Shimla-At least 10 persons hailing from Himachal Pradesh, who worked in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, are missing following the massive flash flood that devasted the Rishiganga hydropower project on February 7, 2021.
These people are among 197 persons still missing or stuck in power project tunnels. So far, 31 bodies have been recovered.
Seven of these missing persons belong to Rampur’s Kinnu and Shingla panchayats, Shimla district. These persons have been identified as Devender Singh, Kailash Chand, Diwan Singh, Ashish, Amit Kumar, Pawan Kumar and Rakesh Kumar. Further, one person from Sirmaur district and one from Kangra district are also missing. These were identified as Gurmeet Verma, Rakesh Kapoor and Jeet Singh Thakur.
Details of one person were awaited. The report was confirmed by the Urban Development Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, who was approached by panchayats members in Rampur with a plea to help.
“We have spoken to the Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, to establish contact with the administration in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, to help trace these missing persons. I would also request the Chief Minister to speak to the Uttarakhand Government regarding this matter,”
Meanwhile, ecologists, environmentalists, and scientists are now pondering over the possibility of this disaster being man-made due to hydropower projects or climate change. Following this disaster in Chamoli, people in Lahaul-Spiti district, Himachal Pradesh, have opened a front against over 50 hydropower projects prosed to be set up in the region. Panchayats have also passed a resolution to not issue NOCs in favour of these projects and to demand cancellation of construction of these projects for the good of the people and the land.
At the same time, the formation of hundreds of small and large lakes in Himachal Pradesh due to the meltdown of glaciers owing to global warming has created more concerns.
It’s pertinent to mention that environmental groups, like Himdhara, had been warning the government of approving a large number of hydropower projects in the state blindly in pursuit of economic growth. The group had been highlighting about severe environmental hazards linked to the construction of these projects, which the government is not ready to admit. As a result of this deliberate neglection, the villagers, rivers, local water sources, farming lands, local wildlife etc. were suffering, the group had reported. Houses of people were destroyed due to seepage of water from tunnels of hydropower projects and they are forced to evacuate, the group had said in one of its reports.
However, the government had been preferring its own opinion over theirs.
What Happened in Chamoli?
According to the statement given by the Union Minister Amit Shah, on February 7, 2021, at about 10 am, an avalanche occurred in the upper catchment of Rishiganga River, a tributary of Alaknanda River in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand. It led to a sudden rise in the water level of the Rishiganga River. Due to flash flood on account of rising of water levels in the river Rishiganga, a functional Rishiganga small hydro project of 13.2 MW was washed away. The flash flood also affected the under construction 520 MW NTPC Hydro Power Project downstream at Tapovan on the river Dhauli Ganga.
#WATCH A team ITBP, NDRF, SDRF & other agencies continue to conduct rescue operation inside Tapovan tunnel, Uttarakhand on the third day.
A meeting of all agencies incl senior officials of ITBP, NDRF, Army & local administration called today to decide further course of action pic.twitter.com/Q5oQYm38v6
— ANI (@ANI) February 10, 2021
The satellite data (Planet Lab) from February 7, 2021, shows that in the catchment of Rishi Ganga river at the terminus of the glacier at an altitude of 5600 m a landslide triggered a snow avalanche covering approximately 14 sq. km area and causing a flash flood in the downstream of Rishi Ganga River.
— Scott Watson (@CScottWatson) February 9, 2021
Initial Damage Reported
As per the available information received from the Government of Uttarakhand, 28 persons have died and persons have been injured so far. As per information, a total of 197 persons are reported missing which includes 139 persons of under-construction project of NTPC, 46 persons of the functional Rishi Ganga Project and 12 villagers. The State Government, however, said that it has gathered this information from different sources and this may change.
Twelve persons from NTPC project have been rescued, who were trapped in a tunnel. Fifteen persons from Rishiganga project have also been rescued. In another tunnel of NTPC project, approximately 25–35 persons are suspected to have been trapped. Rescue operation to evacuate these persons is going on.
State Government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 4 lakh each for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the incident.
Due to washing away of one bridge, 13 villages around the place of the incident have been cut off. In these villages necessary supplies and medical assistance is being provided through helicopters, the government informed.
Status of Relief and Rescue Work
As per the statement given by the Home Minister, ITBP has set up their Control Room and 450 personnel of ITBP with all necessary equipment are engaged in rescue and relief operation. NDRF teams have reached the place of incident and are engaged in rescue and relief operation. Eight teams of Indian Army, including one Engineer Task Force (ETF), are carrying rescue operation at the incident site. One Medical column with two ambulances is also deployed. One diving team of Indian Navy has also reached the incident site for the rescue operation. Five helicopters of Indian Air Force have also been engaged in the rescue operation. A Control Room has been established at Joshimath.
Machines removed more slush from the tunnel the whole night. A joint team of ITBP, NDRF, SDRF and sister agencies entered into the tunnel this morning. The tunnel is still approachable till about 120 meters. More slush and water coming from inside the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/jua1eVnErN
— ITBP (@ITBP_official) February 10, 2021
It was informed that despite adverse conditions at the incident site, search and rescue operation is continuously being carried out. After continuous and tireless efforts since night, Army has cleared debris at the opening of the tunnel to rescue the persons trapped in it.
All the staff of the Central Water Commission deployed in Alaknanda and Ganga Basin up to Haridwar are on alert. One team of Sashtra Seema Bal (SSB) is also deployed at the incident site. Team of Snow & Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) /DRDO has also reached the site for surveillance and reconnaissance.
— ITBP (@ITBP_official) February 9, 2021
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.