SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



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’s plea rejected
Shimla, March 9
The Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Regulatory Commission has rejected the petition of the state power board for a review of its decision to order an inquiry to ascertain its financial position.

Fraud in IPH Dept, probe ordered
Reckong Peo, March 9
A fraud in the Irrigation and Public Health Department in the district has come to light, in which a portion of the flood relief money sanctioned had been utilised for construction work without inviting tenders and seeking prior approval of the district administration authorities.

Horticulture major farming activity in state
Reckong Peo, March 9
Horticulture has emerged as the major farming activity among the hill folk of Himachal Pradesh during the past couple of decades, thanks to the rich diversity of agro-climatic conditions, topographical variations and altitudinal differences coupled with fertile, deep and well drained soils that favour the cultivation of temperate to sub-tropical fruits.

Public hearing on delimitation from June 1
Shimla, March 9
The delimitation commission will hold public hearings from June 1 to 5 for objections to the proposal to redraw the boundaries of the parliamentary and Assembly constituencies.

Minister denies BJP corruption charges
Shimla, March 9
The Industry Minister, Mr Kuldeep Kumar, said today that the Vigilance Department was probing the case of appointments made in Kangra Central Cooperative Bank during the BJP regime and the guilty would not be spared.



YOUR TOWN
Dharamsala
Kangra
Mandi
Shimla
Nurpur


EARLIER STORIES

 

BJP cautioned over disqualification issue
Shimla, March 9
The five independent MLAs against whom the BJP has filed a petition for disqualification on the grounds of defection from the Assembly before the Speaker, today asked the chief whip of the BJP, Mr Ravinder Ravi, to refrain from making political statements on the issue.

BJP alleges witch-hunt by government
Nurpur, March 9
Terming the three-year regime of the Virbhadra Singh government as full of scams, corruption and failures on all fronts, the state BJP joint media in charge Rajinder Rana, in a statement released here last evening, said there was nothing to cheer about. He accused the Congress Government of resorting to witch-hunt against Opposition leaders.

Copying in exams goes on unchecked
Kangra, March 9
Intellectuals and educationists are worried about the spreading menace of copying in examinations conducted by the Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education.

Budget: charges of discrimination denied
Shimla, March 9
Denying charges of regional disparity in Budget, Himachal Irrigation and Public Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur today said that the allocation had been made project-wise keeping in mind development of the state.

Govt trying to fill posts of doctor: CM
Shimla, March 9
The Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, said today that the government was in touch with the Jammu and Kashmir Government for adopting some villages in the earthquake hit areas of the neighbouring state.

Six killed in mishaps
Mandi, March 9
In three different incidents, as many as six persons were killed and six others injured in the Kulu-Mandi area in the past three days..

Foreigner’s body yet to be identified
Dharamsala, March 9
No breakthrough has been achieved in identification of the 25-year-old female foreigner whose body was found in the forest area in Dharamkot on March 5.

Rs 1.56 cr for Shimla water supply scheme
Shimla, March 9
The government has provided Rs 1.56 crore for the replacement of old pumping machinery at the Ashwani khud and purchase of spare machinery to ensure smooth water supply to the state capital during the summer.

Leopard captured from house in Solan
Shimla, March 9
In the second incident of its kind, the state forest officials captured a leopard from a bathroom of a house in Solan district after he followed a pet dog, Forest Department sources said.



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Power board’s plea rejected
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 9
The Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Regulatory Commission has rejected the petition of the state power board for a review of its decision to order an inquiry to ascertain its financial position.

The inquiry, which may have far-reaching consequences for the board, has been ordered by the commission, exercising the powers vested in it under Section 128 of the Electricity Act 2003 to form an opinion whether or not it is in a position to fully and efficiently discharge its duties and obligations. The commission has given its nod to Mr A.K. Jain, a former member of the West Bengal Regulatory Commission, the investigating authority, to go ahead with the inquiry.

He has been given 50 days to complete the job from the day of commencement of the assignment. The financial position and increasing employee cost has been a matter of concern. The employee cost of Rs 1.35 per unit is twice the next highest and over six times the lowest in the country.

The board has not complied with the direction of the commission to downsize its unwieldy set-up, as a result of which it has been accumulating huge losses every year.

Indifferent implementation and large-scale financial irregularities in the 126-MW Larji project has led to huge cost and time over-runs. The cost of construction is likely to be Rs 11 crore per megawatt, as against the normal Rs 5.5 crore per megawatt, making it the costliest big project to date.

