|H I M A C H A L
P R A D E S H
Monday, January 18, 1999
Ruckus at grievances panel
washes hands off Apollo project
Power tariff hike
apathy worries tea growers
lakh kids given polio drops
Ruckus at grievances panel
SOLAN, Jan 17 Uproarious scenes marked the meeting of the District Grievances Committee (DGC) here on Friday.
Heat was generated when a non official member, raised the issue of the alleged disrespect shown to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee by a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO). He informed the committee that the DFO while dealing with an application seeking a no-objection certificate for the setting up a sand quarry at Damkari village, 5 km from here, had stated that he would not issue the NOC even if the Prime Minister directed him.
It was alleged that the DFO did not use the prefix Mr before the name of the Prime Minister. Even as the DFO informed the house that the applicant's request for the NOC was declined on the ground that the area sought to be converted into the quarry fell in a wild life sanctuary where no such activity was legally permitted, some BJP members started shouting demanding unconditional apology from the officer.
The ADM who was designated as secretary of the committee, interjected and pleaded that issues of such private nature could not be discussed in the grievances committee meeting.
The ADM's remarks brought certain senior BJP members to their feet, some of whom rushed to his table asking him to retract his statement. This resulted in a verbal free for all between the non official members with the official members watching the proceedings helplessly.
A semblance of order was restored when the ADM and the Deputy Commissioner apologised for the former's statement at the instance of the Minister of State for Town and Country Planning, Mr Hari Narain Singh, who chaired the meeting.
Inquiries made by this
correspondent revealed that an Assistant Conservator of
Forests, who had in 1992 granted the NOC to the same
applicant for the sand quarry at the same place, had been
transferred from here and an inquiry ordered for granting
the NOC for an area that fell under the wild life
Govt washes hands off Apollo
DHARAMSALA, Jan 17 While the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, has won bouquets by getting recognition for the Tanda Medical College, the government has virtually washed its hands off the prestigious Apollo Hospital project by reducing it to the status of "Mr Shanta Kumar's baby".
Eversince the BJP government headed by Mr Dhumal came to power, the former Chief Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, was asked to negotiate with the management of the Apollo chain to restart the project conceived during the regime of Mr Shanta Kumar. Initially, the government had hinted that it would not be wise to have two medical colleges in one district, but later on it entrusted the entire responsibility of carrying out talks with the Apollo group on Mr Shanta Kumar's shoulders.
Political observers say that the disinterest shown by the government in the Apollo project to be set up at Holta near Palampur was a direct consequence of the rivalry between Mr Dhumal and Mr Shanta Kumar. They point out that it is only by taking up the matter at the government level that a massive and prestigious project like the Apollo can come through.
Just to make a dent in Kangra, which happens to be the home district and stronghold of Mr Shanta Kumar, the Chief Minister ensured that the Tanda Medical College, started by the Virbhadra Singh regime got recognition. "The government had never taken the same interest and pain in the Apollo project, simply for the reason that it was the idea of Mr Shanta Kumar, who happens to beat the arch rival of Mr Dhumal," commented a Shanta supporter. The Shanta loyalists say that they are pained at the step-motherly treatment being meted out to the Apollo project, whereas a project started by the Congress regime has become functional.
Politically, it could be very damaging for Mr Shanta Kumar if the Apollo project does not come through during the BJP regime. During the Virbhadra regime the BJP kept accusing the Congress government of trying to "sabotage" the project, but now with their own party in power, they will be no excuse. In fact, the issue of setting up a hospital by the Apollo group, at Holta, near Palampur, has been mentioned in the election manifesto of the BJP during the assembly poll in February. The Chief Minister during his election rallies in Baijnath recently had promised to the people that the government would set up the Apollo Hospital near Palampur.
