Saturday, December 30, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Himachal minister resigns
Anonymous letter alleges corruption

Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Dec 29 In an unprecedented move, Mr Praveen Sharma, Excise and Taxation Minister, resigned from office taking cognisance of an anonymous letter in which certain allegation swere levelled against him.

The minister rose to give a personal clarification soon after question hour. He said he was pained to read a news item based on an anonymous letter appearing in a section of the media over the past few days. Initially, he did not care much as his name was not mentioned in the reports. However, when he got a copy of the letter he found that a clear reference had been made to him.

He said he was disturbed to go through the contents of the letter and decided to put his viewpoint across to people. He said he had been in active politics since the days of the Emergency and had grown in stature over the years by the dint of sheer hardwork. He had been deeply hurt by the allegation of corruption levelled by unidentified persons.

Since he enjoyed the confidence of Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal, he thought it proper to resign so that the image of the Chief Minister and the government did not suffer because of him.

He alleged that it was a conspiracy of those who were jealous of his growing stature. He said he had discharged duties entrusted to him by the party over the years successfully.

Mr Sharma also submitted a copy of the letter to the presiding officers to bring it on record. He urged the Chief Minister to get the charges probed thoroughly and also unmask those behind the letter.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, Leader of the Opposition, said there was no need to take notice of an anonymous letter.

The Speaker, Mr Gulab Singh, did not allow the treasury benches to have a discussion on the issue on the grounds that the rule did not permit it.

The House also discussed the report on the functioning of the state Public Service Commission for the year 1999-2000. Replying to the discussion, Mr Dhumal denied the opposition charge that there had been any deterioration in the functioning of the commission and that its impartiality had become suspect in the eyes of people.

In contrast, the functioning had improved due to the creation of the Subordinate Services Selection Board as its work load had reduced, he said, adding that the commission was now taking only three to six months in recommending candidates for various posts as against 14 months to two years taken earlier.

He said more posts had been filled over the past two years than any preceding year. In 1995, only 1,532 selections were made as against 2,780 made during 1999-2000. The government had disagreed only in three cases in 1999-2000 and five cases in 1998-1999 as against 10 cases in 1996-97.

Earlier, Mr Virbhadra Singh expressed concern over the moral degeneration that had set in the commission because of which, he alleged, that the people had lost faith in it. He said any institution manned by humans was bound to commit mistakes, but it was for the first time that the very integrity of the commission had come under doubt. He said an impression had gone around that the selections were being not made on the basis of merit, but on other considerations.


Dhumal orders probe into charges
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Dec 29 The Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, has said the complaints of alleged corruption and misuse of office against his two ministers would be inquired into.

Mr Dhumal told newspersons that he had not yet accepted the resignation of the Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Praveen Sharma, who tendered his resignation today following allegations of corruption against him in an anonymous letter.

The Chief Minister said the complaints against Mr Sharma would be inquired into, along with those against the Irrigation Minister, Mr Ramesh Dhwala. The Chief Minister had received anonymous complaints against Mr Dhwala also.

It may be mentioned that while Mr Sharma is a Dhumal loyalist, Mr Dhwala belongs to the Shanta Kumar faction. Mr Dhwala had recently expressed no confidence in the leadership of Mr Dhumal and was a signatory to the letter withdrawing support to him.

Recently anonymous letters against leaders of the rival factions of the ruling BJP were received in newspaper offices as the war between them is hotting up.

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