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Himachal Pradesh budget 2015-16: Highlights

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Today in the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh presented the state budget for the year 2015-16. In his address where he overlooked some of the important issues like Information Technology, he surely assured of providing good governance to the people of Himachal Pradesh.

Main highlights of the Budget

• Practice of obtaining Affidavits for various purposes replaced with Self-Declaration on Plain Paper.

• e-Procurement (e-Tendering) to be extended to more Departments for 100 per cent coverage and transparency in Government procurement process.

• Contract Management Information System to be rolled out in the Departments of IPH and Public Works for timely completion of Schemes and their proper monitoring.

• Amount of ‘Vidhayak Khshetriya Vikas Nidhi Yojana’ increased from Rs. 50 Lakh to Rs. 70 Lakh.

• A new Project on Management of Horticultural Crops in the State amounting to ` 1 Thousand Crore approved for funding by the World Bank.

• Budget outlay of Rs. 210 Crore proposed for continuing the Food Subsidy Scheme.

• Digital Ration Cards to be issued to All Eligible Residents.

• Additional Rs. 4 Crore proposed for Construction of Godowns/Warehouses for increasing storage capacity of Food Grains in the State.

• Rs. 154 Crore ‘Rajiv Gandhi Micro-Irrigation Scheme’ to be launched.

• 50 per cent subsidy proposed for Construction of Lift Irrigation Schemes and Installation of Bore-Wells by the individuals or group of farmers of the State.

• Zone-wise On-Line Soil Fertility Maps to be made available. 1 Lakh Farmers to be provided Soil Health Cards.

• An outlay of Rs. 60 Crore proposed for promoting Off Season Vegetables.

• New Scheme – ‘Establishment of Centres of Excellence for Vegetable Nursery Production’ to be launched.

• 20 Thousand Vermi-Compost Units to be set up with 50 per cent Financial Assistance.

• Rs. 10 Crore will be provided to the HP Marketing Board for Development of Market Yards.

• New Scheme – ‘Uttam Chara Utpadan Yojana’ to be launched for fodder development.

• Chaff-Cutter subsidy to be extended to BPL farmers also.

• New Scheme – ‘Mukhya Mantri Kisan Evam Khetihar Mazdoor Jeevan Surakhsha Yojana’ to provide Insurance cover to the Farmers/Agricultural Labourers.

• 2 Lakh Square Metre area to be covered under Protected Cultivation of High Value Fruits, Flowers and Vegetables.

• 1,000 Hectare additional area to be brought under Revamped Apple Rejuvenation Project.

• 30 per cent additional Subsidy to promote Pollinisation through Honey Bees proposed from the State Government.

• Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme to be extended to all Blocks of the State.

• Rs. 5 Crore proposed for HPMC for converting three Cold Stores into CA Cold Stores.

• Veterinary Poly-Clinics to be established in Una and Bilaspur districts.

• ‘Gauvansh Samvardhan Board’ to be constituted.

• Milk Procurement Price to be enhanced by Rs. 1 per Litre. HP MILKFED to be provided a Grant-in-Aid of ` 15 Crore.

• New Scheme to set up Milk Processing & Chilling Units by the Dairy Co-operative Societies with 60 per cent subsidy.

• KfW Bank of Germany to fund Rs. 310 Crore for HP Forest Eco-Systems Climate Proofing Project.

• Rs. 20 Crore for additional material for converting Kacha Water Tanks into Poly-Lined/Pucca Water Tanks in convergence with MGNREGA.

• 40,000 Hectare area to be developed under Watershed Development Programme by spending about Rs. 50 Crore.

• 10 Thousand Houses to be constructed under different Housing Schemes, with a subsidy of ` 75,000 for each house.

• Government to release Rs. 109 Crore to Panchayats. Additional Rs.195 Crore also to be released to Panchayats, as per 14th Finance Commission recommendations.

• Farmers and Self-Help Groups to be exempted from payment of Stamp Duty on Mortgage Deeds up to the value of Rs. 10 Lakhs.

• Stamp Duty and Registration Charges for Mortgage to obtain Education Loan up to Rs. 7.50 Lakh to be exempted.

• Stipend to Patwari candidates for training to be enhanced from ` 1 Thousand to ` 3 Thousand.

• Budget provision of Rs. 236 Crore proposed for Disaster Relief.

• Water Treatment Plants/Filter Beds to be provided in all left out 512 Water Supply Schemes in next three years with allocation of Rs. 20 Crore for 2015-16.

