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HP Govt Again Faces Heat Over Lifting Restrictions on Tourists Haphazardly, Utility of e-Covid Pass in Question

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Viral video of himachal tourist cars

Shimla-RT-PCR report to enter in Himachal Pradesh is no longer a condition for visitors. As soon as the HP Cabinet announced this decision in its last meeting, tourists from neighbouring states started booking hotels in Himachal in advance. The decision cheered the hospitality industry which has borne huge losses as two peak sessions were washed off due to lockdowns and Covid related restrictions. But, at the same time, the rest of the public is in panic, especially after watching a video showing over one kilometer of traffic queues at the Parwanoo border on Sunday – a day before new guidelines came into force. A large number of these tourists had no idea about the date from which the new rules would come into effect and did not carry an RT-PCR negative report or registered on e-Covid portal. According to the police, they were asked to return as the new rules were applicable from 14 June onwards.

The video was shared by mainstream media too, expressing shock over the desperation of people to enter the state to get respite from scorching heat in neighboring states.

Except for the hoteliers and stakeholders in the tourism industry, the scene appeared nothing less than a nightmare considering repeated warnings issued by the government itself over the third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. The government’s advance warning about the possibility that children might be more vulnerable during the third wave is creating more panic. After witnessing the rampage of the second wave in the state, this scene shook them. Most people were against removing the mandatory condition of furnishing an RT-PCR report for visitors. Others said this crowd of tourists would fuel the third wave and the devastation that it would bring with it. Some said “tourists are not welcomed”, others commented, “hills are not calling, stay away tourists”.

There were suggestions for the government to at least arrange rapid testing of visitors at the entry points. Questions were asked over government’s mechanism to ensure safety against spread of infection. 

The video created a stir in the state and the HP government had to issue a statement on Monday. In its statement, the government assured the people that the entry of tourists would be monitored through the e-covid pass portal. The visitors would still have to register on the portal and obtain a pass, which would be scanned at the entry points at borders.

However, hoteliers and the public questioned the relevance of the e-covid pass when tourists are not required to present a Covid negative report. In simple words, it is not possible to ascertain whether a particular visitor is infected or not. They argued that the e-covid pass did not fulfil any purpose and only leading to long traffic jams as police is supposed to scan these passes at designated entry points. If there is no purpose of scanning e-passes, then how would it help to protect the state from a further spread of infection?

At the same time, hoteliers and others involved with the hospitality industry directly or indirectly, are hopeful that the remaining pint of this peak tourist season would provide them with some relief. The state of the popular Indian Coffee House, which is on the verge of closure, is an apparent evidence of the hit that the industry has taken.

The decision of the government came under pressure from the industry. The stakeholders’ associations approached Chief Minister with a request to let them have the remaining peak seasons as the state government didn’t provide any relief. Because no relief was provided, the industry has no other way but to ask the government to lift Covid related restrictions on visitors. Moreover, the industry isn’t sure how long this remaining peak season would last as monsoon has already arrived in the state on July 13. 

In May, Mohinder Seth, President of, Tourism Industry Stake Holders Association had written to the government explaining the plight of those employed with the industry.

He had said that hoteliers and businessmen involved in the hospitality industry did not receive any relief from the government and managed their units/services by spending from savings or by raising loans.

The units had somehow managed to pay salaries and other expenses for the April month, the association said, but expressed inability to do so for the May month as the working capital has dropped to zero, Seth said.

Today, a delegation of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India (HRANI) – a Northern outfit of the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India-approached the Chief Minister and requested relief for the industry, which is the hardest hit due to the restrictions and struggles to survive.

The government might have lifted the restrictions, but it appears to be clueless about the management of the crowd and influx of visitors. The government numbers on entry of tourists into the state are also in question. According to a report published in an English Daily,

“As many as 7,201 persons entered Himachal yesterday on 2,787 e-passes but the Shimla police claimed that 5,000 vehicles arrived in Shimla.”

The report further said,  “If this is the case, then either the police, manning the entry points, is being liberal in allowing vehicles without an e-pass or some other routes are being used by tourists.”

This brings us to the lack of any robust mechanism or strategy to balance the management of tourist influx and prevention against the spread of infection.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur-led government is again facing heat over its contentious decisions which appear to be devoid of any vision. Earlier too, Chief Minister has been alleged of being incapable to take decisions related to the interests of the state at his own. 

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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Video: Massive Landslide in Sirmaur Caught on Camera, NH 707 Closed for Traffic

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Sirmaur landslide nh 707

Sirmaur-Incessant rains have caused another massive landslide in the Sirmaur district on National Highway 707. A 100 to 150 meters stretch of Paonta Sahib – Shillai road near Kali Dhank, Badwas, caved in within a few minutes.

According to the initial information received, no loss of lives or damage to any vehicle was reported as a minor slide from the hill had alerted the people.

The landslide completely damaged several electricity poles, causing a blackout in some parts of the region.

The district police is re-directing all traffic from Paonta Sahib to Shillai to the Puruwala-Kilod-Jong-Kafota-Shillai route.

Further, all traffic movement towards Shimla from the region has also been re-directed.

The HP Meteorological Department has issued a yellow alert for the state till August 2th, while widespread rain has been predicted till August 4th. 

The Met has also issued an alert for flash-floods for Chamba, Mandi, Kullu, Shimla, and Solan districts.

It’s pertinent to mention that furious monsoon has already claimed over 200 lives and caused damages to property worth hundreds of crores in Himachal Pradesh.

During the last two days, as many as 21 people had died due to landslides and flash floods triggered by cloudbursts. Some of the persons who were swept away or buried were yet to be traced.

