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Drought plays havoc with apple crop
Farmers face mite, blight attack
Kulu, July 22
With the rains still eluding the north, drought has wreaked miseries on apple growers across the state, damaging more than 25-30 per cent of fruit yield so far. The apple crop, which is maturing face a double attack as the drought has triggered mite attack.

Declare HP drought-hit, demands CPM
Shimla, July 22
The state unit of the CPM has urged the Centre to declare Himachal Pradesh a drought-hit state and provide all possible assistance to it to combat the situation created by the failure of monsoon.

Take steps to protect HP interests: Dhumal
Shimla, July 22
While welcoming the decision of the Virbhadra regime to move the Supreme Court on the issue of water sharing by states, former Chief Minister, P.K. Dhumal has demanded that the government must explore all possible legal and political steps to ensure that Himachal’s rights are protected.

Transport policy to provide buses for more rural areas
Shimla, July 22
Introduction of pre-paid and metered taxi services in major towns, maintenance of 60:40 ratio of urban and rural stretches in bus routes, compulsory refresher course for drivers for renewal of licence after every three years and ban on registration of old vehicles which do not conform to latest pollution standards, are the main features of the new transport policy which will also take care of the water transport services in the state.

Ex-soldiers to form pressure group of MPs
Shimla, July 22
Disillusioned by the indifferent attitude of the Central Government towards the demands of the ex-servicemen fraternity, the Himachal Pradesh Ex-servicemen Association has decided to form a “pressure group” of MPs to make the voice of soldiers heard in Parliament.



Court ban leaves paragliders in Solang high and dry.
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EARLIER STORIES

 

New HP industrial policy by Oct
Shimla, July 22
The Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, yesterday announced that Himachal Pradesh would have a new industrial policy by October. This was disclosed by Mr Virbhadra Singh, while presiding over the review meeting of the industries, HP Khadi and Village Industries Board, the HP Financial Corporation and the HP Small Industries Development Corporation, here.

Paucity of funds hits water scheme
Nurpur, July 22
The Rs 3.28 crore water augmentation scheme for Nurpur which had been sanctioned under the Centrally-sponsored Accelerated Urban Water Supply Scheme in January 2002 is not likely to be completed on time due to the failure of the present state government to allocate funds against its overrun cost in the Budget for the current fiscal year.

BJP to launch agitation if MoU implemented
Shimla, July 22
The state BJP chief, Mr Suresh Bhardwaj, today warned the state government not to implement the MoU on fiscal reforms signed with the Centre in its present form, failing which the party would launch a statewide agitation to protect the rights of Himachal Pradesh.

PIL to downsize HP ministry filed
Shimla, July 22
A public interest litigation has been filed in the Himachal High Court with a prayer to direct the Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, to downsize the present council of ministers.

Khajiyar, also known as mini Switzerland, situated 24 km away from Chamba The eco system of Khajiyar, known as mini Switzerland, situated 24 km away from Chamba, is facing degradation due to the accumulation of cow dung in the lake. More than 600 animals from adjoining 20 villages graze here throughout the year and because of that approximately 1,500 kg of cow dung flows into the Khajiyar lake. — PTI photo


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Drought plays havoc with apple crop
Farmers face mite, blight attack
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Kulu, July 22
With the rains still eluding the north, drought has wreaked miseries on apple growers across the state, damaging more than 25-30 per cent of fruit yield so far. The apple crop, which is maturing face a double attack as the drought has triggered mite attack.

If it rains heavily after a long drought the orchards will face blight. “It was a good apple season this year but the drought has damaged over 30 per cent of the crop and there is no sign of the rains, says Mr Nakul Khullar, an orchard owner near Naggar. “Mite has already shown signs of revival in many orchards in the valley as trees need rain as the maturing of fruit is in its final stage. The Horticulture Department has no guidance or camps to guide farmers”, he adds.

The drought has hit the apple growers in the Kulu valley, including Banjar and Ani in Kulu district, Shantha-Dewat, Bodhna, Maroag in Chopal, Jubbal-Kotkhai, Rohru, Kumarsain and Kotgarh in Shimla district and the Churag-Karsog in Mandi district.

