Shimla City- Hefty Garbage, Water, Electricity Bills Burden Economically Weak Amid COVID Crisis
Shimla– Nagrik Sabha Shimla on Monday staged a protest near the Office of the Municipal Corporation, Shimla, over hefty bills of electricity, garbage, water, and problems of the businessmen. A delegation of this front approached the Commissioner, Shimla MC, and submitted a memorandum of their demands.
Citizens raised questions over the decisions of the state government to withdraw subsidy worth Rs. 80 crore on ration/food and subsidy worth 100 crores on electricity charges. Questions were raised over the timings of these decisions as a large section of the population, especially the poor and lower-middle-class families, are struggling to survive amid COVID-19 crisis.
The Sabha said that nearly 70 percent of people employed in the private sector in the State have lost their employment partially or completely due to the corona pandemic. Over 5000 workers have lost jobs as hotels, restaurants, and commercial establishments remain closed in the State or not doing well even after the opening of lockdown. In Shimla, 40 percent of employment is linked to the tourism industry, the Sabha said. Closure of the industry has rendered thousands of porters/coolies, cab drivers, guides, those working with tours & travel agencies etc., unemployed. The livelihood of street vendors, hawkers, is hit adversely, the Sabha said.
It also alleged that while people are struggling to just survive this crisis, they have been slapped with hefty bills by State Government, Shimla MC, and Electricity Board. These people were expecting relief but the government became indifferent to their financial crisis.
To worsen things, these people are getting mentally harassed after receiving warnings of disconnection on non-payment of bills on time.
Citizens also complained that bills which were earlier issued monthly, have been issued collectively for four months and a little time has been given to deposit these bills. The meter reading rate for four months has increased manifold, they said.
Similarly, bills worth thousands of rupees for garbage collection have been issued. Businessmen and commercial building owners are also being asked to deposit property tax amid this financial crisis.
The state government should waive off electricity, garbage, and water bills for March, April, May, and June months, the Sabha demanded. It warned of more protests if no relief was provided to the affected.
Citizens had also been complaining about hefty bills despite the fact that businesses like Paying Guest facilities are closed since March and there is no garbage to collect. But still, PG owners said, they have been slapped with hefty bills.
Further, former Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, targeted the Centre Government and top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He referred to the hellish struggle of migrant laborers to reach their homes and their struggle to remain alive because of the imposition of curfew/lockdown in a haste without any warning.
He also termed the ‘Rs 20 lakh crores relief package’ announced by the Centre government a mere gimmick. He said the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister kept elaborating this relief for about a week, but when it came to allocation, it had nothing for the common people. He alleged reliefs were given to influential and rich while commoners and marginal businesses got nothing. He also pointed out that prices of diesel have become equivalent to those of petrol.
He also said that instead of the relief package, the Centre should have given 10 kg ration per month and deposit Rs 7500 in the accounts of those who do not fall under income tax limit. He said this demand was raised several times during the lockdown. There were several other issues that Chauhan raised while addressing the protestors. (Watch Video).
Though the protest was being staged in front of the Office of Superintendent of Police, Shimla, and several police personal were present on the site, social distancing was hardly maintained.
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.