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Himachal: Cloudbursts, Landslides Claim 9 Lives in 48 Hours, 7 Still Missing, Met Issues Alert Till August 1st  

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monsoon damage in himachal pradesh 2021

Shimla-Monsoon continues to pummel Himachal Pradesh with deadly ferocity, leading to more cloudbursts, landslides, and flash floods. Several rivers and rivulets are in spate. Incessant rains could bring more destruction as the HP Meteorological Department has forecast widespread heavy rains till August 1st. While a red alert was issued for July 28, an orange alert has been issued for July 29 and July 30 and a yellow alert for July 31st and August 1st.

An advisory has been issued for locals and tourists to not venture near the river banks and avoid unnecessary travel as incessant rains could lead to more landslides, flash floods, and uprooting of trees.  However, tourists could be seen resolutely ignoring these warnings and partying near river banks and water bodies.

As devastation unfolds, the death toll due to monsoon induced calamities has reached nearly 200, while damages to property were assessed to be in hundreds of crores. Over 350 roads, including Manali-Leh, Pathankot-Chamba, and Shimla-Kalka, were blocked due to landslides.  Half a dozen bridges, as many as 30 houses and several vehicles were destroyed. Hundreds of tourists were reportedly struck in Lahaul.

lahaul-spiti cloudburst

After a flash flood in Dharamshala, a massive landslide in Shahpur constituency, and a horrid rockslide in Kinnaur district that killed nine tourists and injured four people, a cloudburst triggered a flash flood in Lahaul-Spiti district on Tuesday that washed away over a dozen of people, who were said to be labourers.  

cloudburst in lahaul-spiti

According to the Director of the State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar, at the time of writing this report, seven bodies had been recovered while four others were missing. The cloudburst occurred over Tonzin nallah in the Lahaul region of the tribal district. Rescue operations were in progress to trace missing persons.

A team of the National Disaster Response Force, which was on its way to Lahaul-Spiti through road, remained stuck in Mandi for several hours.  

On Wednesday morning, cloudburst was reported in Kullu district resulting in deluging of Bhramhaganga – a tributary of Parvati river. A  tourist, a 25-year-old mother along with her 4-year-old son, and a hydropower official came in its spate and were yet to be traced. Beas river was also in spate and people living in shanties on its bank were evacuated. 

Beas in spate

Rackham area in Kinnaur district also reported heavy losses due to a cloudburst on Wednesday morning.

While a rockslide killed one person in Chamba’s Saluni, a helper tagged with a JCB deployed for clearing Bharmaur-Pathankot National Highway was swept away by gushing waters of a nullah on Tuesday night. His body was recovered on Wednesday.

In Shimla, a landslide between Vikasnagar and Panthaghati crushed a vehicle and caused damaged to some others. Gumma khud in Chirgaon was also in spate and reportedly swept away a bridge and about four vehicles. 

landslide in shimla crushed car

Dharamsala received the highest 122 mm of rain, followed by Una 119 mm. In Solan district, Kasauli and Nalagarh also received over 105 mm rain. 

This widespread destruction has worried climatologists and environmentalists who are linking increased instances of landslides and cloudburst to environmental degradation and destabilization of hills due to developmental projects, including cutting of hills for widening of roads, construction of four lanes, hydropower projects etc. 

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Kinnaur: Massive Landslide Caught on Camera, Kills 9 Tourists, Injures 4, Destroys Bailey Bridge

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kinnaur landslide in batseri

Kinnaur: A massive landslide in Batseri on Sangla-Chitkul road in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday killed nine persons and injured at least four others. Huge boulders rolled down the mountain following the landslide and destroyed an iron Bailey bridge and many vehicles parked along the road within a few seconds.

A tourist vehicle, which was reportedly carrying about 11 tourists from Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Chattisgarh, was hit by boulders near Gunsa, killing nine tourists. A couple of videos of this heart-wrenching incident went viral on social media. In the video, some people can be heard whistling and shouting to warn others.

“Nine people died, and three were injured after boulders rolled downhill due to a landslide in Kinnaur district. Batseri bridge collapsed in the incident. A rescue team is present at the spot,” Superintendent of Police (SP), Kinnaur, Saju Ram Rana said.

The intensity with which boulders hit could be assessed from the fact that the iron bailey bridge on the Baspa river collapsed instantly. 

Video of landlside in himachal pradesh

On receiving the information, teams of district police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police rushed to the spot and initiated a rescue operation. The district administration was also assessing the situation. As per reports, rocks sliding down from the hilltop made the rescue operation difficult for the teams.

sangla valley landslide

As per initial reports, a request was made to make a helicopter available to aid rescue work, which was yet to be fulfilled.

landslide in himachal pradesh

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur also expressed grief over the incident. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the deceased while injured would be given Rs. 50 thousand.

The exact cause behind the landslide was yet to be ascertained.

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Pratiksha Sunil Patil (27) from Sadhbhawna Nagar, Nagpur, Maharashtra
  2. Deepa Sharma (34) from Jaipur
  3. Amoghi Bapat (27) from Korba Darri in Chhatisgarh
  4. Umrab Singh (42) of Tagore Garden West Delhi
  5. Kumar Ulhas vedpathak (37)
  6. Anurag Biyani (31) from Sikar in Rajasthan, his mother Maya Devi Biyani (55) and his sister Richa Biyani (25)
  7. Satish Katakbar (34) from Chhatisgarh.

Those injured have been identified as Shiril Obroy (39) from West Delhi, Naveen Bhardwaj (37) from Kaharar in Mohali and Ranjeet Singh (45) from Batseri in Sangla.

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