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Shimla

Six dead, several trapped as landslide hits two buses in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh

At least six persons have died and more people are feared trapped under debris after a massive landslide swept away two buses, a car and a motorcycle in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh late last night, official sources said.
 
"We have recovered six bodies so far -- three each from the two buses. We are searching for the others," Mandi Deputy Commissione Sandeep Kadam told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene.
 
Mr. Kadam said there were about eight people in one bus, while there was no clarity about the number of people in the second one. The mishap occurred around 1 am today near Joginder Nagar in the Kotrupi area of the district, he said.
 
District officials, police, fire brigade and other emergency services personnel, including teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), were engaged in the search and rescue efforts. The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals.
 
Mr. Kadam said tonnes of mud came sliding down onto a 150-metre stretch of the highway, sweeping everything in its path. One of the buses was swept away 800 metres down into a gorge.
 
Sources said one bus was on its way from Chamba to Manali and the other was on its way from Manali to Katra.
 
They said heavy rains in the area were hampering the search and rescue operations.
 
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28 dead as bus rolls down into gorge in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh

 
28 dead as bus falls into gorge in HP
At least 28 people died and eight others suffered injuries when a private bus carrying them veered off the road and rolled down into a deep gorge at Khaneri, near Rampur, in Shimla district this morning.
 
Official sources said the mishap occurred around 9 am when the bus, with 36 people on board, was on its way from Reckong Peo in Kinnaur district to Solan.
 
Shimla Deputy Commissioner Rohan Chand Thakur told NetIndian over the telephone that the deceased included 18 men, nine women and a child.
 
District administration officials, police and other emergency services personnel rushed to the spot, about 120 km from Shimla, and helped remove the victims from the wreckage of the bus. The injured were taken to a nearby hospital, the sources added.
 
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Modi launches Regional Connectivity Scheme for Civil Aviation from Shimla

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that the lives of the middle class in India were being transformed, even as their aspirations were rising, and felt that, if they were given the right chance, they could do wonders.
 
Modi launches Regional Connectivity Scheme from Shimla
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the lives of the middle class in India were being transformed, even as their aspirations were rising, and felt that, if they were given the right chance, they could do wonders.
 
Launching UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik), the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) for civil aviation from Shimla airport, he said the aviation sector in the country was filled with opportunities.
 
Apart from the Shimla-Delhi flight, Mr. Modi also launched flights from Nanded and Kadapa to Hyderabad through video-conferencing.
 
He also unveiled an e-plaque to mark the laying of the foundation stone of a Hydro Engineering College at Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh. 
 
Addressing the gathering at Shimla airport, as well as those at Nanded and Kadapa through a video link, Mr. Modi said aviation was once considered the domain of a select few, but that had changed now.
 
He said the new civil aviation policy marked an opportunity to cater to the aspirations of the people of India. Pointing out that Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities were becoming growth engines, and enhanced aviation connectivity between them would be beneficial.
 
Mr. Modi said the UDAN scheme would help the tourism sector in various states by providing air connectivity to currently underserved and unserved airports.
 
UDAN is a first-of-its-kind scheme globally to stimulate regional connectivity through a market-based mechanism.
 
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) followed a bidding process by inviting interested bidders and airline operators to submit their Initial Proposals under the provisions of RCS and subsequently inviting counter proposals against such Initial Proposals. The routes and networks are awarded to bidders who submitted valid proposals and quoted the lowest viability gap funding (VGF) from the government for such routes and networks.
 
AAI, the implementing agency, has issued Letter of Awards for 27 proposals received under RCS-UDAN.
 
The key features of the proposals awarded by AAI include:
 
•    Airports to be connected: 27 currently served airports, 12 currently underserved airports and 31 currently unserved airports (for a total of 70 airports) will be connected through these 27 proposals.
 
•    Geographical spread: 24 airports in the western, 17 in north, 11 in south, 12 in east and 6 in north-eastern regions are proposed to be connected. 22 states and 2 Union Territories will be connected through these 27 proposals.
 
•    Routes and network: 16 awarded proposals are for single routes (connecting two cities) and 11 are for networks (connecting three or more cities). Six proposals have been bid with zero viability gap funding (VGF) reflecting the fact that there is potential latent demand.
 
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•    VGF Outflow: 27 proposals will required a VGF of around Rs. 200 crores and will provide around 6.5 lakh RCS seats.
 
The air fare for a one-hour journey of approximately 500 km on a fixed wing aircraft or for a 30 minute journey on a helicopter would be capped at Rs. 2,500, with proportionate pricing for routes of different stage lengths and flight duration. The selected airline operator would have to provide 50% of the flight capacity (subject to a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 40) as RCS Seats for operations through fixed wing aircraft and a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 13 RCS Seats on the RCS Flights for operations through helicopters and would be given a three years exclusivity of operations.
 
To reduce the cost of operations of airlines on flying such routes, a financial stimulus in the form of concessions from Central and State government, airport operators and the Viability Gap Funding to the interested airlines would be provided to kick-off operations from such airports, so that the passenger fares are kept affordable. State Government will provide a certain share of VGF (20% for States other than North-East States where the ratio will be 10% of VGF determined). In this regard, till now 19 States and 3 UTs have signed MoU whereas 5 more States have given consent to sign MoU.
 
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Modi to flag off first UDAN flight under Regional Connectivity Scheme on Thursday

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the first UDAN flight under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) on the Shimla-Delhi sector tomorrow.
 
Simultaneously, Mr. Modi will also flag off the inaugural UDAN flights on the Kadapa-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad sectors.
 
