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Proposal to Lease Out HPTDC Hotels, Tea Gardens Uploaded Mistakenly Without My Consent: CM

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HPTDC Hotels Lease

Shimla-A proposal to lease out hotels of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) appeared a couple of days ago on a website for ‘Rising Himachal Global Investors Meet’ scheduled to be held in November this year. The rates for the properties were also mentioned.

The broacher also showed a proposal to lease out tea gardens of Kangra for real estate investors to encourage tourism, which was against the provisions of HP Land Ceiling and Land Holding Act, 1975

As soon as the news broke out, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government drew heavy criticism from the opposition. The opposition alleged the Chief Minister of hatching a conspiracy to put “Himachal on sale” by leasing out prime properties of HPTDC to private investors. After a heated debate over this issue in Vidhan Sabha on August 27, the opposition Congress staged a walkout as a protest against this proposal.

The former president of HPCC and MLA Sukvinder Singh Sukku also criticised the government for this decision.

 “If this proposal was prepared without your or your cabinet’s consent, then who is running the government. Is there another super-CM who is directing the state government to do this, ”

asked Sukku.

However, the Chief Minister said that this proposal was prepared and uploaded on the website without his or Cabinet’s approval. He said no consent was taken from him in this regard and he had no knowledge regarding it. He also said it was a grieve mistake.

He said the brochure was removed from the website as soon as he came to know about it through media reports. He said there is no question of privatising these prime hotels or leasing out tea garden land to private investors.

However, the leader of opposition questioned that if the brochure containing these proposals was uploaded on the website by mistake, then who decided the rate of these hotels without global tendering and without auction.

He asked if it was a mistake then who is responsible for it and why the government was reluctant in taking action against responsible persons. He claimed that he is in possession of all correspondence made in this regard during the last six to eight months, which suggests that the government was planning to privatize these properties clandestinely.   

The Chief Minister, however, repeated that no approval of such kind was given by him or his cabinet or the Revenue Department.

“The causes behind this error would be investigated by the Chief Secretary and details would be provided within the next three days. An action would be taken after these details would specify who were the responsible persons for it,”

said the Chief Minister.

At the same time, the Chief Minister took a dig at Congress by referring to the sale of Wildflower Hall to the Oberoi Group in 1995. He said this hotel could be called the number one prime property of the state that was turned into equity by the Congress government. He said the government did not receive any money from this deal.

He also said that Congress government had leased out Angler’s Bungalow in Kullu in 2014.

The Chief Minister said that the previous Congress government had also introduced the proposal to transfer and change the use of tea gardens for tourism activities under Section 6(a) and 7(a) of HP Land Ceiling and Land Holding Act, 1975. On September 27, 2017, right before the elections to the state Legislative Assembly, it was decided that “with a view to encourage the revival of tea garden through tourism, in principle, the agreement was expressed for expeditious decision in accordance with Section 6(a) and Section 7 (a).

 

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Kinnaur Landslide: 14 Bodies Recovered in 30 Hours, Several Still Missing

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Kinnaur landslide rescue operation photos

Kinnaur: Landslide in Kinnaur district is unfolding as one of the biggest catastrophe in Himachal Pradesh as the of fatality count continues to rise. After 30 hours of the rescue operation, which was hampered multiple times due to shooting stones at the site, 14 dead bodies had been recovered till the suspension of the operation on Thursday evening. While 10 bodies were recovered on Wednesday, four more were exhumed from the rubble on Thursday.

As many as 15 persons were rescued and taken to Bhavanagar CHC for treatment.

The wreckage of the HP Road Transport Corporation bus was found scattered about 500 meters below the National Highway-5 in Nigulsari – the site of the massive landslide. The condition of the wreckage suggested there was little hope of survival of any passenger. The distraught relatives of the missing persons remained at the site, grieving with diminishing hope to see their family members alive as the rescue operation for today was suspended.

Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

HRTC Bus Wreckage

The state of exhumed bodies added to the horror of the families, as well as, the rescuers. Some of the bodies were in such a state that their identification was next to impossible. While some bodies had their limbs cut off, one of them was found without the head.

As the rescue operation would be entering its third day on Friday, the death toll is likely to rise as the driver of the bus, who had survived the accident and was seriously injured, had estimated that 25-30 passengers were onboard when the landslide pushed it down the NH.

Further, there is still no sign of one vehicle (Bolero SUV), informed Director, State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta. The exact number of people feared to be buried under the rubble was yet to be ascertained. According to the district administration, based on calls received from families, the number of missing people could be anywhere between 30-50.

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

Meanwhile, some family members of the missing persons complained that while the rescue operation was initiated immediately from the Negulsari side, JCB machines took over five hours to reach the spot from the Chauri side. They complained that such a big delay was crucial and could have saved more lives.

It’s pertinent to mention that the HRTC bus had remained untraceable on Wednesday and the wreckage was found on the second day of the rescue operation. However, most passengers were yet to be traced.  

According to the Deputy Commandant, ITBP, Dharmender Thakur, shooting stones and sliding rubble posed a huge challenge for the rescue teams, which comprised of hundreds of personnel of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, local police, and CISF. Undertaking this operation on a steep slope further created difficult circumstances for the teams. The lives of the rescuers were also at risk as the site remained vulnerable to reactivation of landslide.