• Rs. 45 Crore to be allocated to accelerate the Nadaun Medium Irrigation and Phina Singh Irrigation Project.

• An outlay of Rs. 154 Crore proposed for Minor Irrigation Schemes to cover 3,500 Hectares of cultivated land.

• An outlay of Rs. 50 Crore proposed for Command Area Development Works.

• Rs. 330 Crore will be provided to IPH Department to meet the Energy Charges of Water Supply & Irrigation Schemes.

• An outlay of Rs. 187 Crore proposed for Flood Protection Works.

• Capacity addition of 1,050 MW Hydro-Power to be done in 2015-16.

• Solar Projects to be treated as Industrial Projects. Tariff up to 5 MW capacity to be regulated/approved by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission and entire power to be purchased by HPSEBL.

• 3 LED Bulbs per Domestic Consumer to be provided below market price and the cost at Rs. 10 per LED Bulb to be recovered through electricity bills from consumers.

• VAT on LED Bulbs will be reduced from 13.75 per cent to 5 per cent.

• Energy Efficient Chullahs certified by TERI or approved by Ministry of New & Renewable Energy to be exempted from VAT.

• Rs. 380 Crore to be provided to HPSEBL for subsidising electricity to the Domestic Consumers.

• Rs. 40 Crore to be provided for developing industrial areas in the State and ` 20 Crore to be provided to Baddi – Barotiwala – Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) for various developmental works.

• New industries will be charged Entry Tax @ 1 per cent on industrial inputs.

• Electricity Duty for Specified Extra High Tension (EHT) Category Consumers to be reduced from 15 per cent to 13 per cent, for Medium & Large Industries except EHT from 13 per cent to 11 percent, for Small Industries from 7 per cent to 5 per cent and for any new industry including the new EHT category industry employing more than 300 Himachalis only 1 per cent for five years.

• Two State of the Art Industrial Areas at Kandrouri in Kangra and Pandoga in Una District Rs. 107 Crore and Rs. 112 Crore respectively to be set up.

• MGNREGA Workers having worked for 50 days in the preceding 12 months to be registered as beneficiaries with the HP Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board.

• Employment & Career Guidance to be provided in all the District Employment Exchanges, Schools, Colleges, ITIs, Engineering Institutions.

• 800 New Buses for HRTC to be purchased under JNNURM.

• Tax on Transport Vehicles and Contract Carriages will be transferred to the Department of Transport for the benefit of vehicle owners.

• Rs. 10 Crore to be provided for construction of New Bus Stands.

• Grant-in-Aid and Equity of Rs. 200 Crore to HRTC.

• Quality Monitors will be appointed for monitoring the quality of works in PWD.

• Rs. 50 Crore budget provision for installation of Steel Crash Barriers on the Accident Prone Sites.

• State Knowledge Cell on the Climate Change to be strengthened.

• e-Payment for effective and transparent Tax Collection to be made compulsory for all registered dealers under VAT & CST.

• Scheme of Deemed Assessment to the dealers to be simplified. Common Login-id to be provided to all dealers for uploading of all returns under different Acts.

• Trucks entering Himachal with full on-Line Declaration of Goods not to be stopped at Barriers.

• Exemption limit for Dhabas, Halwai, Chai and Chat Dealers will be raised to Rs. 8 Lakhs for payment of VAT.

• Small Traders with less than Rs. 25 Lakh turn-over to be provided a Group Accidental Insurance cover of Rs. 2 Lakhs.

• Inter-State Purchase or Sale also to be brought under Lump-Sum Scheme.

• VAT on Fabrication of Truck/Bus Bodies to be reduced to 5 per cent.

• The CGCR Tax levied on packaged water bottles to be reduced.

• Private parties to be invited to start Helicopter Service from Chandigarh to Shimla and other Tourist Destinations.

• Magicians and Circus performances to be exempted from payment of Entertainment Duty for ten years.

• Tourism Infrastructure Projects of US $ 62 Million to promote Community Based Tourism Activities.

• Aero-Sports Rules to be simplified for encouraging Adventure Tourism.

• Meritorious Students of 10th and 12th Class to be distributed 10,000 Net books/Lap-tops under ‘Rajiv Gandhi Digital Yojana’.

• Vocational Training in 100 more Government Senior Secondary Schools to be extended and 200 Vocational Teachers to be appointed.

• Extension of Two Years in Service to be given to the National Awardee Teachers. One Additional Increment also to be given to them in lieu of Cash Prize.

