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HP Govt’s Guidelines Formed in Defiance of GoI and Court Directions Leave Disabled Students Troubled

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HP Govt Guidelines for written examination for persons with disabilities

Shimla-The rights of the disabled aren’t only a human rights issue, but it is also a developmental issue. Yet, in India, this section of society is struggling to get into the mainstream and compelled to go to courts to fight for their rights, including equal access to education. Himachal Pradesh is no different when it comes to adopting a comprehensive approach and modern technology to level the field for these students. Display of sensitivity is limited to showing sympathy and feeling sad for persons with disabilities that undermines their potentials and individual capacities to excel in life.

Owing to erroneous attitude towards persons with disabilities, children trying to access education often face neglect from governments that makes their already hard lives harder.  

Very recently, such gross negligence and defiance of court orders on the part of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, HP Government, came to light after an autistic student of the first year at Government Degree College, Kandaghat, couldn’t take his exams because the current guidelines of the state government make it a mandatory condition that the qualification of his scribe should be one step below the qualification of the candidate taking the examination.

Contrary to these “Guidelines for conducting written examinations for the Persons With Benchmark Disabilities” Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India (dated 4.12.18) has clearly directed the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, to not fix any qualification and age criteria for scribes until the examining body doesn’t have its own panel of scribes. Following these orders in the said case (a writ petition), and Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment and the University Grants Commission had sissued fresh notifications with special clarification on the criteria of qualification and age on January 6, 2019, and February 26, 2019, respectively.  

Moreover, the principal of the college was not clear on the guidelines.

The college told the father of the candidate, Mr Vishal Gupta, that it had forwarded the matter to the University for further clarification, which did not come as quickly as it was supposed to. Himachal Watcher also spoke to Mr Gupta.

“My son is suffering autism (60%) and recently got admitted to BA Part-1 course at Government Degree College Kandaghat, Solan. The previous principal was very co-operative and had allowed a scribe after consulting the University. But now, ahead of my son’s house exams, I was asked to visit the college. The college asked me to provide a copy of the guidelines. I told the Principal that the college was supposed to have these guidelines already,” he told Himachal Watcher (HW).

“The Principal told me that the exams of my son will be put on hold and would be considered only after receiving a copy of the guidelines from the University. While all other classmates are taking examinations, my son couldn’t take two exams which begin from March 13, 2021,” he further told HW.

“I don’t blame the college for this. This entire issue and inconvenience stem out of a grieve negligence on the part of the HP University as it did not circulate directions of the UGC in this regard to the colleges,” Mr Gupta said.  

However, when HW took up the issue with the University authority, it turned out the varsity was not at fault either. The varsity was yet to adopt the new guidelines issued by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2020, hence, previous guidelines (2013) were already applicable. Therefore, the varsity wasn’t supposed to issue any new notification. 

Mr Gupta contacted Ajai Shrivastava, Chairman of Umang Foundation (NGO) and Expert Member, HP State Advisory Board on Disability, HPU, and brought the matter to his attention.

It’s pertinent to mention that Mr Shrivastava had been fighting vigorously for the rights of the disabled in Himachal Pradesh, especially for their right to equal access to education at all levels for over a decade now. It was on his PIL that the State High Court had given a landmark judgement directing the Himachal Pradesh Government to provide free education to the students with disabilities up to the university level. 

Also Read: HP High Court’s landmark judgment brings huge relief to children with disabilities

The court had also enhanced the amount of their scholarship and awarded Rs. one lac to the Umang Foundation to be spent for the welfare of the disabled children.

Mr Shrivastava, on being contacted by Mr Gupta, immediately wrote to the Chief Minister requesting him to make the Social Justice and Empowerment Department to withdraw its guidelines which are illegal as these did not comply with the court decision and UGC notification. He also held a press conference at the Press Club, Shimla on March 14, 2021.

“Addl. Chief Secretary (SJ&E) to the Govt. of HP has issued and further circulated the “Guidelines for conducting written examinations for persons with benchmark Disabilities 2020” for implementation on 16th December 2020,” he wrote in the letter.