At his own level the former Chief Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, has reportedly been taking up the matter with the chairman of the Apollo group, Mr Pratap Reddy. Initially, the Apollo group had agreed to set up the college and the hospital if 85 per cent of the seats could be reserved for the NRIs, but with the Medical Council of India, refusing to agree to such a huge percentage for the NRIs, the matter is still pending. As of now the hospital and college can be set only if the Dhumal government agrees to fulfil the commitment made by Mr Shanta Kumar while he was the Chief Minister. Under this arrangement, the state government will have to help in the construction of buildings with its own resources and through donations. Once the project is ready 40 per cent of the beds in the hospital and 40 per cent seats will be reserved for Himachalis. But with the government not taking much interest, the project is still pending, much against the wishes of the people of Kangra, for whom it would have provided specialised services.
Supporters of Mr Shanta Kumar say that the Apollo project was only one case, but there are a number of instances where Mr Dhumal and his supporters have tried to humiliate Shanta loyalists.
The appointment of a
junior minister like Mr Rajan Sushant as the Chairman of
the District Grievances Committee, is also being dubbed
as an effort in this direction. Resentment is brewing
among the MLAs belonging to the Shanta group, especially
in Kangra, over the manner in which they are being
ignored and their constituencies being starved of funds.
At the same time Kangra too was being meted out
step-motherly treatment at the cost of other districts.
16-cr sewerage scheme for
KULU (MANALI), Jan 17 The Himachal Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, today announced the opening of a degree college at Banjar in Kulu district from the next academic session provided land was made available by the local residents. He was addressing a gathering of fruit growers at Kulu.
Mr Dhumal said Rs 16 crore had been sanctioned for the sewerage scheme at Kulu and Bhuntar and the provision for this had been made in the Plan and the second phase of district hospital building here would also be taken up in next financial year.
He said keeping in view the problems caused by floods in the Kulu-Manali area the government had decided to entrust the work to the IPH and the flood protection division at Kulu and Bhuntar.
Reiterating his government's resolve to improve the socio-economic condition of the fruit-growers and the farmers in the state, Mr Dhumal said the prosperity of the state depended on their well being.
He said his government had started work on the construction of a Kisan Bhavan at Delhi.
Mr Dhumal said effective steps were being taken to harness the hydroelectric potential expeditiously. The agreement with the NHPC for the construction of MW Parbati Hydroelectric Project was also in the larger interests of the state. He said 80 per cent Class III and IV employees would be recruited from Himachal besides 30 per cent at the executive level.
He said the present state government had also succeeded in getting waived a penalty of Rs 38 crore which was put on it due to the default of the previous Congress government for not making the payment in time.
Mr Kishori Lal, Industries Minister, detailed the achievement of the government in the past 10 months and asked people to compare it with four-year rule of the Congress.
Mr Narinder Bragta, Minister of State for Horticulture said the Rs 30-crore Agro packaging carton factory at Pragtinagar was running at a loss of Rs 34 crore when the present government took over. The present government had strengthened it by sanctioning Rs 3 crore thereby raising its production capacity and added that 45 lakh cartons had been produced in it this year.
Mr Parveen Sharma, Minister of State for Youth Services and Sports said the work on the construction of stadium at Kulu would be completed by next year.
Mr Karan Singh, Minister of State, Primary Education said 2100 vidya upasaks would be appointed soon to fill up the vacant posts in the schools.
Mr Maheshwar Singh, MP, said the government was safeguarding interests of all sections. He urged for Shalan-Kulu road construction.
The Chief Minister inaugurated the 81-metres-long suspension foot bridge linking Batahar village and the hatchery of the Indo-Norwegian trout fish project on the Manali-Kulu road.
The old suspension foot bridge was washed away in floods in 1995.
MANDI (UNI): The Chief Minister said the work on 16 MW Patikri hydroelectric project in the district would be started soon. The project would open new vista of employment in the state, he added.
Addressing a public meeting after inaugurating Panjin-Kansuwala road at Panjin in interior of the Chachiot area last evening Mr Dhumal said the government had formulated a plan to harness the identified hydel potential of the state within the next 15 years which had been estimated one fourth of the entire country.
Power tariff hike criticised
SHIMLA, Jan 17 Mr Harsh Mahajan, Vice-President of the Pradesh Congress Committee, has criticised the recent hike in power tariff and termed it as a retrograde step.
In a statement issued here today he said the industrial units which had been attracted to Himachal Pradesh because of the availability of cheap power would suffer because of the hike. The Dhumal government was handing out a raw deal to the industry. This would further affect industrialisation in the state.
