Why did the CBI raid Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s private residence, Holly Lodge in Shimla, and 12 other places on September 26?
SHIMLA- The CBI is investigating allegations that Virbhadra Singh, as union Minister for Steel and, subsequently, Minister for MSME in the UPA 2 government between 2009 and 2012, acquired an illegal income and assets worth Rs 6.1 crore. He allegedly invested the unexplained income in single-premium LIC polices through one Anand Chauhan, who opened an account in Punjab National Bank’s Shimla branch and deposited nearly Rs 5 crore in cash, before routing the money into the LIC policies. Chauhan was also the manager of Singh’s Shrikhand apple orchard in Shimla district during the same period. The CBI registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against Singh, his wife Pratibha Singh, their son Vikramaditya Singh, daughter Aparajita Kumari, and LIC agent Chauhan in June 2015. On September 23, the CBI converted the PE into a regular case under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and the raids followed.
What other allegations does the Chief Minister face?
In 2012, Virbhadra Singh filed revised Income-Tax Returns for the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, which showed massive increases in his incomes from the apple orchard. The income of Rs 7.35 lakh for 2009-10 rose to Rs 2.21 crore; for 2010-11, Rs 15 lakh increased to Rs 2.80 crore; and for 2011-12, the income of Rs 25 lakh increased to Rs 1.55 crore. Following complaints, the Income-Tax Department sent a notice to the CM, asking him to explain the increases. Singh currently faces I-T investigations and a case in the Income-Tax Tribunal, a money-laundering investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, and a case in the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
How, when did the allegations surface?
During the Assembly elections of 2012, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was then Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, confronted Singh with the alleged facts of the cases. He released details of Singh’s revised I-T returns, which showed the huge increases in his orchard incomes, and of the temporary PNB account opened by Anand Chauhan to make investments on behalf of Singh and his family. Jaitley also accused Singh of forgery and money laundering, and subsequently wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking a probe. Singh filed a defamation suit against Jaitley, but withdrew it later.
In 2013, advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan filed a public interest lawsuit in Delhi High Court on behalf of the NGO Common Cause, alleging that the CBI had not probed the charges of corruption against Singh. This PIL is pending in the court. The next hearing is on October 14, when CBI is supposed to inform the court whether a case for lodging an FIR is made out.
Did the CM anticipate the CBI’s action?
At a meeting of the state cabinet two days before the raids, Transport Minister G S Bali alerted Singh about CBI investigators closing in on him. The Chief Minister asked all 11 ministers to sign a statement backing him. In their joint statement, the ministers accused the Centre of bringing false charges against Singh, and of misusing the CBI. Investigators showed up on the day Minakshi Kumari, the youngest of the Chief Minister’s four daughters from his first wife, was getting married. It was a quiet family affair at a local temple, about which many from even the Chief Minister’s party were unaware. The CM and his family were at home when the CBI arrived. On Monday, Virbhadra Singh’s lawyers sought a copy of the CBI FIR, but withdrew the application on Wednesday. Later on Wednesday, however, the CM moved the Himachal Pradesh High Court against the CBI.
How have the Chief Minister and his party reacted to the CBI raids?
Virbhadra Singh has not issued any detailed public statement so far. On September 27, he put out two tweets, saying, “I was on the way to Temple for my daughters marriage ceremony when I encountered with the CBI Team outside my house at Shimla”, and “I proceeded to the wedding ceremony, opened my house doors to the CBI & asked them to check what they want, as I have nothing to hide”. The Congress Legislature Party — 36 MLAs in a House of 68 — has thrown its weight behind him; his rival in the party, Anand Sharma, too has backed the CM. On Thursday, Congress MLAs led by veteran leader Vidya Stokes are scheduled to meet President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi to submit a three-page memorandum apprising him of the CBI raids. The Congress memorandum is likely to accuse the Centre of unfairly targeting Virbhadra Singh while ignoring the allegations of corruption and impropriety against BJP Chief Ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh.
How will the CBI raids impact the CM politically?
There is currently no challenge to his leadership. Singh has been a mass leader — one who has fought his way to the Chief Minister’s job in the face of opposition from the Congress leadership in 1993, 2003 and 2012. In 2012, it was the Congress’s compulsion to give him charge, even though he had had to resign from the union ministry only a few months earlier. The charges against him this time are, however, serious. What the CBI tells Delhi High Court in its status report will be crucial.
HP Govt Employees to Get Higher Pay Scale on Completion of Two Years of Service: CM Jairam
Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government employees working in different departments before January 3, 2022, would be given a higher scale at par with other employees on completion of two years tenure of regular service. A higher pay scale was also announced for the Junior Office Assistants (IT) on completion of two years of regular service.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur made these announcements during the Karamchari Maha Sammelan of the Himachal Pradesh Non-Gazetted Employees Federation at the hotel Peterhof on Sunday.
He appreciated the role played by the employee especially frontline workers in the battle against the pandemic.
He said most of the government employees in the state have been given revised pay scales and on average, every employee has got the benefit of a 12 to 15 percent salary hike. There has also been an increase in the pension of about 1.50 lakh pensioners of the state. The financial benefits of Rs. 7801 crore have been given to state government employees and pensioners from the year 2018 to 2022. The pensioners who retired before 2016 are getting the benefit of a 15 to 20 percent increase in the pension while around 40 thousand pensioners who retired after 2016 would be benefitted soon, he said.