“In fact, the above-mentioned guidelines have been issued by the HP Govt. in violation of the orders of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India, dated 4.12.18. In this litigation, Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment, GOI; Ministry of Education, GOI, and UGC etc. were respondents,” he further wrote.

Mr Shrivastava clarified that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on dated 1.1.2019 issued an Office Memorandum for the “Compliance of orders of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India.”

He also clarified that the UGC dated 26.2.2019 wrote to all Registrars of Universities across the country for compliance with the order of the Hon’ble High Court for implementation. The Ministry of S.J. & E. and the UGC, both have reproduced the order of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi as under:

“Till the panel of scribes is formed if any examination is conducted by any of the departments wherein the petitioner and similarly situated persons appear in the exam. the guidelines dated 29.8.2018 shall not be applicable, however, the candidate shall appear in terms of guidelines dated 26.2.2013. ”

Mr Shrivastva further went on to say that it very unfortunate that despite the above, the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Himachal Pradesh ignored the directions of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and issued its guidelines.

“It’s gross negligence on the part of the state government. And, the Department of Higher Education whose examinations are governed by UGC through Himachal Pradesh University, has already implemented the said illegal guidelines. HP State, he said.

Further, he wrote that the Education Board has also implemented it.

Mr Shrivastva asked the Chief Minister to keep in view the directions of The Ministry of S.J. & E. and the UGC, withdraw these guidelines of the State Government issued on dated 16.12.2020 in the interest of justice to persons with benchmark disabilities.

However, the Chief Minister Office seems to have its priorities.

Currently, one of the topmost priority of the current government led by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur appears to be the preparation for the Swarnim Himachal” celebrations and Swarnim Himachal Rath Yatra. Chief Minister is personally looking into preparations and has even constituted a High Power Committee regarding preparation for the said celebration. As a matter of fact, yesterday, the Chief Minister held a review meeting for the same at Peterhof, Shimla. Another priority,  which huge billboards placed across the state indicate, is to advertise the “Swarnim Himachal” celebration.

The state of these students is a spoiler for the “Swarnim Himachal” celebration as it contradicts claims of achieving milestones in developmental works. 

It should be kept in mind that fighting their battle in courts for their rights wasn’t enough to make the state government attend to this section of students. Further, the deliberate contemptuous approach of the bureaucracy is also clearly visible.

Before jumping to some references to the government’s grieve world of neglect for the disabled, try to realize the sensitivity of the matter with comments provided by Deven Khanna, a practising advocate at the HP High Court.

“It is necessary that an explicit, unequivocal and comprehensive procedural mechanism are constituted for the benefit and betterment of disability rights. It is pertinent to fathom that human rights of those living with disability cannot be fought for and secured in a vacuum,” Deven says.

It is apparent that the issue of disability is linked with several other social, economic and political aspects including those of chronic poverty, gender inequality, mal-administration and political victimization. This must be eradicated to create the ‘disability right’ an actual reality. As far as planning and policy-making process about lives and complete recognition and implementation of the human rights of the disabled and other associated rights are concerned, there must be active inclusion of the disabled people in the same process, he says.

India, one of the first few signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities, has not complied with the provisions of the same, he says.

The Constitution of India, under Article 41, imposes a duty on the State to generate necessary and effective provisions for securing the right to work, right to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement.

Laws Relating to Disability:

  1. Constitution of India – Article 19, 21, 41 and 226
  2. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
  3. UNCRPD Article 9
  4. Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992
  5. The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, 1999
  6. Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
  7. Mental Health Care Act, 2017

“The State must conduct a discussion of human rights for the persons with disabilities in-depth, so that benefit can be availed out of it. As human beings along with access to and realization of all fundamental and elementary rights, persons living with disabilities require a safe, secure, convenient, beneficial and accessible environment which respects their human dignity,” Devens adds.

Now, consider the following references:

In May 2016, Mr Shrivastava had highlighted how the government was violating orders of the High Court by not providing library facility to the blind and deaf students in the special school at Dhalli. Blind students needed digital library apart from Braille books.

