Source: Gudiya the Nirbhaya of Himachal
Slogans of ‘Justice for Gudiya’ reverberated the air in Shimla demanding proper investigation into the horrendous rape and murder of a 10th class school girl in Kotkhai named Saluja (real name hidden) who got the acronym of Gudiya meaning a doll or daughter. Since 4th July when Gudiya went missing the district of Shimla initially and then many parts of the state saw massive protests in support of the foremost demand of ‘proper investigation’ and action against the ‘real culprits’ who according to the people were at large. The sequence of events has been widely published and I do not want to go into those details, except laying narration of it. Nor am I trying to bring to the fore the investigation which according to general perception is not just botched up but hefty bribes to have been given to veneer the entire case with extremely subjective built up of the case. I am compelled to write this piece for two reasons: – a) the natives did not defend their ‘own clan’ people rather were in all out support for the ‘Nepali worker’ who they believe was falsely implicated and arrested and later killed in police custody allegedly by a co accused in Kotkhai police station. Why? Why people offended their own natives. So is it a good sign. Of course, yes. And b) the massive participation of the people by large numbers where the entire state was thrown on the back. In Shimla, I have been a witness to many movements and agitations, the largest being the apple growers’ agitation in 1992 for economic demands; the present one surpassed that in peoples’ participation. Why was it so that social issues knocked the state down and virtually paralysed the system? Now before I cover these two aspects of ‘Justice for Gudiya’ movement, let me place the sequence of events as they happened.
How it all happened?
It has been covered quite elaborately in the regional press. However, just to place the facts as they have unfolded, the sequence is as:
- On 4th July Gudiya goes missing. She used to walk 8 km distance from her home which included a dense forest.
- On 6th July, her body was found in a jungle. The police starts the
- Some photos of the accused are flashed in the twitter handle of the state chief minister Virbhadra Singh. However, after a few hours the photos are removed, thus creating confusion and suspect in the minds of the people that the top most authority is helping the accused.
- The police claim to have solved 90% of the case. However, the next day a special investigation team (SIT) was formed by the state government headed by the Inspector General (IG) south range.
- People do not accept the version of the police that a ‘Nepalese’ worker was involved in the heinous crime and that it was the act of the rich brats of the region. They demand thorough investigation and arrest of those who were in the photos that had been flashed by the CM’s twitter account.
- The protests start erupting and the foremost one been in Theog where the people blocked the road for over 6 hours, thrashed the policemen and broke some of the vehicles. Similarly, massive participatory protests were organised in Shimla under the banner of ‘Shimla citizens forum’ and a few other organisations. Young women, students, workers, common people thronged the streets and even violated the clamped section of 144 at the infamous Mall and Ridge of Shimla. Everyday protests started with the number of people increasing and the processions swelling gigantically.
- The government realising the pulse immediately shot a letter to the CBI and handed the investigations to them.
- One of the accused was killed in police custody in police station Kotkhai.. It is believed that he was the one who would have exposed the entire case and got the guilty to task. This news further precipitated the anger and both organised and spontaneous mobilisations started to begin at various centres. In Kotkhai, people picketed the PS and put it on fire. Similarly, massive protests erupted in the state right from Chamba to Nahan.
- The CBI too was dillydallying and the state knocked at the HP High court and asked for immediate take over by the CBI which it did and the court asked the agency to form a SIT and report back in 2 weeks.
Meanwhile, more actions, demonstrations are coming up which I believe will not end soon.
Now coming to the two foremost issues that I intend to present and which holds the key for such protests are as: –
- Why did the people come in support of the ‘Nepalese worker’ or for that matter another co accused who is from a poor background and vehemently against the local accused? The simple answer could be the gruesome and inhuman act done at their behest. But how did the people know about who are the real suspects and also about the tainted investigation and against their ‘own men’. When I write ‘own men’ it is a deliberate provocative narrative from me to address this issue as this area happens to be strongly bonded by respective clans called ‘Khunds’ in local dialect. These are considered from the ‘Kassite’ tribe which has migrated from central Asia some 3000 years ago and has an old history of migration and local level institutions which still manifests strongly. How could one justify a rationale for consulting an ‘oracle’ for some illness or otherwise in the family than to consult a doctor. I don’t want to dwell more than those reasons of bondage here but the point is that it is very strong. But, the fact of the matter is people came out against their ‘own men’. Why? This group of accused happens to be those who in the recent period has attained phenomenal wealth not through peasantry activities but through unscrupulous methods such as supply of drugs to the young, home delivery of liquor and such activities. This has spoiled the environment in the region and the mass of the people are quite scary of it. This surprisingly is now rampantly growing at different regions of the state. People are very anguished but in the absence of democratic forces the vent for the anger is limited in its organisational structure and only such events prove to be the rallying point.