The fruit is dropping and its size has shrunk. Strong sun has damaged the fruit quality as yellow patches are visible in the upper parts of the trees, says Mr Rupinder Singh Kunwar, another orchard owner at Mahol.

Though the apple season has picked up in lower altitudes in distress, water sources have dried up in many parts in the state, damaging the crop. “The drought has not only damaged the quality and quantity of the fruit, it will affect the crop next year as well”, noted Mr Pradeep Banchta, an orchardist from Chopal, says.

It was a good season this time but the long dry spell has led to an unprecedented situation, says Mr Rajiv Bragta, an orchardist from Maroag in Shimla district. “Even if it rains now blight can damage the crop as fruit is in a maturing stage in the higher altitudes. Untimely rains are as bad as no rains”, he says.

The drought has also damaged cash crops like tomato, cauliflower, and cabbage. These crops depend on water sources, which are fed by the monsoons, farmers say, lamenting that they have no crop insurance here unlike their counterparts in Punjab and Haryana. 
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Declare HP drought-hit, demands CPM
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
The state unit of the CPM has urged the Centre to declare Himachal Pradesh a drought-hit state and provide all possible assistance to it to combat the situation created by the failure of monsoon.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Rakesh Singha, secretary of the party, pointed out that a drought-like situation had been created in the hill state which had been severely affected because of lack of rain. The data released by the Meteorological Department indicated that the rainfall recorded from June 1 to July 21 had been 50 per cent of the normal. The precipitation in the preceding period from March 1 to May 31 had also been below normal in all the 12 districts of the state.

In the prevailing conditions the crops of maize, potato, paddy, pulses, ginger and vegetables had been affected. The apple crop had been extensively damaged across the state. The impact of drought was accentuated due to the fact that the state had only 17 per cent of its cultivable area under irrigation. The small land holdings made things worse. The marginal and small farmers, who were left without livelihood, were looking towards the government for succour. 
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Take steps to protect HP interests: Dhumal
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
While welcoming the decision of the Virbhadra regime to move the Supreme Court on the issue of water sharing by states, former Chief Minister, P.K. Dhumal has demanded that the government must explore all possible legal and political steps to ensure that Himachal’s rights are protected.

In a statement issued here yesterday, he said during the tenure of the successive Congress governments at the Centre and in Himachal, agreements have been signed where the interest of Himachal had not been protected. “Despite the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, assuring the people of Himachal that if they vote for the Congress, he could consider discussing the issue of transfer of the Shanan project to Himachal, nothing had been done,” he said.

Mr Dhumal regretted that despite the land on which the Shanan project had been set up and the water belong to Himachal, the project was with Punjab. “Moreover, even the agreement signed by the erstwhile Raja of Mandi on the project had lapsed, so the Shanan project must be handed over to Himachal,” he demanded.

The BJP leader demanded that the state government should announce a support price for the mango crop as had been done in the case of apple.
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Transport policy to provide buses
for more rural areas
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
Introduction of pre-paid and metered taxi services in major towns, maintenance of 60:40 ratio of urban and rural stretches in bus routes, compulsory refresher course for drivers for renewal of licence after every three years and ban on registration of old vehicles which do not conform to latest pollution standards, are the main features of the new transport policy which will also take care of the water transport services in the state.

Revealing the salient features of the policy approved by the state Cabinet yesterday Mr G.S. Bali, Transport Minister, here yesterday, said that the emphasis of the policy was on providing adequate passenger services in the rural areas, check fleecing by taxi and truck operators and reduce the possibilities of accidents. He said pre-paid taxis would be introduced in Shimla within 45 days and metered taxis within six months in main towns, including Manali, Bhuntar, Kulu, Palampur, Dharamsala, Kangra, Mandi, Solan, Kasauli, Dalhousie, Shimla and Parwanoo. A new colour code would also be enforced for taxis and buses over the next one year.