The RCS is designed to provide air connectivity to currently underserved and unserved airports. As part of the scheme, the Ministry of Civil Aviation  launched Ude Deshka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) in October, 2016 after extensive consultations with stakeholders.
 
"This is a first-of-its-kind scheme globally to stimulate regional connectivity through a market-based mechanism," an official press release said.
 
According to it, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) followed a transparent bidding process by inviting interested bidders and airline operators to submit their Initial Proposals under the provisions of RCS and subsequently inviting counter proposals against such Initial Proposals. The routes and networks are awarded to bidders who submitted valid proposals and quoted the lowest viability gap funding (VGF) from the government for such routes and networks.
 
AAI, the implementing agency, has issued Letter of Awards for 27 proposals received under RCS-UDAN.
 
The key features of the proposals awarded by AAI include:
 
•    Airports to be connected: 27 currently served airports, 12 currently underserved airports and 31 currently unserved airports (for a total of 70 airports) will be connected through these 27 proposals.
 
•    Geographical spread: There is a good geographical spread in the proposals: 24 airports in the western, 17 in north, 11 in south, 12 in east and 6 in north-eastern regions are proposed to be connected. 22 states and 2 Union Territories will be connected through these 27 proposals.
 
•    Routes and network: 16 awarded proposals are for single routes (connecting two cities) and 11 are for networks (connecting three or more cities). Six proposals have been bid with zero viability gap funding (VGF) reflecting the fact that there is potential latent demand.
 
•    VGF Outflow: 27 proposals will required a VGF of around Rs. 200 crores and will provide around 6.5 lakh RCS seats.
 
The air fare for a one-hour journey of approximately 500 km on a fixed wing aircraft or for a 30 minute journey on a helicopter would be capped at Rs. 2,500, with proportionate pricing for routes of different stage lengths and flight duration. The selected airline operator would have to provide 50% of the flight capacity (subject to a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 40) as RCS Seats for operations through fixed wing aircraft and a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 13 RCS Seats on the RCS Flights for operations through helicopters and would be given a three years exclusivity of operations.
 
To reduce the cost of operations of airlines on flying such routes, a financial stimulus in the form of concessions from Central and State government, airport operators and the Viability Gap Funding to the interested airlines would be provided to kick-off operations from such airports, so that the passenger fares are kept affordable. State Government will provide a certain share of VGF (20% for States other than North-East States where the ratio will be 10% of VGF determined). In this regard, till now 19 States and 3 UTs have signed MoU whereas 5 more States have given consent to sign MoU.
 
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44 dead after bus plunges into riverbed in Himachal Pradesh

 
44 dead after bus falls into River Tons in Himachal Pradesh
As many as 44 passengers died when the private bus they were travelling in veered off a mountain road and plunged into the riverbed of the Tons near Nerwa in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh today.
 
The bus was on its way from Vikasnagar to Tiuni in Uttarakhand and was plying on a route that passes through Himachal Pradesh when the mishap occurred.
 
Official sources said the deceased passengers included 31 men, 10 women and three girls.
 
The bus conductor was among the four persons on board the bus who managed to survive, they said.
 
According to various accounts, the driver of the bus lost control over the vehicle and it nosedived into the rocky riverbed of the Tons, a tributary of the Yamuna.
 
Local people rushed to the scene and were soon joined by emergency services personnel who helped to pull out the passengers from the mangled remains of the bus. A medical team and personnel of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) also reached the spot.
 
Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, Rohan Chand Thakur and other senior officials rushed to the scene and were overseeing the relief efforts.
 
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh condoled the loss of lives in the mishap and directed the authorities to ensure proper medical treatment for the injured and relief for the next-of-kin of those who died.
 
The Himachal Pradesh government has announced financial assistance of Rs. 50,000 to the next-of-kin of the deceased. It has also set up a committee headed by Regional Transport Officer, Shimla to ascertain the cause of the accident. 
 
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh for the next-of-kin of those killed in the mishap and Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
 
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Modi dedicates three hydro power projects in Himachal Pradesh to nation

 
Modi dedicates three hydro power projects to nation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated three hydro power stations -- the 800 MW Koldam project of NTPC, the 520 MW Parvati project of NHPC and the 412 MW Rampur project of SJVNL -- to the nation at Mandi in Himachal Pradesh today.
 
Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat, Chief Minister  Vir Bhadra Singh, Chief Minister, Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda and Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal were among those present on the occasion.
 
Appreciating the contribution of public sector companies in the country’s growth, Mr. Modi said that these hydro projects would bring prosperity to the State of Himachal Pradesh and other parts of the nation.
 
NHPC’s Parbati-III Power Station is a run of the river scheme having a 43m high rockfill dam, underground power house and 10.58 km long water conductor system. A net head of 326 meter is utilized to run four vertical Francis turbines with an installed capacity of 520 MW (4x130 MW). The power plant is designed to generate 1963.29 million units annually. The power generated from the Parbati-III Power Station is distributed to beneficiary states -- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Union Territory of Chandigarh. The power station is supplying 13% free power to home state i.e. 12% as home state share and 1% for Local Area Development fund. The completion cost of the project is around Rs 2600 crore and as on 30.09.2016 the total power generation is 1880 MU with revenue realization of Rs 816 crore.
 
