 in Delhi, 21 in Telangana, 18 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Andamans and one each in Assam and Kashmir after attending the gathering. 

Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) shared details of foreign and Indian Tabhlig Jamaat (TJ) workers in India with all States on March 21, 2020, after COVID-19 positive cases among these workers surfaced in Telangana.

All the Tabligh Jamaat workers staying at Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz are being medically screened since March 26. So far, 1203 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been medically screened.  Over 300 of them had symptoms of COVID-19 and were referred to different hospitals in Delhi.

Various nationals, particularly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan had come for Tabligh activities.

Meanwhile, So far, 1339 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been shifted to Narela, Sultanpuri and Bakkarwala quarantine facilities as well as to LNJP, RGSS, GTB, DDU Hospitals and AllMS, Jhajjar. Rest of them are being currently medically screened for COVID-19 infections. No new case has been reported in Himachal. 

Usually, all the foreign nationals visiting India as a part of Tabligh team come on the strength of a tourist visa. MHA had already issued guidelines that they should not indulge in missionary work on a tourist visa. State Police would be examining categories of visas of all these foreign TJ workers and take further action in case of violation of visa conditions.

BACKGROUND

Tabligh Jamaat Headquarter (Markaz) is located in Nizamuddin, Delhi. Devout Muslims from across the country and also from foreign countries visit the Markaz for religious purpose. Some also move out in groups to different parts of the country for Tabligh activities. This is a continuous process throughout the year.

On March 21, approximately 824 foreign Tabligh Jamaat workers were in different parts of the country for missionary work. Besides, around 216 foreign nationals were staying in the Markaz. Besides, over 1500 Indian TJ workers were also staying in the Markaz while around 2100 Indian TJ workers were touring different parts of the country for missionary work. Since March 23, the lockdown has been strictly imposed by State authorities/police across Delhi including in and around Nizamuddin and Tabligh work came to a halt.

As of now, nearly 1400 confirmed cases and 35 deaths have been reported. During the last 24 hours, 227 new confirmed cases and 3 new deaths have been reported.

 

 

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Pandemic – ‘Nationwide Lock-down’ A Tale of Caution & Hope

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Curfew Relaxation in Himachal Pradesh 3

Shimla-It’s for the first time in the history of our planet that the entire Humankind is together and is focused on fighting with one problem.

In India, from many days Doctors have been coming out and demanding a nationwide lockdown fearing the wrath of the virus which has been raging hell all across the world. The State has now responded and has ordered a 21-day lockdown for the entire nation, which is an unprecedented move.

The Lockdown is an extreme step which is demanded by these extraordinary circumstances. And as expected it has and will continue to have a huge impact on the economic health of the country. It has paralysed virtually all commerce and has put millions of people out of work, leaving many struggling with basic requirements like food and medicines. This has caused much debate in the media and elsewhere that whether we are ‘over-reacting’ to the coronavirus outbreak?

In this post, the author argues that the present step of a ‘National Lockdown’ is the most efficient and only available first response which the Government could have taken to tackle the immediate and ongoing existential crisis.

The viability of measures is to be seen through the lens of precaution and what might be the risk to reward outcome of the decision. The ‘precautionary principle’ which has had its evolution through various judgments of our Supreme Court ultimately boils down to an understanding that “if one is bound to err then always err on the side of minimising the risk and the scale of catastrophic harm than to take high-risk measures for immediate gains”.

The question which has arisen for consideration is,  ‘what is at stake by acting too strongly versus what is at stake by acting too weakly?.

The answer, when we think about it with any seriousness, is that too strong action will more quickly reduce wealth and economic activity; whereas too weak action could put crores of lives at stake across the country, and a far greater economic impact will await us down the line.

It is here then that the value judgments behind political decisions about pandemics come into full light. Are we willing to risk economic potency, or are we willing to risk our neighbours, friends, and elders’ lives? The United States and the United Kingdom who have not still imposed a complete nationwide lockdown and are also planning to lift the partial lockdown at the time of Easter (as announced by President Trump) have obviously given a very feeble response and have given considerable weightage to their economy rather than their people. India has chosen to completely focus on its people.

Precautionary Principle 

The Global pandemic and nature of this virus is a powerful reason for aggressively employing the Precautionary Principle to reduce our collective exposure to this deadly virus, an exposure which is grave.

It is hoped that a strong regulatory action which includes measures of forced quarantine, curfew and nation-wide lockdowns, (reduction of public transport/movement/contact) throughout the country would go some way towards lowering contagion even if not completely getting rid of it.

The basic point is that we need to consider the viability of measures through the lens of precaution, and always err on the side of minimising the risk and scale of catastrophic harm. We should be willing to make huge economic sacrifices. So that many of our fellow citizens don’t have their very lives sacrificed at the altar of ‘economic growth’.

The individual choices that we are all facing over the coming months should also be shaped by precaution. We need to be aware that passing this virus to others can create huge contagion cascades that infect thousands of people. It is only by taking pronounced physical distancing steps as early on as possible can we ensure that we are not fueling the wildfire of this pandemic. For many, this may mean a lonely few months, but that is by far a worthwhile price to pay to reduce the scale of this catastrophe.

A Caution- Listen to The Cry of the Poor and Homeless

Though the step by the Government of Lock-down is commendable, there are certain extremely important issues to be kept in mind.

Our country is home to the largest undernourished population in the world. It ranks 102 in the Global Hunger Index, has 1 in 5 people living on less than Rs.150 per day. We have the largest number of street children!

