Sunday, October 20, 2019
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Posted at: Dec 30, 2018, 1:53 AM; last updated: Dec 30, 2018, 1:53 AM (IST)HIMACHAL

Saffron agenda dwarfed development

The Himachal Pradesh government took to cow politics; killer roads continued to claim lives
Saffron agenda dwarfed development
Lost in line of duty: Assistant town planner Shail Bala (L) with Vijay Singh (R) before he reportedly shot her

Pratibha Chauhan

Much in line with the Hindutva ideology, the new BJP regime in the state took several steps towards treating the cow as a sacred entity. It set up a Gau Sewa Aayog and the Assembly passed a resolution seeking the status of “mother of the nation” for the cow. Interestingly, the resolution seeking the status was moved by Congress legislator Anirudh Singh.

The Assembly also passed the Bill for the setting up of the HP Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Samvadhan Bill 2018 on December 12 to take care of the abandoned and stray cows. The BJP regime decided to set up gau sadans with a major chunk of the money coming from a portion of the temple offerings and Rs 1 from the sale of every liquor bottle in the state. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur faced criticism for toeing the RSS line and pushing the agenda of saffronisation.

The opposition Congress, meanwhile, remained divided as former CM Virbhadra Singh continued his tirade against state Congress Chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, demanding his removal.

As politicking continued, peace and tranquility of the hills was shattered when a seemingly timid hotel owner shot down assistant town planner Shail Bala. She was executing court orders of demolishing unauthorised construction of 13 hotels in Kasauli on the morning of May 1.

The unfortunate incident did not just make national headlines, but enraged the court for laxity on part of the administration and the police. The obvious fallout was that the courts, including the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal, took a stringent view of the hills being turned into concrete jungles by way of illegal haphazard constructions right under the nose of the authorities. The image of Himachal being a peaceful state took a major beating.

In the state known for its killer roads, the death of 24 schoolchildren, two teachers, driver and another woman in a school bus mishap near Gurchal village, 12 km from Nurpur town, came as a shock in April. The photos of school bags, bottles and books strewn across the hill side haunted one and all. 

Dissatisfied with the magisterial inquiry, the parents and families of children are still seeking justice for the callousness of the school authorities for flouting transportation safety norms. The accident served as a wake-up call forcing the transport department to frame guidelines for school buses. 

September saw a Shimla court bring culprits to the book as it awarded death sentence to the three killers of four-year-old Yug Gupta in September.

With growing concerns over turning of the state’s hill towns into urban jungle, a ban had been put on all new constructions in the core area of Shimla last year. This year, the regulations got stricter with Kasauli, Manali and Dharamsala too facing the ire of the courts. The NGT imposed complete ban on new hotels and construction in Kasauli on May 17 and constituted committees to look at the concrete mess in Dharamsala and Manali. Shimla also faced its worst-ever water shortage in summer, exposing the absence of preparedness and delay in augmenting the supply to the town. This resulted in tourism taking a severe beating.

Tourist raped

A 33-year-old Russian tourist, who was walking down from Old Manali to Manali town via Dhungri village, was allegedly raped by two unidentified men in a reserve forest area in October. In December, the police made two arrests in the case. The accused were identified as Sanjay Kumar (39) from Palampur and Sanjay Tamang (28) from Nepal.

In the news

Death on roads

Nine persons were killed and 51 injured when a private bus fell into a river at Jalal Bridge near Dadadu in Sirmaur on November 24. The speeding bus broke the railing erected on the bridge and plunged into the river. Earlier in May, 8 persons were killed as a bus rolled down a gorge near Theog in Shimla.

Chargesheet, finally

In May, the CBI filed a chargesheet in the rape and murder of a minor schoolgirl in Kotkhai that shook the state last year. The CBI claimed Anil Kumar alias Nilu from Baijnath had committed the crime.

Poster girl

Manali girl Anchal Thakur made history by winning India’s first-ever international medal in skiing in January at the coveted Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup.


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