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Himachal: Temples, Hotels, Private Bus Services to Remain Closed for Now

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Himachal Pradesh Temples Opening Postponed

Shimla-Temples and religious places in Himachal Pradesh will remain closed for now as the State Government and the District Administrations are yet to issue any Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Though the centre has issued SOPs, Himachal has entrusted Deputy Commissioners to take a decision regarding re-opening of temples. Most of the temples in the State are under the Deputy Commissioners of the districts.

Himachal Pradesh – “Devbhoomi”- has a plethora of temples and places of religious importance like Tibetan Monastery and the abode of Tibetian spiritual leader Dalai Lama. The income of these temples plays a considerable role in the economy of the State. There are towns and regions which financially depend on visitors/pilgrims. A large number of visitors from outside the State, especially from Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab and Delhi, West Bengal visit these temples or arrive for pilgrimage.

But from March 17 – the day temples were shut down and tourists were prohibited to enter the State-there is no income. Salaries of priests and others employed at these temples are paid from their income.   

Also, the Language, Art and Culture Department of Himachal Pradesh Government is supposed to issue guidelines in this regard.

So far, DCs have not issued any notification in this regard and are of the view that the staff at temples, shopkeepers around these temples and other traders need to be trained and sensitized to ensure safety.

Though the State had announced re-opening temples and hotels and restaurants from June 8 for only residents of Himachal Pradesh, it would require a great amount of effort from the district administration to filter visitors and ensuring that no person from outside the State is lining up at temples. The State borders are open for movement of traffic and a large number of people have already returned and would continue to return to their native places in the State for a while.

With the return of these people, the State has witnessed a big spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. The state has reported over 410 cases so far. Of this total, over 350 cases have been reported May 3, 2020, onwards – the day boarders of the State were opened for returnees. The cases continue to rise with several cases being reported every day.

Therefore, the State Government need to be very careful while opening temples. Lack of social distancing, screening, sanitizations of temples, proper preventive measures to save temple staff and shopkeepers could turn temples into hotspots of COVID-19 spread within no time.

“We are in no hurry to open the temples to the public. We will take a call at an appropriate time once all precautions are put in place and staff at the temples are fully trained for implementation of the guidelines,”

said Deputy Commissioner Kangra Rakesh Prajapati.

Kangra, Una, Hamirpur and Bilaspur districts have famous temples and shrines which the pilgrims from all over the country especially Haryana, Punjab and UP visit every year.

Kangra district alone receives lakhs of pilgrims and visitors every year as it houses famous temples like Jawalamukhi, Chamunda Devi, Bagalamukhi, Brijeshwari etc. Dharamshala is famous for its Monastery and because of the residence of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama.  

“Once we open the access of the public to the temples, it will be difficult to differentiate between the locals and those reaching the temples from outside as a lot of people have already come to their homes from outside during the lockdown,”

said Prajapati.

To implement SOPs, the District Administrations in these districts are likely to conduct training of staff, priests, guards and shopkeepers around the temples during the current week. There is a possibility that some of the temples would be opened for the people of the State for paying obeisance.

However, religious gathering and events would remain prohibited.

Hotel and Restaurant Owners Want to Remain Closed

The hospitality industry, which is worst hit due to the lockdown in wake of the corona pandemic, is also reluctant in opening hotels and restaurants. Hoteliers were asked to re-open from June 8, but they declined to do so. Various associations of hoteliers from various districts had held a video conference with the State Government last week.

Also Read:‘Quarantine Tourism’ and Opening Hotels in Himachal Bad Idea: Hotel Associations

They had told the Government that before the hotels could be opened, the staff would need to be trained properly, which would take time. Also, as the entry of tourists is still prohibited, the hoteliers are preferring to remain closed.

Private Operators Remain off the Roads

The State Government had decided to re-open public transport after the end of phase three of the lockdown, and the HRTC had resumed the services on a conditional basis like plying with only 60 per cent of seat capacity, regular sanitization before and after every tour, ensuring social distancing etc. However, private operators have declined to run buses and demanded a hike in fares in order to start operating at 60 percent passenger capacity.  

Also Read: Private Bus Operators in Himachal Refuse to Start Operating from June 1 Unless Govt Provides Relief

 

 

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HP Statehood Day 2022: Relaxation in Electricity Charges, Third Option in New Pay scale, Higher Pay scale to Constables and other Announcements

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Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government, on the 52nd Statehood Day, has made several announcements. It announced 31 percent DA to employees, relaxation on electricity charges up to 60 units, enhancement of annual income for availing benefit of pensions and welfare schemes.

Benefits of higher scales would be provided immediately to all those constables who were eligible for higher scales. All the constables appointed after 2015 would be eligible for higher scale as per other categories of employees, the government announced.

The State Government announced that now while implementing the new pay scale, the employees would be given a third option besides two options already given to them. The State has recently implemented new pay scales for employees of the State Government. The state government said it felt that few disparities existed in the new pay scales of few categories.

Pensioners of the State Government would also be given pension as per the new pay scales of the Punjab government, the government announced.

The government also announced 31 per cent DA to all the employees of the State at par with the Central Government employees. Also, an increase in annual income for availing the benefits of various welfare schemes and pensions for the weaker sections of the society from existing Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000 was announced.

