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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
H I M A C H A L   P R A D E S H

Power board losses mount
Staff highest paid in country
Shimla, July 9
The financial health of the ailing Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board has worsened over the past five years because of the failure of the management to carry out reforms in the right earnest.

Stopping brain drain tops Tibetan plan
Dharamsala, July 9
In its first-ever consolidated three-year plan, the Tibetan government-in-exile has expressed concern over the growing exodus of educated skilled youth from the Tibetan settlements in India and the need for better management of international aid.

Docs patronise erring chemists, says survey
Palampur, July 9
Though the Union Government has proposed death penalty for the sale of spurious and substandard drugs, the Himachal Pradesh Government seems unconcerned.

Rates fixed for disposing of biomedical waste
Mandi, July 9
Taking note of the health risk and the danger posed by hazardous medical wastes in the state, highlighted by The Tribune recently, the Deputy Commissioner, Mandi, Mr Ali Raza Rizvi, today fixed the rates for disposing of medical wastes for private hospitals, clinics, laboratories and the government hospital, to ensure a safe medical waste disposal system in the town.



YOUR TOWN
Dharamsala
Kulu
Mandi
Shimla
Solan


EARLIER STORIES

 

Rainwater harvesting cost-effective
Shimla, July 9
Their traditional knowledge, skill and technique in water harvesting has heralded prosperity, be it in the deserts of Rajasthan or the hills of Sikkim, where even the best architectural designs by qualified engineers have failed to find a solution to the water needs of the locals.

Kulu dist leads in sanitation drive
Kulu, July 9
Kulu district has achieved another first by implementing the total sanitation campaign after being a pioneer in the ban on polythene bags. This was stated by Mr Budhi Singh Thakur, chairman of the zila parishad, here on Wednesday.

NGO seeks Chief Parliamentary Secy’s removal
Solan, July 9
Alleging that the state government has conveniently flouted the central legislation, enforceable from July 7, regarding having the maximum number of state ministers up to 12, a local NGO, called True Fighters, has sent a memorandum to the President of India, through the Governor of Himachal Pradesh, further alleging that as on July 8, there are 13 members in the council of ministers in the state, including one Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Mukesh Agnihotri, holding the portfolio of Housing Minister.

Cable breach disrupts tele services
Mandi, July 9
Surfers and Internet users faced a harrowing time as the telecommunication services in the town came to a grinding halt around 3 p.m. today because optical fiber cables connecting the Shimla headquarters with Mandi, Bilaspur and Kulu districts were breached somewhere between Bilaspur and Darlaghat on the Shimla-Bilaspur road.

Bali sees no discrimination against Kangra
Dharamsala, July 9
Asking the Bharatiya Janata Party to stop commenting on the internal affairs of the Congress, Transport Minister G.S.Bali here today said allegations by senior BJP leaders like Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal that Kangra district had been neglected in the downsizing process were absolutely baseless.

Letter to Sanawar school bursar withdrawn
Shimla, July 9
Headmaster of Lawrence School Sanawar, Prof Gautam Chaterjee, has withdrawn the letter issued to Lt Col (retd) S.K. Nautiyal on June 7 whereby Mr Nautiyal was relieved of his duty as a bursar of the school. The headmaster has also withdrawn the letters written to Mr Nautiyal directing him to vacate the house under his occupation.

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Power board losses mount
Staff highest paid in country
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 9
The financial health of the ailing Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board has worsened over the past five years because of the failure of the management to carry out reforms in the right earnest.

The board, which recorded a profit of Rs 6 crore in 1997-98, plunged into the red in the following year. Its financial health has been deteriorating since with cumulative losses accumulating to Rs 228 crore as on March 31, 2004. Like many other state utilities, the board singed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Centre to carry out power sector reforms. The state government, on its part, also initiated some steps like setting up of a State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) to speed up the reform process. However, the exercise failed to yield the desired results because of the reluctance of the board to carry out the orders of the commission.

Inefficiency, overstaffing, imprudent financial management and lack of planning have been the main reasons for the mounting losses. The 27,743 employees are not only far too many but also the highest paid in the country. The state is bound to follow the Punjab pattern in the matter of pay scales but many categories of staff were being paid higher salaries.

The net result is that its employee cost at Rs 1.33 paise per unit of energy supplied is the highest in the country. In Uttranchal , which is a hill state like Himachal Pradesh, the employee cost is as low as 13 paise per unit. In the case of states like Andhra Pradesh, where reforms had been implemented sincerely, it has come down to 16 paise per unit. It was about 40 paise per unit for New Delhi. Even in the neighbouring states like Punjab, the employee cost ,which was on the higher side, came to 57 paise per unit.

The extent to which the board is overstaffed can be judged from the fact that its employee- consumer ratio is the lowest in the country. As against 149 consumers per employee in Gujarat and 118 in Uttranchal , in Himachal Pradesh an employee serves just 61 consumers.