The hike had further burdened domestic consumers who were already paying more due to the overall increase in the prices of all essential commodities caused by the wrong policies of the BJP government in the Centre and the state. He said the level of prices was still very high in the state as compared to the neighbouring states where these had been controlled.
Mr Mahajan said ever since the BJP government had taken over in the state jobless youth had lost all hope of employment during the present regime. Tests and interviews held earlier had been scrapped arbitrarily, putting the career of thousands of youths in a jeopardy.
He further said the BJP government in the state was inexperienced and ineffective in running the affairs of the state. The factionalism within the party had come out in the open with the Dhumal government trying to belittle senior Cabinet ministers by making a minister of state as chairman of the District Grievances Committee in Kangra.
The BJP government was promoting only a small band of officers, who openly owed allegiance to the BJP and the RSS. Some officers were being termed as being pro-Virbhadra Singh while others were being sidelined for being pro-Shanta Kumar. Merit was the last consideration for the government. Several posts in directorates and offices were lying vacant for the past many months.
The Punjab pay scales had
not been implemented in toto and the DA instalment had
not been released. Transfers were taking place despite a
ban on the same, as a result the functioning of offices
was being affected.
Govt apathy worries tea growers
PALAMPUR: The recent decision of the Prem Kumar Dhumal Government to enhance the wages of labourers working in the tea industry here by 55 per cent has caused widespread resentment among tea growers here. The state government has enhanced the wages of tea workers from Rs 36 to Rs 51 per day.
Mr Kunj Behari Lal Butail, a leading tea grower, says that tea industry in the state has become a "no man's baby" since the state government is not sincere in the development of the Kangra tea industry. At present three different departments are associated with the expansion and development of the tea industry causing inconvenience to growers. He says there should be only one department to look after the tea industry so that all problems of tea growers could be solved under one window.
Referring to the hike in the wages of tea plantation workers, he says the wages in other tea growing states were between Rs 25 and Rs 30 while in Himachal Pradesh if wages announced by the state government are implemented it would touch Rs 75, inclusive of benefits such as bonus, lean period wages and the provident fund paid for by estate and plantation owners.
Mr Butail says that enhancement in the wages should also be linked to productivity. When wages were hiked by Rs 2.50 in 1993, the plucking quantity was also raised from 19.5 kg to 21 kg.
The central government in collaboration with the National Development Corporation has launched a Rs 25-crore project for the integrated development of tea in the valley. Under this project, funds would be provided to cooperatives to upgrade their technology, strengthen infrastructure, and improve both the quality and quantity of tea produced there. There is also a plan to revive sick units and persuade tea growers to revive those plantations which were abandoned two decades ago.
In fact, tea cooperatives established in the valley have gone a long way to improve their quality of tea and solving the problems of tea growers. Yet, much remains to be done in this field. At present, four cooperative tea factories Bir, Baijnath, Palampur and Sidhwari are functioning.
In 1980, one of the biggest tea factories was set up at Palampur in the cooperative sector. The factory has been designed to produce over six lakh kg of tea per annum. It is equipped for both the CTC and orthodox makes of tea. Each of the three other factories in the valley have the capacity to produce two lakh to three lakh kg of tea per annum.
Tea has been cultivated and manufactured in Kangra valley since the middle of the last century. It was first introduced between 1830 and 1840 by a famous European tea planters' firm, known Nissan Tea Company. The valley grows a hybrid variety of China tea to be rich in flavour and compares favourably with tea grown in other parts of the world.
At present the total area
under tea is about 2000 hectares with a total production
of 1.5 million kg of tea. The average production is
between 600 and 700 kg per hectare as against 800 kg in
Darjeeling and 1500 kg at the national level. Even though
industry is in utter neglect, yet well managed tea
gardens like Bundla, Mansimbal, Wah, Khalet and Rajpur
tea estates are still producing yields comparable to the
6.5 lakh kids given polio drops
SHIMLA, Jan 17 (PTI) About 6.50 lakh children were administered polio drops in Himachal Pradesh today in the second phase of the pulse-polio campaign.
