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A Shimla cafe where prisoners serve pizzas

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Shimla cafe
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Shimla, April 17: It’s a real life scene right out of reel life.

Hindi films “Karma” and “Do Aankhen Barah Haath” showed convicts being taken out of prison to be reformed. Now, in Shimla’s first Book Cafe inmates of a sub-jail near here are trained by a renowned hotel to serve cookies and pizza they have baked.

The cafe, with a seating capacity of 40 and constructed at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, was opened by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh last week.

It is located right above the Ridge — once the promenade for the British colonial rulers when this city was their summer capital — and on the way to the famed Jakhu temple.

The four who run the cafe are Jai Chand, Yog Raj, Ram Lal and Raj Kumar, all of whom are serving life imprisonment at the Kaithu jail near Shimla, Director General (Prisons) Somesh Goyal told IANS.

The first-of-its-kind cafe in the country is funded by the state’s Tourism Department. It is open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. At night, the prisoners return to the jail.

Goyal, who has also been credited with reforming prisoners through music, said employing prisoners at the cafe was an attempt to rehabilitate them.

“This cafe has given us the chance to connect to the world,” Jai Chand told IANS.

Another beaming jail inmate, Yog Raj, said this cafe had given them a chance to get employment once they walk out of the prison.

“This is being run by four of us independently. Even the visitors, the locals, don’t show any apprehension while interacting with us. Indeed, they are keen to know more about our radical transformation,” he added.

Most of the time, the cafe, which offers free Wi-Fi access, is occupied by visitors reading books on wildlife, environment, tourism and Shimla’s history while sipping coffee.

It has books of authors like Chetan Bhagat, Nikita Singh, and French novelist Jules Verne, besides educational books, magazines and newspapers.

“The cafe has a good collection of books of national and international authors,” Shimla Deputy Mayor Tikender Panwar said.

For tourist Rewti Menon and her husband John Philip, it was a unique experience to interact with the prisoners.

“This cafe has given them another opportunity to live with dignity. Such experiments with an extensive support network will deter them from returning to crime,” Philip said.

Last year, 10 inmates of the Central Jail in Nahan in Sirmaur district performed at the Gaiety Theatre here at a public function.

And the Chief Minister was among those who enjoyed their performance.

According to jail authorities, five of the 10 prisoners are undergoing life sentence for murder and two are facing trial under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

Special music classes were organised by prison authorities for almost a month to train the inmates in singing and playing instruments.

They sang Himachali folk songs, qawwali and Sufiana songs of Bollywood movies.

By- Vishal Gulati

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])

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BJP Minister caught urinating in public near campaign poster, Calls it ‘Old-age Tradition’

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Ajmer, Oct 8: A picture of Bhartiya Janata Party minister urinating near a wall, next to a campaign poster featuring chief minister Vasundhara Raje is making rounds on social media.

The minister, Shambhu Singh Khatesar, justified himself by saying that urinating publicly was “an age-old tradition” and he had done nothing wrong.

Speaking to media Khatesar said, “There was a wall and some posters stuck at some distance on it. I hadn’t paid attention. It isn’t right to urinate in open but it’s a natural call. Urinating in a crowded area, is wrong”.

On the Narendra Modi government cleanness drive the minister stated “As far as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is concerned, urination alone doesn’t contribute to uncleanliness. That place did not have urinals for kilometers at a stretch”.

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IMD issues cyclone alert for Odisha

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Bhubneshwar, Oct 8:  The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday said a depression over the Bay of Bengal is likely to concentrate into a cyclonic storm during the next 48 hours.

Under its impact, several parts of Odisha will receive heavy rainfall starting from October 9.

Fishermen have been advised not to venture into deep sea areas of the Bay of Bengal from October 9 to 12 as the sea condition would be rough.

While rainfall at many places with heavy downpour at isolated places over south coastal Odisha is likely to occur on Tuesday, heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places over coastal Odisha is likely to occur on Wednesday.

It further predicted rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy downpours at a few places and extremely heavy downpour at isolated places over coastal and adjoining interior Odisha on Thursday.

The IMD said squally winds with speeds reaching 45-55 kmph to 65 kmph are very likely along and off north Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal coasts from October 9.

It is very likely to increase gradually, reaching 70-80 kmph to 90 kmph from October 10 evening onwards along and off south Odisha and adjoining districts of north Andhra Pradesh coasts, said H.R. Biswas, Bhubaneswar Met centre Director.

IANS

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Russia, Pakistan sign MoU on gas pipeline from Iran

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Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline

Moscow, Sep 28 (IANS) Russia and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding on implementing a project to build an underwater gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and India, the Russian Energy Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

“The memorandum provides for the identification of authorized organisations through which the project will be supported, including during the development of a feasibility study, identification of the resource base, configuration and route of the gas pipeline,” the statement said, Xinhua reported.

Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky and Pakistan’s Ministry of Energy Additional Secretary Sher Afgan Khan signed the document in Moscow.

Now Russia will have to inform Iran and India about the signing, after which it expects to sign a similar document with India, Yanovsky said in the statement.

The project was frozen in 2013 due to the imposition of sanctions against Iran, but its revival started in 2017. In November 2017, Russia and Iran signed a memorandum that envisaged Russian support for gas supplies from Iran to India.

In March, a Russian-Iranian working group on the implementation of the project had its first meeting.

According to Yanovsky, Russia and Pakistan were holding consultations on another project of building the 1,100 kilometer North-South Gas Pipeline (NSGP) between Pakistan’s Karachi and Lahore to transport 12.3 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

The implementation of an agreement signed in October last year between Russia and Pakistan on Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies “can become a promising direction of cooperation,” he said.

The governments of the two countries were also considering signing an agreement on Russian oil products supplies to Pakistan, Yanovsky said.

In addition, Russian electric power industry has shown interest in the Pakistani market, he said.

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