The SERC has taken a strong notice of the high employee cost and directed the board to take steps to bring it down in accordance with the MoU signed by the government with the Centre in this regard.

Further, the board has not been managing its finances in a prudent manner. It had been raising loans from the Rural Electrification Corporation at an interest rate of 10 per cent , even though the requisite funds are available on 90 per cent grant basis under the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme from the Centre. The SERC has questioned the justification for raising high-cost loans from the corporation. The board has also been directed to go for debt restructuring by swapping costly loans with cheaper ones to take advantage of the prevailing favourable situation in the debt market.

Another area of concern has been the high generation cost of the projects being executed by the board. The commission has asked the board to investigate the high per megawatt cost of the Larji project and file applications for fixing the cost of generation in respect of all of its projects. It has also directed the board to prepare a comprehensive plan to curtail time and cost overruns and submit it before November 15.

The board has also been asked to initiate the process of disinvestment of its unproductive assets, including land and surplus stores, to redeem the costly debt.Top

 

Stopping brain drain tops Tibetan plan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, July 9
In its first-ever consolidated three-year plan, the Tibetan government-in-exile has expressed concern over the growing exodus of educated skilled youth from the Tibetan settlements in India and the need for better management of international aid. The mammoth task of chalking out details of various projects was handed over to the Planning Department, which ensured that the plans of each of the seven departments are included in the first Tibetan Master Plan for 2004-07.

Sources here told The Tribune today that the Home Department had expressed a need for taking effective steps to improve the infrastructure in the 11 key settlements in India, including Mcleodganj, so that the youth passing out of schools and colleges are retained there. Creation of more employment opportunities to stop this brain drain tops the agenda, which was presented to the Prime Minister by the secretaries of the departments at a day-long closed-door meeting held yesterday.

Another key area of concern is the condition of the Tibetan co-operatives, such as those dealing in handicraft and carpet-weaving and selling agricultural products. According to the plan, the government-in-exile would now take steps to give more independence to these co-operatives so that they could work for the uplift of the small-time workers in the settlements, said sources.

“Till now, each of the seven departments used to prepare its own annual plan, which was presented to Parliament. However, there was large-scale overlapping in the various projects. This is why this year the Planning Department was assigned the task of preparing one comprehensive plan by co-ordinating the inputs given by each department so that the resources are used effectively. Once the plan is formally accepted by the Prime Minister, every department will function accordingly,” said an official of the Central Tibetan Administration.

The plan, sources said also highlighted the condition of poor Tibetans in the settlements, adding that it was not improving and steps should be taken improve their living standards by involving the co-operatives and creating more employment.

The outdated methods of farming and the practice of relying heavily on the use of fertilisers are the other key areas of concern. It has been proposed that the Tibetan farmers be made aware of organic farming so that the original contents of the soil are retained. The methods of farming will be studied to help the farmers increase their yield.

The plan also includes new ways to spread the middle-path approach of the Dalai Lama to resolve the Tibet issue with China through negotiations and discussions. 
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Docs patronise erring chemists, says survey
Ravinder Sood

Palampur, July 9
Though the Union Government has proposed death penalty for the sale of spurious and substandard drugs, the Himachal Pradesh Government seems unconcerned. A survey conducted by a local voluntary organisation ‘Save Palampur’ reveals that over 100 brands of substandard and spurious drugs are being sold in different parts of the district.

Mr K.B. Rahalan, President, Palampur Welfare and Environment Protection Forum, who had raised this issue with the state government regretted that despite a high-level probe ordered by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh in August, 2003, and the proving of the involvement of some medical officers posted at government hospitals who were indicted by the enquiry officer, Mr Tilak Raj Sharma, no action had been initiated against the culprits so far.

According to information collected by The Tribune, most of the sub-standard and spurious drugs are reportedly being sold at Palampur, Dharamsala and Kangra on the prescription of some medical officers posted at the Zonal Hospital, Dharamsala, the Civil Hospitals at Palampur and Kangra. A chemist at Dharamsala told this reporter that these medical officers patronised particular chemist shops at these stations. The patients were specifically directed by doctors to buy medicines from these shops. He alleged that these doctors received handsome commission from companies every month.

Records at various hospitals revealed that doctors were repeatedly prescribing particular brands of medicines to patients. In one of the prescription slips of a doctor, it was found that he had prescribed medicines to a patient for one month at a stretch without bothering about the side effects. In these circumstances, the sale of standard drugs has come down in the district. A leading chemist and wholesale dealer of medicines at Kangra said that though the standard company medicines were cheaper, doctors were not prescribing these as they did not get commission on these medicines.

A chemist at Palampur told The Tribune that the margin of profit on substandard and spurious medicines ranged from 200 to 300 per cent and part of it went to doctors. Besides cash, costly gifts and foreign tours, were used to lure doctors into meeting the targets set by companies dealing in substandard drugs.