While allotting permits for new bus routes it would be ensured that at least 60 per cent of the total length of the route fell in rural area. Permits would be cancelled if it was established that a particular driver was indulging in rash and negligent driving and his licence would also be cancelled.

The ferries Act would be amended to effectively regulate the water transport services in the state.

Regarding the recent bus accidents he said the inquiry reports had revealed that the mishaps near Nadaun in Hamirpur and Karsog were caused by human failure. The drivers responsible for the accidents had been suspended and stringent action would be taken against them after chargesheeting them.

Mr Bali also convened a meeting of senior officers to discuss preventive steps to bring down the accident rate. It was decided to carry out an annual check of the bus crew and provide them with training. Further a minimum stock of critical spare parts would be maintained at all workshops of the State Road Transport Corporation to ensure proper upkeep of the fleet. The design of the bus bodies would be changed and made more sturdy in view of the fact that bodies of vehicles involved in some recent accidents had disintegrated rather easily.

It also decided to introduce a concession scheme under which 25 per cent discount would be available to those who booked bus ticket one month in advance. However, in case of cancellation of ticket only 50 per cent of the amount would be reimbursed. To increase business an incentive scheme would be introduced for the staff under which the region achieving more than 20 per cent increase in the annual income would be given a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh. Similarly, for an increase ranging between 15 and 20 per cent the reward would be Rs 50,000 and for 12 to 15 per cent Rs 25,000.
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Ex-soldiers to form pressure group of MPs
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
Disillusioned by the indifferent attitude of the Central Government towards the demands of the ex-servicemen fraternity, the Himachal Pradesh Ex-servicemen Association has decided to form a “pressure group” of MPs to make the voice of soldiers heard in Parliament.

As a first step, the association has convened a special meeting at Berthin in Bilaspur district on July 24th which all Lok Sabha members from the state have been invited. Once a beginning is made from the hill state, which has a large number of serving personnel and ex-servicemen, MPs from other states whose constituencies have a significant number of such electorate, will join the group transcending the party lines, hopes Brig H.S. Chandel (retd), president of the association who mooted the idea of forming a pressure group.

“It is not the wont of “disciplined” soldiers to indulge in strikes and violent agitations to seek the redress of their grievances, a modus-operandi successfully deployed by the civilians to put pressure on the government. Hence the need to involve the MPs in the fight for justice,” he explains.

Brigadier Chandel has also come out with a paper highlighting the main demands and the proposed strategy to settle them expeditiously to make the deliberations 
at the meeting fruitful. Most important is the one rank, one pension issue which has been pending for the past over three decades. Despite favourable recommendations by four high-powered committees and assurances 
given from time to time by the chairpersons of the standing committee on defence, the issue has remained unresolved.

Another connected issue is ensuring employment up to the age of 60 years to soldiers who are compulsorily retired at the prime age of 32 to 35 years with depreciated pension to help maintain a young profile of the army. The solution suggested is that either they should be ensured employment up to 60 years’ or granted full pension de-linked from the 33 years qualifying rider.

Most of the problems could be solved if a separate pay commission is set up for the defence forces so that intricate issues pertaining to the armed forces could be considered in the right perspective. Brig Chandel feels.

Other issues include standardisation of grants and other benefits to ex-servicemen and their wards, which differ from state to 
state and provide employment to the dependants of soldiers who die in 
harness, as unlike those who are killed in the 
battlefield.

The association is confident that the MPs from northern states like Haryana, Punjab and Uttranchal, who have a large number of ex-servicemen, will come forward to join the pressure group.
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New HP industrial policy by Oct
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
The Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, yesterday announced that Himachal Pradesh would have a new industrial policy by October.

This was disclosed by Mr Virbhadra Singh, while presiding over the review meeting of the industries, HP Khadi and Village Industries Board, the HP Financial Corporation and the HP Small Industries Development Corporation, here. He added that the new industrial policy was being given finishing touches.