He said the daily wages were Rs. 210 in the year 2017 which has been increased by the present state government to Rs. 350. Similarly, 12 per cent interim relief annually has been provided to government employees and pensioners during the present government’s tenure. He said the Himachal government has provided Dearness Allowance to its employees and pensioners on the lines of Punjab and Central governments from the due date. The Punjab government has given only 5 percent interim relief to the employees while the Himachal government has provided 21 percent interim relief to its employees.
“Out of the total interim relief amount given to the employees and pensioners amounting to about Rs. 6500 crore, Rs. 3500 crore has been paid during the tenure of our government” added the Chief Minister.
He said that the state government has increased the government contribution for NPS employees from 10 percent to 14 percent benefitting more than one lakh employees. The NPS employees are being given the benefits of retirement and death gratuity at par with employees falling under the old pension scheme. The government has also increased the upper limit of death gratuity from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh.
The Chief Minister said the state government has also increased the honorarium of para-workers working in various departments. The salary of outsource workers has been hiked by Rs 1,500 per month.
Non-Gazetted Employees Federation President Ashwani Thakur thanked the Chief Minister for providing various financial and other benefits to different categories of government employees.
Most Covid Restrictions to be Lifted From March 31, Mask and Hand Hygiene to Continue
New Delhi-The Centre has issued a notification to the States informing that the provisions of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005 will not be invoked in the country after March 31. The Union Health Ministry said that the use of face masks and following hand hygiene will continue.
It implies that most of the Covid-related rules and restrictions would end.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued the notification which said that the decision was taken following the overall improvement in the situation and the preparedness of the government in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, local authorities and State police can still invoke fines and criminal cases against persons violating COVID-19 norms under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a senior government official said.
The DM Act was invoked on March 24, 2020, due to the pandemic
“Over the last seven weeks or so there has been a steep decline in the number of cases. The total caseload in the country stands at 23,913 only and the daily positivity rate has declined to 0.28%. It is also worth mentioning that with the combined efforts, a total of 181.56 Cr vaccine doses have been administered,” the notification said.
“I would like to mention that in view of the nature of the disease, we still need to remain watchful of the situation. Wherever any surge in the number of cases is observed, the States/UTs may consider taking prompt and proactive action at a local level, as advised by MoHFW (Health Ministry) from time to time,” the notification said.
The Indian government had issued various guidelines and measures for the first time on March 24, 2020, under the Disaster Management Act to curb the COVID-19 situation in the country, which have been modified several times thereafter.
India currently has 23,087 active COVID-19 cases and recorded 1,778 new cases and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours. The daily positivity rate has also declined to 0.28%.
HP Cabinet Decisions: Country Liquor Made Cheaper in New Excise Policy, Read All Decisions
Shimla-A meeting of the Himachal Pradesh Cabinet was held on March 20, 2022, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
The excise policy for the financial year 2022-23 was approved. Approval was also given for the renewal of retail excise vends in the state for the financial year 2022-23 at the renewal fees of 4% of the value of unit/vend.
The State Government said that wants to enhance the government revenue and curb the smuggling of country liquor from the neighbouring states by a reduction in its price.
The brands of Country Liquor will be cheaper as license fees have been reduced. This will help in providing good quality liquor at a cheaper rate to the consumers.
In the new excise policy, the 15% fixed quota of country liquor for manufacturers and bottlers to be supplied to the retail licensees has been abolished. According to the government, this step will give the retail licensees to lift their quota from the suppliers of their choice and further assure the supply of good quality country liquor at competitive prices. The MRP of country liquor will be cheaper by 16% of the existing price.
In this year’s policy, the Gaudhan Vikas Nidhi Fund has been enhanced by Re.1/- from the existing Rs.1.50 to Rs.2.50.
The fixed annual license fee of Bars has been rationalized by abolishing the area-specific slabs of license fee. Now throughout the State, there will be uniform license slabs based upon the room capacity in hotels.
Rates of the annual fixed license fee of Bars in the tribal areas has been reduced considerably.
Further, all the above stakeholders will have to install CCTV cameras at their establishments as it was made mandatory for them.
Wholesale vends and retail vends, the penalty provisions under the H.P. Excise Act, 2011 have been made more stringent.
An end to end online Excise Administration System would be established in Himachal Pradesh, the government said.
HP Government estimates a collection of Rs 2131 crore revenue during the year, which will be Rs. 264 crores higher than the financial year 2021-22 – growth of 14% in state excise revenues.
The Cabinet also gave its nod to amend Himachal Pradesh Disaster Relief Manual-2012 to include deaths due to biting of honey bees, hornet and wasps, accidental drowning and deaths due to accidents of vehicles (including land, water and air) under this Manual.
The Cabinet gave its approval for filling up 11 posts of ‘A’ Class Tehsildar in Revenue Department through direct recruitment on regular basis through Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.
HP State Toll Policy 2022-23
The HP Cabinet also gave its nod to HP State Toll Policy for the year 2022-23 which envisages auction cum tender for all the toll barriers in the State. During the year 2021-22, toll revenue has registered a growth of 20 percent of the previous year’s revenue.