Friday, March 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

HP rebels boycott Address
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 1
All seven rebels of the ruling BJP boycotted the Governor’s Address in the Assembly on the opening day of the Budget session here today.

The rebels were holding parleys with the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Mr Shanta Kumar, to finalise their strategy in the State Guest House when the Governor was addressing the Assembly. The rebels, including Mr K.K. Kapoor, Mr Ramesh Dhawala, Mr Rajan Sushant, Mr Harinarayan Singh, Mr Dulo Ram, Mr Des Raj and Mrs Nirmala Devi had announced the boycott of the House proceedings until their demand for removal of Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal was met.

However, there was some confusion in the morning when the nameplates of the four sacked ministers were seen in tact outside their office chambers in the Assembly. There were rumours that a compromise had been struck between the two factions. However, the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, denied this and said the matter was now with the party high command.

Apparently because of the crisis in the ruling party, enthusiasm was lacking among the treasury benches throughout the 80-minute Address, even while Dr Suraj Bhan listed the achievements of the state government.

The Governor called upon the members to generate public opinion in favour of the economic reforms and liberalisation of economy which was the only way out for facing the difficult financial crisis.

He said though Himachal Pradesh had scaled new heights in the social service sector, the state had to strive for exploitation of its immense potential for economic development and to raise the living standard of the people. He urged the members to rise above party politics and contribute significantly in this direction and pave the way for rapid economic development.

Referring to the extensive damage caused due to the flash floods in the tribal district of Kinnaur last year, he said despite financial constraints, the state government had sanctioned a sum of Rs 141 crore for carrying out relief and rehabilitation works and rebuilding infrastructure.

The financial constraints had not been allowed to come in the way of development which had been accelerated and democratic traditions strengthened.

He said Panchayati Raj institutions were being strengthened and it had been decided that the panchayats would prepare micro-plans keeping in view the need of the local people in respect of communications, education, health, animal husbandry, drinking water supply etc.

To ensure timely completion of schemes and resultant benefits to the general public, the government had accorded high priority to effective implementation of plans. During the current financial year, an amount of Rs 146.11 crore would be spent on the welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Rs 190.80 crore on Scheduled Castes.

It had been decided to prepare the annual draft of the Scheduled Castes special component Plan like the tribal sub-Plan in consultation with regional and district officers of implementing departments under supervision of Deputy Commissioners. Restrictions had been imposed on diversion of these funds to other districts.

Emphasis was being laid on popularising agricultural practices of growing cash crops such as off-season vegetables, vegetable seeds, seed potato, tea and ginger to improve the economic condition of small and marginal farmers. A sum of Rs 55 crore was being invested in irrigation facilities.

Dr Suraj Bhan said the highest priority was being accorded to exploitation of the hydro-power potential and strengthening and improvement of the transmission and distribution network. A 10-year scheme had been approved for achieving this goal.

The government was aware of its responsibilities to preserve and protect the Himalayan environment and ecology. Ropeways would be used as an alternate means of communication where roads could not be constructed because of geographical constraints.

He said extension of the airports at Shimla, Kulu and Kangra was being done and permission had been obtained from the Centre to operate civil flights from the Pathankot airfield of the Defence Ministry.

The government had accorded top priority to information technology which had been given the status of industry, thereby extending to it all incentives, concessions and facilities as provided to the industrial sector.

Special attention was being paid minimise crime and atrocities against women for which special women cells had been created in the police.

Efforts were being made to restore the lost glory of historical towns such as Shimla, Dharamsala, Dalhousie and Manali. A complete ban had been imposed on construction in inner and heritage areas.

The Governor said steps had been taken to further improve health and transport services in the state.

The House paid tributes to Mr T.S. Negi and Mr N.C. Parashar, former MLAs, who died recently. Mr Dhumal, Thakur Gulab Singh, Speaker, Mr Virbhadra Singh, Leader of the Opposition, Mr Sukh Ram, HVC chief, Mrs Vidya Stokes, PCC chief, Mr J.B.L. Khachi (Cong) and Mr Chet Ram Negi and Mr Babu Ram Mandayal (BJP) made obituary references to the two leaders. The House also mourned the loss of lives due to the earthquake in Gujarat.


Shanta fails in mission
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 1
The crisis facing the Dhumal government persists as the ruling camp and the dissidents today refused to budge from their respective stands, despite the intervention of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Mr Shanta Kumar, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, who rushed to the state capital to defuse the situation.

According to party sources, Mr Shanta Kumar was deputed by Mr Vajpayee to resolve the crisis as soon as the dissident ministers were sacked. The central leadership also contacted the Governor to withhold the notification for reallocation of portfolios so that the Union Minister could reach Shimla and hold talks with the dissidents and the Chief Minister. The understanding was that Mr Dhumal would offer to reconsider the decision to drop the ministers and the dissidents would attend the Vidhan Sabha session.

However, Mr Shanta Kumar failed to cut the ice as Mr Dhumal refused to reconsider the decision until the dissidents withdrew the letter expressing lack of faith in him. This was not agreed to by the dissidents.

Mr Shanta Kumar, who left for Delhi in the afternoon, refused to divulge details of the talks he had had with Mr Dhumal and the dissidents and simply said he had made an “earnest effort” to persuade both rival camps to settle matters through negotiations. He hoped that better sense would prevail.

He maintained that he was not associated with any faction and refused to comment on the contents of the letter released to the press by the dissidents. He conceded that all was not well with the party in the state.

He made it abundantly clear that he had no interest in state politics and considered his present assignment at the Centre as a “great opportunity to serve the people”.

To a question, he said it was wrong on the part of the dissidents to take party issues to the press at the same time, the internal party mechanism for redressal of grievances had been found wanting. There had been a delay in sorting out matters.

An in-built party mechanism for speedy redressal of grievances was essential to prevent such unpleasant situations which did immense harm to the image of the party.

Mr Dhumal maintained that there was no threat to his government He was prepared for a trial of strength in the BJLP and the House. There was no pressure on him to resign. Moreover, the BJLP had at its meeting last night reposed faith in him. He said he was even prepared to face Assembly elections if the situation so demanded.


Markanda tenders resignation
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 1
The Chief Minister, Mr.P.K. Dhumal, is in for more trouble with Mr Ram Lal Markanda, Minister for Animal Husbandry and a nominee of the Himachal Vikas Congress in his ministry, today submitting his resignation to the HVC chief, Mr Sukh Ram, in protest against “discrimination” with his tribal constituency of Lahaul-Spiti.

Mr Markanda confirmed that he had submitted his resignation to Mr Sukh Ram for being forwarded to the Chief Minister. He has reportedly listed nine grievances which he said had remained unimplemented despite repeatedly having been brought to the notice of Mr Dhumal. On the other hand, Mr Dhumal had a long discussion with Mr Sukh Ram about the current crisis in the ruling BJP.

Mr Markanda had pointed out in his resignation that Lahaul-Spiti was being given a step-motherly treatment by the BJP government and the sub-plan for the area had been reduced to 8.2 per cent from the previous 9 per cent.Back

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