|Saturday, August 19, 2000,
LAD fund amount to be transferred
HP seeks Rs 500 cr central aid Flood
HP deficit to be 12,000 cr by 2005
Congress to submit charge
Minister comes in for criticism
Holy place in state of neglect
Statue case: BJYM holds rally
Irked residents demand police post
LAD fund amount to be transferred
SHIMLA, Aug 18 The Himachal Assembly today passed an official resolution providing for transfer of the balance amount in the Local Area Development Fund of the legislators to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund amid strong protests from the opposition Congress.
The resolution, which came as a surprise to the Congress, was moved by Mr J.P. Nadda, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, at the fag-end of the day and was passed instantly.
Mr Virbhadra Singh, Leader of the Opposition, and other members were on their feet as soon as the resolution was moved protesting that donations were made voluntarily and not by passing a resolution in the House like this. He said the members might like to contribute even more than that but not by force in this manner.
Some other opposition members expressed their inability to support the resolution of the plea that they had already made commitments to people for sanctioning funds for various development works from the amount placed at their disposal under the Local Area Development Fund.
However, their objections were overruled by the Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, who maintained that the people to whom the members had promised funds would not object if the money was utilised for carrying out relief and restoration work in the flood ravaged areas.
He said if this was the attitude of the Opposition the government could even consider reviewing the Local Area Development Fund scheme. Later, talking to mediapersons Mr Virbhadra Singh said the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) was both shocked and pained by the manner in which the resolution regarding contribution to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund from the Vidhayak Kshetriya Vikas Nidhi was brought in the House at the last moment by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs without any consultation with all sections of the House. Such contributions were always voluntary and there should not be any element of the compulsion or coercion in such matters, he added.
The Chief Minister had earlier appealed to the House to make contribution to this fund to the extent of 25 per cent of their fund. While the CLP was yet to discuss and determine the quantum of contribution the Chief Minister acted in a high-handed manner and arbitrarily decided the issue. It was most unfortunate that the Chief Minister even threatened to withdraw the Vidhayak Kshetriya Vikas Nidhi on his own.
It was worth mentioning that all members to the CLP had already donated their entire salary for one month to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund only this morning. The CLP was scheduled to meet after the Vidhan Sabha session today to consider the appeal of the Chief Minister.
However, the Chief Ministers belligerent attitude and methodology adopted on the floor of the House to force this issue on the basis of majority was unprecedented and unheard of in the history of parliamentary democracy and conventions and the party strongly condemned it.
Mr Dhumal lamented that the Congress was not co-operating with the government even in the present hour of crisis when all sections of society were lending a helping hand by contributing liberally to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund.
HP seeks Rs 500 cr central aid
SHIMLA, Aug 18 The Himachal Assembly today unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Centre to grant a special assistance of Rs 500 crore to the state for carrying out relief and rehabilitation measures in the flood-hit areas.
Replying to the debate on the resolution Mr P.K. Dhumal, Himachal Chief Minister, said the Border Roads Organisation was planning to airlift construction machinery so that the National Highway-22 could be expeditiously restored between Khab and Wangtu. He said the senior engineers of the organisation who visited the affected area, had informed that there were as many as 88 patches where the road had been either completely washed away or suffered extensive damage. Besides six bridges had also been swept by flood.
He said that airlifting of machinery would enable the BRO to undertake restoration work at several points simultaneously. The top priority was to install a Bailey bridge at Khab so that the road via Kunzum Pass could be opened. The equipment required for it had already reached Malling nullah but it could not be taken any further to as floods in the nullah swept away a large portion of road.
The Bro had indicated that it would be able to install the bridge at Khab by August 30, open the Wangtu-Tapri section of the highway by September 15 and the Tapri-Karcham section by October 15. Mr Dhumal said the state Public Works Department had placed some construction machinery at the disposal of the BRO to ensure speedy completion of restoration work.
He said the restoration of work was subject to the vagaries of weather as still heavy rain was playing havoc in certain portion only yesterday about 150 metres of road sunk near Jhakri, which would certainly affect the pace of work.