Most of these companies are reportedly located at Amritsar, Mohali and Delhi. The medicines are supplied and transported reportedly through HRTC buses to avoid sales tax. Recently, the sales tax authorities raided one of the chemist shops in the town. No documents of purchase of these drugs were found with the owners, who had reportedly brought these drugs from Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur by bus. They were fined Rs 20,000.
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Rates fixed for disposing of biomedical waste
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Mandi, July 9
Taking note of the health risk and the danger posed by hazardous medical wastes in the state, highlighted by The Tribune recently, the Deputy Commissioner, Mandi, Mr Ali Raza Rizvi, today fixed the rates for disposing of medical wastes for private hospitals, clinics, laboratories and the government hospital, to ensure a safe medical waste disposal system in the town.

But other districts across the state have yet to put the medical waste disposal system in place.

Talking to The Tribune after he chaired a meeting attended by the Health Officer, municipal committee, the Medical Superintendent, Zonal Hospital, Mandi, and a few owners of private hospitals, clinics and laboratories here today, Mr Rizvi said both the government and the private hospitals would pay Rs 3 per bed as charges to dispose of the biomedical wastes in the incinerator.

Mr Rizvi added that clinics with bed facilities and diagnostic laboratories would pay Rs 150 every month as charges to dispose of the biomedical wastes in the incinerator. “Other clinics and laboratories will pay Rs100 per month as charges to dispose of the medical wastes that they produce daily”.

Mr Rizvi said the Mandi municipal committee’s vehicles will collect the waste daily from the hospitals, clinics and the laboratories and dispose it of in the incinerator. “The hospitals will ensure that the solid medical waste is first disinfected, then destroyed in the cutters and is disposed of in the municipal waste-bins”.

Mr Rizvi said all the hospitals, clinics and laboratories had been issued guidelines on how to dispose of the solid medical waste.

Though most of the zonal hospitals and private clinics still pose a health risk as several district administrations have yet to take steps to ensure that a safe medical waste disposal system is in place as many hospitals have no incinerators.

Health officials said they had issued guidelines and dumped the biomedical waste in the “deep burials” after it is disinfected with bleaching powder.

Violators of the guidelines will be challaned under the provisions of the Biodegradable and Medical Wastes Act passed recently by the state government.

The State Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (SEPPCB) member secretary Dr S.S. Negi, said most of the primary health centres had a system of “deep burials” to dispose of their medical wastes. “No other case of pollution has come to light in the state except in the Zonal Hospital, Bilaspur.

A case was registered against the Chief Medical Officer, Bilaspur, in connection with the violation of the waste-disposal guidelines a few months ago and criminal proceedings have been initiated against the CMO and the Zonal Hospital authorities”, he added.
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Rainwater harvesting cost-effective
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 9
Their traditional knowledge, skill and technique in water harvesting has heralded prosperity, be it in the deserts of Rajasthan or the hills of Sikkim, where even the best architectural designs by qualified engineers have failed to find a solution to the water needs of the locals.

This is the success story of the 250 villagers working with an NGO, Barefoot College, Tilonia, Ajmer district, Rajasthan, whose traditional model for rainwater harvesting has been replicated in 13 states of the country. “We have undertaken construction of 100 tanks in schools in these 13 states, under a Rs 1 crore experimental project sanctioned by the Ministry of Water Resources,” informed Mr Lakshman Singh, a geologist running the Barefoot College.

As part of the project, underground tanks have been constructed in five schools in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. “Seeing the success and cost effectiveness of this traditional technique of rainwater harvesting, the government has a proposal to extend this project to other states,” informed Mr Lakshman Singh, here to attend a workshop being organised by the Press Institute of India on Development and Communication.

It was after the Barefoot College constructed 400 tanks in the four most dry districts of Barmer, Ajmer, Jaisalmer and Jaipur in Rajasthan that the Ministry of Water Resources realised the effectiveness of rainwater harvesting through the traditional technique. Compared to the expenditure incurred in exploiting underground water, construction of the “tankas” as these are called in Rajasthan and Gujarat, cost barely Re 1 per litre, with the tanks lasting for almost 30 years.

“The only problem which could be faced in the hills was possible cracks in the tanks, if the area fell in a seismic zone, which could be tackled by reducing the size of the tank to about 30,000 to 50,000 litre capacity,” said Mr Singh.Top

 

Kulu dist leads in sanitation drive
Our Correspondent

Kulu, July 9
Kulu district has achieved another first by implementing the total sanitation campaign after being a pioneer in the ban on polythene bags. This was stated by Mr Budhi Singh Thakur, chairman of the zila parishad, here on Wednesday. He said the Union Ministry of Rural Development had sanctioned Rs 90 lakh under the plan submitted in April 2003 and the first instalment of Rs 5.66 lakh had been released to bring about complete cleanliness in rural areas in this district. He said the zila parishad had announced to give priority to development works for villages.