With commencement of generation from four 200 MW units, NTPC  Koldam has achieved capacity of 800 MW and provides peaking capacity to the Northern grid. It shall annually generate 3054 GWh electricity at 90% dependable year basis. Twelve percent of the electricity generated from Koldam is being supplied to the home state Himachal Pradesh free of cost while 1 percent is provided to the state on account of Local Area Development fund. All the Project Affected Families are being provided 100 units of electricity every month free of cost which accounts for 0.62 percent of the total generation. Thus a total 13.62 percent of electricity generated from the plant is supplied free of cost to Himachal Pradesh, while the remaining power is supplied to other beneficiaries -- Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttrakhand and Chandigarh.
 
SJVN’s Rampur Project (412MW) in Kullu district will be operated in tandem with Nathpa Jhakri Hydro Power Station (HPS). This project will provide 13 percent free power to the state of Himachal Pradesh, an official press release added.
 
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Later, Mr. Modi launched the National SC/ST hub, and the Zero Defect, Zero Effect (ZED) scheme for MSMEs at Ludhiana in Punjab. He also presented National Awards to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). He distributed 500 traditional wooden charkhas (spinning wheels) among women. 
 
Speaking on the occasion, he said Ludhiana is an important economic centre, and therefore, it is natural to launch a scheme related to MSME from the city. The Prime Minister said that the MSME sector is crucial for the economic progress of India. He said MSMEs must match global quality control standards. 
 
Talking about the distribution of charkhas, the Prime Minister said Khadi is a priority for the country, and a charkha at home brings more income. He said Khadi is marketed well now, adding that once upon a time, the apt slogan was ‘Khadi for Nation,’ but now it should be ‘Khadi for Fashion.’ 
 
The Prime Minister said that a spirit of entrepreneurship among Dalits will benefit the country. He added that there are youngsters whose dreams are to create enterprises and jobs. 
 
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Two minor earthquakes shake Himachal Pradesh

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Two minor earthquakes shook Himachal Pradesh within an hour of each other this evening, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The first quake, measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale, had its epicentre at latitude 30.9 N and longitude 77.1 E in the Solan area and occurred at 1804 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
The second tremor, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, had its epicentre at latitude 31.4 N and longitude 77.6 E in the border region between Shimla and Kullu districts and occurred at 1908 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, the bulletin added.
 
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Two UK tourists die in "toy train" derailment on way to Shimla

 
Two UK tourists die in "toy train" derailment on way to Shimla
 
Two tourists from the United Kingdom, both women, died and ten others suffered injuries when two coaches of the four-coach "toy train" from Kalka to Shimla they had chartered derailed at Parwanoo around noon today.
 
In all, there were 37 passengers on the train, including 34 UK nationals, for whom a travel agency had chartered the toy train, so called because of its size.
 
Official sources said the mishap occurred shortly after the train entered Himachal Pradesh from Haryana at Parwanoo.
 
While the two women died on the spot, the injured were given first aid at the ESIC Hospital at Parwanoo before being taken to the Max Hospital at Mohali near Chandigarh.
 
The injured included three Indians, of whom the condition of two was stated to be critical, the sources said.
 
The narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla railway line is a UNESCO heritage site and is a major tourist attraction. Shimla used to be the summer capital of the country during British Raj.
 
Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh expressed grief over the death of the two British women.
 
Mr Virbhadra Singh said the state government was in touch with the UK High Commission in New Delhi in this regard.
 
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Six dead, 24 injured as bus rolls down into gorge in Himachal Pradesh

 
6 dead, 24 hurt in Himachal Pradesh bus accident
At least six persons died and 24 others suffered injuries when a private bus carrying them veered off the road and fell into a gorge in Rampur district of Himachal Pradesh today.
 
Police officials said six bodies had been recovered from the wreckage of the bus. They said the injured were rushed to nearby hospitals.
 
Efforts were being made to lift the bus with the help of a crane and ascertain if more people were trapped below it.
 
The bus was on its way from Rampur to Shimla when it fell into Machhada Khud, the officials added.
 
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Mukherjee to visit The Retreat in Mashobra near Shimla from June 11-15

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President Pranab Mukherjee will visit ‘The Retreat’ in Mashobra near Shimla in Himachal Pradesh from June 11-15, an official press release said here today.
 
Himachal Pradesh Governor Kalyan Singh will host a cultural programme and banquet in honour of the President on June 12.
 
Mr Mukherjee will host a reception for senior dignitaries of the State, Ministers, officials, journalists and others on June 14.
 
‘The Retreat’, located in a picturesque surrounding, thousand feet higher than the Shimla Ridge Top, is part of the President’s Estate.  Originally constructed in 1850, it was taken over by the then Viceroy in 1895.    
 
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Five die as car rolls down into gorge near Shimla

 
Five die after car falls into gorge near Shimla
All five persons in a car died when their vehicle veered off the road and fell into a 700-feet deep gorge at Shogi, near here, yesterday morning, police said.
 
The car, a Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire, registered in Punjab, was on its way to Shimla when the mishap occurred around  9 am and all the five men in it died on the spot, the police said.
 
Senior police officials and other emergency personnel, as well as several tourists, rushed to the spot and extricted the bodies from wreckage of the car, the sources said, adding that the cause of the mishap was being investigated.
 
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BHEL commissions sixth unit at Rampur hydro power station in HP

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The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had commissioned the last of the six units of the 6x68.7MW Rampur Hydro Electric Project (HEP) in Himachal Pradesh.
 
With this, the 412 MW hydro power plant of SJVN Limited, located on River Satluj, a major tributary of the Indus Basin in the state, 120 km from Shimla, is fully operational.
 