Also Read: Despite HC orders, Himachal’s blind & deaf students denied hostel, library facility at special school Dhalli: NGO  

There was no science laboratory in the school. The dead line fixed by High Court to appoint new teachers had also expired on 3rd December 2015, he had alleged. 

Also Read: HPU’s Disabled Students Denied Reservation and Basic Facilities Despite Court Orders

The government had completely failed to implement the High Court orders that had given relief to the disabled children studying in special schools at Sundernagar and Dhalli, Shimla on the PIL filed by Ajai Srivastava.

Also Read: Despite High Court orders, disabled students in Himachal deprived of rights by Govt.

In September 2016, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) from the Centre was visiting Himachal Pradesh to take stock of the status of facilities for disabled persons, Mr Shrivastava had alleged that the state government of portraying a misleading picture of the disability sector. He had submitted to the CCPD  alleging the government had not implemented the CCPD’s examination guidelines for the blind persons despite the High Court’s order on his PIL. He had apprised the CCPD that special school for blind and deaf girls at Sundernagar and a special school for boys at Dhalli, Shimla were poorly managed and lack basic amenities.

Also Read: Now HP Govt. misleading CCPD on disability issue after blatantly violating High Court orders

In a separate case, Indu Kumari, a poverty-stricken girl from the backward region of Chamba district, in her letter on July 21, 2017, told the Chief Justice that she completed her BA from Rajkiya Kanya Manha Vidyalaya College, Shimla.

However, she was denied admission in MA (Political Science) by HP University despite a provision of a five percent quota for disabled candidates under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Not just Indu, but several other students were also told that the provisions of the new Act were not implemented in the university. These students had to return disappointed.

However, the High Court had come to the rescue of these students by considering the letter as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

In August 2017, as a tight slap on the face of Himachal Pradesh University and the State Government, the State High Court had asked them to explain reasons for not ensuring a five percent quota in higher education institutes for disabled students.

Also Read: HP High Court pulls up Govt & HPU over denial of 5% quota to disabled students

Earlier, the division bench comprising Justices Rajiv Sharma and Tarlok Singh Chauhan has passed a judgment on 4th June on the PIL filed by Umang Foundation (No. 30 / 2011). The bench had directed the Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF) Solan, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and CSK Agriculture University, Palampur to provide free education to disabled children within a period of six weeks. But despite court orders, the UHF Nuani had denied doing so and Ajai Shrivastava had to write to the Registrar of Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, warning that if the university does not provide free education as per the court’s order, a contempt petition will be filed.

Also Read: HP University of Horticulture & Forestry says no to disable students despite HC orders

In September 2017, the Disabled Student Association had alleged the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment of withholding scholarships of the thousands of disables studying at the government educational institutes.

When these students approached the Directorate of Scheduled Cast, OBC, and Minority Affairs; they were simply told that there was no budget for their scholarship. Pertinent to mention here that the majority of these disables belong to economically weaker sections of the society and come to the varsity from remote regions in hope of higher education.

Also Read: Thousands of Himachal’s disabled denied scholarship, No budget, says Govt: DSA

In October 2017, The Disabled Students Association (DSA) wrote to the Governor of Himachal Pradesh Acharya Devvrat and urged him to immediately demanding the implementation of reservation of seats in MPhil and PhD under the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016. 

However, it did not bring any relief to them.

Also Read: HPU’s disabled students demand stay on M.Phil, Ph.D entrance exam results

Further, this indifference toward disabled students is apparent from the fact that the accessible library for the disabled students of Himachal Pradesh University was inaugurated by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on July 22, 2019, didn’t have basic facilities like a washroom and students, especially visually impaired girls faced huge inconvenience. For a toilet, the Disabled Students and Youth Association (DSYA), Himachal Pradesh, had to submit a memorandum to the Governor and Chancellor, Bandaru Dattatreya, on December 13, 2019. 

It was not surprising that the Chief Minister inaugurated a library facility without basic facilities because it was merely a formality performed in response to an order of the State High Court passed in a PIL filed by a disabled student, Banita Rana, in 2014.

