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HP Govt re-shuffles 34 IAS officers amid ongoing plethora of assuarances to public

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List of HP IAS transfered

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.

 

 

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Quandary in KCC Bank Recruitment – Himachal’s Unemployed Youth Grinds Between Corruption & Politics

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KCC Bank Recruitments 2017

Shimla- If you search hashtag #KCCB on Twitter, you are likely to find thousands of Tweets where the youth of Himachal Pradesh is requesting the current Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to deliver justice. In every Tweet, the CM can be seen tagged. Since the government chooses to remain tight-lipped, the helpless youth is now cursing not only the CM but also the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for befooling them. 

Shimla– If you search hashtag #KCCB on Twitter, you are likely to find thousands of Tweets where the youth of Himachal Pradesh is requesting the current Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to deliver justice. In every Tweet, the CM can be seen tagged. Since the government chooses to remain tightlipped, the helpless youth is now cursing not only the CM but also the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for befooling them. 

After being versed with entire matter, you will be astonished to find, how far the politicians and corrupt officials can go in playing with the future of the youth and their money.

State’s educated but unemployed youth had been trying to attract the attention of the ruling government towards the mental agony and despair they are going through for the past 18 months due to ugly vendettas of political parties and blatant corruption in the Kangra Central Cooperative(KCC) Bank.

You’ll find a lot of newspaper cuttings, pictures of protests, and memes showing how the politicians and the Bank not just toyed with the sentiments of lakhs of unemployed youth but also extorted crores of rupees from them. 

At the same time, the youth are alleging the Bank officials of lying through their teeth with no remorse at all. Read on to understand the entire issues.

Back in 2017, the KCC Bank advertised recruitment to fill up 216 vacant seats of assistant manager (Grade III), Junior Computer Programmer (Grade III), Clerk (Grade 1V General public, trained secretary, employees of cooperative society quota) and computer operators. Over 1. 26 lakh candidates applied for the recruitment conducted through the HP Board of School Education (HPBOSE). However, while applying, they had no idea that their own government would make a mockery of their unemployed status.

The then Chairman of the Bank, Jagdeesh Sephiya or the ruling Congress government did pay heed to the fact that the recruitment process actually violated the guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India and the Registrar Co-operative Society. It’s important to note, Sephiya is a Congress leader and a close aide of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

According to the applicants, the bank collected between 5-7 crores, conducted a written examination in June 2017 and held interviews of the 750 candidates in September. Before the declaration of the merit list, the Model Code of Conduct came into force ahead of elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

After elections, one of the first decisions of the new government of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was to not carry forward any recruitments made during the period of six months before the elections. The KCCB recruitment process was one of them. Since then, the 750 candidates who had appeared in the personal interview wait desperately for the bank to declare the result.

The BJP governmenthas alleged of nepotism in the recruitment while the members of KCC Board of the Directors allege grieve irregularities in granting loans and manipulation of data related to the Non-Performing Assets, which deem the entire application and recruitment process unlawful.

An inquiry by the then MD of the Bank, PC Akela, into some loans had confirmed a violation of norms by few KCC bank branches including one near Government College, Una. A chargesheet was also issued to the managers of these banks, if the ex-MD is to be believed.

Similarly, Rs 1.30 crore cash credit limit (CCL) extended by the bank to Chunni Lal, brother of Anand Chauhan, LIC agent – an accused in corruption cases registered against the former Chief Minister by the CBI, also came under the scanner.

The then Director of the bank, Keshav Korla, who is also associated with BJP and was in a race to become new MD, labelled serious allegations against the then MD and filed a petition in the State High Court, challenging the recruitment process.

It was alleged that the bank was not eligible to hire since its NPA was higher than 12 percent. According to bank officials, its NPA was about 15 percent. However, Korla alleged that the actual NPA was over 20 percent and that the bank has manipulated the statistics to fool the RBI.

The absurdity of the political drama witnessed a new low when Korla, in August 2017, alleged that he was slapped by Jaswant Singh Rana, another member of the BoD, over an argumentconcerningthese irregularities in the bank.

The new government then ordered a vigilance probe into the alleged irregularities in the grant of loans and manipulation of data related to the NPA. A nod was also given to lodge FIRs against three Chairmen and MDS. However, the vigilance probe was slowed down and no one was held accountable ;perhaps a regular outcome of such probes.

Also, it was found that the HPBOSE had destroyed all records of the recruitment except the personal interviews.

On July 19, 2018, the BJP government dissolved the BoD and the bank worked without the Board for about eight months. The government took its turn to reward its blue-eyed leaders and officials. In July itself, the government re-shuffled the MD of the Bank for as many as three times and made the respectable post a joke.

In November 2018, Rajiv Bhardwaj, a BJP leader from Kangra district and Shanta Kumar’s loyalist, was appointed as the new Chairman of the Bank along with the nomination of two other leaders as members.

Despite appeals from and protest of 750 candidates, by December 28, 2018,the new BoDpassed a resolution to cancelthe recruitment.Following this decision to cancel the recruitment, the court also closed the petition.

Now, the applicants tuned protestants allege that the bank officials including the new Chairman are lying to the candidates that they had no information regarding the cancellation of the recruitment. In fact, the court has mentioned it specifically that the petition was disposed of after the BoD submitted a written reply stating that it has cancelled the recruitments. The Chairman has held the court responsible for the cancellation of the recruitment. The Bank is treating these youth like primary kids, nothing more.

The reason given for cancellation was that the recruitments were conducted through HPBOSE. The BoD said it was against the Registrar Co-operative Societyguidelines, which instruct that banks can only recruit through IBPS, State Staff Selection Board or State Public Service Commission.  Secondly, the RBI guidelines, the BoD further stated that banks with an NPA higher than 12 percentare not eligible to conduct recruitments.

The candidates, who had no role in this mess created by the previous and new governments, facedmental harassment awaiting their results during all this time. They met several leaders and even the new Chief Minister, requesting him to declare the results. The Chief Minister, during an event in Bilaspur, had assured them that they would not face injustice, which they eventually did.

These youth are questioning how other banks with higher NPAs are able to conduct recruitments and why this rule is being implemented in their case only.

They staged protests and reached media several times since the formation of the new government.

They received occasional hopes from the government, which were ultimately dashed to the ground. These candidates are still not in any mood to give up protesting over their demand.

The BoD members, some of which are nominated, have their affiliations to their respective patron political parties. All the members strive to appease their party through nepotism in recruitments, issuance of insecure loans to politically influential or any mean they can find.

In fact, one of the biggest reason for rising NPA of the Bank is that the previous as well as the current governmentshave been ignoring persons with banking background for the top positions and instead electing those having a political background. This political influence leads to grant of insecure loans to selected candidates or near and dear to leaders of the respective ruling government. These political persons do it to please their masters.

The biggest irony is that despite being such a sensitive issue, no one is held responsible.

Someone must be held responsible for initiating the process of recruitment when the Bank was not eligible to do so officially and legally. Someone must be held responsible for making the Bank BoD a political battleground where anyone hardly has any experience related to banking. Someone needs to lay some eligibility criteria for the selection of the BoD, members and the position of the Chairman.

As far as nepotism is concerned, none of the parties leaves a stone unturned to influence the recruitment process, which is no hidden secret.

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BJP Govt in Himachal faces criticism due to misunderstanding over a clarification

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Non-Himachali govt employees can buy land in Himachal

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.

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Congress wants CM Jai Ram Thakur to do what it couldn’t do during its own tenure

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sukku meets cm jairam thakur

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.

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