Shimla: The new Government of Himachal Pradesh, led by the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, has re-shuffled 34 IAS officials on January 5, 2018. Amongh these 34 officials, 10 were posted as the Deputy Commissioners of various districts.
Vikas Labro and Yunus Khan were the only two IAS Officers, who were not transfered and still hold the post of DCs of Una and Kullu respectively.
While there is nothing new in re-shuffling officials occupying important positions with the change in the government, a different pattern was observed emerging for the selection of candidates for these positions.
For the most important positions, the party is picking up candidates with a strong right-wing ideological background,well-tuned with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and had served dedicatedly as full-timers for the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Other than this major decision to re-shuffle the administrative officials, the Chief Minister, Jairam Thakur, and his cabinet ministers continue to assure the public of delivering massive reforms in the governance and administration.
The Chief Minister, right after the swearing-in ceremony on December 27, had told the people that he would go after the ‘VIP Culture’. He had expressed consternation about the poor financial health of the Hill State, which is buried under a gigantic loan of Rs. 46,000 crores.
The biggest assurance is that the party and its ministers will imbibe and embody the concept of political equality as a way of life.
As Chief Minister is said to have hailed from a common farmer community, the people are expecting to witness a change in the feudal mindset of the politicians, ministers, and bureaucrats. The public thought this time all official formalities like the oath-taking ceremony, the usual cavalcade of luxury cars, and grand welcomes would be simpler instead of usual pompous display of power and privilege.
Grand Ceremony, Demand for Luxuries, Transfers
However, the ceremony came out to be pompous one in which a large number of so called VIPs including the BJP’s top guns Amit Shah and Narendra Modi and Chief Ministers of several states were invited.
Though, the Chief Minisiter denied it, the reports regarding the demand of the ministers for more expensive luxury vehicles and the quarrell over official residences are not going with the claims of ending VIP culture.
Public Money Frittered Away on Bouquets
Other than that, as per a Hindi Daily Jagran, the Chief Minister was greeted at the State Secretariat by presenting him bouquets. The cost of these bouquets, said the daily, ranged between Rs. 300 to 1,000 depending on the quality and quantity of the flowers. However, the bureaucrats did not spend on these expensive bouquets from their own pockets, but from official accounts. A plethora of bouquets was seen at the Chief Minister’s Office or any place he visited.
After the news appeared in the paper, the Chief Minister issued directions that no official visiting him would present bouquets.
The Chief Minister had fired all the re-employed officials after their retirement. The party has made the re-employment of retired employees a major issue prior to the elections. However, now the government has realized that in some cases, it can’t help it either.
In a cabinet decision taken yesterday, the service of 214 retired patwaris/kanungos engaged on contract basis were given extension till August, 2018 until the new batch of 1120 patwaris undergoing training will be recruited.
Further, the Chief Minister today proposed setting up more micro and small scale industries using the ample surplus land under Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB).
Yesterday’s Assurances by CM and Cabinet Ministers
There would be zero tolerance towards the crime against women and corruption, said the Chief Minister while annoucing a 24×7 ‘Gudiya’ helpline today. The Chief Minister during his visit to the Press Club. To curb the corruption, the Atal Help Line will be provided, he said.
The Cabinet Ministers are also conducting meetings with their concerned departments and assuring a revolution in work culture.
Industries Minister Bikram Singh
Bikram Singh today assured he would make the state an industrial hub of the country in 100 days. As geographical variations have always limited the expansion of industries in the state, Bikram assured uniform industrialization by introducing a ‘New Industrial Policy’ focusing on ‘Rural Industrialization’.
He assured at the very least 80 per cent employments in up-coming industrial units to the youth of Himachal.
The minister also assured the Mining Officers will conduct regular inspection and form a special flying squad to check illegal mining. H
e said the mining sites and quarries will be auctioned in a transparent manner.
Minister for Food, Civil Supplies Kishan Kapoor
Similarly, Kishan Kapoor, in a meeting of Officers of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department at Shimla today, promised there will be no compromise on quality of essential commodities under PDS.
The officers will physically go in the field and conduct regular inspection of fair price shops, take samples and ensure reporting, he claimed.
Kapoor assured all the ration cards will be linked with Aadhar Number within 100 days. A toll free numbers 1967 is already functioning to redress the grievances of consumers, he said.
The government is giving a subsidy of more than 220 crore on subsidized food in Himachal, and it is the “duty of officers to ensure quality in this ration to provide best food to consumers in every nook and corner of the State,” he said.
Urban development, Housing and TCP Minister Sarveen Chaudhary
Minister Sarveen Chaudhary on January 5 presided over a review meeting of HIMUDA. She assured the concerned officials will complete all the developmental projects in a time bound manner. She said “no compromise will be tolerated in the quality of works and complete transparency should be maintained in the departmental affairs”.