• One exclusive College for Fine Arts to be opened to promote Visual & Fine Arts.

• Existing ITIs to have additional Demand Driven and Employment Oriented Trades and ITIs at Nalagarh in Solan and Baroh in Kangra to be upgraded as Model ITIs.

• 10 new State of the Art ITIs with related trades and 400 student intake capacity to be opened.

• Only 50 per cent Stamp Duty to be charged from entrepreneurs establishing new ITIs on the private land in Tribal & Hard Areas/Backward Panchayats. Building Grant of Rs. 10 Lakh to be provided to them after starting ITI.

• Regional Vocational Training Institute for Women to be opened at Jhundla in District Shimla.

• HP State Skill Development Corporation to be constituted.

• A Skill Development Institute to be opened for Skill Up-gradation of Construction Workers.

• 8,000 Rural Youth of BPL Category under NRLM and 5,000 Urban Poor under NULM to be equipped with appropriate Skills.

• A budget outlay of Rs. 100 Crore proposed for Skill Development Allowance.

• Indoor Auditoriums for cultural events to be constructed at district headquarters, where such facility does not exist. Rs. 25 Crore budget proposed for the purpose.

• Multi-purpose Indoor Sports Complex to be constructed in district headquarters, where there is no such facility. Rs. 35 Crore budget proposed for the purpose.

• Annual Grant to Youth Clubs to be enhanced to Rs. 20 Thousand.

• All the Accredited and Recognised Journalists to be covered under Group Accident Insurance up to Rs. 5 Lakh and Rs. 3 Lakh respectively.

• Rs. 1 Crore proposed for Construction of Press Clubs.

• All India Institute of Medical Sciences to be established in Bilaspur. 3 Medical Colleges to be established at Nahan, Chamba and Hamirpur at a cost of Rs. 189 Crore each.

• A Super Speciality Block for Tertiary Care Services to be constructed in IGMC at a cost of Rs. 150 Crore.

• Burn units to be established in all district hospitals in a phased manner.

• A pilot Tele-Medicine Project in PPP Mode to be launched in CH Keylong and Kaza and 25 CHCs of Sirmour and Chamba districts and CHC Dodra-Kawar.

• 7,750 Asha Workers to be placed in villages after training.

• 200 posts of Doctors and 500 posts of Para-Medicals to be filled up.

• Blood Sugar Testing facility to be provided at Health Sub-Centre level.

• Geriatric Wards to be started in all district hospitals.

• ‘Mukhya Mantri State Health Care Scheme’ to be launched for Treatment of Basic and Critical Ailments of Ekal Naaris and Senior Citizens above 80 years not covered under RSBY or any medical reimbursement scheme.

• Study on Hill Towns through PPP Mode. Moreover, Solid Waste Management to be taken up on pilot basis in Sunder Nagar and Dharamshala Clusters in collaboration with Government of Netherlands.

• Rs. 30 Crore to be provided for execution of Sewerage Schemes in Urban/Semi-Urban areas.

• Urban Local Bodies developing Parking Lots/Facilities to be supported by providing 50 per cent of the Project Cost for which budget provision of ` 15 Crore proposed.

• Circular/Cart Road in Shimla to be widened.

• Additional Grant of Rs. 3 Crore to be provided to MC Shimla for developing Infrastructure for Specific Schemes in the Merged Areas.

• Mixed Land Use to be promoted in all Planning Areas.

• A new Housing Scheme-‘Land Owners become Partners in development with HIMUDA’ to be launched.

• Financial assistance of Rs. 2,500 provided to Women for Self-Employment to be enhanced to Rs. 5,000.

• System of tracking of pregnancy through Anganwari Workers, Asha Workers and village level Monitoring Support Committees to be institutionalised to check female foeticide.

• Girls belonging to the families having up to two daughters without any male issue to be given preference in the Appointment as Anganwari Workers/Helpers.

• Free Medical Facilities to all girl child up to the age of 6 years.

• Scholarship per girl child from 1st to +2 standard under ‘Beti Hai Anmol Yojana’ to be enhanced by 50 per cent.

• Couples adopting permanent family planning after single girl child to get enhanced incentive of Rs. 35,000 and couples adopting permanent family planning after two girls, to get enhanced incentive of Rs. 25,000.

• Government to bear expenditure on further studies in Government Institutions in respect of Girls Leaving Children Homes.

