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Himachal Not Ready, Tourism Industry Rejects Govt Notification, Shuts Hotels

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Kullu-Tourism industry leaders and village heads in the state have rejected the Himachal Pradesh government’s guidelines to reopen tourism in the state.

“The government is washing its hands off and wants to take no responsibility for the safety and hygiene of the tourism sector”

said Anup Thakur, president of the Manali Hoteliers Association.
Hotels in Kullu, Manali and Shimla aligned with two Hoteliers Associations have decided to stay closed until September. They have requested the state government to train tourism industry staff and prepare medical facilities in the state before allowing tourists in.
On July 4, the HP State government had released a list of standard operating procedures, (SOP) with safety and hygiene guidelines.

“The hotel industry was not involved in the making of these SOP’s, unfortunately,” said Sanjay Sood, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association, Shimla, “our industry has taken so many losses and peak tourist season has ended, I don’t understand why the government is in a hurry to open the state for tourism, risking the lives of all citizens,”

he added.
With no Hindi translation available from the state government, it is difficult to believe that the 29-page long English document posted on the tourism department’s website has even been read by all hotel, homestay, bed and breakfast and small tourism business owners. In a state where the majority of the population prefers to speak and read in Hindi, it is both arrogant and illogical for the State government to make and post guidelines only in the English language.

Most of the hotels in the state are owned by small business owners and located in rural areas.

 “We mostly have small hotels with 5 to 50 rooms in the state,”

says Sanjay Sood.
These small hotels and all other tourism related small businesses do not have the resources or the training to follow the complicated guidelines and procedures that the state government has laid out.

“In Kullu district, 90 percent of the hotels and homestays are in village panchayat areas,”

added Anup Thakur.
People in villages are worried about being infected by the coronavirus and are already watchful of outsiders and vehicles from outside the state. Village pradhans have consistently refused to allow outsiders keeping in mind that testing for COVID-19 and health facilities in rural areas are zero to almost nil.

“Almost all the panchayats in Manali area (Palchan, Vashisth, Jagatsukh, Shanag, Burwa, Prini, Gojra) have submitted to me in writing that they are not ready to reopen for tourism, this is a warning for me,”

said Anup Thakur.
Himachal Watcher has a copy of the letters and the panchayats have refused to allow tourists in hotels that fall in their jurisdiction.
For residents coming back to Himachal Pradesh, there is a 14-day mandatory institutional or home quarantine, for tourists entering the state, there is no quarantine rule, they are allowed everywhere and can endanger residents if they are infected by the coronavirus. The coronavirus has a 5 to 14 days incubation period during which people may test negative and might show no symptoms but are still carriers and can infect healthy people.
Until now Himachal Pradesh has escaped the worst of coronavirus disease, with 1083 cases officially as of 8 July and 9 deaths.
Long queues were seen at Shoghi barrier before Shimla and many vehicles were turned back as they had no COVID negative test reports. In Kullu district, police sent back 70 tourists without COVID-negative test reports in the required format, (just slips of paper from hospitals saying they were COVID negative), seven tourists were allowed as police confirmed they had both a 5-day booking and a negative COVID test report from the last 72 hours. One group who lied to the police to enter Himachal, saying they had a wedding and had no valid hotel booking were arrested and charged under relevant sections of the law.
News reports of fake COVID test reports being given for a price in Uttar Pradesh have also alarmed locals in Himachal. The timing of this decision is also being questioned.

“With the speed that cases are increasing now, 25000 new cases per day, this decision is arbitrary and we need better tracking, tracing and treating of cases, not allowing 1000’s of people daily,”

said Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla. A new study by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) researchers should worry all Indians, it predicts that India could see 2.87 lakh cases daily by Feb 2021. The same study also calculates that coronavirus cases are actually 12 times higher, with 50 percent more deaths.

“We want to promote healthy and safe tourism and this is not the way, we also want tourists to have a good experience when they are in Himachal,”

says Anup Thakur. Whether this decision of the government helps livelihoods in Himachal or pushes residents into a corner with no way out is something only time will tell.

 

These mist covered mountains, Are a home now for me.. Saurabh is an independent journalist based in the Kullu valley. He studied Hotel Management from Bangalore University in the last millennium. He has worked with a tabloid, a national wire service, a business daily newspaper and written for UK newspapers and Turkish wire. He is interested in people's movements, the environment, the human relationship with nature, history from ancient to recent, freedom and vice. When not online learning more about the world or arguing with his partner, he loves motorcycle rides, solo hikes, talking to strangers and cooking for family.

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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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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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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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