Now, the domestic consumers of the state whose electricity consumption is up to 60 units per month would not be charged any fee per electricity unit.  They would be incurred zero cost per unit of electricity consumed. With this decision, domestic consumers whose electricity consumption is up to 125 units, would be charged only one rupee per unit cost.  Over 11 lakh domestic consumers would be benefitted from this decision and the State government would incur an additional expenditure of Rs 60 crore on providing this relief, the government informed.

For the farmers in the state, the government announced to reduce the present per unit cost of electricity from 50 paise to 30 paise.  This benefit will be payable from April 2022.

Further, the HP Government said that in the year 1971, the per capita income of the state was only Rs 651 which has increased to Rs. 1,83,286, the GDP of the State has gone up from Rs 223 crore in 1971 to Rs 1,56,522 crore. The literacy rate of the State has gone up to 82.80 percent which was 23 percent in 1971. The agricultural production in the state has increased from 954 metric tons to 1500 metric tons and food grain production in 1971 was 9.40 lakh MT which has increased to 16.74 lakh MT, the state government said.

The state-level function of 52nd Statehood Day was celebrated at historic Thodo ground in Solan, where Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur unfurled the Tricolor and took salute from the contingents of Police, IRB Jungalberi, Home Guards and, NCC girls etc.

The parade was commanded by DSP Pranav Chauhan.

The Chief Minister also honoured three war widows of Solan District including Dil Kumari Thapa, Savitri Devi and Nirmala Devi on this occasion. Head constable Sandeep Chandel was also felicitated by the Chief Minister who has been awarded Prime Ministers Police Medal for life-saving for the year 2018.  

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Covid Restrictions in Himachal Extended Till Jan 31st, State Reports 11 Deaths in 24 Hours

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Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh 2022

Shimla-Covid-19 restrictions in Himachal Pradesh has been extended till January 31, 2022. Currently, the state is witnessing a sharp spike in daily Covid-19 cases and deaths. Today, despite a low sampling of 7896, the State reported 1766 new cases and 11 Covid-related deaths. During the last eight days,  the State has recorded over 50 deaths due to Covid-19.

The deceased included a 2-year-old female child too. Shimla district reported the highest five deaths. The Covid death toll in the state had risen to 3927 according to the latest update. But the State did not impose any new restrictions, like on the entry of visitors and curtailing capacity of public transport. Further, during the last 24 hours, Shimla, Solan, and Kangra districts reported more than 250 cases each. 

Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh extended

 A notification in this regard was issued by the Government of Himachal Pradesh (Revenue Department – Disaster Management Cell) on Monday. 

“Taking note of the present situation of Covid-19 in the State, the restrictions announced on January 5th, 8th, 9th, and 13th will continue to remain in effect till 6 am of 31st January 2022,” the notification said.

Programs scheduled on the occasion of Himachal Pradesh Statehood Day ( 25th January) and Republic Day (26th January) would be held on the condition of 50% capacity of indoor/outdoor spaces.

The educational institutes, including ITI, polytechnic colleges, and coaching institutes, would remain closed. Online classes, however, would continue in schools.

With the ongoing surge in daily cases and deaths, more restrictions could be in stock.

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Mandi Hooch Case: Political Storm Over Arrest and Expulsion of Hamirpur Congress Leader

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Hamipur district congress neeraj thakur

Mandi-On Sunday, the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee expelled General Secretary of the Hamirpur District Congress Committee following his arrest from Chandigarh in alleged connection with the Mandi hooch case.

It’s pertinent to mention that last week seven persons had lost their lives in two days and eight others are still hospitalized due to consumption of spurious liquor in Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, Mandi district. Following this tragedy, a police SIT was formed, various places were raided, seizures of incriminating materials were made, several persons were arrested. So far, the police have arrested 13 persons in this connection and more arrests could be made as the SIT unfolds layers of people involved.

Neeraj Thakur, who was said to have risen to a political leader from a salesman at a liquor shop, had created an empire for himself allegedly from the illicit trade of spurious liquor. The worth of his properties and assets is being assessed, but the initial reports suggested his assets were disproportionate to his income. Now every political leader he was in contact with is under the scanner of the police SIT.

Also Read: Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

According to Superintendent of Police, Mandi, Shalini Agnihotri, on Sunday, police detained Praveen Thakur, who is a resident of Hamirpur, two persons, identified as Sunny and Pushpender of Uttar Pradesh, AK Tripathi of Jammu and Kashmir, and Sagar Saini of Delhi. The police have claimed that it has also apprehended the kingpin.

The state Congress chief and the opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri who had been issuing statements holding the BJP government responsible for the Mandi hooch tragedy is on backfoot following the expulsion of Neeraj. At the same time, the failure of the state Excise and Taxation Department in checking this flourishing illicit trade of spurious liquor right under its nose is also evident.

State BJP general secretary Trilok Jamwal, State BJP spokesperson Baldev Tomar and co-media-in-charge Karan Nadda on Sunday issued statements referring to the expulsion of Neeraj as evidence that the Congress leaders were involved in, as well as, patron of liquor mafia in the State.

Further, with elections to the Shimla Municipal Corporation and elections to the state Assembly later this year, this issue has turned into a political storm.  

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor.

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