- The second point that I need to draw focus is the reason for massive participation of the people and the reasons thereof. I would strongly propound the generalisation of the first reason as the driving force for such mobilisations. There exists and is rapidly strengthening a strong nexus now in the state where overnight rich men have born and because of this nexus it also has a support from the sections of the ruling parties. Gudiya case does not present as the first one in fact is in the series of committing such acts with a gravity and then managing the investigation through the nexus and money which has grown exponentially with these sections of people both in the cities and the countryside. And it creates a consciousness of ‘everything is manageable’. We are told this group had committed rape with a few more girls but could manage because of the growing strength of the nexus. So, it is more of a systemic crisis. Preluding to Gudiya there were cases of ‘Yug’ kidnapping and murder case in which a child was kidnapped for ransom by none others than his neighbours, then killed and drowned in a water tank in Shimla. This ‘nexus’ was there as well. Similarly ‘Chitra’ murder case where just 15 km away from Shimla a young woman was forced into prostitution, she resisted, was killed again by the people comprising of this ‘nexus’. In another incident, a forest guard was murdered in Karsog for obvious reasons of not allowing forest smuggling. The guard was killed by the same morphological ‘nexus’. Hence it is a systemic crisis which has precipitated and forced the people to mobilise themselves. On top of that the present bureaucracy who are to deliver in the form of executive by large is more careerist, less grounded and as Prof Prabhat Patnaik writes ‘are driven by other centres’; also makes the resentment to brew and manifest in varied forms. A few exceptions of the bureaucrats may be there but by large they are driven by such principles.
Hence this furore, anguish of the people is long drawn and kept on accumulating which has now reverberated on the streets for a safe environment and society.
Himachal, a state with semi-tribal, feudal and semi-feudal values is getting transformed with capitalist economy and neo-liberalism as the driving force. The decadent values, culture, spirit of alacrity of becoming rich overnight is growing fast and this ‘nexus’ is getting developed at a steadfast pace. This decadent culture has to be fought with full might and democratic values that requires an unhindered and unflinching struggle on all the fronts i.e. politically, ideologically and culturally. Alternatives have to be shown, built and nourished.
Gudiya thy name for every girl child but not the fate as it happened in Kotkhai !
I am compelled to write this piece after going through the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections and as someone who is quite engaged with city affairs. AS we all know the results have given a massive victory to the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) who was running the affairs of the 3 municipal bodies since last 10 years. How are the results to be comprehended? Experts from different fields have expressed their opinion which I believe is quite correct. Some have expressed the imminent fall of Aam Admi Parti (AAP), which swung to power just a few years ago and the absence of any ideology would eventually lead to such a situation. Others spoke and wrote about the strong organisational network of the Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP. People like Yogender Yadav quite firmly expressed his opinion even a day before the results and quoted the campaign and sheer tactics of the BJP where it kept the campaign confined to ‘Modi’ and AAP fell in their trap by making it Modi vs Kejriwal and the ominous result.
Is there something more underlying that goes more inherent, deep in the social system and spaces that urbanization has created? I, living so far from Delhi and having little idea about the metropolis and how it responded think there may be little common in Shimla(the town to which I belong to) and the national capital but the unfolding of urbanization leads me to ponder a little bit over the way these results have come up. Very interestingly the people of Delhi have voted in the last few years. For Parliament a thumping majority for BJP, then followed the state assembly where the BJP was routed and the AAP was overwhelmed with 67 off 70, then AAP lost its security in a bye election and finally the three municipal corporation elections the BJP won massively defeating both the AAP and Congress .