The Chief Minister said the government was aware of the fact that sufficient stocks of essential commodities were required to cater to the needs of the tribals of Kinnaur during winter. While work to reopen the roads was being carried on a war-footing. Supplies were being airlifted and also transported by mules. The departments concerned had been directed to transport stocks which could suffice up to March 31, 2000 before the area became snow-bound.
He said the NJPC bridge at Rampur would be made operational as early as possible. Tenders had been invited for the construction of approach roads to the bridge. Steps were underway to construct permanent bridges at Brow and Jagaat Khana as installation of Bailey bridges was not feasible due to increase in the span of the river.
He denied the accusation of Mr Virbhadra Singh that defective jhullas had been installed at some places. He said the fact was that some people forcibly used a jhulla at Karcham which was meant for transporting construction material.
He appreciated the effort of the S.D.M. Ani who borrowed Rs 2 lakh from a businessman of Rampur to provide immediate relief to the affected people of Brow and Jagaat Khana. He refused the Congress charge that land had not been allotted to those whose houses had been washed away said as many as 44 persons had been given two biswas of land for constructing a new house.
Regarding the demand for increasing the quantum of relief he said the relief manual could be suitably amended if all the members agree.
The Chief Minister informed the House that the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh had offered to build a colony for those rendered houseless if the government provided suitable land for the purpose.
Earlier, Mr Sukh Ram,
Leader of the HVC, said that floods were not a natural
calamity but a man-made disaster. He said the state was
paying for largescale denudation of hills, reckless
mining and setting up big cement plants, which he had
been opposing all along.
HP deficit to be 12,000 cr by
SHIMLA, Aug 18 Despite a significant step-up in devolution of central resources the 11th Finance Commission, the deficit of the Himachal government over the next five years was likely to be a whopping Rs 12000 crore.
Making a suo motu statement in the House on the recommendations of the Finance Commission today Mr P.K. Dhumal, Chief Minister, said that the state expected to receive about Rs 7460 crore over the five-year period, which was 90 per cent higher than the total devolution in the 10th Finance Commission period.
Even more significant was the fact that in the first year of the 11th Finance Commission award, that is the current year, the step-up over the last year of the pervious Finance Commission award was 73 per cent which is the highest increase received by the state from any Finance Commission.
Against Rs 819.86 crore received during 1999-2000 the last year of the 10th Finance Commission award, the 11th Finance Commission had give us Rs 1418.70 crore in the first year. The commission had also stepped up grants for local bodies by 102 per cent and for natural calamities by 69 per cent.
Apart from grants for the upgradation of standards of administration, the commission had also sanctioned funds for specific needs which included Rs 30 crore for the upgradation of the sewerage and drainage systems of Dharmsala, Hamirpur and Jwalamukhi, Rs 10 crore for the construction of an inter-state bus terminal at Tutikandi, Shimla and Rs 5 crore for additions to the Vidhan Sabha complex, including buildings and facilities like public address system, closed circuit TV and computers.
However, the commissions methodology and approach have ensured that the assistance to the state was sub-optimal, the assumption of tax growth appears unduly optimistic and the formulations on non-tax revenue were unfair. It included lottery receipts in the projections based on 1998-99 figures whereas the state had discontinued lotteries since last year. Similarly, receivables from equity and loan investments had been projected to grow at an unreasonable rate. Forest receipts had been slated to grow whereas till now to silvicultural felling was taking place. Irrigation and water tariffs had also been shown to grow at a fast pace. On the expenditure side, the commission had specifically ignored the interest subsidy we had to bear on loans raised through boards and corporations since 1994-95. Even the actual interest payments and expenditure on pensions had been scaled down on a normative basis, resulting in a considerable shortfall. Their normative assessment of maintenance requirements meant that the burden on account of regularisation of daily wagers had been ignored. All these matters would be taken up for redressal at the appropriate level.