A press release from BHEL said the project is designed to utilise the water that comes out after generation from Nathpa Jhakri Power Plant and is diverted from Jhakri Tail Race Pond to the intake of Rampur HEP through a tunnel. The power stations at Jhakri and Rampur are designed to be operated in tandem. The project does not require construction of a dam, reservoir capacity or additional land inundation.
 
The greenfield project is capable of generating approximately 1,770 GWh in a ninety percent hydrological dependable year when all the units are operating. 
 
The commissioning of Rampur HEP will result in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and will help in achieving a low carbon development path for the state and the nation, the release said.
 
BHEL’s scope of work in the project included supply, erection and commissioning of six Francis turbines operating at a head of 119 meters with matching synchronous generators of 200 rpm, static excitation system, main inlet valves, penstock valves, digital governors, state-of-the-art control & monitoring system (SCADA), associated turbine, generator and station auxiliaries, Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) and electrical & mechanical Balance of Plant (BoP).
 
BHEL has a long standing association with SJVN commencing with their first generating plant, the 1,500 MW Nathpa Jhakri HEP, which was commissioned in 2003-04.
 
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25 killed as bus falls into Bhakra Nangal Dam's reservoir in Himachal Pradesh


 
At least 25 killed in Bilaspur bus accident
At least 25 people were killed and 19 others suffered injuries when an overcrowded private bus carrying them veered off the road and plunged into the Gobind Sagar Reservoir of the Bhakra Nangal Dam in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh today.
 
Bilaspur Deputy Commissioner Ajay Sharma told NetIndian over the telephone that the mishap occurred around 8.40 am when the bus was on its way from Rishikesh village to Bilaspur.
 
According to him, the bus, a 23-seater, was carrying about twice the number of passengers it was authorised to carry. Some people were reportedly travelling on the roof of the bus, various other sources said.
 
The injured had been admitted to a hospital in Bilaspur.
 
Mr Sharma said the bodies of all the victims had been recovered by rescue teams, including divers, but a search would be conducted again tomorrow to ensure that all the passengers are accounted for.
 
The driver of the bus appeared to have lost control of the vehicle while crossing the dam, he added.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the accident. “I pray for the speedy recovery of those injured in the unfortunate bus accident in Himachal Pradesh,” he said.
 
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23 dead, 21 injured as bus falls into gorge in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh

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At least 23 people died and 21 others suffered injuries when a private bus carrying them rolled down into a deep gorge near Rohtrung village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh today, official sources said.
 
Kinnaur police officials told NetIndian over the telephone that the bus was carrying 44 people in all.
 
According to him, eight of those injured were in a serious condition.
 
Kinnaur deputy commissioner Dev Dutt Sharma said the seriously injured passengers were being shifted to the Indira Gandhi Medical College Hospital in Shimla by helicopter.
 
The bus was on its way from Sangla valley to Kalpa when the mishap occurred at about 10.30 am at a spot about 250 km from here.
 
District administration and police officials rushed to the spot to oversee the rescue efforts in which many local people also joined in.
 
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21 killed, five injured as bus falls into gorge in Himachal Pradesh

 
21 dead as bus falls into gorge
At least 21 passengers were killed when a Himachal Pradesh State Roadways bus veered off the road and fell into a deep gorge near Shimla this afternoon, police said.
 
At least five others suffered serious injuries in the mishap and are undergoing treatment at the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital here, they said.
 
The process of identifying the victims was going on, the sources said.
 
The mishap occurred around 3.15 pm today near Kadharghat in Basantpur area, about 35 km from Shimla, when the bus was on its way from here to Savera Khad in Sunni area of the district.
 
Police, district administration officials and other emergency services personnel rushed to the spot and were trying to extricate the passengers from the wreckage of the bus, which had rolled down into a 400 metre deep gorge, the sources said. 
 
They said the cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained. The area had received heavy rainfall in the past few days, making the roads slippery, they added.
 
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19 killed, seven injured as bus falls into gorge in Himachal Pradesh

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At least 19 passengers were killed when a Himchal Pradesh State Roadways bus veered off the road and fell into a deep gorge near Shimla this afternoon, police said.
 
At least seven others suffered serious injuries in the mishap and were rushed to the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital here, they said.
 
The mishap occurred around 3.15 pm today near Kadharghat in Basantpur area, about 35 km from Shimla, when the bus was on its way from here to Savera Khad in Sunni area of the district.
 
Police, district administration officials and other emergency services personnel rushed to the spot and were trying to extricate the passengers from the wreckage of the bus, which had rolled down into a 400 metre deep gorge, the sources said. 
 
They said the toll could rise further, adding that the cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained. The area had received heavy rainfall in the past few days, making the roads slippery, they added.
 
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Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir takes over as CJ of Himachal Pradesh HC

Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir
Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir
Mr Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir, a Judge of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, has taken over as the Chief Justice of that court.
 
Mr Justice Mir, 59, who was Acting Chief Justice since November 27, 2013, took oath oas the Chief Justice on June 18.
 
Mr Justice Mir did his BA from Amar Singh College in Pulwama district of Jammu & Kashmir and his LLB. in 1978 before joining the bar and practising till 1993.
 
He qualified for the High Judicial Services and served as Principal District and Sessions Judge in Kupwara and then in Anantnag and Badgam.
 
He was appointed as an additional judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on May 31, 2005 and as a permanent judge on July 7, 2007.
 
He was transferred to Himachal Pradesh in November 2013.
 
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Our Tryst with the Queen of the Hills

 
Queen of the Hills, Summer Capital are some of the lovely epithets that come to mind when you think of Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, which was our destination for a short holiday recently.
 