In addition to the allocation of funds to the panchayat or village which proved the best, the Union Government had announced Nirmal Puraskar for these areas. Mr R.D. Nazim, Deputy Commissioner, said the campaign was a voluntary programme in which NGOs, panchayats, mahila mandals and yuva mandals would be involved to make low-cost latrines with locally available material. He said the campaign included bringing awareness among villagers. He said the purpose under the scheme was to bring about an improvement in the standard of living of village folk and to provide hygienic sorroundings in schools and water sources.

Mr Thakur said in the blocks of Kulu, Naggar, Ani, Banjar and Nirmand, 684 latrines had been constructed while 764 latrines were yet to be constructed in the first phase. The Deputy Commissioner said the Union Government would bear 60 per cent of the cost while 30 per cent would be borne by the state government and 10 per cent by the school or panchayat. He said preference would be given to senior secondary and high schools. He said block-level committees would be set up to monitor cleanliness.
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NGO seeks Chief Parliamentary Secy’s removal
Our Correspondent

Solan, July 9
Alleging that the state government has conveniently flouted the central legislation, enforceable from July 7, regarding having the maximum number of state ministers up to 12, a local NGO, called True Fighters, has sent a memorandum to the President of India, through the Governor of Himachal Pradesh, further alleging that as on July 8, there are 13 members in the council of ministers in the state, including one Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Mukesh Agnihotri, holding the portfolio of Housing Minister.

The president of the NGO, Mr Virendra Kumar, said according to the Central law and the sub-clause {e} of Section 2 of the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act, 1983, the Chief Parliamentary Secretary was considered to be a member of the Council of Ministers in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

The complainant has quoted the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act, 1983, which defines a minister as per Section 2 {e} 66 as the “member of Council of Ministers by whatsoever name called for the state of Himachal Pradesh, that is too say, the Chief Minister, Minister of State, Deputy Minister and shall also include the Chief Parliamentary Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary.” 
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Cable breach disrupts tele services
Tribune News Service

Mandi, July 9
Surfers and Internet users faced a harrowing time as the telecommunication services in the town came to a grinding halt around 3 p.m. today because optical fiber cables connecting the Shimla headquarters with Mandi, Bilaspur and Kulu districts were breached somewhere between Bilaspur and Darlaghat on the Shimla-Bilaspur road.

Mr Inderjit Singh, who runs Internet cafe in the town, said that the connectivity remained the major problem most of the time and they had to face customers daily, who complained of slow connectivity. “The connectivity remains poor most of the time in the town”, added Mr Punit Kapur, another cafe owner in the town.

The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) authorities remained puzzled for two hours as the fault remained undetected till 5 p.m. The team was dispatched to the spot after two hours, leaving the users trying in vain throughout the evening.

Not only this, even the Internet users complained that the connectivity remained slow and the BSNL authorities gave a damn to complaints.

The General Manger, BSNL, Mr Pradeep Kumar, said that the problem was being rectified and the Internet traffic was being rerouted through the Neri route to Shimla. “We are using the present sources to restore the fault”, he added. Finally, the connectivity was restored around 6 in the evening through the alternate route.
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Bali sees no discrimination against Kangra
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, July 9
Asking the Bharatiya Janata Party to stop commenting on the internal affairs of the Congress, Transport Minister G.S.Bali here today said allegations by senior BJP leaders like Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal that Kangra district had been neglected in the downsizing process were absolutely baseless.

Addressing a press conference, he clarified that downsizing of the Cabinet was mandatory and was done on directions from the party High Command after a high-powered committee was constituted to look into the issue. “Since eight out of the 16 ministers were from Kangra itself, removals had to be made from among them only,” he said.

In its tenure, the BJP did not show any significant result in the field of development and all major projects like medical college, School Education Board had come up during the Congress regime he said.
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Letter to Sanawar school bursar withdrawn
Our Correspondent

Shimla, July 9
Headmaster of Lawrence School Sanawar, Prof Gautam Chaterjee, has withdrawn the letter issued to Lt Col (retd) S.K. Nautiyal on June 7 whereby Mr Nautiyal was relieved of his duty as a bursar of the school. The headmaster has also withdrawn the letters written to Mr Nautiyal directing him to vacate the house under his occupation.

Counsel for the headmaster informed the high court of the letter. Copy of the letter dated July 1 has been taken on record. Taking into consideration the contents of this letter a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice V.K. Gupta and Mr. Justice Arun Kumar Goel disposed of the petition filed by Mr Nautiyal yesterday.

Counsel for the petitioner, contended that the headmaster had no authority to relieve the bursar and this act of the headmaster was ultra vires the rules of the Sanawar School. 
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