“The need for a new policy was being felt so as to meet the present day requirement for expansion of industry and to ensure involvement of the entire state, as this would lead to employment generation,” he remarked. He said an investment of over Rs 5,000 crore had been made since the last financial year, which was likely to generate employment for one lakh persons.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, said some of the renowned industrial houses had approached the state government and their cases were being decided by the specially created single window clearance and monitoring authority.

He said an outlay of Rs 104.73 crore had been approved for the industrial activities during the 10th Plan.

He stressed the need for paying special attention towards the promotion of sericulture, which would help in generating employment for the rural masses.

The Chief Minister, expressed concern over the unscientific mining still being done in some parts of the state. “In view of the resultant ecological damage to the fragile Himalayan ecology, the authorities concerned must ensure that no such activity is done,” he said.

He added that in view of the large-scale unscientific mining, the geological and hydrological wing of the Industries Department would be strengthened.
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Paucity of funds hits water scheme
Our Correspondent

Nurpur, July 22
The Rs 3.28 crore water augmentation scheme for Nurpur which had been sanctioned under the Centrally-sponsored Accelerated Urban Water Supply Scheme in January 2002 is not likely to be completed on time due to the failure of the present state government to allocate funds against its overrun cost in the Budget for the current fiscal year. The then Union Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Mr Shanta Kumar, had got the project cleared from the Union Urban Development Ministry.

Under the scheme the Centre and the respective state governments had to bear the cost of the scheme equally.

Work on the project is in progress but the cost of the project has increased due to a hike in the prices of the components. About Rs 50 lakh had been sought from the state government but the government could not allocate the fund.

The Irrigation-cum-Public Health Department which has been executing to work was expecting to complete it this year but the paucity of funds will hamper its progress.

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BJP to launch agitation if MoU implemented
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
The state BJP chief, Mr Suresh Bhardwaj, today warned the state government not to implement the MoU on fiscal reforms signed with the Centre in its present form, failing which the party would launch a statewide agitation to protect the rights of Himachal Pradesh.

In a statement issued here today, he said the MoU would have a serious fall out as all job avenues even for the professionally qualified youths would be closed. “It is surprising how the Chief Minister can make such tall claims of generating one lakh jobs when the MoU was going to make the employment scenario even more grim,” said Mr Bhardwaj.

Accusing the state government of adopting “criminal indifference” towards the problems of the fruit growers, the BJP chief said that the support price of Rs 4.25 announced for the apple would leave the growers at the mercy of the officers who could use their discretion liberally to reject the apple coming for sale.
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PIL to downsize HP ministry filed
Legal Correspondent

Shimla, July 22
A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Himachal High Court with a prayer to direct the Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, to downsize the present council of ministers. The petition has been filed by a local organisation on the basis of 97th amendment carried out in the Constitution vide which it has been held that the number of Council of Ministers should not exceed 15 per cent of the total members of the House.

There are allegations in the petition that the number of Council of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, is 13 though as per the amendment this number should not exceed 12.

It has also been prayed in the petition that if the Chief Minister is not inclined to downsize the ministry suitable action should be initiated against him.
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Panchayats declared backward
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
The state government has declared some new panchayats as backward following the recent reorganisation of the already declared backward panchayats in the state.

Deori Dhar in Banjar block and Danogi in Kullu block, Hundia and Bhadoli Kalan in Jhanduta block in Bilaspur, Tihri in Sadar block, Khuddi in Chontara block, Kanhod, Kuklah, Murah and Kau in Saraj block, Dharat Bangla and Tarswan in Drang block, Bhur and Bhadehar in Dharampur block, Marhara and Barorohanda in Karsog block in Mandi district have been declared backward.
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Youth booked on rape charge
Our Correspondent

Nahan, July 22
The Rajgarh police yesterday booked Anil Kumar, a resident of Mazhyali village in Rajgarh subdivision under Section 376, IPC, on the charge of raping a girl of the same village.

In a report filed with the police by the 20-year-old Scheduled Caste girl, it has been alleged that about seven months back the accused, who was known to her, came at her residence and raped her. The girl has alleged that she was terrorised by the accused and was threatened of dire consequences. This offence continued for seven months due to which she conceived.
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