• Social Security Pension of Old Age, Disabled and Widows to be enhanced to Rs. 600 per month. Persons with Disabilities of more than 70 per cent and Senior Citizens above 80 years to get Rs. 1,100 per month as Pension.

• Integrated Scheme for Older Persons to improve their quality of life to be revamped.

• The Aid under Follow-up Programme for the Purchase of Sewing Machine by Women to be enhanced from Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 1,800.

• A Corpus Fund to be set up with Government contribution of Rs. 2 Crore for Development of Minorities.

• All Bonafide Himachalis qualifying UPSC Preliminary Examination for Civil Services to get Coaching Assistance of Rs. 30 Thousand per candidate.

• Financial Assistance to 2nd World War Veterans to be increased from Rs. 2 Thousand to Rs. 3 Thousand.

• A budget of Rs. 3 Crore for the State War Museum at Dharamshala.

• Rs. 2 Crore to be provided for repairs of Sainik Rest Houses.

• All Police Posts to be designated as Subordinate Police Stations enabling them to register FIRs.

• A State of the Art Centre for Cyber Security Investigations and Innovations to be established.

• 2 more Women Police Stations to be opened.

• One Voice Analysis and One Digital Forensic Division to be created in State Forensic Science Laboratory.

• Remuneration to Home Guards to be enhanced from Rs. 260 to Rs. 280 per day.

• Three more Fire Posts to be opened at Ghumarwin, Sarkaghat and Sunni.

• 6 additional Post/Courts of Mobile Traffic Magistrates to be created.

• 5,000 functional posts of different Departments to be filled up.

• 7 per cent Dearness Allowance & Dearness Relief to the State Government Employees/Pensioners to be released with the salary of April, 2015.

• Income Limit for Compassionate Employment to be raised to Rs. 1.50 Lakh per annum.

• Daily Wage increased from Rs. 170 to Rs. 180.

• Daily Wagers completing seven years of service as on 31st March, 2015 to be regularised.

• Part-Timers completing 8 years of service as on 31st March, 2015 to be made Daily Wagers.

• Honorarium of Part-Time Water Carriers increased from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 1,700 per month.

• Contract Employees completing five years of service as on 31st March, 2015 to be regularised.

• Maternity Leave to the Contractual Female Employees to be increased from 112 days to 135 days.

• Daily Wager, Part-Time Workers, Aanganwari Workers/ Helpers and Mid-Day Meal Workers to be covered under ‘Mukhya Mantri State Health Care Scheme’.

• Additional Budget provision of ` 30 Crore for Construction of New Government Residences and` 15 Crore for Repair of Government Residential Houses.

• Rs. 20 Crore to be provided for Police Housing.

• Pension Scheme for MGNREGA Workers, Agriculture and Horticulture Labourers, Shop Workers, Other Workers in the Unorganised Sector.

• The Budget for 2015-16 proposed for Rs. 28,339 Crore.

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CM Jairam Thakur Tests Positive for COVID-19, Quarantined

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HImachal Pradesh CM Tests Positive for COVID-19

Shimla-Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Jairam Thakur, have tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined at his official residence. The report was confirmed by the Chief Minister through a tweet in which he informed that he was under quarantine at his residence after coming into contact with a COVID-19 positive person. On the appearance of symptoms, he got himself tested and the report was found to be positive, he informed.

According to the initial report, the Chief Minister had come in contact with some COVID-19 positive persons in Manali. MLA of Banjar, Surinder Shourie, who was positive for COVID-19 had participated in the event organized on the occasion of the inauguration of Rohtang Tunnel, had also tested positive. Shourie had spent the entire day with the Chief Minister, reports said.

His private secretary had also tested positive, and there are chances that the Chief Minister might have contracted the infection from him. However, there is no certainty regarding the contact who infected the Chief Minister.

Other than Chief Minister, three Cabinet ministers – Urban Development Minister Suresh Bharadwaj, Power Minister Sukh Ram Chaudhary, Jalshakti Minister Mahender Singh- have tested positive so far.  Over ten MLAs have already tested positive and some of them have recovered too.

Meanwhile, despite community spread, the testing and tracing seem to have fallen and the fatality rate has witnessed a steep rise. Till 12 pm today, the COVID-19 death tally for the state was 245, and the total number of cases registered was 17414. But these are official statistics and these numbers are likely to be much higher. 

