Shimla-The viral letter alleging corruption in Himachal Pradesh Health Department, which created ripples in the political sphere and caused embarrassment to Bhartiya Janata Party, has compelled the state government to come out with an official clarification. Regional media and Hindi dailies are calling this letter “the Patra Bomb” as it appeared right before the by-polls to the legislative assembly on Dharamshala and Pachhad seats.
Today, a spokesperson of the HP government said that the news reports appearing in a section of media and social media regarding irregularities in purchase of medicines are totally baseless. Health Department has termed these allegations as unnecessary rumours being spread to mislead the people.
The spokesperson said it is wrong to say that any person has been given supply orders amounting to Rs. 35 crores as the government has enlisted 42 firms for this purpose, and it is not possible to give supply orders to any individual.
About two weeks ago, an anonymous letter addressed to Shanta Kumar, former Chief Minister, went viral on social media. The letter named the Health Minister Vipin Parmar, CM Jairam Thakur, and Industries Minister Bikram Thakur, alleging them of facilitating the supply of low-quality medicines worth Rs 35 crores. The letter had alleged that these ministers and others in power compelled the Health Department to buy these medicines from a specific supplier at a higher cost.
The case became more interesting when a senior leader of BJP and former minister, Ravinder Ravi, was named as the main person behind creating and circulating this letter. The police had questioned Ravi multiple times and had confiscated his mobile phone. A case under section 505 of the IPC (spreading misinformation) and 506 (criminal intimidation) was also registered against him. Though police did not make any comment regarding the progress in the case, the appearance of the name of BJP’s own leader in the case brought infighting withing the party into the limelight. Ravinder is believed to be a close aid of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal. BJP has two factions currently – one supporting Dhumal and another supporting CM Jairam Thakur. The infighting intensified after this letter.
While BJP tried not to comment on the viral letter, Congress grabbed the opportunity and sought fair probe into the allegations labelled in the letter instead of taking action against those who wrote and circulated it. Congress had also alleged that BJP is trying to cover up the case by directing investigation towards those who labelled these allegations of corruption against the government.
Under immense pressure, today the government ultimately had to issue an official clarification rejecting the allegations.
In the clarification, the government further rejected the reports regarding the purchase of medicines by a Doctor in Mandi at a high rate of Rs. 16 (instead of Rs. 2). The government said no such instance has come to the notice of the department. Similarly, the claim of allotting a medicine shop at Palampur is also false and baseless since this shop was allotted to Civil Supplies Corporation in 1997 and the pharmacists are also appointed by the Corporation, the government clarified.
Regarding the purchases of equipment by the Ayurveda Department at higher rates is concerned, the then Director has been charge-sheeted for misconduct and causing loss to the State exchequer to the extent of Rs. 39 lakh. Simultaneously, three members of Purchase Committee were placed under suspension and are also being charge-sheeted for negligence and causing loss to the State, the government said.
The spokesperson said that the e-tendering has been started in Himachal to ensure complete transparency in procurement of all types of medicines/drugs, surgical items and consumables in the health department. He said before the year 2018, the medicines and surgical items used to be procured as per the rate contract finalized by the Himachal Pradesh State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd.
However, now after introducing e-tendering in August 2018, medicines and medical equipment for all the government health institutions including medical colleges of the state are being purchased by the department itself, he said.
He said that e-tenders for the supply of medicines, drugs and consumables to the state health institutions were invited by the health department for the first time in August 2018 and the bids were invited from the manufactures/direct importers in which 118 firms participated and 73 qualified. All supply orders are being issued through Drugs Vaccine Distribution Management System (DVDMS) portal to the successful bidders by generating code of the successful bidder being operated at the level of CMOs/BMOs and Medical Superintendents.
The Spokesperson said that efforts have been made to bring maximum drugs on rate contract and the medicines not available on the state rate contract are being procured from the Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs), rate contract of medical colleges, ESI rate contract, Bureau of Pharma PSU of India (BPPI) rates (Jan Aushadhi) and also by calling local tenders. He said that all the CMOs and Medical Superintendents have also been permitted for making procurement subject to certain conditions.
He said that purchase order amounting to around 44 crores has been made by the indenting officers (CMOs, BMOs Medical Superintendents) including about Rs. 8.30 crores for district Mandi during the year 2019 on the rates approved by the government of Himachal Pradesh. He said that the branded drugs cannot be purchased by any indenting officer since all drugs available on rate contract are generic. However, if anyone was found purchasing branded drugs from outside or out of the rate contract on a specified ladder, stringent action will be taken against him as it leads to misconduct and loss to the state exchequer.
He said that the health department is ensuring complete transparency in the purchase of medicines and equipment but if any person has solid proof regarding any irregularity, he should come forward to bring it to the notice of the government and the department will conduct an appropriate enquiry in any case of irregularity.
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.