HIMACHAL pradesh

The grand old man at sea

The year saw a tragedy that shook the nation.

The grand old man at sea

Virbhadra Singh hasn’t let age dampen his spirited approach and political acumen


Pratibha Chauhan

The year saw a tragedy that shook the nation. Twenty-four engineering students from Hyderabad were swallowed by the gushing waters of the Beas near Thalout in Mandi. The video of the tragic event went viral and reactions from across the nation began to pour in.
On the political front, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh survived when everyone thought his plummeting political career would ensure his exit in the wake of court cases and the worst-ever poll debacle the Congress suffered at the Centre. The defeat of his wife Pratibha Singh from Mandi parliamentary seat was undoubtedly a personal setback. His charisma failed to prevent the Modi wave from sweeping the hill state.
 The beginning of the year saw the CM and his family face a volley of allegations, with cases being vigorously pursued in various courts. The indomitable "Raja" fought back and seems to be back in the saddle, as his regime completes two years. Most will agree that even age has failed to dampen his spirited approach and political acumen. The political alignments within the BJP also seem to be undergoing a change with the rising political stature of Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda. His growth could well be a cause of worry for the former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal.
The grim financial health of the state is another cause of concern with the debt burden touching an astounding Rs 33,000 crore. Grappling with a severe financial crunch, the state is increasingly finding it difficult to meet the salary and pension expenditure being incurred on its 2.78 lakh employees. To defer the payment, the retirement age of 58 has been increased by one year.  
With little help from the Modi-led BJP regime, the government constituted a Cabinet sub-committee to suggest ways and means to reduce wasteful expenditure and generate resources. The committee, which is yet to submit its report, is contemplating to recommend reducing the retirement age of employees, certainly a harsh decision.
 The Vigilance Bureau vigorously pursued various cases against the HP Cricket Association, in which Dhumal and his sons, Anurag and Arun, were named. This led to bitter exchanges between Virbhadra and Dhumal on the floor of the Assembly as well as outside it. The Congress that had as an opposition party alleged that private universities being set up in the state were more of real estate projects  did nothing about this issue after coming to power. Other tragedies of the year were road accidents in which over 1,100 persons lost lives. Over 150 people were killed in four road accidents in the districts of Kinnaur, Sirmour, Chamba and Bilaspur.