The Minister gave the department 100 days for highlighting the priority of works with the projection of the cost and resource management. She said a cleanliness drive will be launched in the state, if the statement of the Minister is considered.
As per the Minister, so far, the HIMUDA has developed 17,229 houses, flats and plots.
The construction of 146 flats and development of 181 plots is in progress, while four housing colonies at Sheel, Dharmapur, Trilokpur and Rajwari are in pipeline, she said.
The minister is assuring construction of five clusters for solid waste management in Baddi, Hamirpur, Kangra, Shimla and Mandi. Vendor markets will be opened in different parts of the state and all possibilities of providing parking spaces will be explored.
The new government has promise fixing the errors in working of government departments. These sessions of claims and promises are likely to continue for a month or so.
The Chief Minister is repeatedly expressing gratitude towards the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party high-command for giving him a chance to serve. He also assured the public that the foot-steps of PM Modi in the field of development will be followed in Himachal too.
Administrative Policy Paralysis
However, the biggest challenge for the government would be to do away with the administrative policy paralysis.
To the dismay of the public, there has been a major debate over the excess interference of legislature with the executive, which often prompted the judiciary to step in. The relation between the political class and the permanent executive hasn’t been so healthy.
It is evident from the repeated need of the intervention from the apex court to make the government work properly.
The court’s intervention comes in response to petitions by the vigilant section of the civil society, watchful media and the Right to Information Act.
In fact, with an intention to put a check increasing erratic and unresponsive executive power, the apex court had ordered formation of the Civil Service Board.
BJP Govt in Himachal faces criticism due to misunderstanding over a clarification
Shimla: Recently, after a clarification was issued by the Himachal Pradesh Revenue Department to the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra district regarding Section 38-A of Section 118 of the HP Tenancy & Land Reforms Act stirred a controversy. The clarification said children of non-Himachali employees of the State government can also buy upto 500 square metres of land in the State for building a house.
The ruling government led by the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur faced severe criticism with allegations of ‘selling land to non-Himachali people for a non-agricultural purpose’. The same clarification was issued earlier in July too, but that did not catch the attention of the media or the people.
It was repeated in August and this time it did rounds of social media. The Chief Minister yielded to the mounting criticism and withdrew clarification issued.
However, the original provision was actually introduced by the previous government through an amendment. The current government was just extending this provision to other family members of the eligible employees. However, only one member of the family was allowed to apply under Section 118 of the said Act. Moreover, there was no exemption from the Section 118. The candidates were still required to apply under the Act to obtain permission.
In July 2014, the then ruling government led by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had embedded provisions in Rule 38- A of Section 118 of the said Act through an amendment. It was called the ‘Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms (Amendment) Rules, 2014’. The amendment was mostly related making it easier for non-Himachali for setting up industrial units in the state.
The amended Act in its sub-section 3 of the Rule 38-A along with other points said,
“A person working in the state for more than 30 years recommended by the concerned local body ( DC) for grant of permission” can buy a land upto 500 square metres for constructing a residential building.
Read A Notification of the Revenue Department Issued in Sept 2014:
Similarly, a person who fulfils the above-mentioned eligibility can also purchase land up to 300 square metres for construction of a shop.
The previous Congress government and several petitioners had been reaching the court time to time terming the provision to ban non-agriculturists and non-Himachali’s from buying land in the State as a violation of the “Articles 14, 15, 19 (e) and (g) of the Constitution. Section 19 (e) of the constitution says that an Indian citizen has the constitutional right to reside anywhere in the country as per his wish.
In June 2016, the Chief of HP Congress, Sukhwinder Sukku, had also supported the need to amend the Act on similar grounds.
The petitioners argued that this rule is also creating hindrances in developmental activities in the State. It was claimed that even non-agriculturist Himachali people were also barred from buying land for any purpose other than agriculture which was unfair.
The Act was amended multiple times since its adoption and the current government is also in favour of making amendments in the Act to relax conditions for acquiring land in the State. The government believes the dilution of this Section would make it easier to invite more investments, thus, help in the growth of the economy.
Moreover, acting on these petitions, in September 2016, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had even directed the state government to make suitable amendments in rules to facilitate the purchase of land, both agriculture and non-agriculture, by non- agriculturist Himachalis.
This court deems it fit and proper to direct the state government to make suitable amendments to Section 118 of the HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972 read with HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Rules, 1975 in order to facilitate to purchase any land (agricultural and non-agricultural) in the state by non-agriculturist Himachalis residing in the state for decades, prior to the date of commencement of the HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972, within a period of 90 days from today,
a division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Sureshwar Thakur said.