As a result of the specific infirmities with respect to Himachal Pradesh and even more the overall reform approach adopted by the commission, our fiscal situation continues to be extremely grave. As such it was necessary for the state to adopt measures of fiscal and governance reforms not only to mitigate our problems but even more important to demonstrate to the Centre and external agencies states willingness to confront the fiscal problems and thereby secure assistance from them.
The commission had made
a normative assessment of the future receipts and
expenditure of all states in terms of measures like
annual reduction in the number of government employees,
imposition of user charges and earning returns on loans
advances for various purposes and equity invested in
different undertakings. In addition, the commission had
been given another term of reference in April this year
and asked to draw up monitorable fiscal reform programmes
aimed at reducing the revenue deficit of the states and
link implementation of this programme to the deficit
grants recommended by the commission. It was to submit a
report on this term of reference by August 31. Failure to
take the expected measures might even result in a
reduction of the already announced devolution. It was
therefore, imperative to undertake the steps necessary to
bring about the fiscal stability necessary to ensure the
future prosperity of Himachal Pradesh, he observed.
Congress to submit charge
SHIMLA, Aug 18 The opposition Congress will submit a charge sheet of alleged omissions and commissions against the BJP-HVC government tomorrow to the Governor, Mr Vishnu Kant Shastri.
Party sources said that the nearly 72-page charge sheet will contain irregularities done by the state government headed by Mr P.K. Dhumal.
The Charge sheet will demand dismissal of the Dhumal government for allegedly trying to cover up these irregularities.
Congress MLAs and senior party functionaries led by the CLP leader, Mr Virbhadra Singh, and the PCC chief, Mr Sat Mahajan, will march to Raj Bhavan in the morning to submit the charge sheet to the Governor.
The party had some time ago set up a committee under the chairmanship of a senior legislator, Thakur Kaul Singh, to prepare the charge sheet.
It is learnt that several irregularities pertaining to the public works Department, of which Mr Mohinder Singh is the minister, have been highlighted in the charge sheet. The Departments of health, Civil Supplies and Ayurveda have also been criticised in the charge sheet.
The Congress had
initially said that it would submit the charge
sheet to the President and not to Mr Shastri, whom
it accused of functioning like an RSS activist. However,
the party has now softened its stand towards him.
Minister comes in for criticism
SHIMLA, Aug 18 Mr Mohinder Singh, Public Works Minister, came in for severe criticism over the collapse of two newly constructed road bridges at Sataun and Mangladh.
The Congress members, Mr Harsh Wardhan and Mrs Asha Kumari, who raised the issue through two separate call attention motions, accused the minister of shielding those responsible for the collapse of the bridges. They alleged that a faulty design, use of substandard material and indifferent execution were mainly responsible for the collapse of bridges on which government had spent crores of rupees. They rejected the inquiry to be conducted by the Additional Chief Secretary into the collapse of the bridges as a cover-up and demanded a CBI probe.
Mr Harsh Wardhan said the Sataun bridge was built on shallow foundation of just three metres deep as against the normal 10 metres to 15 metres. The exposed steel in the piers of the collapsed bridge indicated that cement was washed away by water during construction.
It was intriguing that the PWD, which had a host of engineers, approved the design submitted by the contractor and paid Rs 5 lakh to him for it.
Mrs Asha Kumari wanted to know who allowed the contractor to use crib shuttering in place of truss shuttering approved in the original agreement for the construction of the Mangladh bridge. She alleged this was done to benefit the contractor as crib shuttering was much cheaper. She said he was the first PWD Minister of the state who had given a clean chit to the staff of the department even before conducting an inquiry.
In his reply Mr Mohinder Singh, said collapse of bridges by heavy rain as not unusual and bridges had been swept away in the past, too. There was nothing wrong in accepting the design of the contractor as the department approved it only after a thorough technical scrutiny.
The government had
already ordered an enquiry into the matter and it would
take suitable action against those found guilty. The
material used in the bridges would be tested in
laboratories to ascertain if it was substandard as
alleged. He maintained that the department had suggested
that the Mangladh bridge should be shifted from the
present site but the Union Ministry of Surface Transport
recommended that bridge be constructed at the same site
after geological consultations.