Now as a practitioner who has been engaged with the process of urbanization and its unfolding I find a strong connect in between the form of development and its manifestation in the urban arena. The kind of urbanization being witnessed in India especially in the Metros is not just distress migration from the rural to the urban but overall the framework of governance is neo-liberal. Whereas, in ‘Crisis as Capitalist Opportunity’ : The new accumulation through public service commodification by Ursula Huws’ in the Socialist Register 2012 pp63 writes quite explicitly , “the considered ‘use value’ items in political economy has metamorphosised into ‘exchange value’ “. Now what does that mean? It means that utilities, services etc. that generally were considered to be a function of the ‘state’ per se was corporatized and commoditised. With services like health, water, sanitation, electricity, education etc. becoming areas of massive accumulation of wealth. This is what David Harvey writes about the primitive accumulation of wealth. And this accumulation is highly coercive and phenomenal. The UNCTAD world invest report , Geneva states that
Of the 100 largest TNCs by 2006 20% were into services, which earlier was just 7 % ( 1997). In UK in 2008 outsourced public services accounted for nearly 6% of GDP of UK which was increase of 126% for the same period as mentioned above. The situation is quite akin in our urban areas as well.
Similarly in the ‘Blue Gold’ a comment on the kind of urbanisation experienced it states, quote , “The new world order is highly concentrated with centralization of capital whereas the employment generated is not commensurate to that. For example Wal-Mart accounts for about 13% of the $2.53 trillion US retail market and 140 million Americans shop at Wal-Mart weekly more people than who voted for Hillary and Trump together but has just 1% of the workforce. The wealth of Wal-Mart was more than the bottom 30% Americans.” Unquote
Hence the dominant model of development of our times in the cities is akin where in the global market economy everything is for sale, even areas of life once considered sacred such as health and education, culture and heritage, genetic codes and seeds, and natural resources , including water and air .
One of the important element of survival which is so important is water. Fortune Magazine writes that water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century; the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations” (The Blue Gold by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke). On water, it further writes that the prediction is not surprising. Since supplying water to people and industries around the world is already considered to be worth US $ 400 billion (2000). According to the Fortune’s own analysis the annual revenues of water industry amounts to approximately 40% of the oil sector, and it is already 1/3rd larger than the pharmaceutical industry.
It is this form of urbanization that fleeces and creates surplus and generates phenomenal wealth in the hands of a few. The informal sector in urban areas and especially in Delhi is massive where even basic legitimate rights guaranteed under the constitution are missing. The unorganised sector comprises 94% of the total work force in the urban areas. Further the demand for the services increases exponentially compounded with the incapacity of the formal structure may be elected or otherwise to deliver and thus handing over fully or partially these services to the private sector which further aggravates exploitation and creates conditions for the maximisation of profit from these services into the hands of the contractors, cartels etc.
It is in this background that a consciousness is created amongst the people in the urban areas to have a share in this surplus or as David Harvey writes demand for democratising the surplus which he very eloquently writes. quote ‘The right to city’‘by David Harvey : “greater democratic control over the production and use of the surplus. Since the urban process is a major channel of use, then the right to the city is constituted by establishing democratic control over the deployment of the surpluses through urbanization. To have a surplus product is not a bad thing: indeed, in many situations a surplus is crucial to adequate survival. Throughout capitalist history, some of the surplus value created has been taxed away by the state and in social democratic phases that proportion rose significantly putting much of the surplus under state control. The whole neoliberal project over the last thirty years has been oriented towards privatization of control over the surplus. Pp 13” unquote.
And it is this situation that creates a rebel character quite inherent in the urban spectrum. It is this rebellious character and nature that keeps on changing and manifesting invariably in the democratic process for ‘democratising the surplus’. The BJP was sharp enough to use the tactics and the contradiction in its favour by directing this rebel furore of the people against the AAP. Else how one can justify that the party (BJP) that did not sweep the roads for 10 years was able to sweep the rest out in the elections.
Tikender Singh Panwar
The decision of the Supreme court needs to be welcomed court where it has appointed a panel headed by Vinod Rai to oversee BCCI’s affairs. It is a great relief to all cricket lovers in the country who were feeling stifled by the previous regime. The other members including Ramchandra Guha a known historian and a chronicle cricket writer, Diana Edulji and Vikram Limaye would definitely pave way for the reformed BCCI which shall have the foundation from the Lodha committee recommendations. It is a pity that the task that should have been performed by the national government was done by the apex court. But this also exposes the strong nexus in major political parties including the BJP and the Congress who were in complete unison to destroy this game and earn windfall profits. Ultimately all happened to the peril of cricket.