We had booked our rooms well in advance and got them for the period that bridged the post-monsoon and early winter. Diwali was over and done with for the year and Delhi suddenly started feeling chilly. It had turned cold as if on cue. It was a lot warmer at this time last year and for many years before that.
 
This only meant one thing, if Delhi was this cold, Shimla would be at least 5 degrees colder, we calculated. This entailed detailed stock taking of woollens and buying new ones too. One really should not take the cold for granted however much one would like to and however much anyone else tells you. Be prepared, that was the motto.
 

 
 
Reading up on Shimla and its tourist attractions was the next thing to do. Lots of friends piped in with their experiences and must-do things and must-avoid things. A confusing list that was luckily not jotted down. I can quite imagine the vigourously conflicting opinions that such a list would have produced. So, we just let Shimla happen to us, naturally and without any prejudice.
 
As far as getting to Shimla is concerned, there are many options. There are comfortable overnight bus services from Delhi. If you wish to travel by train, a ride on the Kalka-Shimla Railway - a UNESCO World Heritage site -- would be a great experience. Travelling on the narrow gauge section would give you some breathtaking views of the hills. One can travel to Kalka by broad gauge trains from Delhi and other places. Once the train leaves Kalka, it begins its climb and offers a panoramic view of the mountains all along, passing through Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, Taradevi and Barog. The route has 102 tunnels and more than 800 bridges, mostly viaducts with multi-arched galleries. On our way to Shimla, we did see the tracks criss-crossing the road and in many places hugging the cliff face through the mountains and out of them. Quite an interesting sight!
 
The Kalka-Shimla train takes about five hours to cover 96 km, and if you think that is too long, you can choose to take a taxi from Kalka, if you arrive by train there, or from Chandigarh, which you can reach by train or air.
 
Shimla has an airport, too, at Jubbarhatti, 22 km from town but only turbo-prop aircraft can land there. We could not find any flights, however, from Delhi.
 
We opted to hire a car from Delhi. Shimla is 384 kms from Delhi and the drive would take about 8 hours or near-abouts. There were six of us and we hired a Toyoto Innova that could seat all of us. We had to make sure the vehicle had a luggage carrier on the top, given the number of bags we were carrying. 
 
Of course, ours was not a non-stop drive, and we made it to Shimla in about nine hours, not bad, I thought.  We had left Delhi only around 9.30 am and stopped for an early lunch at Haryana Tourism Development Corporation's Oasis restaurant at Karnal on the highway, a place we had visited earlier and with which we were comfortable, as far as the food and other facilities, were concerned. The restaurant is spacious, the food was generally okay, the toilets were clean, there are shops to browse around and there is a large area for you to loosen your limbs.
 
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For those who start out earlier from Delhi, another option for a stop for lunch is Dharampur, after Ambala, which has several restaurants, including the well-known Giani Dhaba and a McDonald's outlet. We had read mixed reviews about some of the dhabas there, and wanted to try Gyani out, but ultimately did not stop because we were running late and wanted to reach Shimla before sundown.
 
Leaving the wide and dusty roads of Delhi and later on, some towns of Haryana, had us wondering what the first glimpse of Shimla would be like. It got a lot more interesting once we reached the Trans-Himalayan Expressway. What a wonderfully exciting name!! That jolted all of us out of our slumber and the cameras got into action. The surroundings were no longer dusty. The winter sun was dazzling bright and hot and far, far, far away in the distance, we could see the shadowy outlines of the majestic Himalayas!! Utterly spell-binding to say the least.
 
We were now on a mountain road and the numerous curves on the road came sharp and quick that made some of us want to stop, to get our 'legs' back. After a few hours, we reached the place where we would be staying for the next four days. It was the Club Mahindra resort at Mashobra, about 10 km from Shimla, at about 8000 feet from sea-level. The whole place is covered with dense woods of pines and other evergreens. Mashobra is beautiful and quiet, away from the rush of tourists in Shimla. The resort is located just off the road and there are lots of little shops near the entrance. The resort itself is a bustling place with lots of guests walking in and out. The suites we were allotted exceeded our expectations and the staff at the resort went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
 
 It was already rather dark and we were tired after the drive. Looking forward to a restful night, we decided to relax and go downstairs for dinner. The temperatures were dropping to quite low in the night, notwithstanding the hot blazing sun in the day!  At last we were able to wear the woolies that we had so conscientiously taken with us.
 
The resort staff had arranged some games and music in a hall and we spent some time there. Some kids were playing table tennis in the background, even as the others played a few rounds of housie. Finally, we went for dinner. The buffet spread was quite good and the chef came out and talked to us, especially to find out if we had any special wishes or requirements.
 
At the Jakhoo Temple
At the Jakhoo Temple
One of us wanted to avoid sugar, and he ensured that she got beautifully laid out fruit salads every day of our stay there. Another talked wistfully of fish he had tasted somewhere long ago, and there it was, in the barbecue the second night.
 
On our first morning in Shimla, we woke up to some amazing views of the mountains through the picture windows. After a nice, hot and filling breakfast buffet, we hired a car from the resort to drive us around Shimla. Though this was an extra cost, we opted for a car from the resort because our driver from Delhi could not be expected to know the routes and also might not be able to negotiate the mountain roads well as a local driver.
 
The weather was very pleasant and the drive was enjoyable. Most of Shimla lies between 2100 m and 2300 m. It used to be the summer capital in the times of the British Raj, thanks to its climate and terrain. History literally seeps through its bricks and stones, in its architecture and ambience.
 
