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War over Annadale Ground in Shimla finally ends

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Shimla: It is status quo for Shimla’s historical Annadale ground, the picturesque flat highland that could have well become a cricket stadium, with Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh declaring that it would stay with the Army – as it has since 1941.

Stymieing the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s moves, Virbhadra Singh said this week that the Annadale ground, in the Army’s possession since 1941 when World War II was raging, would not be taken away from the Army’s protective cover. The ground, he said, had strategic value and compromising with it could impact security.

“The government will remain the custodian of the ground but it will remain under the Army’s control. Since it is of strategic importance, it cannot be compromised,” Virbhadra Singh said.

The 121-bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) flat highland ringed by dense groves, just three kilometres from Shimla’s Ridge, was a bone of contention between the previous Prem Kumar Dhumal- led government and the Army. The government had initiated the move to take over its control and hand it over to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), headed by Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP and Dhumal’s son, for constructing a cricket stadium there.

According to Virbhadra Singh, top political functionaries of the previous government under the guise of developing a stadium were aiming to grab prime land surrounding Annadale ground.

The controversy came to end Monday when Lt. Gen. Sanjiv Chachra, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command, called on Virbhadra Singh, who took over the reins of the state Dec 25 last year. Immediately after the meeting, the Chief Minister said status quo would be maintained.

Official sources said Lt. Gen. Chachra stressed that the Annadale ground was needed for many Army operations. He also drew the Chief Minister’s attention to an arbitration case pending before the divisional commissioner of Shimla over the ‘legality’ of the Army’s claim over the ground.

The Chief Minister, soon after the meeting, issued directions to withdraw the arbitration proceedings, a government official said.

The tussle flared up last April when the Western Command inadvertently sent a statement on the Annadale ground to the media.

The unsigned note, which was not meant for distribution to the media but only for internal circulation, said the state government “seems to be hell-bent on destroying the meagre existing forest cover, all at the behest of land mafia, eyeing phenomenal profits, which the (proposed) cricket stadium project would bring”.

Dhumal took strong exception to the Army’s statement.

Subsequently, at a meeting of chief ministers on internal security in New Delhi in April last year, Dhumal took up his government’s row with the Army.

He had said the ground “is in the illegal possession of the defence authorities as its lease had expired many years back”.

Various sports organisations and local residents under the banner of the HPCA took out public rallies in Shimla, seeking the ground’s transfer to the local administration.

The Annadale ground was on lease with the Army, but the lease was not renewed after 1982. However, the state continued to accept the lease money till 2002.

Historians say the Annadale ground has a glorious past. It was once used by the Durand Football Tournament Society set up in 1888.

Author E.J. Buck wrote in “Simla Past and Present” that Major Kennedy, a British officer, was so struck with the ground’s beauty that he named it after Anna, a young woman he was in love with back home. Dale, or a meadow, was tagged on to her name to make the ground Annadale .
-IANS
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Misc News/Press Release

Foundation Stone of Shiv Dham at Mandi Laid, Will Cost Rs. 150 Crore

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Shiv Dham Mandi model

Mandi: Shiv Dham construction at Mandi would cost over Rs. 150 crores to the State. It was informed during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Shiv Dham Phase-I to be developed at Kangnidhar. The First Phase of this project would be completed at a cost of Rs. 40 crore, the government said.

The Shiv Dham would be developed in an area of 9.5 hectares. Shiv Dham would have replicas of twelve Jyotirlingam, a statue of Lord Shiva and Ganesh, Museum, Food Court, Herbal Garden, Nakshatra Vatika, Amphi-theatre, Orientation Centre, Car Parking etc. 

Further, it was informed that the foundation stone of multi-storey parking was laid near U-Block. An estimated amount of Rs. 100 crore would be spent on Public-Private Partnership mode, the government informed.

There is also a proposal to construct Rs. 27 crore Anaj Mandi (Grain Market) in Mandi, it was informed.

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New Farm Laws Could be Death Knell for States like Himachal, Says 19 Organizations While Expressing Solidarity with Farmers Protest

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Himachal PRadesh supports farmers protest

Shimla-More support is pouring in for farmers protest from Himachal Pradesh. Today, about 19 social organizations, women’s organisations and farmer’s groups issued a joint public statement today in solidarity with the three-month long farmer’s movement in the country.

The statement demands the repeal of the three new farm laws introduced by the central government and calls for strengthening minimum support prices, extending it to crops, especially fruits and vegetables grown for the market in Himachal Pradesh. The statement is critical of the non-democratic manner in which the bills were passed in the parliament in a hurry in the middle of the Covid led lockdown.

Highlighting the issues with each of the laws the organisations condemned the fact that these are designed to benefit the large corporate houses which would ultimately break the back of the farmers.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 has the potential of destroying the government led APMC mandis, the oganizations said.

The second law on contract farming puts the farmers in the dock by not just opening them to risks when getting into contracts with companies but also by closing the door of the courts for redressal for farmers, the statement said.  

Also Read: Supporters in Himachal Displaying Solidarity With Protesting Farmers, Term Delhi Violence a Failed Conspiracy to Discredit Movement

Further the statement said that the third law, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, as corporates are allowed to buy, store, sell produce minus regulation and accountability of any sort. It also seeks to restrict the powers of the government with respect to production, supply, and distribution of certain key commodities. It is now evident that this will have a direct impact on the storage and distribution of subsidized grains by the government. This can turn out to be a direct threat for food security of the country.