We need to be optimistic that the course now would change and new things will emerge. I would also like to remind that even in the past some efforts by some prudent people was thrown to the dustbin during the UPA 2 regime. If a cursory look is given to the dossiers sent to the IOA of why and how the sports should be looked at in the country the dossiers spell quite a stuff that should not have been glossed over. Apparently because of the strong connivance in between the BJP and the Congress nothing could come out at that time. I would also recommend the name of Ingeti Srinivas to nbe incorporated in the affairs of the BCCI , who is one of the administrative service personnel who was instrumental in the sending of those dossiers that spelt about transparency, democracy and sports to be run by sports persons and not mafias.
I would once again reiterate and ask the state government also to learn some lessons from the Supreme court order and dissolve the HPCA and appoint a similar kind of sports body with prudent personalities and not its own kith and kin. This can be easily done to pave way for the lodha committee recommendations to follow later. The matter in the HP High court should not become a hindrance as new circumstances have developed and it is the time to get rid of the cricket corporates from the body. The fiefdom can be broken and more democratic structure can be created with the help of old cricketers . Not just that all sports bodies should be targeted and the element of democracy, transparency and sports to be run by sportspersons should be followed.
Tikender Singh Panwar
Municipal Corporation, Shimla
My dear Sh Virbhadra Singh ji,
From the newspapers and various agencies I have come to know that preparations for the ensuing budget are undergoing and the comments and suggestions in this regard are being invited from different sections of the society. I am compelled to write this letter to you, as yesterday i.e. 30th January, 2017, the Municipal Corporation House has unanimously decided to raise its panegyric voice for separate allocation of Rs. 500/- crore for the Shimla city. This amount may be kept as a part of plan budget for the State Govt. share for Smart City. This will help the city and its residents to envision a realistic plan for Shimla Smart City proposal.
Sir, as you know Shimla is in the amidst of preparation of Smart City plan, which is to be placed before the Govt. of India by 31st March, 2017. Wide spread engagement of the citizens is being done for the preparation of such plan, which I hope you may remember, you have inaugurated a few days back. With this urgent and immediate request that I write this letter to you as part of the spirit of not just Hon’ble MC House, but also the residents of the city.
Hoping for favourable action
(Tikender S Panwar)
Shri Virbhadra Singh,
Hon’ble Chief Minister,
I, as a compassionate sportsperson and someone who has fought the cricket mafia in the state, lock stock and barrel support the petition addressed to the apex court signed by over 28 leading sports persons, Olympians and distinguished sports personalities for its intervention as it had done with the BCCI. It is a very welcome step. The voices against the sports administration in the country which has become a refuge for cabals, coterie manipulations and intrigue have come from within, which should be supported with all heed. At present the administration of sports is with the moneyed and the powerful few. Sports bodies like Kabbadi, hockey, wrestling etc have been controlled by the rich nexus of political-bureaucrat-businessmen which is extremely detrimental to the interests of the sports and the sportsperson. I am glad that the signatories to the petition include some of those whom I have eulogized in my past. And these are Bishan Singh Bedi, Kirti Azad, Ashwini Nachappa and Jwala Gutta from Badminton, Joaquin Carvalho and Ashok Kumar who is the son of hockey legend Dhyan Chand.
“One state one vote” and uniformity of structure in state associations with limited tenures for office bearers and compulsory cooling off period , a voice for players , appointment of an ombudsman to adjudicate complaints between players and management , elections to be held transparently with no life time members with voting rights, accountability and ethics and separation of governance from management etc. are some of the vocal issues raised. Also there is a strong opposition to the various national sports federations which have reached such depths that neither the sporting bodies nor the state care any longer for the future of successive generations of sports persons. Sports administration is mired in power play. Not just that money, influence and chicanery play the dominant part in sports administration, not welfare of the game or the player.