Also Read: HPU’s Disabled Students Denied Reservation and Basic Facilities Despite Court Orders

In March 2020, visually impaired and other disabled candidates, who were qualified for teaching posts, had to approach the Himachal Pradesh High Court complaining that the government is violating the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2017 by not implementing reservation to visually impaired and other disabled candidates, who are qualified for teaching posts, in schools, polytechnics and colleges.

Also Read: HP Govt Ignoring Rights of Disabled, No Reservation in Teaching Posts Despite Provision: DSYA

Considering the way disabled students were made to fight for their right to equal access to education and even the most basic facilities, previous and current governments laid more focus on their political interests than attending to the hardships of these children.  

Unfortunately, while the previous Congress Government failed these disabled children, the current BJP Government went one step ahead in making their lives harder by passing new Guidelines of its own in 2020 which contradicts court orders and directions of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Also Read: Extremity of HP Govt.’s corruption – Swallows share of deaf & blind students

The topmost priority, not only of the current government but also previous ones, is to ensure retention of power through politics than attending to very sensitive and urgent matters, like making education equally accessible to disabled children of the state.  

Regarding Court Orders in Writ Petitions Filed in 2013 and 2018 Over Availing Scribe for Written Examinations

On a Writ Petition filed in the Delhi High Court (Subhash Chandra Vashishth vs Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) in 2012, the Court in its judgement given on 11, 2013 had directed the Government of India “to abolish current restrictions/conditions imposed on scribes in terms of qualifications.”

Later, in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India case dated 4.12.18,  the Delhi high court clarified on revised guidelines and made it clear that “Till the panel of scribes is formed if any examination is conducted by any of the departments wherein the petitioner and similarly situated persons appear in the exam. the guidelines dated 29.8.2018 shall not be applicable, however, the candidate shall appear in terms of guidelines dated 26.2.2013. ”

But no such panel was formed and the responsibility of availing scribe still lies on the candidate.  

Based on a notification issued from the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare in January 2019, in February 2019 UGC issued a notification to all concerned Universities directing them to communicate the same to all colleges/institutes affiliated with it.

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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Himachal: Warnings of Delta Plus Virulence Fall on Deaf Ears, No Restriction on Visitors from Affected States  

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Shimla-Yesterday, the Centre government directed the state governments to take immediate measure in wake of the spread of more infectious Delta Plus variant.  As the Delta Plus variant is posing a threat of the third wave, the states were told to take steps like preventing crowds, increase testing, more focus on surveillance, contact tracing and put boosting vaccine coverage on a priority basis. Following it, Himachal Pradesh Government might have announced an alert over Delta plus variant, but there wasn’t any follow up on instructions passed by scientists and health experts to take strict restrictive measures ahead of the impending third wave. 

To make it worse, high rank officials and political leaders were seen flouting Covid-19 SOPs on several occasion, which sent wrong messages to the masses. The pictures and videos showing flouting of Covid appropriate behavior by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and Directorial General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, alongwith other staff for Anupam Kher is the most recent to mention. A group photograph and video of the same were widely circulated on social media and invited huge criticism from the people.  

So far, the state has not reported any case of the Delta Plus variant. But the neighboring states – Punjab, Haryana, and Jammu & Kashmir – reported their first cases yesterday. This puts the boarding areas, like in Una district, at a higher risk. Chief Secretary to HP Government, Anil Khachi, yesterday said samples have been sent for genome sequencing. 

Despite repeated warnings of Delta plus variant (B.1.617.2.1.), Himachal Pradesh has thrown its borders open to all and lifted all restrictions for inter-state travel in just one go. From June 23 onwards, the state government removed the condition for registering on the e-pass portal for visitors intending to enter the state. In the Cabinet meeting held on June 22, 201, the government first decided that e-pass restrictions would be removed from July 1, but later it changed the decision and instead implemented it immediately.