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Himachal: COVID-19 Kills 59 in 9 Days, Govt Still Clueless About Actual Number of Cases

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Himachal PRadesh Jairam Thakur

Shimla-COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc in Himachal Pradesh as the death tally spirals upward rapidly. Currently, 240 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Fifty nine of these deaths have been reported during the last nine days of October month, which is quite alarming. But contrary to that, the attitude of the state government, as well as, the public is becoming more casual. The SOPs issued by the government are hardly being followed anywhere. The fact that with the community spread, the cases of COVID-19 are falling in the official information released by the state Health Department.

On October 9, the Department traced only 199 cases but reported seven deaths. The total number of active cases was cited to be 2856. The deceased included three females and four males aged between 49 -75 years. View details of the deceased in the below-given table:

Shimla-covid-19 deaths in himachal pradesh

The total number of cases, as per the official statistics, had reached 16977 till yesterday evening (9 PM). But these are official statistics and the real number is likely to be much higher due to a community spread. Similarly, the actual number of COVID-19 deaths could be higher than the official statistics. Despite it, the state government is reluctant to release any projection regarding the real numbers. No statements have been issued regarding the current situation and strategy to combat the rising fatality rate. Rather, the state appears to be refraining from bringing up the matter.

The oppositions, HP Congress and CPI (M), are targeting the government over its failure to combat the spread of COVID-19. However, this opposition is quite feeble and hasn’t resulted in any reforms in the attitude of the government.

In a statement to media, Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a senior CPI (M) leader, said that the rise in fatalities is the result of the government’s lackadaisical attitude. The suicide committed by a positive patient at the DDU COVID-19 hospital is evidence of it, he said. He said this approach has endangered health lives of ministers, officials, and the staff at their offices. Further, he said, health staff, paramedical staff, and police staff are getting infected, and even losing lives due to the government’s unpreparedness.  The government had even compromised the safety of the Prime Minister and Education Minister by violating norms set regarding COVID-19, he said.

HP Congress chief, Kuldeep Rathor also expressed shock over the presence of COVID-19 positive MLA of Banjar, Surender Shourie, in the event organized for the PM. He alleged that by violating all norms, the MLA concealed information regarding his COVID-19 positive status and did not quarantine himself, which reflects the state government’s attitude toward management of the corona pandemic. He had demanded registration of an FIR against Shourie and action against erring officials.

Sanjay Chauhan, further said that the government did not prepare itself to combat the pandemic the way it was expected to. The people of the state had followed the lockdown and sacrificed their livelihood with a hope that the government would prepare itself during this period to combat the spread and to strengthen the health infrastructure and services. But instead, the government indulged itself in making people clap and beat ‘thalis’.  The Chief Minister adopted and preached unscientific practices like performing a ‘havan’.  Despite a steep rise in fatalities, the government is still not serious about the situation, he said. 

He said the CPI (M) demands that the government starts working on war footing to prepare a strategy by involving health experts, strengthening the health services by recruiting doctors, para-medical and other staff, and constitute a task force to deal with the situation. The government should work diligently on following the norms set for prevention from COVID-19, he added.  

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Shocker for Himachal as Ex-CBI Chief & Governor Ashwani Kumar Found Dead at His Shimla Residence

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Himachal IPS Officer Ashwani Kumar found deat in shimla

Shimla-Ashwani Kumar – 1973 IPS officer from Himachal Pradesh cadre who had served as the Director-General of HP Police (2006-2008) and CBI chief (August 2008 to November 2010), and was later appointed the Governor of Nagaland in 2013-was found dead at his residence in Shimla on Wednesday evening. The news came as a shocker as Kumar was considered as one of India’s finest and honest officers.

Superintendent of Police, Shimla, Mohit Chawala, in statement to news agencies, confirmed the report. According to the initial report, he reportedly hanged himself and ended his life. However, no formal statement was issued regarding the suicide. According to the police, a suicide note was also recovered from the spot. However, the note was yet to be verified.

Kumar was a well known name as he had dealt with famous cases including that of Arushi Talwar murder and fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which current Home Minister Amit Shah was arrested in 2010.

He was one of the first appointees made to resign from the post of Governor, Nagaland, as soon as the current ruling party came into power in 2014. He also remained Governor of Manipur for a short period of time. After his retirement, Kumar was serving as the Vice-Chancellor of a private university in Shimla.

The officials who have served under Aswani Kumar have expressed shock over his demise in such a manner. 

Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, and a team of medical staff was rushed to the spot. More details are awaited as the district police have not issued any formal statement regarding the incident.

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