This landslide in the Kinnaur district has become a matter of debate for geologists, environmentalists, seismologists and climatologists. Unscientific cutting of fragile mountains and blasting for the widening of roads and construction of tunnels for hydropower projects, changing patterns of rains, and seismic activity are being referred to be the reasons behind the increased incidents of landslides, especially in Kinnaur district.

At the same time, the inability of the state government to consider technical suggestions given by geological experts from time to time for mitigation of such hazards is also finding mention in the critical comments given by experts. The lackadaisical attitude of the government in the adoption of technologies, such as the early warning system developed by the IIT Mandi for mountainous regions vulnerable to landslides, is also attracting criticism.

It’s pertinent to mention that after the Kotrupi disaster – a massive landslide that had buried two buses and claimed 48 lives in August 2017-experts from IIT Mandi had carried out surveys and studies and provided several suggestions for minimizing damages, which fell into deaf ears.  

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Rohit Kumar
  2. Vanshuka
  3. Meera Devi
  4. Nitisha
  5. Prem Kumar
  6. Gyan Dassi
  7. Devi Chand
  8. Kumari Radhika
  9. Bhupender
  10. Kamlesh Kumar
  11. Lakshman Thapa
  12. Vijay Kumar

Two others were yet to be identified. The state government has announced ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 5o thousand to the injured. HRTC has also announced Rs. 1 lakh ex-gratia to the passengers of the bus killed in the mishap. 

Further, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and several other political leader visited the spot and met the relatives of victims on Thursday. 

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Kinnaur Tragedy: HRTC Bus Wreckage Found, Death Toll Rises to 13 and Likely Rise

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Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

Kinnaur-The rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Nigulsari, Nichar Tehsil of the Kinnaur district, was resumed on Thursday morning. The wreckage of the ill-fated bus of the HP Road Transport Corporation was found 500 meters below the road and about 200 meters above the Sutlej River. The pictures showed that the bus was completely crushed and torn to pieces. 

So far, 13 dead bodies had been recovered and 14 injured including the driver and the conductor of the HRTC bus, which was on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar, were rescued and taken to hospital. The death toll is likely to rise as the passengers were yet to be traced. According to the driver, there were 25-30 passengers in the bus when it was hit by the landslide. A Bolero SUV alongwith passengers was also missing and was yet to be traced.  

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

The mishap occurred at about 12:30 pm on Wednesday. The rescue operation was suspended at 9 pm due to dark conditions and shooting stones, which made the rescue operation difficult.

Till the suspension of the operation, the rescue teams comprising of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, Central Industrial Security Force, and local police had traced three cars and a tipper.  

The rescue teams were searching from two directions and were using drones too.   

Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

The landslide had hit about 200 meters patch of the National Highway-5 – about 10 kilometres away from Bhavanagar.

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Kinnaur Tragedy: 10 Bodies Recovered, Still No Trace of HRTC Bus, 50-60 Persons Feared to be Missing

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Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

Kinnaur: The rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Nigulsari, Nichar Tehsil of the Kinnaur district, was suspended at 9 pm on Wednesday due to dark conditions and shooting stones, which made the rescue operation difficult. The rescue operation would be resumed on Thursday morning, according to the information provided by the district administration.

So far, 10 dead bodies, including those of five women and a child, had been recovered and 13 injured were rescued and taken to CHC Bhavnagar. Though the exact number was not known, 50-60 persons were feared to be buried and were yet to be traced.  

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 7

Source: ITBP

The rescue teams comprising of state NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, Central Industrial Security Force, and local police had been carrying out the rescue operation aggressively.

The HRTC bus carrying 25-30 passengers and a Bolero SUV were still untraceable. As earth removers removed the rubble, two cars and a truck were traced, but the bus and the SUV weren’t found beneath the rubble. It’s being suspected that rubble and boulders might have pushed the bus and the SUV down the gorge and into the Sutlej River.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 5

Source: ITBP

The HRTC bus and a utility vehicle (a Bolero) and their passengers have not been found under the debris. They are still untraceable. Both vehicles may have rolled down with the debris,” informed Director, State Disaster Management Force, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta.

The rescue teams were searching from two directions and were using drone too, informed Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, Abid Hussain Sadiq.    

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures

Source: ITBP

The landslide had hit about 200 meters patch of the National Highway-5 – about 10 kilometers away from Bhavanagar. The ill-fated bus was reportedly on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar in Uttarakhand via Shimla.

Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

Source: ITBP

The survivors included the drivers of the bus, Mahender Pal, who had first informed his higher officials about the landslide, and the conductor, Gulab Singh.

Meanwhile, ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50 thousand for the injured.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 3

Source: ITBP

The landslide has again stirred a debate over ecological damages to the fragile Himalayan region due to rampant blasting and tunneling for hydropower projects and cutting of hills for the widening of roads in an unscientific manner. As compared to the previous year, landslides and cloudbursts doubled in 2o21.

Earlier, on July 25, a landslide had claimed nine lives after boulders rolling down a hill hit a tourist vehicle on Sangla-Chitkul NH in the Batseri region in Kinnaur district. 

According to the statement given in the Legislative Assembly, the ongoing monsoon session has claimed 212 lives and caused damages worth over Rs. 500 crores. The death tally would rise as the rescue operation would be resumed tomorrow.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 2

Source: ITBP

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 6 Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 4

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