Shimla-Rising count of dead migratory birds in Himachal Pradesh due to an outbreak of “bird flu” is keeping the Horticulture and Wildlife Departments on their toes. The cause of deaths at the Pong Dam Sanctuary was H5N1 Avian Influenza virus, informed the Wildlife Wing of the State Forest Department on Wednesday. Samples of dead birds were sent to NIHASD Bhopal, it was informed.
The tally for Migratory bird deaths in Himachal Pradesh has crossed the 31,000 mark. Till January 5, this number was 2736 for the Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary alone. Some deaths of migratory birds have been reported from around Govind Sagar lake in Bilaspur district. About 90 percent of these deaths include Bar-Headed Gees, which migrate to Pong Dam wetlands from Siberia and Mongolia every year. These birds are known for their capability to sustain long flights at very high altitudes ranging from 5000 to 6000 meters above sea level, especially while crossing the Himalayan range. Other than that, some crows have also been found dead in some areas. But the reason of death was yet to be ascertained.
According to the Department, it was on 28 December 2020 that the field staff of Dhameta Range had first reported sudden deaths of four Bar-Headed Geese and one Common Teal in Fatehpur area.
The Wildlife Wing said that it was working actively to contain this outbreak of “bird-flu” and the field staff has been directed to maintain strict vigil and active surveillance on the situation.
“Rapid Response Teams have been constituted and deployed for collection and safe disposal of dead birds as per protocol. The infected areas are being disinfected and sanitized. The whole operation is being supervised by DFO Wildlife Hamirpur,”
informed a spokesperson of the Forest Department.
The outbreak of the flu in and around Pong Dam Sanctuary has promoted the government to ban fishing and livestock activity within an area of one kilometre from the lake’s periphery. An alert has been sounded within a radius of 10 km from the periphery of the lake. Also, commercial activity relating to poultry, birds, and fish has prohibited in Fatehpur, Dehra, Jawali and Indora subdivision of Kangra district.
The outbreak is haunting poultry farmers and those dealing in chicken and egg sales and export to markets. Poultry farmers fear that the outbreak would cause losses worth crores as the winter season is the peak season for their business. In case bird flu is reported in poultry farms, thousands of birds would have to be culled to prevent further spread, resulting in losses to these farmers. According to people involved in poultry and fishing, the demand has already fallen drastically after the news regarding the outbreak of the flu broke out.
The Animal Husbandry Department has sent 119 samples of poultry birds from areas around the Dam to the Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Jalandhar. The results of the tests were still awaited. Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry, Dr Sanjeev Dhiman informed that so far no case of bird flu has been reported among poultry birds.
So far, the Government of India has confirmed an outbreak of Avian Influenza in Rajasthan (Baran, Kota, Jhalawar), Madhya Pradesh (Mandsaur, Indor, Malwa), Kerala (Kottayam, Allapuzha), and Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra.
The measures suggested by the Union Government to the affected States to contain the disease and prevent further spread as per the Action Plan on Avian Influenza include strengthening the biosecurity of poultry farms, disinfection of affected areas, proper disposal of dead birds/carcasses, timely collection and submission of samples for confirmation and further surveillance, intensification of surveillance plan as well as the general guidelines for the prevention of disease spread from affected birds to poultry and human. Coordination with the forest department for reporting any unusual mortality of birds was also suggested to the States. The other states were also requested to keep a vigil on any unusual mortality amongst birds and to report immediately to take necessary measures.
Avian Influenza (AI) viruses have been circulating worldwide for centuries with four known major outbreaks recorded in the last century. India notified the first outbreak of avian influenza in 2006. Though the Government of India denies that the bird flu is only zoonotic, according the World Health Organization, there has been cases of infection in humans too.
According to WHO,
“As of 10 December 2020, a total of 1,568 laboratory confirmed human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported to WHO since early
2013. Among them, 33 cases were infected with HPAI A(H7N9) virus, which have mutations in the hemagglutinin gene indicating a change to high pathogenicity in poultry. No increased transmissibility or virulence of the virus within human cases has been detected related to the HPAI A(H7N9) virus.”
“Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments. The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food,”
According to Centre for Disease Control And Prevention,
“Rare human infections with some avian viruses have occurred most often after unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with avian influenza viruses. However, some infections have been identified where direct contact was not known to have occurred. Illness in people has ranged from mild to severe.”
The Centre also adds,
“Because of the possibility that avian influenza A viruses could change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, monitoring for human infection and person-to-person spread is extremely important for public health.”
Implementing management practices that incorporate bio security principles, personal hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection protocols, as well as cooking and processing standards, are effective means of controlling the spread of the AI viruses.
In India, the disease spreads mainly by migratory birds coming into India during winter months i.e. from September – October to February – March. The secondary spread by human handling (through fomites) cannot be ruled out.
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.