This haphazard decision is said to have come under huge pressure from the hospitality industry – the worst-hit sector, leading to financial crisis and mass unemployment among its stakeholders. Related associations had been approaching Chief Minister Jairam Thakur with their pleas to provide relief, but mostly faced disappointment. The stakeholders say the state government didn’t provide any significant relief, which is making the survival of the industry difficult.

Also Read: Read Eight Reliefs That Himachal’s Devastated Tourism Industry Seeks from HP Govt  

Also, stakeholder of the industry, especially hoteliers, had been demanding the removal of restrictions and conditions on the entry of tourists to Himachal so that they could fetch the remaining peak tourist season.

With its inability to offer relief, the HP Government took the chance to waive off restrictions in a haste.

At the same time, the state government has decided to conduct offline examinations for the undergraduate classes starting from July. A section of the students had been condemning the HP government for scheduling exams without vaccinating students. Some student bodies had been asking the government as to why online classes were possible but not online exams. 

The state government also waived off restrictions on timings for the opening of markets/shops.

As scientists and health experts warn of the virulence of the new variant and with neighboring states already on alert after reporting cases of the new variant, the HP government hasn’t even mentioned any intention to at least put a check on the visitor from the states where cases of Delta Plus are being reported. Carrying an RT-PCR negative report for visitors from such states/cities would have been a wiser step. 

Officially, the state is on alert, but no measures have been announced to check the entry and spread of the variant into the state. The state government does speak of preparing for the anticipated third wave, but there is hardly any long-term preventive strategy. The Covid appropriate behavior is hard to adopt when markets and tourist places are crowded with visitors.

Why Delta Plus is a Big Concern

The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled the Delta variant as ‘Variant of Concern’.

The Centre and scientific/medical institutes in India also agree with that Delta Plus as a variant of concern and could be the cause of impending third wave. Last Tuesday, based on the findings of INSACOG, the Union Health Ministry had alerted and advised Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh regarding the Delta Plus variant of COVID19.

INSACOG had warned that the Delta Plus variant has increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells, potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.

“Delta variant is more resistant to medication, treatment and vaccination. Therefore, people who have been vaccinated can still be affected by this variant and can go on to get a clinical illness, Archana Dhawan Bajaj, director, Nurture IVF, told a national English Daily.

“Neutralising antibodies against this variant post-vaccination seem to be nearly five times lower in people who have already been vaccinated than the other variants,” she said.

Further,  Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, ex-Head Scientist of Epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR, has also expressed concern over the reports that Delta Plus has reported pathophysiologic change and affecting different organs.  Dr Raman says that it could transfer from cell to cell and would more likely produce neurological symptoms as a common manifestation.

So far India has reported 51 cases of the Delta Plus variant.

Delta Plus variant is a variant of Delta with an additional mutation -B.1.617.2.1.

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Kullu Brawl: New Video Shows Farmers Expressing Discontent with CM Jairam Thakur-led Govt in Front of Union Minister

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Kullu-The Superintendent of Police, Gaurav Singh, 2013 batch IPS, and Chief Minister Jairam Thakur’s Security Personal, ASP Brijesh Sood, got into an ugly scuffle on June 23 and created an unruly situation. A verbal spat between the two officials of the HP Police led to slapping and kicking each other.

What’s humiliating for the state police department was the fact that this unwanted incident occurred on an occasion where the Chief Minister had come to the Airport to welcome a Union Minister – Nitin Gadkari.

Also Read: IPS Gaurav Singh and CM’s Security Personnel Exchange Slaps & Kicks, Video Goes Viral, Inquiry Ordered

The video has appeared on national news channels and the incident made headlines, raising question over the professionalism of the state police. This part of the entire episode, is getting more attention from the media. But a new video has emerged adding another layer to the controversy, as when Union Minister Nitin Gadkari stopped the car and got out to speak to people who were holding a banner of “Four-Lane Sangharsh Samiti” and BJP flags. It turned out, that these people were farmers, who have been affected by the four-lane project as their lands were acquired for it. These farmers allege that before coming into power, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in its election manifesto, had promised compensation four times the circle rate if elected to power. These farmers also allege that after coming to power, the government didn’t fulfil this promise that also included employment to affected youth. These aggrieved farmers say they have been raising their grievance for the last four years, but the government didn’t lend an ear. With these grievances, the farmers had come to see the Union Minister.