The state Health Department in association with voluntary organisations had set up over 5,000 booths to ensure complete coverage of eligible children.
The Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, inaugurated the programme at Kulu by administering polio drops to children.
Speaking on the occasion,
he emphasised the need for mental and physical
development of children and asked people to take adequate
preventive steps against other diseases covered under the
immunisation and reproductive child health programme.
Winter carnival concludes
MANALI, Jan 17 Adity Satish of Kirti Kala Mandir, Nasik, Maharashtra, was crowned Winter Queen at Winter Carnival '99 here. Anita Vishawkarama of Jabalpur was the first runner-up and Virajdas of Scope, Pune, the second runner up.
The following are the results: Jhanki Kala Manch, Muktsar, Punjab (1), Kirti Kala Mandir, Nasik (2); fancy dress Sutar Dhar Kala Sangam, Kulu; skit Muktsar Kala Mandir; western dance Scope, Pune, and New Era Group, fashion show Kirti Kala Mandir, Nasik' film song Vipasha Club, Katrain.
The all-rounder best trophy was won by Kirti Kala Mandir, Nasik. The best behaviour team award went to New Era Group of Tamil Nadu.
The concluding function
was presided over by Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief
Minister, Himachal Pradesh, this evening. While
addressing the gathering, he said this carnival would be
organised at the state level in future. He also granted
Rs 5 lakh for the construction of a stadium at Manali. Mr
Dhumal said the water supply scheme would be augmented at
Manali. He also said the police force in Manali
subdivision would be increased.
No plan to split BJP: Dhawan
JAWALAMUKHI, Jan 17 The Congress is not "hatching any conspiracy" to engineer a split in the BJP to form government at the Centre AICC General Secretary R.K. Dhawan has said.
Talking to newspersons here today Mr Dhawan said there was no truth in reports that the Congress was trying to seek defections in the BJP. Mr Dhawan who is also in charge of the party's Himachal affairs, said the Congress was not in favour of a mid-term poll keeping in mind the burden it would have on the national exchequer. But at the same time it was ready to face the electorate if it became inevitable, he added. "The BJP-led coalition government at the Centre will die its own death and in that case, the Congress will perform its duty to the nation in a dignified way to avoid a snap poll".
The Congress leader said he had vowed to enforce party discipline in Himachal Pradesh and denied having stated that the HPCC President, Mr Sat Mahajan, would be ousted as appeared in a section of the Press.
Mr Dhawan who has been
sent to observe party functioning in Himachal by party
chief Sonia Gandhi, said it was hightime Congress leaders
united and offered a tough fight against the
"misrule" of the BJP government.
Training courses affected
SHIMLA, Jan 17 The Technical Employees Association of ITIs has said that training courses have been hit due to vacancies of instructors in the institutes in Himachal Pradesh.
Thakur Raj Kumar, general secretary of the association, yesterday said that seven posts of principal and nine posts of foreman have been lying vacant for the past two years. This was not only affected the training courses, but has also created stagnation in the department.
Probe sought into regional
NAHAN, Jan 17 The Parvatiya Lok Shakti Sangthan , a non-government voluntary organisation demanded that a commission be appointed by the Himachal Government to determine the increase in per capita income in apple growing areas vis-a-vis other areas of the state over the past fifty years.
Resolution adopted at its
meeting here on Wednesday, Parvatiya Shakti Sangathan
said that liberal and preferential allocation of bugetary
provisions to apple growing areas by successive state
governments brought prosperity to the apple belt at the
expense of middle and low-lying areas of the state. The
meeting expressed concern over utter lack of
infrastructural facilities in districts like Sirmaur,
Bilaspur, Hamirpur and parts of Chamba and Solan
Virbhadra flays power tariff hike
UNA, Jan 17 --- Former HP Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has criticised the BJP government over the increase in electricity rates. He has also criticised the CM for saying that the rates were increased during the Congress rule. Mr Virbhadra Singh, addressing mediapersons here yesterday, said it was wrong to suggest that rates of electricity were increased during the Congress rule.
He said the Congress did not increase electricity charges of domestic users and the rate of commercial and industrial electricity were increased during the Congress rule.
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