|H I M A C H A L
P R A D E S H
Thursday, August 19, 1999
Ruckus in Himachal
Unas river of
annoyed with BJP
apple from OGL list: House
Ruckus in Himachal Assembly
SHIMLA, Aug 18 Noisy scenes were witnessed in the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha today over the issue of 2090 "irregular" appointments in various boards and corporations during the previous Congress regime.
Much heat was generated in the House while the Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, was giving a detailed reply to a question regarding these appointments which was tabled by Mr Jai Ram Thakur and Mr Vipin Parmar (both BJP).
The Chief Minister said the government was considering the question of ordering a judicial inquiry into these appointments.
However, Congress members were not satisfied with this and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Virbhadra Singh, demanded that not only these appointments, but also those made during the current BJP regime should be looked into by a sitting judge of the High Court.
Mr Dhumal also laid on the table of the House the report of the official committee headed by Mr Avay Shukla which held the inquiry into the appointments made during the Congress rule.
The Chief Minister said the inquiry was ordered to identify the irregularities and prevent the vitiation of procedures in future.
Citing some examples he pointed out that 33 appointments in the HP Agro Industries Corporation were irregular as neither prior approval of the Finance Department or the service committee was obtained nor these recruitments were made through the employment exchanges. Applications were entertained directly.
The Chief Minister said the approval of the service committee or the board of directors was not obtained while recruiting 87 daily wage earners in the state Industrial Development Corporation.
Educational and eligibility criteria was not observed while employing 58 daily wage earners in the Agro-Industrial packaging India Ltd. A number of irregularities had reportedly taken place in this unit for which a separate inquiry was being conducted.
Mr Dhumal said 232 appointments in the HPSEB were irregular as these were made directly without referring these to the employment exchange.
He said that 75 appointments were made in the HP Housing Board without following the recruitment procedure.
The Congress members were on their legs and shouted slogans when the Chief Minister said that the government would consider ordering a judicial probe into the matter of these "irregular" appointments. They wanted that the appointments made by the BJP Government should also be got probed.
Dr Virbhadra Singh said that as many as 3700 recruitments were made in the PWD by the present regime in violation of rules.
He demanded that the Chief Minister should give a categorical assurance of getting the appointments made till August 15 by the present BJP Government probed by a sitting judge of the High Court.
Meanwhile, the report of the Shukla Committee, which was placed on the table of the House by the Chief Minister, has recommended that a more thorough inquiry by a team of officials of the Personnel Department should be held into the affairs of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, Agro-Industrial Packaging India Ltd, the Social Welfare Advisory Board, the Nagar Vikas Pradhikaran, the HPSEB and the Forest Corporation.
In written reply to a question of Mr Gangu Ram Musafir (Cong), the Chief Minister informed him that the government incurred an expenditure of Rs 13.20 lakh on the offices and residential telephones of ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries during three months between April to June this year.
Thakur Kaul Singh (Cong) through a call attention motion expressed concern over the rising number of bus accidents in the state in which several persons were killed.
Transport Minister, K.K. Kapoor denied that there was any shortage of buses on any route. He said most of the accidents occurred because of other reasons such as bad roads.
The assembly adopted a resolution complimenting the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, for the deft handling of the Kargil crisis and to pay homage to the valiant soldiers who had laid down their lives defending the frontiers amidst a walkout by the Congress which disagreed with the part of the resolution commending Mr Vajpayee.
The leader of the Opposition, Mr Virbhadra Singh was on his legs as soon as the Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal finished his reply to the debate indicating the inability of his party to support the resolution. He said Mr Vajpayee had done nothing to earn such praise and moreover Mr Dhumal had not been able to give a convincing reply to the points raised by him. It would be in the fitness of things if the government had waited for the report of the inquiry committee set up by the Centre to probe the lapses which led to Kargil intrusion, he said.
His party fully appreciated the role of brave soldiers who laid down their lives and those who sustained grave injuries while defending the motherland but it could not support the resolution in the present form as it sought to glorify the government whose negligence led to the intrusion.