Quite interestingly, our state too has produced one of the biggest sport juggernauts with a perilous sports outlook, just an ambition to generate wealth and power. Though he was taught the lesson from the Supreme Court still the person wants to continue with the IOA state chapter. What is the interest? The game of cricket in Himachal has completely been ruined by the cricket association which has completely finished the regular district tournaments from which performance could be gauged. There has been a complete fiefdom of the association with a complete closure of the body by building blocks like life time members with voting rights. And who are these life time members, just a cursory look will expose everything. Then there is this building of another line of chicanery where by the resources of the state are used and then a society is converted into a company so that one gets completely fortified so that the individuals and the association can do everything at one’s own will. There should also be an inquiry into the assets that the HPCA office bearers have generated in the past one decade which for sure is going to be disproportionate to their income. How could that happen? The many voices being heard on many occasions that there is a nexus in HPCA which is instrumental in the selection process by bribing some of the members is not just a canard , apparently is quite true.
Already there is another petition pending in the HP High court much before the Lodha committee recommendations which quite intriguingly is congruent to the Lodha committee. It starts with 3 basic postulates in cricket and which are a) transparency in the association, b) complete democracy with elections being the basis and no voting rights to the life time members and c) cricket to be run by former cricketers and not by cabals , manipulators and the mafias.
Snow brings cheers to Shimla but also nightmares with harrowing tales
This article I write both as a resident of the city who faced extreme trauma and also as an official of the city government and the perspective required to look at things from management of the incident which eventually lands up into a crisis and the total misdemeanour of the disaster management cell/structure with people left haywire!
Day 1st :-Date 7th January
It was 4 am, the time when I normally get up but since these days I am an attendant to my ailing mother in IGMC, I tend to get up a little late owing to frequent breaks in the sleep . At 4 am I felt a little cold and realised that the central heating system in IGMC the premier medical institution is not working, the heating points were also not working, however there was light owing to electricity run though a generator which has a limited capacity. I realised there was electricity failure owing to snow which had started the previous night. I also realised that because of the vulnerability of the hilly region of Shimla the electric cables often get damaged with land slides , tree felling triggered by the snowfall. I called the Superintending Engineer of electricity board the Himachal Pradesh state electricity board (HPSEB) , the only discom in the state Mr Dadwal, who to my surprise was also alert and knew about the fault . However, he was not sure where the fault lie. For IGMC as I was concerned more he told me there are two lines from Jutogh and Malyana 33 KV on which patrolling has started to identify where the fault lies ie where the trees have fallen on the electric cables , poles etc.. Just to help them I contacted Shalini the famous radio jockey (RJ) from a private FM channel who said that she is unable to go to the office and hence will not be of much help. Then I got into touch with station director of the All India Radio Mr Johal to whom I explained the importance of radio broadcast so that the people can locate in their neighbourhoods the damage done to these cables. The AIR acted promptly . The fault in main 33 KV line that provides power to IGMC was damaged at several places. Messages , calls started pouring in and I realised it’s a big challenge. Nearly 30 trees (on the whole may be more than 100) at different locations had fallen and some of them on these electric cables and poles.
I contacted my Commissioner Pankaj Rai and asked him to ensure that at least some of the most important areas and the critical ones are targeted first for intervention from MC. Fortunately some structure exists in the MC and because of which 6 machines including 2 robots which were kept on stand by since last night were pressed into operations. But in IGMC the situation remained precarious with no heating and intermittent supply of electricity through the diesel generators that too just for lighting. In the meantime, calls started pouring in from different parts of the city about the trees broken or fallen on roads, houses and electric poles and cables. By the day, we were able to identify the number to about 39. Perhaps more trees had fallen but because of poor reportage the number was less reported.
I was in constant touch with the electricity department and its officers who kept on saying that they are on the job and surely they should be able to restore electricity at least to the hospital. Quite true apparently, as they were working hard as was evident from the fact that even during inclement weather with heavy snowfall continuing they were working in the jungles of Bharari and elsewhere trying to restore power.
In the IGMC I was apprised that in case the electricity supply is not restored then the back system with diesel gen sets will not last for more than 4 hours and hence diesel is required for the hospital to run especially its critical services like the ICU and the ventilators. But the vehicle of the hospital that was supposed to fetch diesel from Dhalli petrol pumps was itself stuck near cancer hospital and hence it was impossible for it to get the fuel. Dr Shad Rizvi the deputy MS of the hospital called me and asked for immediate intervention as it was only for the MC to fetch diesel in one of its snow cutter machines. The machine (JCB in local parlance) that was clearing snow on the lakkar Bazar -Sanjaulli road was brought to the IGMC from where 3 drums were loaded and 600 litres of diesel from Dhalli was brought. The executive engineer of MC Sudhir Gupta took great initiative in the exercise. The worse started happening. The taps ran dry as water stored in the tanks was exhausted. So now in the hospital especially in B block there was no heating and on top of that no water! The attendants of the patients would not store water nor do they have the capacity to do that for quite obvious reasons. So, there was panic all around. A patient in room no 630 was a renal failure one who incessantly had to use the toilet but there was no water. The attendants had no choice. The administration did not respond. I think they did not even had the capacity to respond! Somehow till late evening there was a feeling that electricity would be restored but to a great dissatisfaction it wasn’t. Somehow the night was passed in cold wearing lots of clothes and blankets. The only solace was that the electric points meant nor for heating could at least heat water in electric kettles. So, water bottles for the patients and something else for the attendants made the night through.