“For a state like Himachal Pradesh where a large section of the population depends heavily on food grains produced by the farmers of the plains and distributed at subsidized rates through the PDS these laws could prove to be a death knell,” the groups said in the statement.  

Even for those who are able to procure from the market, the rising prices of commodities would be a direct hit on their pockets. Apart from the consumers, the farmers of the state will also suffer a setback. The absence of MSPs for fruits and off-season vegetables and lack of APMC markets here have already been a cause of concern for the cash croppers of the state, the statement read.

“In fact fruit and vegetable producer unions have been demanding extension of MSPs and better markets so that apple producers for example are not exploited by ‘middlemen’ and private vendors,” the organizations said.  

In the terai region where there is a surplus of maize produce farmers are forced to sell it at Rs 1000 to 1200 whereas Rs 1850 is the MSP – but the markets are too far for them to access, they said.

The statement has also condemned the manner in which the state and central governments have tried to defame the peaceful protests through various tactics.

“The repression of those coming out in support of the farmer’s movement, be it activists or journalists reporting on the developments is utterly shameful and against the principles of democracy,” the statemen said.  

The groups said that they are also going to send this statement as a submission to the President of India demanding repeal of the three laws.

Housing in makeshift camps, tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting on Delhi boarders for nearly 100 days now. Though the protests had begun last year, the movement has seen a massive growth in recent weeks as it receiving support from environmental activists, opposition parties and even Western celebrities. Now, this farmers movement is spreading to the country’s northern and western farm belts.

The group of organizations that issued this statement includes All India Democratic Women’s Association, HP (AIDWA), Bhumiheen Bhumi Adhikar Manch, HP, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Citizens’ Rights Forum, Kangra, Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, HP, Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba, Himachal Kisan Sabha, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Right To Education Forum, HP, Samajik Arthik Samanta ke Liye Jan Abhiyan, Save Lahaul Spiti, Spiti Civil Society, Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Sambhaavnaa Institute, SUTRA, Solan,  Tower Line Soshit Jagrukta Manch, Himachal Pradesh, and Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur.

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Ugly Brawl at HP Vidhan Sabha on Budget Session’s Opening Day, Five Congress Legislators Suspended for Rest of Session

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HP Vidhan Sabha

Shimla- The Budget Session 2021-22 of the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha witnessed an ugly scene on the opening day of the session. The situation was so tense that it led to a scuffle between BJP MLAs, Minister, and Congress legislator including the leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri. Congress alleged that its legislators were manhandled. Following this incident, five legislators including Agnihotri, Harsh Vardhan, Satpal Raizada, Vinay Kumar, and Sunder Singh Thakur were reportedly suspended for the rest of the session. Later, an FIR was also filed against the legislators at the Boileauganj Police Station.

It was shocking to see the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Chief Minister jumping into the brawl as it raised concerns about arrangement and management of security at the Vidhan Sabha.

The motion for their suspension was introduced and passed in the absence of opposition legislators.

What Happened at Vidhan Sabha

Mukesh Agnihotri disrupted the speech of the Governor saying that it includes no mention of crucial issues like price rise of petrol, diesel cooking gas, inflation, unemployment, corruption, back-door entries etc. Agnihotri said the speech was nothing more than a bundle of lies. Agnihotri claim that Dattatreya had skipped a major portion of his speech and had chosen to stay mum on these critical issues. Governor Bandaru Dattatraya, following din, did not read the entire speech and ended his speech within 15 minutes abruptly.

Subsequently, the proceedings were adjourned till 2 pm on Monday. 

When the Governor was leaving from Vidhan Sabha, Mukesh Agnihotri, along with other Congress legislators, blocked the road and did not let the Governor’s car leave the premises. Agnihotri was seen trying to lay on the bonnet of the car. Videos clearly showed legislator pushing each other and using a hostile tone. Minister Suresh Bhardwaj was seen falling down on the ground, while Deputy Speaker Hans Raj was seen pushing Congress legislators.

“It’s the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha that the Governor did not read the entire speech and allegedly fled the Vidhan Sabha,” Agnihotri said. He said that Congress legislators only wanted to speak to the Governor.

Agnihotri alleged that they were pushed, dragged, and manhandled even though they were only raising slogans and did not even touch the Governor or the Chief Minister. 

Speaking on the suspension of five Congress legislators, Vikramaditya Singh, MLA of Shimla (Rural) questioned as to why only action was taken on the Congress legislators and not the Deputy Speaker, Hans Raj. In videos, he was seen pushing Congress legislators.

The Speaker, HP Vidhan Sabha, Vipin Parmar condemned the ruckus and blamed it on the Congress legislators. He alleged Congress of manhandling the Governor. He said that the incident has brought embarrassment to the State Assembly and the constitution of India. 

Later, when the session was resumed, referring to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, the Chief Minister said that Rule number 30 says,

“No member shall interrupt the Governor when he is addressing the House; or display any placard; or shout any slogans; make nay protect; or raise any point of order, debate; or discussion; or otherwise willfully disrupt the proceedings, immediately preceding or during, or immediately following the Governor’s Address under Article 175 (1) of the Constitution and the Governor’s Special Address under 176(1) of the Constitutions, and the commission of any of the above lapses shall be treated as contempt of the House and dealt with as such under these rules.”

The session is scheduled to conclude on March 20.

The chief minister will present the budget for 2021-22 in the Assembly on March 6, Speaker Vipin Parmar had said on Thursday.

 

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