The town itself offers many walks, day-trips, shopping, entertainment and museums and can also be your base for forays into the interior districts. Above all, it has got the famous Mall, one of the longest stretches of pedestrian shopping in the world.
 
Today's youngsters may not quite realise it, but Shimla had a close connection with India's freedom movement. It was here that ornithologist and former civil servant Allan Octavian Hume created the Indian National Congress which spearheaded the freedom struggle. Stalwarts such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, C Rajagopalachari, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Maulana Azad were also regular visitors to the town.
 
The town was also host to maor events such as the Shimla Conference in 1942 and the deliberations which finally led to the difficult decision to partition the country.
 
While the nostalgic elements are all over the place, Shimla today also has a youthful vigour. Its many attractions and the ease of accessibility have made it one of India's most popular hill resorts. 
 
Our driver-cum-guide took us first to the highest point in Shimla which has the famous Jakhoo Temple at its pinnacle. It is best to go to this place in a four-wheel drive as vehicles with less power would not be able to climb the rather steep gradient. The road to the top is long, narrow and winding. So it is good to have a driver who knows how to manouvre vehicles on such terrain. Many people had to leave their smaller vehicles on the way and had to trudge up.
 
The highest point was quite a surprise. There were lots of people and monkeys galore too.  Pilgrims were doing their bit by feeding the monkeys and the monkeys were doing their bit by checking out the vehicles.
 
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(In fact, our resort had bold signages for the guests cautioning them against leaving a window open here or there that would let in the curious simians, who could cause a lot of damage.)
 
The temple is popular with pilgrims and we saw many who were paying their obeisance to the very enormous vermillion Hanuman, the deity to whom this temple was dedicated.
 
After the temple, we proceeded to the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS), which used to be the Viceregal Lodge or the residence of the Viceroy of India in the summers. The building is huge and beautiful. It houses the Institute and the sight-seers were cautioned against making any noise and touching any of the handsome period furniture and objets d'art that were so plenty there.
 
We were shown around and were able to see the different rooms where monumental decisions regarding the future of the then pre-Independence India were taken. We felt a sense of pride unlike any other before...seeing the table where important documents and agreements were signed and the rooms where they were discussed and debated. Here, amongst these very same things, history was scripted and the future of millions of Indians was sealed. Photos of many of the ceremonies featuring the founding fathers of our nation among others were starting points of curious questions from the youngsters with us.  And when you club that with the state-of-the-art computer centre for the scholars who work here now, you feel an awesome patriotism for our dear country.
 
The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies
The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies
For those interested in details, the Viceroys and Governors-General who occupied Viceregal Lodge included  Marquess of Dufferin, 1884-88; Marquess of Landsdowne, 1888-94; Earl of Elgin, 1894-99; Marquess Curzon, 1899-1904 and 1904-05; Earl of Minto, 1905-10; Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, 1910-16; Viscount Chelmsford, 1916-21; Marquess of Reading, 1921-26; Lord Irwin, Earl of Halifax, 1926-31; Marquess of Willingdon, 1931-36; Marquess of Linlithgow, 1936-43; Earl Wavell, 1943-47 and Earl Mountbatten, April to August 1947.
 
You cannot fail to notice the elaborate wood-work of the building's interiors, the paneling and pilasters and the staircases with newels and handrails, all made of teak procured from Burma along with local cedar wood (deodar) and walnut. The huge estate around has a collection of rare and exotic plants and all kinds of grasses.
 
It was a heady feeling, to be in those environs and we spent a long time gazing at and discussing the events captured by the photographs and the furniture and other items on display.
 
We spent some time on the neat and pretty grounds. There is a fire engine station too, a tiny one by today’s standards, and now converted into a lovely cafe and souvenir shop. We picked up a few postcards to mail to friends and family. Truly, this place is a must-see for everyone who comes to this mountain capital.
 
The Mall
The Mall
After, the Institute, we headed to the Mall. The Mall in Shimla is famous. It is a plateau like area which has many things going on at the same time. First and foremost, the sun was shining brightly and people were soaking up the heat with pleasure. The Mall overlooks a cliff. This is barricaded with a long and beautiful wrought-iron parapet. There were pony-rides, food stalls and photographers. We could take our pick. While, some opted for the ethnic wear photo-session, others were oohing and aahing over the sights and munching away at the numerous snacks on sale.  The walk is extremely pleasant and the sights were truly exhilirating.
 
There was an old and pretty church at the Mall and we went in and lit some candles. The Mall is a pedestrian-only zone and has to be reached using a couple of elevators. One has to queue up to use the lift. Once you are out of the elevators, you reach a path flanked on one side by shops and eateries. This path leads up to the Mall. 
 
Senior citizens might find the incline of the road a bit tough, and we had one in our group, who opted out of the walk and preferred to sit and rest on one of benches thoughtfully provided on the wayside. We discovered that there were people with wheel chairs and prams on hire and many people made use of the facility. Near the Mall is the Lower Bazaar, which is a typical Indian marketplace where you can buy trinkets, silver jewellery, shawls, garments, handicrafts and a variety of other things. The entire area has a certain vibrancy, thanks to the hundreds of youngsters, many of them honeymooners, walking around.
 
After our time at the Mall, we had lunch at a cosy cafe attached to a hotel called Combermere. The food was piping hot and tasty. It was really good.
 
Walking up and down those paths had tired us out and nightfall saw us returning to the resort and dinner there. Bonfire and barbecue are very good things in the cold. The resort had organised one such event and dinner was indeed a warm and very happy time.
 