Mr Dhumal condemned the "irresponsible" behaviour of the Congress and said it only reflected the feudal mentality of the Opposition leaders which was ill-suited for democracy.
Later in a written
statement the Congress said it was all for positive and
constructive national efforts towards the defence of
country and Kargil was no exception. However, it was
shocked to notice that there was no mention of the great
job done by the Army and the Air Force in defending the
heights. "We consider it an effort to belittle the
role of armed forces and pass on all the credit to the
Lakhs throng fair at
JAWALAMUKHI, Aug 18 The sawan ashtmi fair currently going on at Jawalamukhi is drawing a record number of pilgrims who are thronging the famous shrine to have holy darshan of the Goddess Jawalaji, believed to be an incarnation of the Goddess Durga.
According to official sources, nearly two lakh devotees visited the temple yesterday. There was an influx of devotees in the morning. Long queues were witnessed in front of the shrine with devotees waiting their turn to make their offerings and seeking blessings of the deity. Lakhs of devotees from several states were expected to attend the fair during the next four days.
However, the district administration had made elaborate arrangements to maintain law and order and set up medical centres at the mela sites.
The situation has gone from bad to worse. There is complete disorder in the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. Prevailing disorder is conducive to pick pockets. As such, devotees are very annoyed with the administration. Although the police on its part has done its level best yet there are instances of eve-teasing.
Not only that toll tax, car parking and entry fees are collected in an arbitrary manner. Devotees are of the opinion that such extraneous charges ought to be done away with.
Mr Kamlinder Singla, a devotee from Ludhiana, demanded that the state government should chalk out a comprehensive plan for the promotion of temple tourism. He further added that the state government should declare Jawalamukhi a holy town on the Punjab pattern. Instead of collecting revenue and imposing taxes on devotees the state government should concentrate on providing more facilities to the devotees.
When the Deputy
Commissioner, Kangra, Mr B.K. Agrawal, was contacted on
telephone he said complaints of overcharging from
devotees had already been brought to his notice. The
administration had taken a serious note of the complaints
and would take effective action immediately. He
reiterated that the district administration was committed
to providing better facilities.
Unas river of sorrow
UNA: The Swan has remained Una's river of sorrow because its channelisation requires a large sum of money. Successive governments have failed to get a central nod for a project to tame this river.
The state government tried to tame this river and piecemeal efforts were made on various tributaries of the Swan from time to time. A few years ago the state government even opened a separate division for flood protection at Gagret for the purpose. The Irrigation Department prepared a detailed project report (phase-I) covering a distance of 17 km from the bridge across the Swan at Santokhgarh to the bridge at Jhalera, costing about Rs 81 crore. This was sent to the Central Water Commission in August, 1993, and the CWC advised the state government to have a second opinion on this project from the Central Water and Power Research Station. Various central teams visited the project site in May, 1994, but the project is yet to get sanction of the Planning Commission.
Una district faces the fury of floods every year. According to official reports, Swan floods have caused damage and washed away crops, property and agricultural land on both banks of the river worth more than Rs 175 crore during the past 15 years. This river and its over 70 tributaries affect about 100 villages in Una district.
The state government has spent crores of rupees on guide bunds at vulnerable points but the Swan river project (phase-I) is yet to start.
The present government decided and provided funds for flood-protection works on the Swan river so as to complete the same before the monsoon. Though flood protections works were started and completed as per schedule, the quality of work remained below specifications. Some of the flood-protection works completed just before this rainy season have started getting eroded due to rain (see picture). This correspondent visited Khad village 18 kms from here, on the Una-Panjawar-Gagret road where the flood protection division got constructed about a 3 km-long guide bund at three places on the village Khad at the cost of Rs 70 lakh. The contractor used a large quantity of undersize stones for pitching. As per specifications the weight of a stone to be used in a flood protection bund should be between 18 kg and 40 kg. But surprisingly, more than 35 per cent to 40 per cent stones used in these bunds are less than specification. Even though these bunds were tendered for Rs 45 lakh, deviation of work to the time of Rs 25 lakh was allowed to give undue gains to the politically well-connected contractor.
