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Himachal

Posted at: Oct 5, 2017, 12:37 AM; last updated: Oct 5, 2017, 12:37 AM (IST)HIMACHAL POLLS

Manali bears NGT brunt, Anni stares at water crisis

Livelihood of over 30,000 people hit due to ban on commercial activities | All-weather road, bus depot a dream for Anni

Dipender Manta

LIVING in the shadow of severe restrictions imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) between Manali and the Rohtang Pass in 2013,  residents of this constituency seem to be equally disenchanted with both the Congress and the BJP.

The livelihood of more than 30,000 people residing in the famous tourist destination of Manali and its surrounding villages has been severely affected due to the ban. The residents who were engaged in various tourism-related activities like snow sports, photography, travel and hospitality in the area are barely eking out an existence.

Most parts of the Manali constituency (carved out in 2012) were earlier part of the Kullu constituency, a Congress stronghold then. BJP candidate Govind Singh Thakur (49) had won the election. The infighting within the Congress was considered to be a major reason for BJP's victory. However, voters are dissatisfied with the ruling Congress as well as their sitting MLA, who they feel have failed to address their issues and plead their case before the NGT  effectively.

Voters alleged that despite assurance from the state government and the local MLA, nothing had been done for their rehabilitation, leading to a rise in unemployment. 

Sonam Ram of Shanag village said: "We are fed up  with both the Congress and the BJP because nobody is paying heed to resolve the NGT issue due to which we have lost our livelihood." 

Old Manali village adopted by BJP MP Ramswaroop Sharma to develop as model village has not seen much progress with issues like lack of sewerage connection, pedestrian paths and potable water facility plaguing the historical village.

"We are feeling the pinch of a lack of sewerage connectivity, which is affecting tourism. Sewerage tanks made by house owners often overflow poding health hazard for tourists as well as locals," said septuagenarian Devku Devi.

Hoteliers rued that the district administration had failed to implement the relief and rehabilitation plan where new sites were to be developed along with eco-markets.

BJP MLA Govind Thakur registered victory over his arch rival Bhuvneshavar Gaur in 2012 with a margin of 3,198 votes, taking advantage of dissensions within the Congress. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh's loyalist Dharamveer Dhami contested against Gaur that caused a split in the Congress votebank. This time also Congress' victory will depend on whether the party can put up a united fight.

Dhami, who is yet to regain entry into the Congress after being expelled in 2012, is eyeing the party ticket if taken back. The BJP is likely to field Thakur, while in the Congress, Gaur, son of former minister Raj Kishan Gaur, is the front runner.

Anni segment

The Anni constituency, which is reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC), is a stronghold of the Congress. It was only once in 2007 that the saffron party could register victory from here. In 2012, the Congress wrested the seat after taking former BJP MLA Khub Ram (64) into its fold.

People here are discontented with the performance of the sitting MLA, who has failed to provide all-weather connectivity between Anni and Kullu via the Bhubu Jyot Tunnel under the Jalori Pass. The Pass receives heavy snow due to which the area gets cut off from Kullu.

The constituency is an apple belt, but poor condition of roads makes it difficult for people to transport their produce to markets. Voters rued that no efforts had been made to ameliorate the condition of roads.

Apart from this, the proposal to open an HRTC bus depot in Anni is yet to see the light of day.  Rajesh, a local, said people of the area were facing water crisis as the construction work of drinking and irrigation schemes was going on at a snail's pace.

Paras Ram, who has a good hold among the people, is in the race for the Congress ticket against sitting MLA Khub Ram, while the BJP may field its old candidate Kishori Lal, who won the elections in 2007. 

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