The next day we decided to travel to Kufri which is at a higher altitude (about 2800 metres) than Mashobra, where our resort was located. Kufri is about 15 km from Shimla and the highest point in the surrounding region. It has a zoo, with rare antelopes, felines and birds, including the Himalayan Monal. Kufri is famous for its ski-slopes and the amazing views it offers of deep valleys and thick forests. The Mahasu Peak is nearby.
 
The drive again was a very pleasant experience and we reached a place in Kufri which had pony rides and rustic looking eateries. Souvenier shops abound here and I did buy a small keepsake. And lots of photographs were taken. There is a nature park and a zoo in the vicinity, but we had to give them a miss because we were running short of time.
 
The Wildflower Hall, one of the best-known hotels in Shimla, was on the way back, and we stopped there for a cuppa. Lots of our friends had stayed there and told us we must at least visit the place.
Inside the church
Inside the church
 
The Wildflower hall used to be the residence of Lord Kitchener, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in India (1902-09) It is now an Oberoi property and they have maintained it well. The hotel is a stately place and evokes the times gone by. We had lunch planned elsewhere, so we opted to have some hot coffee and snacks. After a late lunch, we had a relaxed evening at our resort.
 
There are any number of places to see within Shimla, including the State Museum, the Lakkar Bazaar and the various temples and churches and scores of historical buildings. There also several day-tours that one can take to places like Chail, Narkhanda and Tattapani. One can also take longer trips to places such as Manali, Dharamshala and Kinnaur. We hope to go to all of these places some day.
 
For the present, we had to return home the next day. There was a strike scheduled by local taxi operators, and our driver said we had to leave before dawn the next day to avoid any trouble with the strikers. The staff at the resort offered to pack dry breakfast for us -- sandwiches, muffins, fruit and the such. We set our while it was still dark.
 
On the way, we took an impromptu decision to just drive through Chandigarh because two people in our group had not seen Le Corbusier's well planned city. That done, we were on our way to Delhi, stopping again at Oasis in Karnal for lunch. Later, we stopped at Pind Baluchi at Murthal, near Sonipat, on the highway.
 
By late afternoon, it was back again to the traffic jams in the national capital, making us wonder if Shimla was a dream. We decided that we needed to go there once again for longer next time.
Rachel Sonny Abraham
Rachel Sonny Abraham

Rachel Sonny Abraham works full-time at NetIndian. She is a travel writer, writes a food blog and runs a clothing business.

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Virbhadra Singh files defamation cases against BJP's Jaitley, Dhumal

Virbhadra Singh files defamation case against Jaitley, Dhumal
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh today said he had filed a defamation case against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Arun Jaitley, Prem Kumar Dhumal and Mr Dhumal's sons Arun Thakur and Anurag Thakur for alleging that he and his wife had taken bribes from a company setting up a power project in the state.
 
Mr Singh has consistently denied the allegations and accused Mr Dhumal, his predecessor, and his sons and the BJP, in general, of hounding him with such charges.
 
"I have filed three defamation cases under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code against Jaitley, Dhumal, Anurag Thakur and Arun," Virbhadra Singh told journalists.
 
Mr Jaitley had, at a press conference in Delhi on December 30, said that he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding an inquiry and action against Mr Virbhadra Singh in the matter of the alleged payoffs.
 
The Chief Minister and his wife Pratibha Singh were alleged to have accepted Rs 1.5 crore and Rs 2.4 crore, respectively, through cheques from Venture Energy and Technology Pvt Ltd, which was executing a power project in the state.
 
Mr Singh said the Dhumal family was acting in panic because of a probe into alleged corruption and land scams against them initiated by the state government.
 
Mr Anurag Thakur is the Lok Sabha member from Hamirpur and administrator of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA).
 
He also alleged that Mr Dhumal had indulged in illegal phone-tapping against his political opponents, his own colleagues, officials and journalists during his regime.
 
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Mr Singh has said that he and his wife had taken personal loans from the promoter of the power company, at a time when the BJP was ruling the state and he could not have helped it in any way, and that they were repaying the amount through cheques.
 
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20 killed, several injured as bus falls into gorge in Himachal Pradesh

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At least 20 people were killed and more than a dozen others injured when a private bus carrying them plunged into a 500 feet deep gorge at Bharari, about 15 km from Nohradhar in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh this morning.
 
Reports reaching here said 18 people died on the spot while two others succumbed to their injuries in hospital.
 
The bus, with about 32 people on board, was on its way from Purandhar to Solan when the mishap occurred around 7.20 am at a spot about 200 km from here.
 
Himachal Pradesh Governor Urmila Singh and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh expressed grief over the accident and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved families.
 
The State Government has provided a sum of rupees Rs. 10,000 each to the next of kin of those killed in the mishap and Rs 5000 each to those injured.
 
The State Government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident, official sources added.
 
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Sukh Ram's son Anil Sharma sworn in as new Cabinet Minister in Himachal Pradesh

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Mr Anil Sharma, son of former Union Minister Sukh Ram, was sworn in yesterday as a Cabinet Minister in the Himachal Pradesh government.

Mr Sharma was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Urmila Singh at a function at Raj Bhavan that was attended by Chief Minister Virbhadra Sngh and several other dignitaries.
 
Mr Sharma was elected to the state legislative assembly for the third time during the recent elections. He had served as Minister for Youth Services, Sports and Forests in 1993. He has also served as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
 
He has been given the portfolio of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj and Animal Husbandry, an official press release added.
 
With his induction, the strength of the two-month-old Virbhadra Singh cabinet has gone up to 11.
 