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Fraud in IPH Dept, probe ordered
Kulwinder Sandhu

Tribune News Service

Reckong Peo, March 9
A fraud in the Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) Department in the district has come to light, in which a portion of the flood relief money sanctioned had been utilised for construction work without inviting tenders and seeking prior approval of the district administration authorities.

It has been learnt that the department’s Chief Engineer (South Zone) B.D. Thakur had ordered an inquiry into the matter and District Magistrate Amandeep Garg was also looking into the matter.

As per details available, the local office of the IPH Department had illegally handed over the work of constructing a 150-metre crate wire wall in the Sutlej basin at Tangling village to two contractors, who allegedly enjoyed a good relationship with a senior official of the department.

After the work was completed recently, officials of the department invited tenders for the same work from these contractors earlier this week without publishing the tender notice in newspapers.

The work order on this tender was likely to be allotted today, but details in this regard were not immediately known from the department.

Sources in the district administration revealed that the work had been completed by the contractors before funds were allocated to the department by the administration.

An amount of Rs 10 lakh was allotted to the department in February from the flood relief funds available with the administration to carry out certain works.

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Horticulture major farming activity in state
Tribune News Service

Reckong Peo, March 9
Horticulture has emerged as the major farming activity among the hill folk of Himachal Pradesh during the past couple of decades, thanks to the rich diversity of agro-climatic conditions, topographical variations and altitudinal differences coupled with fertile, deep and well drained soils that favour the cultivation of temperate to sub-tropical fruits.

The area under fruits, which was 792 hectares in 1950-51 with a total production of just 1,200 tonnes, has increased to 1,86,903 hectares during 2004-05 with the total fruit production of 6.92 lakh tonnes. During 2005-06, it was envisaged to bring 4,000 hectares of additional area under fruit plants against which 3,825 hectares were brought under plantations and 10.52 lakh fruit plants of different species were distributed among farmers by the end of 2005.

Interestingly, the shifting of land use pattern from traditional agriculture practices to fruit crops in the past few decades could be linked to comparatively more profits being earned by the farming community, feel agro-scientists.

Apple is so far the most important fruit crop in Himachal Pradesh, which constitutes about 46 per cent of the total area under fruit crops and about 76 per cent of the total fruit production. The area under apple cultivation has increased from 3,025 hectares in 1960-61 to 86,202 hectares in 2004-05.

The area under temperate fruits other than apple has increased from 900 hectares in 1960-61 to 25,223 hectares in 2004-05. The area under nuts and dry fruits increased from 231 hectares in 1960-61 to 11,100 hectares in 2004-05. Citrus and other subtropical fruits have increased from 1,225 hectares and 623 hectares in 1960-61 to 20,399 hectares and 43,979 hectares in 2004-05, respectively.

In recent years, there has also been a shift in attitude of the state government as well as the farming community to push in cultivation of other fruit varieties and allied activities of horticulture for more profit, thereby, improving the socio-economic status of the hill folk.

Mango has emerged as an important fruit crop attracting hundreds of farmers every year. Litchi is also gaining importance in certain regions. Mango and litchi are fetching better market prices with respect to apples produced in the state, which is a good sign for the farming community in the lower Shivaliks.

In the mid-hill zone, the agro-climatic conditions are highly suitable for the successful cultivation of new fruits like kiwi, olive, pecan and strawberry. The state government has chalked out plans to bring in these fruits under cultivation.

According to the details available from the Horticulture Department, a total area of 171 hectares was brought under flower cultivation by the end of 2005 and 48 flower grower cooperative societies were functioning in the state during that period. Ancillary horticultural activities like mushroom and bee keeping had also witnessed growth during the past few years. The hill state produced 4,279 metric tones of mushroom in 2005.

Under the bee-keeping programme, 250 bee colonies were distributed amongst beekeepers as a result of which the total production of honey touched 117 metric tonnes by the end of 2005.

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Public hearing on delimitation from June 1
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 9
The delimitation commission will hold public hearings from June 1 to 5 for objections to the proposal to redraw the boundaries of the parliamentary and Assembly constituencies.

The public hearings will be held at Dharamsala on June 1, Mandi on June 3 and Shimla on June 5 on the basis of the draft paper circulated yesterday. There has been no change in the status of the four parliamentary constituencies and Shimla will continue to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes. However, the number of seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in the Assembly is proposed to be increased from 16 to 17,whereas the number of those reserved for the Scheduled Tribes will remain at three.

