State High Court has finally admitted that such a marvelous piece of architecture cannot be left at the mercy of the ‘bubus’ (clerks or Govt. officials).
Shimla: The Tourism Department of Himachal Pradesh and the Shimla Municipal Corporation are up in arms to claim the possession of the precious piece of heritage property – the historic Town Hall of Shimla, built in 1908 by Scottish Architect James Ransone.
Built in the Gothic style, the Town Hall of Shimla featured the half-timbered Tudor style, all wooden frames and shingles eaves. It originally housed a Library alongwith a few public utility offices in British-era. However, later it ended up in the hands of Shimla MC.
The building is undergoing a complete renovation since 2014, and Rs. 8 crores has been spent on it so far. The government failed to meet the deadline of 18 months and hope to complete it in 2018. About 70 percent of this cost was provided by the Asian Development Bank as a loan for the purpose of the beautification of the Shimla Mall.
The Corporation had evacuated it for the restoration work in 2014 and wants it back; the HPTDC wish to use it as a tourist attraction; and the High Court suggest making it a Library, Museum or something that would help preserving the heritage property along with catering to larger public interests.
The court has given the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit by January 3, 2018, with proposals for better use of the building other than handing it over to SMC again.
A writer and historian Raja Bhasin, head of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Himachal, and its state convener Malvika Pathania are also of the view that it is a disrespect to a magnificent heritage building to house a government office in it.
After facing a disregard for its value as a cultural, historic, and tourist attraction, the State High Court has finally admitted that such a marvellous piece of architecture cannot be left at the mercy of the ‘bubus’ (clerks or Govt. officials).
The division bench comprising of the acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma called it “an important and significant landmark of the Shimla town and intrinsic part of its heritage.”
The court took a jibe saying that it would be a complete waste of the Shimla Town Hall if it is left to the staff of government offices. The babus would hammer nails into restored wooden works to hang calendars or paste the same all over the walls of a heritage property, which could be used to house library, museum and other public conveniences.
The court said, “under Article 51-A (Part-IVA) of the Constitution of India states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.”
Moreover, the history of the State in preservation and protection has been quite bad. For instance, another Gothic style heritage building Gorton Castle was gutted by fire due to carelessness.
On the other hand, the former-Mayor of Shimla Sanjay Chauhan argued that only the Corporation and Government are authorized to decide the fate of the building.
“It is a clear attack on the jurisdiction of the local government, and is a violation of the Section 243 W and 12the Schedule described in the Indian constitution,” said Chauhan.
Chauhan alleged that the government is allowing the ADB to intervene in its decision making process. He believes that the building should be returned to the SMC after restoration as decided previous to its evacuation.
However, the court has better logic. Referring to increased activity related to art & culture and tourism at the historic Gaiety Theater of Shimla after restoration in 2009, the court asked the government use the Town Hall in a similar way.
“The culture of knowing and understanding art, in whatever form, is being picked up by the younger generation and solely on account of the exposure, which both the artists, admirers or criticizers have got,” noted the court.
“After all, Art and Culture are also true forms of expression of thought, which, in our considered view, needs to be propagated, inculcated and promoted, more so amongst future generation,” the court further added.
The court also referred to the Vice Regal Lodge as an example of how a heritage property should be treated.
When an attempt was made to convert the same into a hotel, Hon’ble Apex Court had intervened and directed the said property to be protected and preserved, so that cultural and historical heritage of India and beauty and grandeur of the monument is preserved, said the court.
The court also referred to certain communication between the ADB and HP Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation suggesting that over the years, the woodwork of the Town Hall has decayed, and that it could be restored to its originality like the Gaiety Theater and put to better use.
The Corporation including the newly elected Mayor and Deputy Mayor believe the SMC is the rightful owner of the building.
In fact, the SMC had refused to vacate the building in 2014 for the restoration work over its demand that they should be given the alternative office within the town. The SMC is currently operating from the building complex of Deputy Commissioner, Shimla.
The extensive restoration work includes fixing washrooms, laying mezzanine floors along with restoring four collapsed chimneys, rickety wooden staircase, and original height of attic (2.4 mts)
Before refurbishing the walls, the cement plaster and plywoods were to be removed along with restoration of the entrance from the Mall side to an open verandah.
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.