Later in the evening I spoke to both the SE Mr Dadwal and the director operations HPSEB Mr RK Sharma who quite candidly admitted their failure. Nevertheless hard work was put up throughout the day. I got to know from them that human resource happens to be one of the major impediments. On top of that skilled labour to cut fallen trees etc was also missing. Speaking to some of the union representatives I came to know that the labour force has reduced by half in electricity board and the workload has increased by 4 times, which meant a worker was working 8 times more than what he was working previously. On a conference with both I promised them to provide some Kashmiri migrant workmen whom I knew because of our engagement with them in MC Shimla. Apparently, they are the best skilled in this kind of work.
Day 2nd ie 8th January 2017
I got up at 4 am and realised that there was still no water and for all reasons water was required. Nokh Ram the ward boy and I went up on the roof and gathered some snow in the bucket so that at least we could use it for the toilet. For the rest of the attendants they went downstairs to fetch buckets of water so that at least toilet could be used hygienically. And this I am talking about the best and the most premier institute of the state the IGMC! By now 30 hours had passed without electricity and water was also not available. We got the filtered water from the different blocks in the hospital especially the ctvs department which sustained us for the day.
During the day as it was Sunday, I worked from the hospital coordinating with the Mayor and took the calls. The foremost priority being the two hospitals which I was told have been cleared. The electricity department too was on the toes and were in the field with some hired labour to restore electricity. More reports of tree felling came from different parts of the city. Interestingly not a single area was reported that was not affected by the snowfall and its triggered effect. So, 5 forest teams were constituted so that the trees could be removed from the roads and the electric cables. But back in IGMC there was neither water nor electricity.
Once again, the fuel issue came to the fore and once again the MC team was used to ensure that diesel could be ensured to the hospital. Till late evening when it was almost clear that there would be no light and one more day the patients and attendants will be traumatised the heating points started functioning at about 9 pm. This was some kind a relief though the central heating did not function but at least the heating of the room through private heaters etc began and this was the night when sky was clear and the night would be bitter cold. I spoke to the SE , HPSEB who told me that this arrangement has been done from Malyana station and still Jutogh, the main supply poses a challenge. Which meant that for central heating it will take more time.
The next day that is 9th January there was electricity but no water as the power connection to the pump would become operational only if Jutogh 33 KV was through and in its absence, it was not possible for them to supply. I spoke to the secretary health and told him the precarious situation existing in the hospital who to my surprise was quite unaware as he was briefed differently. Dr Rahul Rao another deputy MS and one of the able officers was instrumental into building a link in between the generator and the pump so that water could be lifted and eventually it was done by 1 pm. But till the writing of this essay there is not central heating though water and electricity is available. Another problem arose regarding the hospital and that was the oxygen vehicle stranded at Khalini . I was told that because of its delay operations was put on hold. And all this is happening with the premier institution of the state.
And then there were reports from Akarshan from bus stand where he stated that because of electricity failure the servers were not functioning and passengers were unable to book their tickets. ‘demonetisation has further worsened the situation. I’m sure there are more harrowing incidents which people have and which will go with them unreported but the lessons are to be learnt so that snowfall which is an event to be celebrated does not become an event to bring in trauma , anguish and pain. Unfortunately, it does because of the failure which is intuitional and also the way our systems have developed which I always connote as ‘the backward form of capitalist development’. This is never going to meet such challenges.
Why I am writing all this is not just to denigrate an individual or an institution but also to build them. And build the city resilience as the city has developed a very interesting professional city resilience index (CRI). Of course, ARUP was instrumental in building that.
