Shimla-More support is pouring in for the farmers protest from Himachal Pradesh. Today, about 19 social organizations, women’s organizations, and farmer groups issued a joint public statement in solidarity with the three-month long farmer’s movement in the country.
The statement demands the repeal of three new farm laws introduced by the central government and calls for strengthening minimum support prices, extending it to crops, especially fruits and vegetables grown for the market in Himachal Pradesh. The statement is critical of the non-democratic manner in which the bills were passed in the parliament in a hurry in the middle of the Covid-led lockdown.
Highlighting the issues with each of the laws the organizations condemned the fact that these are designed to benefit the large corporate houses which would ultimately break the back of the farmers.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 has the potential of destroying the government-led APMC mandis, the organizations said.
The second law on contract farming puts the farmers in the dock by not just opening them to risks when getting into contracts with companies but also by closing the door of the courts for redressal for farmers, the statement said.
Further, the statement said that the third law, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, as corporates are allowed to buy, store, sell produce minus regulation and accountability of any sort. It also seeks to restrict the powers of the government with respect to the production, supply, and distribution of certain key commodities. It is now evident that this will have a direct impact on the storage and distribution of subsidized grains by the government. This can turn out to be a direct threat to the food security of the country.
“For a state like Himachal Pradesh where a large section of the population depends heavily on food grains produced by the farmers of the plains and distributed at subsidized rates through the PDS these laws could prove to be a death knell,” the groups said in the statement.
Even for those who are able to procure from the market, the rising prices of commodities would be a direct hit on their pockets. Apart from the consumers, the farmers of the state will also suffer a setback. The absence of MSPs for fruits and off-season vegetables and lack of APMC markets here have already been a cause of concern for the cash croppers of the state, the statement read.
“In fact fruit and vegetable producer unions have been demanding extension of MSPs and better markets so that apple producers for example are not exploited by ‘middlemen’ and private vendors,” the organizations said.
In the Terai region where there is a surplus of maize produce, farmers are forced to sell it at Rs 1000 to 1200 whereas Rs 1850 is the MSP – but the markets are too far for them to access, they said.
The statement has also condemned the manner in which the state and central governments have tried to defame the peaceful protests through various tactics.
“The repression of those coming out in support of the farmer’s movement, be it activists or journalists reporting on the developments is utterly shameful and against the principles of democracy,” the statement said.
The groups said that they are also going to send this statement as a submission to the President of India demanding the repeal of the three laws.
Housing in makeshift camps, tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting on Delhi borders for nearly 100 days now. Though the protests had begun last year, the movement has seen massive growth in recent weeks as it receiving support from environmental activists, opposition parties, and even Western celebrities. Now, this farmer’s movement is spreading to the country’s northern and western farm belts.
The group of organizations that issued this statement include All India Democratic Women’s Association, HP (AIDWA), Bhumiheen Bhumi Adhikar Manch, HP, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Citizens’ Rights Forum, Kangra, Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, HP, Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba, Himachal Kisan Sabha, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Right To Education Forum, HP, Samajik Arthik Samanta ke Liye Jan Abhiyan, Save Lahaul Spiti, Spiti Civil Society, Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Sambhaavnaa Institute, SUTRA, Solan, Tower Line Soshit Jagrukta Manch, Himachal Pradesh, and Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur.
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.