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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.

Misc News/Press Release

Mandi Greenfield Airport: HP Govt to Acquire upto 3150 Mts Land for Phase-II

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Mandi Airport photo

Mandi-Himachal Pradesh Government yesterday held a meeting regarding the construction of Greenfield Airport at Nagchala in Mandi district and expansion of Kangra and Shimla Airports. 

It was informed that land measuring 2936 bigha has been identified for construction of Greenfield Airport in Mandi district and site clearance has been obtained in January 2020.  During the meeting held with the Ministry of Civil Aviation in November 2019, it was decided that AAI go ahead with 2100 meters length of the runway in phase-I. However, Government of Himachal Pradesh would acquire land for proposed runway upto 3150 meters for phase-II and additional land would be kept unutilized as a buffer zone, he added.  The State Government had signed MoU for development and operation of this Greenfield airport through a Joint Venture Company on 15th January 2020, it was informed.

As per estimates, a total expenditure of Rs. 7448 crore would be incurred on this project on land acquisition, terminal building, runways and allied activities. An expenditure of Rs.  2786 crore on land acquisition, Rs. 2965 crore on other developmental activities, Rs. 900 crore on the terminal building, runway and allied infrastructure,  Rs. 782 crore on structures and Rs. 15 crores on compensatory levies for FCA  would be made. This proposed airstrip would require channelization of Suketi khad.

It was informed that 1780 bigha of land has been identified for the development and expansion of Kangra Airport for the operation of A-320 type of aircraft and cost of acquisition of land and allied activities would be Rs. 3347.18 crore. This proposed airstrip would require channelization of Manjhi khad alongwith construction of new approach road to the airport.

While referring about the expansion of Shimla Airport, it was informed that Union Civil Aviation Minister in November 2019 has agreed to provide funds for expansion of Shimla Airport runway adding a length of another 300 meters for which land measuring 182-11 bighas had been identified.  Proposal for the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) has been submitted.

Photo: [email protected]

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1802 Job Opportunities for Those Who Returned to State Due to COVID-19: HPKVN

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Shimla-Managing Director, Himachal Pradesh Kaushal Vikas Nigam (HPKVN), Rohan Chand Thakur, informed on October 30, 2020, that thousands of unemployed skilled and semi-skilled citizens have returned to the state due to COVID pandemic. He claimed that through its Skill Register portal, till date, over 16,406 people have registered themselves for employment.

HPKVN approached various industries and companies located in the state and identified about 1802 employment opportunities. Some big names include HAVELLS, Voltas, Tafe, Indoco Remedies and organizations like MT Autocraft, Parwanoo etc, he informed.

He said that these job opportunities were mapped as per the eligibility, qualification and aspiration of the citizens registered on the ‘Skill Register’ portal and based on such mapping, HPKVN identified 1685 candidates eligible for the job opportunities offered by various industries.

These candidates were individually contacted, counselled and motivated to join the available job opportunities. Consequently, 405 candidates expressed their interest in joining the job. Out of these, 282 candidates appeared for the interview and 102 candidates got shortlisted through interview.

“For rest who could not join the job opportunities are being further counselled and motivated by the HPKVN team so that suitable matching job opportunity can be offered to them,”

he informed.

He cited job location, higher salary expectations etc as the reason behind candidates not willing to join despite having requisite qualification. HPKVN is also working on providing multiple offers to each candidate so that they have options to choose from.

Managing Director said that skilled and semi-skilled unemployed citizens returning from outside states can register themselves on ‘skillregister.hp.gov.in’ where companies and industries can also register their requirements, after which the Himachal Pradesh Kaushal Vikas Nigam will attempt to provide job opportunities to the applicants in the nearest company or industry according to their ability and eligibility.

 

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Himachal: Education Minister, 22 Teachers in Three Schools, SDM Test Positive for COVID-19

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himachal pradesh teachers test positive

Shimla-Ahead of re-opening of schools for regular classes from November 2,  22 teachers in three schools of Mandi district – Sarkaghat, Killing, Thunag- have tested positive. Today, Education Minister Govind Singh Thakur and a person in his staff also tested positive. He informed regarding the report through a social media post. He has quarantined himself at his residence, he said. He has requested other people who have come in contact with him recently to get tested and isolate themselves.

Besides, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Joginder Nagar, has also tested positive.

A total of 332 new cases with two deaths were recorded on Wednesday, according to the statistics provided by the Health Department. So far, about half a dozen ministers and the Chief Minister have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered too. 

Four deaths have been reported today (till 12 pm), and the COVID-19 tally for the state had reached 21150, of which 2513 were active cases.  

So far, a total of 298 persons have lost their lives due to COVID-19, if the official statistics to be believed. The actual number of cases, as well as, deaths could be higher due to a community spread. However, so far, the state government has not given any projection regarding the actual numbers.

Till yesterday evening (9 PM), a total of 380415 persons had been tested for COVID-19 in the state.   

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