Gadkari’s visit has come right before the by-elections in the state. He is supposed to inaugurate and dedicate some projects during this visit. This visit was supposed to leave a positive impact. The video also shows that the farmers’ group did not create any obstruction to the convoy of the Union Minister, neither they create any ruckus. They just stood outside the Airport with banners and posters in their hands. This halt was not scheduled for Gadkari and the Chief Minister was caught off-guard.

The farmers told Gadkari all about their grievance and also alleged that Chief Minister and the Deputy Commissioner, Kullu, weren’t even ready to listen to them. To discuss the matter, there and then Gadkari called for the Chief Minister, who rushed towards the spot from his vehicle.

Watch What Happened When Gadkari Spoke to Agitating Farmers

In the video, the farmers can be heard telling the Union Minister that they are BJP supporters and workers. Later, they were also seen chanting “Jai Shri Ram” for the Union Minister. They can also be heard saying that despite their party being in power at both Centre and the State, there is no hearing. This added to the humiliation for the Chief Minister as the party supporters were not at all satisfied with him.

The video also shows the Chief Minister losing temper when the farmers repeatedly kept saying that they had been agitating for the last four years over the same grievance. He was seen swiftly turning towards farmers with a hostile gesture of warning. The farmers were heard retaliating to this gesture and saying “ Gussa to hame bhi aa rha hai Thakur sahb (we are also angry Mr Thakur)”.

At the same time, farmers expressed their gratitude towards the Union Minister for stopping the vehicle himself and attending them. “This is his (Gadkari) greatness that he saw us and bothered to listened to us,” a farmer later said while speaking to the media.

The situation put both politicians in contrast while dealing with the same situation related to the people’s grievance.

This video aptly explains why the Chief Minister and his security were annoyed with the local police for allowing people to stand outside the Airport. Though the local police was not responsible for the halt of Gadkari’s convoy, the Chief Minister’s security triggered arguments over it. This argument eventually led to one of the most shameful moments for the HP Police. An IPS slapping another police officer is hard to justify or defend, but taking into account the history of an IPS officer like Gaurav Singh, the question as to what exactly caused him to lose his temper to such an extent that he dared to slap the Chief Minister’s security personal on an occasion where the Union Minister was also present.

Also Read: Who is IPS Gaurav Singh, the Officer in News for Slapping CM Jairam’s Security Personnel

Now, as it’s a well-established fact that the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections were fought with Narendra Modi as the BJP’s face, and so were the state assembly polls of Himachal Pradesh in 2017. Owing to the media and the IT cells, the very name and face of PM Narendra Modi won a majority for BJP not only in Himachal but in other states too. Therefore, the situation couldn’t get any worse for a Chief Minister who is serving his first term when the slogan “ Hamara PM Kaise Ho, Gadkari Jaisa Ho” was raised by the people.

What message this entire episode would send to the BJP High Command about Chief Minister’s capacity to contain the distress amongst its own party supporters and handle the officers? This doesn’t end here. The opposition has alleged that this incident clearly proves that the Chief Minister doesn’t have a hold on his officers, as well as, party sympathizers, especially from the farming community. The opposition is citing the current incident as an example of BJP’s anti-farmer attitude. Pertinent to mention that the current Centre government is at loggerheads with farmers who had been protesting for nearly one year against the contentious farm laws passed in 2020.

Himachal Kisan Sabha also released a statement in which it alleged that the Chief Minister was desperate to ensure that the farmers do not get to speak to the Union Minister. Further, the results of the recently held elections to the four Municipal Corporations of Himachal Pradesh – Solan, Mandi, Palampur, and Dharamshala-have already dented Jairam Thakur’s term.

Ahead of the by-polls in the state, the factionalism in the party is already a challenge for Thakur.

Last but not the least, the treatment given to bureaucrats and IPS officers by politicians which results in such ugly, unruly situations like these has also become a topic of debate.