We need an Economic Task Force and a distribution strategy for the supply of essential commodities to the needy.

With the massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the country, there is a *huge and urgent* need of ration and other supplies for daily wage workers, workers in the informal sector as well as masks for doctors and nurses at the frontline.

There have been some announcements which have been made by the State to tackle the above situation such as:

  •  Pradhanmantri Garib Kalyan Yojana – Rs. 1,70,000 crore (Rs. 1.7 trillion) package for poor stuck in lockdown Rs. 50 lakhs insurance cover for health workers in Covid 2019 front.
  •  Pradhanmantri Ann Yojana – 800 Mn people will get additional free 5 kg wheat/Rice and 1 kg, Dal, for 3 months from ration
  • Farmers will get upfront Rs. 2,000 in their account directly
  •  MNREGA – Daily wages increased from Rs. 182 to Rs. 202. Rs 2,000 per worker will be an additional income.
  •  Old Age peoples – Poor senior citizen/widow / handicapped will get additional Rs. 1,000/pm for another 3 months.
  • Mahila Jan Dhan Account – Women will get additional Rs. 500/pm for another 3 months
  • Ujjwala Yojana – Below Poverty Level family will get free LPG cylinder for next 3 months
  •  Up to 20 lakh collateral-free loans for the SHGs from earlier 10 lakh crore cap
  • For organised sector employee and others who earn below Rs. 15,000 salary, Government will pay 12% + 12% provident fund (contribution of employee and employer) under EPF for the next 3 months.
  • EPFO regulations will be amended to allow workers under EPFO to draw up to 75% of their non-refundable advance or 3 months of wages, whichever is lower.
  •  State governments to be directed to utilise an existing Rs 31,000 crore welfare fund for the benefit for 3.5 crore construction workers

Hope & Love

Hope now is that the underprivileged will continue to receive help not only from the Government but also from the super-rich and the various religious institutions that India is so infested by and is proud of. If there was any time for religious institutions to shine this is exactly that time.

We live in a world where infinite money is printed to support corporations and banks and millions are donated to ‘Gods and Godmen’, at the same time nakedly excluding the millions homeless, who are left scrounging for their next meal. India can break this vicious cycle and take steps here out of compassion and empathy. India, the oldest civilization of the world can lead the world and show the light of ‘reason & love’ in its civilized response to the present existential crisis.

There is nothing we can do to change the constraints of our existence. Heartbreak and death await us all one day. As  Albert Camus once said;

 Love is not just a confrontation with the absurdity of the world; it is a refusal to be broken by it.  It is our choice whether we shrink from the slings and arrows of fate, or whether we stand in the full light of the sun while it shines above us.

India! its time to stand at a “physical distance” but stand Together.

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COVID-19: Lockdown in Himachal Pradesh Till Further Orders

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Himachal pradesh lockdown

Shimla– Himachal Pradesh Government today declared a complete lockdown till further orders in the State in view of COVID-19 threat. Except for essential services, everything will be shut down, declared the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in Assembly. He said there is no need to panic as this decision has been taken only as a precautionary measure to prevent spread of coronavirus pandemic in the State. 

All transportation services including public and private vehicles except on some special routes will remain suspended till March 31st, 2020. The people will have to remain at their homes and will only be allowed to leave home in emergency conditions.

As per the notification, all interstate and intrastate movement of public and private stage and contract carriage including taxies, autorickshaws etc are prohibited. There will be a total prohibition on movement or plying of trains and commercial aircraft. The private vehicles will be plied only if essentially required for visiting hospitals and for availing/maintenance of essential services. Goods carriage vehicles will be allowed to ply.

All shops, commercial establishments, factories, workshops, godown etc. will have to close their operation. However, shops or stores selling groceries, milk, bread, fruit, vegetable, meat, fish and other uncooked food items and their transportation-related activities and warehousing will remain operational.

Hospitals, chemists stores, optical stores, pharmaceutical and soap manufacturing units and their ancillaries together with transportation activities will also remain operational. Besides, petrol pumps, LPG gas, oil agencies, their godowns and their transportation services will remain operational.

E-commerce (delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipments will be allowed. Production and manufacturing units which require continuous process may continue to function, after obtaining the required permission from the Deputy Commissioner and following all precautionary protocols as notified by the Health Department. Units manufacturing alcohol for medicine/sanitizers will be subject to following all precautionary protocols as notified.  

All foreign returnees, who have landed in India on or after March 9th, 2020, will have to observe a strict home quarantine. All such foreign returnees will have to notify the district surveillance officer of the concerned district and Toll-Free number 104 and register themselves for home quarantine. Any offence or failure to comply with these guidelines will attract legal action.

The people will have to stay at home and come out only for basic purposes like a visit to grocery, vegetable shops, chemists etc. and for essential and permitted work-related travel only and that too while strictly following social distancing guidelines issued from time to time. No social, cultural, sports, political, religious, academic, family or any kind of mass gathering will not be allowed under no circumstances.

As per the notification, the functioning of all Government offices will be regulated under the order issued on March 21st except for offices charged with law and order and magisterial duties, police, armed forces, and central para-military forces, health, treasury, urban local bodies and rural development, fire, electricity, water and municipal services, banks/ATM, print, electronic and social media, telecom and internet services including IT&ITeS, postal services, supply chain and related transportation.

Further, any other service which the Deputy Commissioner of the concerned district deems to be essential.

All the staff in the above-mentioned departments will not be given leave and already sanctioned leaves have been cancelled. Leave on medical grounds will be admissible only if certified by the District Medical Board.

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