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,”
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.
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.