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Free travel in state buses for govt. school students in Himachal Pradesh

Students of government schools in Himachal Pradesh will be allowed free travel to school and back in Himchal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) buses with effect from April 1 this year.

This was decided at a meeting of the state cabinet held here yesterday under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
 
An official press release said the facility would be available to the students for travel from home to school and back, except on holidays.
 
The decision was in keeping with an announcement made by the Chief Minister on January 25 on the occasion of Statehood Day, the release added.
 
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Virbhadra Singh to become Himachal Pradesh CM for sixth time

 
Virbhadra Singh to be next Himachal CM, for the sixth time

Former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh will be the next Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh after the newly-elected Congress members of the state assembly chose him as the new leader of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP).

This will be Mr Singh's sixth term as Chief Minister of the state, and he is expected to be sworn in on December 25.
 
Congress General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi told newsmen here yesterday evening that Congress President Sonia Gandhi had decided on Mr Virbhadra Singh after a team of the party's central observers ascertained the views of the newly elected legislators.
 
Mr Dwivedi said the observers had met all the new MLAs of the party and heard their views, which were conveyed to Ms Gandhi. The MLAs adopted a resolution authorising Ms Gandhi to announce the new CLP chief.
 
In the elections held on November 4, the Congress bagged 36 seats in the 68-member assembly while the ruling BJP had to rest content with 26 seats. Others got six seats.
 
Mr Singh is now expected to discuss the formation of the new government with the party high command in Delhi.
 
Besides Mr Dwivedi, the Congress central observers were Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, party secretary Anees Ahmed and the party's in-charge of Himachal Pradesh Birender Chaudhary.
 
Mr Singh had earlier served as Chief Minister of the state from April 1983 to March 1990, December 1993 to March 1998 and from March 2003 to 2007. He was also Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly between 1998 and 2003.
 
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Mr Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile ruling family of the princely state of Bushahr in Himachal Pradesh, has also been elected to the Lok Sabha five times. At the Centre, he has served as Cabinet Minister for Steel and later for Mico, Small and Medium Enterprises before resigning in June this year following allegations of corruption.
 
Mr Singh studied at the Bishop Cotton's School in Shimla before taking a B.A. (Hons.) from St. Stephen's College in Delhi and an MA from the University of Delhi.
 
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Nearly 75% voters exercise their franchise in Himachal Assembly polls

Voters in a queue to cast their vote at a polling booth at Sanjoli in Shimla district during the elections to the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly on November 4, 2012.
Voters in a queue to cast their vote at a polling booth at Sanjoli in Shimla district during the elections to the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly on November 4, 2012.

A record 74.66 per cent of the 4.60 million voters exercised their franchise in the elections to the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly today.

The previous high of 74.51 per cent polling was recorded in the 2003 assembly elections in the state.
 
The highest turnout in today's polling was recorded in the Doon constituency in Solan district at 86.71 per cent, the Election Commission said.
 
Shimla district, which traditionally suffers from urban apathy, had a voter turnout of 67.44% today against the 65.41% turnout in the last assembly elections.
 
The Shimla constituency recorded 50 per cent voting today against 47.15 per cent in the last election.
 
Voting began on a sluggish note today, with just nine per cent polling recorded in the first hour, but picked up pace as the day progressed and long queues of voters, including women, were seen at many places as the weather remained pleasant.
 
Polling was peaceful and no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere, except for minor clashes between workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress at a couple of places.
 
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who contested from Hamirpur, cast his vote at Samirpur, now part of the Bhoranj constituency. The Congress' chief ministerial candidate Virbhadra Singh, who contested from Shimla (Rural), exercised his franchise at his native place in Rampur town.
 
A total of 459 candidates, including 34 women, were in the fray in the elections.
 
In all, 4608359 voters, incluing 2231772 women, were eligible to exercise their franchise in the single-phase poll.
 
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress contested all 68 seats, while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fielded candidates for 66 seats.
 
The Communist Party of India (CPI) fielded seven candidates, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) 16, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 12, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) 25, Samajwadi Party (SP) 15, Himachal Lok Hit Party 36, Lok Jan Shakti Party 18, Himachal Swabhiman Party 15, Shiv Sena 4,  Indian Justice Party 1, Bhartiya Bahujan Pary 2, and Hindustan Nirman Dal 1. There were also 105 independents in the fray.
 
As many as 9191 electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used in the election at 7252 polling stations.
 
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Himachal bus mishap toll rises to 15; inquiry ordered

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The death toll in last night's Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation (HPRTC) bus accident at Faidapul near Nerwa in Chopal sub-division of this district has risen to 15 with four more people succumbing to their injuries in hospital.
 
Officials said here today that the state government had ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident.
 
The bus carrying 31 local passengers from Chopal town to Dharchana village skidded off the road and rolled down into a 300-feet deep gorge near Nerwa, 120 km from here last evening.
 
Eleven people, including the driver, died on the spot while 15 others were rushed to Nahan and Poanta Hospital where four passengers succumbed to their injuries. Some of the injured have been referred to Chandigarh’s PGI Hospital, he added.
 
The deceased were identified as Ramesh Kumar (39), Anil (20), Mangat Ram (48), Naresh Kumar (44), HPTRC driver, Ram Lal (34), Padam Singh (65), Veer Singh (55), Bhadur Singh (38), Mohan Singh (52), Braham Dutt (38), Santosh Kumar (16), Sia Ram (25), Moti Singh (25), Puja (16) and one unidentified.
 
The deceased belonged to Chopal, Shilai and Sangrah areas of the state. The accident site recently experienced heavy snowfall.
 
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