Holy place in state of neglect
JAWALAMUKHI: Although Jawalamukhi is among the better known holy place in the country, its development has been neglected.
Keeping in view its importance from the tourism angle, efforts were made to provide adequate infrastructure during Presidents rule in 1992. However, it is regrettable that certain projects taken in hand during that period are yet to be completed.
Residents are unhappy with the pace of development while pilgrims and tourists complain of considerable inconvenience.
A plan had earlier been drawn up to develop Jawalamukhi, situated in the foothills of the Shivaliks, on the Tirupati pattern. The plan was the brainchild of the then Adviser to the Governor.
During the last assembly elections, the Chief Minister had announced that the government was likely to continue the projects started earlier. It was announced with fanfare that the town would be put on the international tourist map.
Tourists and devotees come here in thousands. However, there are no proper arrangements for board and lodging. Hoteliers, dhaba owners, shopkeepers and taxi operators often overcharge tourists. They are forced to pay between Rs 100 and Rs 500 per room for a nights stay. Owing to water shortage, a bucket of water for bathing is available for Rs 100. Milk costs Rs 20 per litre.
To add to the woes of devotees, anti-social elements are active in the vicinity of the famous shrine. Cases of theft of footwear and pickpocketing have been reported on many occasions. Recently, valuable items belonging to two foreigners were stolen.
The police has done little to improve matters. Unauthorised guest houses have also begun to mushroom. The facilities provided to tourists at these are poor.
Sanitation in the town
leaves much to be desired. Heaps of the garbage can be
seen in most streets. It seems garbage has not been
cleared for weeks together. The authorities claim that in
the past six months more than 20 dustbins have been
placed in various localities. Residents, however, are
dissatisfied with the work of the sanitation wing and
have advocated privatisation of the work.
Statue case: BJYM holds rally
HAMIRPUR, Aug 18 Activists of the Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha, (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP, held a procession through the main bazar here on August 16, raising slogans against the Congress.
Mr Vinod Thakur, general secretary of the state unit of the morcha and Mr Vijay Behl, district president, led the procession.
The processionists were demanding immediate arrest of the culprits responsible for the desecration of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi here on August 9. They also held a rally at Jai Prakash Narain Chowk where they took the Congress leaders to task for interfering with the working of the police.
Mr Thakur warned that if former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh visited Hamirpur in connection with this case, he would not be allowed to hold a rally or take part in any other programme. He said the Congress was politicising the issue only to defame the BJP Government.
Meanwhile, Congress workers continued their dharna at Gandhi Chowk for the eighth day yesterday. They were demanding arrest of the persons responsible for the desecration.
Irked residents demand police post
PARWANOO, Aug 18 Residents of Sectors 4, 5 and 6 the Industrial Area here have demanded a police post near these sectors. They say that these sectors are about 4 km away from the main Parwanoo town and the local police station.
Residents of Sector 4 say that it is about 4 km away from the main police station. Whenever any incident takes place, it takes time to inform the police and the police to come to the spot. They added that the road behind Sector 4 is connected to Kalka town and can be easily accessed by anti-social elements and thieves.
The residents said that about 100 cases of theft, accidents and other crimes have taken place in these sectors in the past five to six years. They added that they do not feel safe in the absence of a police post nearby.
Sector 5 was also a shortcut to Kalka town and being an industrial sector, it was more prone to be the site of crimes.
The residents of Sector 6 that this sector is situated on the Kalka-Shimla national highway, and also surrounded by thick forests all around which provide a hiding place for miscreants.
The residents say that more than half the population of Parwanoo town lives and works in these sectors and there is need for an independent police post for these sectors.
Mr Sanjeev Lakhan Pal,
Deputy Superintendent of Police, said that the local
police was aware of the problem and added that the police
was constantly patrolling the trouble spots. He said that
one policeman was on duty at the outer road of Sector 4
leading to Kalka. He recommended a police post near these
sectors to maintain law and order.
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