Lessons that I feel needs to be learnt.
- The disaster management cell is completely obsolete with holding just mock drills and it itself has become a subject of mockery.
- The city disaster management plan of action though has been passed but not ratified by the government because if that happens then the city government led by the Mayor will be the chief head of operations and the nodal agency. For obvious reasons the government does not want to empower such a structure. So, in its absence there is the district disaster management agency headed by the district administration which was completely out of ideas and reason for the ways in which intervention is to be made. For example, the MC still works with the old manuals drawn by the Britishers for snow etc and the meetings/ preparations for such eventuality is done in advance. More than 5 snow cutters were on standby, similarly stone dust was purchased in advanced so that the ice does not increase the vulnerability. Thought the practical experiences are far worse than what was expected. Actually, a ward disaster management plan of action has to be shaped so that things are managed well. All this Im not writing to defend the MC but just to put things in perspective.
- In the absence of the single authority there was hardly any coordination in different agencies and work was oriented with the direction where more cry was generated in the public. For example both the Mayor and I along with our commissioner were following the movements of the forest department so that trees could be removed and roads could be made through. One single agency either the Shimla MC or the district authority should lead and then all other important parastatals should be linked to them like the health department, electricity department, police, forest etc. In its absence, the relief was directed towards the more influential and those who made a larger cry. This is not the scientific method and it should be directed with prioritisation of the departments and the utilities. Imagine if the hospital is getting electricity after 41 hours then at other places things would be far worse. Similarly, the major departments have and must have the human resource to perform. Neo liberalism has made these posts dead cadres and there is hardly anyone left to work on the ground. Had it not been for the Kashmiri migrant workers this city would have not been able to get up so soon.
- This also brings me to a debate that is often generated not so vividly loud but quietly. Should we not have a winter capital elsewhere, where such precariousness is minimised. For the infrastructure to be developed in Shimla to ensure that all this does not happen in future the per capita infrastructure cost would be phenomenal, take for example if the bare minimum in the sense that the basic utilities are to be put in the duct will require at least a capital of Rs 500 crores. So were the Britishers wise in always moving their winter capital to Calcutta or Delhi. Do we need to do that? I think it is an open debate that requires more provocation for every one of us to engage and proactively decide our future in this city.
Well keeping that debate alive, I think there is lot more that I would have liked to write but to theorise it further would take more time and patience both of which I’m lacking right now. Hope we will learn lessons so that we can build our city life better and resilient.
I think the decision of the Supreme court should be welcomed from all quarters. The decision of the SC where it has removed the president of the BCCI is not just unprecedented but shall be historic in the direction to improve sports in the country. Apparently we have right since inception maintained that sports and especially cricket should be freed from the cricket mafias and cricket corporates. Apparently I personally have a writ pending in the HP High court seeking democratization of the HPCA. Incidentally the writ was filed long before the formation of the Lodha committee and its recommendations and interestingly both the writ petition and the recommendations of Lodha committee are quite congruent that lays emphasis on:-
- Democratisation of the sports body with regular elections to the body of HPCA and getting rid of the life time members with voting rights.
- Transparency within the HPCA where it should be brought under the RTI.
- Only sports personnel should be responsible for managing the affairs of the bodies especially cricket.
- Complete transparency in selection process with laying basis on performance in local tournaments. Unfortunately, local level district tournaments have completely been finished and obituary of such tournaments was written by HPCA led by its president
It is in this background that I would like to term this decision as historic which will surely help in weaning out corrupt elements with corporate interests from the helm of affairs. I would also like to indict the state government for its lackadaisical approach where by it kept quiet in not taking action against the HPCA when it converted from a society into a company. Not just that public property was usurped for the construction of cricket stadium and a Hotel which caters more to the tourists than to the ones who play cricket.The effort and debate must be built to ask the president of the HPCA to step down . For what is illegal and contempt for BCCI is also the same for HPCA. Hope now there will be some democratic governance of sports bodies and mass level sports would once again come to the fore where the district level tournaments will get a boost and a revival. The only vigilance which we all as cricket lovers must have is to ensure that the A may not be replaced by B which means another set of ruling party cohorts who will too take a ruinous path.
Dear friends , At the outset we wish you a liveable and habitable Shimla. We also wish a fruitful new year of 2017. We are writing this letter to you as one amongst you, who some 4.5 years…