The additional seat proposed to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes is Solan. The Kusumpti seat is to be de-reserved and Rohru, the constituency of Mr Virbhadra Singh, is proposed to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes in its place in Shimla district. There is little difference in the population of the Scheduled Castes in Rohru (29.24 per cent) and Chopal (28.71 per cent) as such the status could change after public hearing.

A new seat Shimla (rural) is proposed to be created by combining parts of the Kusumpti seat and the Sunni area while the Kumarsain seat will be deleted. In Kangra district Baijnath, Jaisinghpur and Indora are proposed to be reserved. No change is proposed in the in the status of reserved seats in other districts.

Further, one seat is proposed to be reduced in Kangra by scrapping the Thural constituency and a new seat Manali to be created in Kulu district on the basis of population. The Jogindernagar Assembly constituency is to be shifted from Mandi parliamentary constituency to Kangra parliamentary constituency to ensure that all four parliamentary constituencies comprised 17 seats each.

The Shimla parliamentary seat will have the maximum population of 15,84,472 with highest 27.41 per cent Scheduled Castes, followed by Kangra 15,54,310 (20.80 per cent), Mandi 14,90,063 (26.97 per cent) and Hamirpur 14,49,055 (23.61 per cent).

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Minister denies BJP corruption charges
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 9
The Industry Minister, Mr Kuldeep Kumar, said today that the Vigilance Department was probing the case of appointments made in Kangra Central Cooperative Bank (KCCB) during the BJP regime and the guilty would not be spared.

Launching a counter-attack on the BJP, he termed the allegations against him in the BJP charge sheet as baseless and politically motivated, intended to malign his clean image.

Addressing a press conference here, he said the case pertaining to appointments made during the Dhumal regime in the KCCB were under the scanner of the Vigilance authorities. “During the BJP regime against the 150 posts advertised, 229 persons were given jobs in the KCCB,” he said.

He further said that out of this 51 persons were from Hamirpur district alone, which constituted 23 per cent of the total appointments made. He alleged that no rules or regulations were followed while making these appointments and some of the selected candidates did not even appear for the exam or the interview.

He said his son had been allotted a petrol station not from any quota or on anybody’s recommendation but solely on merit. “If having a petrol station is a parameter of corruption then some of the BJP leaders whose family members have two to three stations and that too allotted from government quota are far more corrupt than me,” he quipped.

He denied none of his family member, least of all his son had an SCVT college as alleged by the BJP. “As far as the question of appointing people from my assembly segment of Gagret is concerned, four out of the total eight are my constituents but they made it by going through the test and interview,” he clarified.

He said there were people in the BJP, like Mr Mahender Singh, who as PWD Minister had appointed over 4,000 persons from his constituency in his department in violation of the rules and regulations. As far as the BJP allegation of encroaching upon government land was concerned, he produced a letter from the Tehsildar, Amb, saying that there was no encroachment on the said land and the PWD was in possession of the land.

He said after consulting his lawyer he would take suitable actions against the BJP leaders who had made these allegations.

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BJP cautioned over disqualification issue
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 9
The five independent MLAs against whom the BJP has filed a petition for disqualification on the grounds of defection from the Assembly before the Speaker, today asked the chief whip of the BJP, Mr Ravinder Ravi, to refrain from making political statements on the issue.

Addressing a press conference here today, the legislators, including Mr Kuldeep Singh Pathania and Mr Rakesh Verma, said Mr Ravi should not be making political statements on the issue every now and then, as it was a legal and technical issue.

“We caution the BJP to not to accrue any political mileage from the issue as the matter is already before the Speaker,” said Mr Pathania, who was accompanied by the other five MLAs.

The BJP has sought disqualification of the five MLA’s who have become associate members of the Congress on grounds of defection under Section 2 of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. “There is no maintainability of their petition as we have not joined the Congress party, but ultimately it is the Speaker who will decided the petition,” said Mr Pathania.

“The authority to decide all such matters vests only with the Speaker and by making statements that the BJP will knock the doors of the court on the issue amounts to insinuating the office of the Speaker,” the MLAs remarked. 

