Friday, July 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

HP raises old-age, widow pensions
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 18
The Himachal government today decided to increase the Social Security Pension for the old, widows and disabled persons from Rs 150 to Rs 200 per month from August 1.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the state Cabinet held here under the chairmanship of Mr P.K. Dhumal, Chief Minister. It also decided to increase rehabilitation allowance for lepers from Rs 170 to Rs 220 per month. The decisions will benefit 1,69,039 persons and put a burden of Rs 10.15 crore per annum on the state. The Social Security Pension has been raised for the second time in the past four years. Earlier it was increased from Rs 100 to Rs 150 in August 1998.

Giving details of the Cabinet decisions, the Chief Secretary, Mr Harsh Gupta said the draft implementation agreement to be signed between the government and NJPC for the execution of the Rampur Hydel Project was approved. The project would be a joint venture between the Centre and the state having equity participation of 75 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively. The debt-equity ratio in the Rampur project would be 70:30 whereas it was 50:50 in the Nathpa Jhakri Project. Thus, financial burden on the state government would be much less. This was a major improvement over the Nathpa Jhakri project.

Further, at least 40 per cent of the overall staff of the corporation would be taken on deputation or absorption basis from the state electricity board on mutually agreed basis at all times, including the operation and maintenance stage. The corporation would ensure that at least 75 per cent of the unskilled and semi-skilled (class III and class IV) staff were bonafide Himachalis and the agreement also provided that the contractors engaged by the management would give preference to local people while employing labour.

For the first time a provision to constitute a state-level joint monitoring committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary to the state with appropriate membership had been made in the agreement. This would help avoid cost and time over-runs. It was also decided by the Cabinet that the project should be executed with in a time frame and firmed up cost estimates.

Mr Gupta said that the Cabinet also gave nod for offering the 100 MW Tidong project and the 60 MW Sorang project in Kinnaur district, 144 MW Sawra Kuddu project and 46 MW Chirgaon-Majhgaon hydel project in Shimla district to the private sector for execution. While the Sorang, Tidong and Chirgaon-Majhgaon hydel projects and proposed to be taken up through MOU route, Sawra Kuddu would be put up International competitive bidding.

These projects would help generate approximately 1200 million units of power annually which would bring annual revenue of about Rs 43 crore as royalty in the first 12 years of their operation and thereafter approximately Rs 65 crore in the subsequent 28 years of operation to the state. The Chief Secretary said a scheme for the appointment of junior engineers in the Departments of Public Works, Irrigation & Public Health and the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board on contract basis for a period of three years against the vacancies in tribal and difficult areas was also approved. Fifty per cent of the posts of junior engineer to be filled by the respective departments would be on batch-wise and 50 per cent on merit basis.

It was decided that the reduced water charges would be collected solely by the Irrigation and Public Health Department henceforth, instead of Panchayati Raj Institutions so that the responsibility was fixed clearly.

It also gave approval for amending the Section 74 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 so as to grant indemnity from prosecution to the staff of the Forest Department for any thing done or omitted or ordered to be done, in good faith so as to check illicit felling, smuggling of timber and poaching of wild animals. An ordinance for the proposed amendment, as the Assembly was not in session, would be promulgated.

The Cabinet also gave approval for amending the Himachal Pradesh Nurses Registration Act, to make the Director, Medical Education ex-officio President of the council in place of the Director of State Health Services.

The Cabinet reviewed the implementation of its orders and decisions regarding the regularisation of daily wageworkers in various departments of the state. It was stressed that the process should be made time-bound with personal attention of the administrative secretaries.

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