At the same time, the people of the State and social organizations have always been against any dilution of Section 118 of the Act, which was passed in 1972 to check to sell of agricultural land to wealthy non-Himachalis by the poorer agrarian community. The government feared the trend would lead the native farmers landless and the economy of the state would also be affected as the majority of the population was dependent on agriculture and horticulture for livelihood.
Congress wants CM Jai Ram Thakur to do what it couldn’t do during its own tenure
Shimla: With the elections of 2019 nearing, growing drug and substance abuse among the youth of Himachal Pradesh (HP) has begun to become visible as a matter of great concern to the leaders of the Indian National Congress (INC). They want the new government to include the provision of more stringent laws against the drug peddlers. Unable to do much about it during the tenure of Congress, its leaders including Mukesh Agnihotri are now seeking action from Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur-led government of Bhartiya Janata Party.
Congress said it supports the government in matters related to the formation of stringent laws against drug mafia.
Congress expects the government to enact new laws in the monsoon session of the HP Legislative Assembly.
On August 20, Mukesh Agnihotri, the leader of the opposition, in a media statement said he wants the ruling government to make provision of capital punishment for drug peddlers and make peddling of synthetic drugs a non-bailable crime. He adored the recent decision of the government to conduct a joint meeting with seven neighbouring states. He also supported the proposal the Chief Minister had made in the meeting regarding the introduction of a mechanism for a regular medical checkup of the students to diagnose for symptoms of drug addiction or substance abuse.
The loopholes in the Narcotic Drugs & Psychoactive Substance (ND&PS), 1985, which were not visible to the leader of the opposition during the tenure of the INC, have now become conceivable. He pointed out that there is a provision of bail for Heroin (Chitta) offenders caught with a quantity up to five grams. He wants the new government to make the offence of peddling synthetic drugs non-bailable.
He made the new government aware of the fact that youth of the state is heading right towards the jaws of synthetic drug addiction.
Another group of Congress leaders led by the President of the HP Congress Committee and sitting MLA of Naduan, Sukhwinder Sukhu, with 15 other leaders, followed Agnihotri and met the Chief Minister on August 21 and submitted a memorandum to enact stringent laws against drug peddlers.
Sukku also wanted the Chief Minister to instil the fear of laws to discourage the drug peddlers. He could now see that the bordering areas of Himachal need joint efforts of the police of concerned states.
Also, now he has come up with several suggestions for the new government.
The Chief Minister has assured the Congress delegation that Himachal would be made a drug-free state.
BJP leasing out Govt land in Shimla worth crores to RSS-linked organizations at a throwaway price: CPI(M)
Shimla: One day ahead of the Shimla Municipal Corporation’s meeting on June 29, Bhartiya Janata Party-led state government is facing criticism over the proposal to lease out government land to organizations associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at a throwaway rate.
At a time when the city needs land for public facilities like playgrounds for children, parking lots/complexes, community buildings etc., the government is being alleged of losing focus on the priorities.
The former Mayor of Shimla city and leader of the CPI(M), Sanjay Chauhan, on Thursday said the state government has decided to lease out two pieces of land owned by the HP Public Works Department worth crores to two of RSS’s organizations at a throwaway price, which is a complete misuse of the public property and resources, he said.
He said the current government has decided to lease out 22669.38 square meter land in Tutikandi in Shimla city to Matrivandana – an organization linked to the RSS.
Similarly, he further alleged, a piece of land measuring 257.15 square meters is being given to Vivekanand Kendra in Nabha at a throwaway price.
The government is rendering landless farmers homeless and snatching away their livelihood by evicting them from forest land and felling apple-laden trees, but at the same time, it is offering land to organizations which would use them to expand their propaganda, Chauhan said.
He further pointed out that the government has not provided even two Biswa piece of land to poverty-stricken, homeless families to build homes, however, it did decide to provide land worth crores in the middle of the city to the said organizations.
The party said the government is working on the direction of the RSS and deviating from its constitutional duties. The party has demanded a roll-back of these decisions at the earliest or to face public protests.
The land belongs to the people of Shimla and it must be utilized for their facilities instead of gifting it to organizations which are working to promote disharmony among the people.
Further, the SMC has proposed a hike in the honorarium given to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Ward Councillors. A proposal to buy a new car for the Mayor is also on the list. The Deputy Mayor has also asked SMC to provide him with an official vehicle.
The SMC House is expected to witness a ruckus in tomorrow’s meeting as half a dozen of BJP’s Ward Councillors had demanded the removal of Mayor and Deputy Mayor following their failure to run the city efficiently.
Earlier, the Councillors had also submitted a written complaint regarding the duo to a minister. Some of them had even threatened to boycott the meeting if the demand was not met. However, no notice was served to move a dissolution motion.
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