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BJP alleges witch-hunt by government
Our Correspondent

Nurpur, March 9
Terming the three-year regime of the Virbhadra Singh government as full of scams, corruption and failures on all fronts, the state BJP joint media in charge Rajinder Rana, in a statement released here last evening, said there was nothing to cheer about. He accused the Congress Government of resorting to witch-hunt against Opposition leaders.

“Instead of harassing Opposition leaders, Mr Virbhadra Singh should pay full attention to the deteriorating economic health and development of the state,” he said. The state was passing through a serious economic crisis but the Chief Minister was making bogus claims by presenting inflated figures of development, whereas the state had lowest growth rate, he added.

Mr Rana questioned why the government had been diverting the provident funds of employees to tide over the financial crisis. He accused Virbhadra Singh of having drifted from the common man and protecting his political interests.

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Copying in exams goes on unchecked
Our correspondent

Kangra, March 9
Intellectuals and educationists are worried about the spreading menace of copying in examinations conducted by the Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education.

The Himachal school board caught more than 400 students while copying during the past three days in four districts of the state. It also cancelled examinations at three centres for indulging in mass copying. The board authorities though introduced women flying squads for the first time headed by an Assistant Secretary, the copying went on unabated. Five lakh students are taking board examinations of Classes VIII, X, XI, XII in 1,514 centres in the state, which started from March 3. Board set up 1357 examination centres in Govt. schools and 127 in the Private schools.

Two women flying squads comprising five members each and headed by an Assistant Secretary of the board have been constituted to curb copying among girl candidates.

In the past five days during a visit to different centres it seemed that copying was continuing on a large scale despite the fact that 618 officers had been appointed as ‘checkers’ to curb copying. Dr K.D. Lakhanpal, Secretary, Board of School Education, told The Tribune here today that the board was serious about the copying issue and action under the Copying Act 1984 would be taken. Offenders would be booked under non-bailable charges.

Dr R.D. Sharma, former Deputy Director of Education and senior educationist, told The Tribune today that the board was flogging a dead horse and the flying squads would not help in solving the problem. He said, “ It is simply an eye wash”.

Dr Sharma suggested that the Government should pool its resources for improving classroom teaching and without improving classroom teaching there was no fun to constitute so many squads.

He further suggested that the examination staff remain under threat from local people so it was difficult for them to control copying without suitable security.

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Budget: charges of discrimination denied
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 9
Denying charges of regional disparity in Budget, Himachal Irrigation and Public Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur today said that the allocation had been made project-wise keeping in mind development of the state.

Participating in the debate on Budget proposals for 2006-07 in the Assembly, he said the BJP’s allegation of disparity was without substance. Care had been taken by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to ensure welfare of all sections of society, including women, farmers, employees and serving and retired Defence personnel, he said.

He pointed out the Rs 50 crore-Bamsan-Lagwalti water supply scheme in Hamirpur district had been included in the Budget, which will cover over 155 villages of the area. Besides this a master plan for a scheme worth Rs 1,750 crore had been prepared under the Bharat Nirman Yojna to provide drinking water to 30,000 habitations to be completed by 2009, he said.

The state was under debt due to financial mismanagement by the previous Dhumal regime. Now efforts are being made to improve the situation, he said.

Mentioning the name of Mr Mohinder Singh, he said that the MLA from Dharampur was making wild allegations to play to the gallery. Instead of appreciating welfare schemes and other projects, the BJP was criticising for the sake of criticism.

Election manifesto of the Congress had been declared a policy document and the government was committed to fulfil all promises. A Cabinet sub-committee had been constituted for the purpose, which was monitoring and reviewing implementation of the election manifesto. He also dismissed allegations levelled by Mr Mohinder Singh that most of the power projects were given to people from Andhra Pradesh. We have framed a power policy under which preference will be given to Himachalis for executing power projects below 5 MW, he said.

Participating in the debate Mr Ramesh Chaudhary, demanded an inquiry into the IPH contracts and the decision of the state government to raise loan of Rs 4,000 crore from the Industrial Bank of India at the rate of 12 per cent interest. To his demand the IPH Minister said that the government was open for any inquiry as transparency was being maintained.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh also tabled the Criminal Law (HP Amendment) Bill 2006. The House after discussion, also approved the HP Marriages Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2006., today.

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Govt trying to fill posts of doctor: CM
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 9
The Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, said today that the government was in touch with the Jammu and Kashmir Government for adopting some villages in the earthquake hit areas of the neighbouring state.