Because of political
pressure, no official of the flood protection division
dared to question the quality of work. The entire work is
now complete and the full payment has been made to the
contractor who belongs to the ruling party. Village
residents, too, are not satisfied with the work.
According to reports, the same contractor has been
allotted flood-protection works worth more than Rs 1
crore. Aggrieved sufferers have demanded a probe into the
quality of flood-protection works carried out during the
past two years.
Virbhadra to sue film-maker
SHIMLA, Aug 18 The Congress leader, Mr Virbhadra Singh, has decided to initiate legal proceedings for banning screening of the film "Kohram" in which the villain has been named as "Virbhadra Singh, alias Raja Sahib".
Mr Virbhadra Singh said here today that he would also launch defamation proceedings against the film-maker. He believes that all this was done to defame him.
The villain, Danny, who plays the role of a politician in the film, has been named as Virbhadra Singh, alias Raja Sahib.
The film has been shot at some hill location resembling Himachal Pradesh. This has annoyed the supporters of the former Chief Minister.
DHARAMSALA, Aug 18 The President of the HP Other Backward Classes Sangh, Lt Col Shakti Chand Chaudhary, said the failure of the BJP to give 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs as promised in their election manifesto, had annoyed the community.
Addressing a press conference here today, he said in order to get the OBC votes during elections the BJP had made reservation, a major issue, but completely forgot about it, when voted to power. He said the OBCs who constitute, a major chunk of the electorate, especially in the Kangra Lok Sabha constituency were, not prepared to be taken for a ride this time.
He said that though the Congress did not raise reservation to 27 per cent as promised by them, but atleast the party had brought it to 18 per cent in bits and pieces. He further said the percentage of unemployment amongst the OBCs was far higher than among other communities. He regretted that the OBCs had become only vote bank for all political parties, as the parties did not have genuine concern for their welfare.
Lt Col Chaudhary, who is also the convener of the Rashtriya Raksha Dal, demanded the immediate implementation of the one rank one pension demand, for the welfare of the ex-servicemen. he regretted that all other categories of government servants, including those with PSUs, had been given what they demanded, but the defence personnel were not given their due as they were a disciplined force and did not resort to strikes and agitations.
He regretted that the
BJP government had almost closed the issue of one rank
one pension, by reaffirming the 33 years' condition,
which would debar jawans, NCOs, JCOs and in some cases
officers, from getting their full pension. He said that
the defence forces, who had supported the BJP, were
feeling betrayed and let down.
Remove apple from OGL list:
SHIMLA, Aug 18 The Himachal Vidhan Sabha today unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Centre to delete apples from the items in the open general licence (OGL) list to save fruit industry in the state.
Replying to the debate on the resolution the Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal said the decision to join the WTO was taken by the Narasimha Rao government and an agreement was signed in 1994 under which different items, including fruits were to be covered under the OGL in phased manner up to the year 2002. The BJP had opposed the accord at that time but it had now no option but to honour the agreement and take the follow up action.
The state government had taken up the issue with Centre and urged it to take appropriate steps to safeguard the interests of the growers. The Union Agriculture Ministry had already recommended that import duty on apples should be increased from the present 46 per cent to 70 per cent.
Initiating the debate Mr Ram Lal, a former Chief Minister, said the inclusion of apples in the OGL had added to the woes of the fruit growers whose orchards were reeling under the twin attack of disease and freak weather. He warned that entry of multinationals, who captured the market by selling their products at unjustifiably low rates, would spell doom for the apple industry in the country.
Mr Sukh Ram said that along with apples, hops which was the main cash crop of tribal areas, should also be deleted from the OGL list.
Mr Vidya Strokes said the issue, which concerned the vital economic interests of the hill people, should not be politicised. She said the Union Commerce Minister had betrayed their faith by including apple in the OGL list.
Earlier moving the resolution Mr Narinder Bragta, Horticulture Minister, blamed the Congress for the current woes of the apple growers and said after signing the WTO agreement the Congress leaders were now shedding crocodile tears.
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