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India’s Revised Vaccination Policy and Supreme Court’s Role Behind This Change in Approach

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Shimla-Free vaccine to all Indian citizens above 18 years of age would be available from 21st June onwards, the Government of India announced yesterday. The Centre has also announced that private hospitals would not be able to levy arbitrary charges for vaccination and the rate would be fixed. The government also rolled back its policy for procurement of vaccines, which was under heavy criticism not only from the opposition but also from the Supreme Court of India.

Though, the Centre claimed that the roll-back was a result of the demands raised by state governments, but some believe this decision came right after harsh judicial scrutiny of the government’s previous policy by the Supreme Court, whose initiation is being lauded by the citizens of India amid this pandemic.

“Many states came forward with a demand for reconsideration of the vaccination strategy and for bringing back the system that was there before 1st May,” the Centre said while defending the rollback.

Also, the Centre was even objecting to the court’s jurisdiction in matters related to policymaking and had termed it as an encroachment on the jurisdiction of the executive. However, very mindful of its jurisdiction, the court had mitigated this allegation of the Centre by explaining how policymaking is subject to judicial scrutiny. The court made the Centre aware of the ‘dialogic judicial review’, where the Court can question the executive and demand justifications from it over non-conformity of a policy to the constitutional rights.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court had grilled the Union government over its faulty and discriminatory policy as states were left on their own for the procurement of vaccines. In its orders passed on May 31, a bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat came down heavily upon the central government. The bench had termed the policy approach as “arbitrary and irrational”  because it did not provide free vaccination for the 18-44 year age group.  The bench had sought clarification on policy and dual pricing in which states were being made to procure vaccines directly from the manufactures and were invariably paying more for vaccines while the Centre procured the same vaccines at lower rates.

“Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis. Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospital for the persons between 18-44 years is prima facie arbitrary and irrational” a bench observed while passing an order on May 31, 2021 concerning a Suo moto case on “Re-Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic”.

Further, the court had also expressed concerns over the digital divide which would make accessing vaccine equally difficult for a large section through online registration.

Earlier, in its orders passed on April 30, the bend had observed that this policy approach would be “detrimental to the right to life and health”. The bench had also observed that this policy requires rethinking, as it needs to be formulated in conformity with the provisions of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The bench aggressively went on to order the government to share all details of the vaccine purchase and distribution, as well as provide information on how the budget allocated for the vaccination (₹35,000 Crores ) was used.

Provisions of the New Vaccination Policy

  • Procurement of 25 per cent vaccinations which was earlier with states will now be undertaken by the Government of India.
  • The government of India will buy 75 per cent of the total vaccines produced and will provide it to the states free of cost. No state government would be spending anything on vaccines.
  • The system of 25 per cent vaccines being procured directly by the private hospitals will continue. Private hospitals can’t charge more than 150 rupees service charge over the decided price of the vaccines.

The Centre said that this policy would be rolled out in two weeks.

“In two weeks, the Centre and states will make necessary preparations as per new guidelines,” the Centre announced yesterday.

Till today, more than 23 Crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country.

To ward off the embarrassment caused by such a contentious policy which was not conforming with the constitutional rights of the citizens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without referring to the judicial review, blamed it on the state governments.

“As the corona cases started declining, questions arose about the lack of choice for states and some people questioned why the Central government is deciding everything,” he said.

“India’s vaccination program was run mostly under the Central government. Free vaccination for all was moving forward and people were showing discipline in getting vaccinated when their turn came, amid all these demands for decentralization of vaccination were raised, the decision about priority to certain age groups was raised. Many types pressures were exerted and certain sections of media took it as a campaign,” the PM said.

But with that being said the role of the judiciary in making the government roll back its policy in the interest of the people is being lauded as the victory of judicial review. Also, it has attracted positive response for the apex court which was being alleged of evading several matters related to the public interest under the pressure from the current political regime.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana Extended  Till Deepawali.

In another major announcement, the Central government announced the extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Deepawali.

As per the announcement, till November, 80 crore people will continue to get a decided amount of free food grain every month.

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