Replying to a query by Mr Mohinder Singh during question hour in the Assembly today, the Chief Minister said correspondence was being done with the Jammu and Kashmir officials in this regard. “Out of a total of Rs 4.64 crore that had been donated by people to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund specifically for the earthquake victims of Jammu and Kashmir an amount of Rs 1.13 crore had been sent for the help for the victims,” he informed the House.

To a query by Mr Mohinder Singh as to why the entire amount had not been used for giving relief to the quake victims, Mr Virbhadra Singh said this was not something new as in the past also money left in the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund was used for extending help to the poor and needy people in the state. “We kept sending money for the quake victims as per the demand or for a particular project and the rest of the money is lying safe in the relief fund,” he said.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, said during his regime a separate fund called “Mukhya Mantri Sainik Kalyan Kosh” was created in which all donations for the Kargil martyrs was deposited. Giving details, Mr Virbhadra Singh said in this fund there was a total of Rs 14.82 crore out of which Rs 4.07 crore was still lying unspent,” he said.

In reply to another question raised by Dr Rajiv Bindal, the Chief Minister admitted that a large number of posts of doctors were lying vacant at the two medical colleges in Shimla and Kangra. “We are trying our level best to fill these vacancies through different methods like promotion, appointment through the State Public Service Commission and on contract basis,” he said.

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Six killed in mishaps
Tribune News Service

Mandi, March 9
In three different incidents, as many as six persons were killed and six others injured in the Kulu-Mandi area in the past three days..

In the first incident, a tipper fell into a nullah near Alaeu in Manali town killing Radhe Shayam of Uttaranchal and Chaman Lal, both employees of Allain-Duhangan. Another person, Santosh, was injured and was admitted to a hospital at Kulu after he was referred by a hospital in Manali on Tuesday.

In the second incident, a tourist identified as Puja (20) fell into a 300 feet gorge while clicking photographs at Manali. She died on the spot. She was with her husband, Mr Jugnu Gupta, on honeymoon from Delhi. Her body was recovered by a team from the Mountaineering Institute, Manali, the police said.

In another incident, a jeep fell into a nullah near Balu village in Drang constituency, killing three persons and injuring five others. The deceased have been identified as Chand from Tikkar Balu, Mohinder from Gei, and a Nepali. The injured ,Dinesh, Mohinder, Nisha, Rita, and Shalu, have been admitted to the regional hospital, Kulu, and are reported to be stable but serious, said the police. 

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Foreigner’s body yet to be identified
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, March 9
No breakthrough has been achieved in identification of the 25-year-old female foreigner whose body was found in the forest area in Dharamkot on March 5.

District police chief S.P. Singh told The Tribune that registration of foreigners with the Foreigners’ Registration Office was mandatory only if they planned to stay in the district for more than six months.

Her identity could have been established from the guest house where she was staying but either she had checked out or the guesthouse could be unregistered and did not furnish the details.

“We had conducted a campaign to check functioning of such unregistered guest houses and hotels last year and 25 of them, most of them running in remote places, were challaned,” he said.

Police sources added that although there was no external injury on the body, the post-mortem report said that it appeared that the deceased had consumed more than 30 tablets of spasmo proxivon before her death. The highly decomposed body indicated that she must have died 25 to 30 days back.

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Rs 1.56 cr for Shimla water supply scheme
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 9
The government has provided Rs 1.56 crore for the replacement of old pumping machinery at the Ashwani khud and purchase of spare machinery to ensure smooth water supply to the state capital during the summer.

Mr Kaul Singh Thakur, Irrigation and Public Health Minister, while reviewing the water supply system of the town at a meeting of officers of the Irrigation and Public Health and the Municipal Corporation here yesterday, said 10 tubewells had been installed at the Ashwani and Gumma khuds. Besides, 45 hand pumps had also been installed at various locations.

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Leopard captured from house in Solan

Shimla, March 9
In the second incident of its kind, the state forest officials captured a leopard from a bathroom of a house in Solan district after he followed a pet dog, Forest Department sources said.

The leopard, which had strayed into Paabo village, attacked the dog early on Tuesday morning and followed it into the bathroom of Mr Santosh Kumar who bolted the door from outside.

The sources said the leopard and the dog remained in captivity for over four hours before the forest officials tranquilised the animal and rescued the injured dog.

The leopard was finally captured after Santosh contacted the forest officials and told them about the incident. The wildlife officials of the department said the leopard had been taken to the Tutikandi zoo in Shimla. — UNI

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