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Resurgence of COVID-19 Spread Worries Himachal Amid Fear of ‘Second Wave’ in Country

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Shimla-COVID-19 cases in Himachal Pradesh is again on the rise after a short span of relief. For the last couple of months, the number of daily COVID-19 cases had fallen to well below 50 and was recorded to be as low as 20 on some days. The daily number has gone beyond 100 with the detection of 167 new cases yesterday.

This year, from January 1 to February 28, the state reported 3368 cases with 60 fatalities. In March, according to the latest update received on March 17, 2021, the death toll had reached 998 with 16 new fatalities during the last 17 days. In March, so far the state has reported 1391 cases.

Now, the sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in a few states of the country has again left the government and the people worried over resurgence. Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have reported a surge in the COVID daily cases, followed by the restriction on social gathering and enforcements of lockdowns.  

“This time, the cases are rising in many areas and districts, which were unaffected so far. In a way, they were safe zones, but now fresh cases are emerging. This increase is more than 150 per cent in 70 districts of the country in the last few weeks. If we don’t stop the pandemic in its tracks, the situation can lead to a country-wide outbreak. We must immediately stop this emerging “second peak” of the corona. We will have to take quick and decisive steps, the Prime Minister said yesterday while interacting with Chief Ministers of states. 

Health experts are suggesting the need to scale up RTPCR tests.

Recently, the Centre had rushed high-level Public Health teams to Maharashtra and Punjab in view of a recent spike in cases in these States. 

Till March 12, India’s total Active Caseload had reached 1,97,237. India’s present active caseload stood at 1.74% of India’s total Positive Cases.

The Centre is now asking the states to take measures in addition to the basic steps to prevent the spread of this infection, like wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, taking care of cleanliness etc.

While interacting with media Chief Minister Jairam Thakur yesterday said that the Prime Minister has asked all the States to ensure strict implementation of various SOPs issued from time to time by the Government of India.

Further, the organization of fairs and festivals is posing a huge challenge for the government in checking the resurgence of spread. Himachal Pradesh Government yesterday expressed concern over pilgrims visiting the state. The government said it would request the Punjab Chief Minister to keep a tab on pilgrims visiting Himachal Pradesh from Punjab to check the spread of the virus. Further, the state government said that SOPs would be strictly followed during the celebration of fairs and other events.

On the ground level, however, the public has loosened their defences against the spread as the number fell drastically during the last two months. Wearing face masks and following social distancing are hardly being taken seriously.

At the same time, people who are keeping a tab on the current situation are worried about more lockdowns or restrictions in future. The first industry to get hit would be the tourism sector, which is trying to recover from the blow it received last year in lockdowns.

COVID-19 Vaccination Drive in Himachal Pradesh

The state government yesterday informed that over 1.78 lakh people had been administered vaccination in the State, which was about 2.60 percent of the total population.

Secretary Health Government of India Rajesh Bhushan said that the death rate of the country due to the virus was amongst the lowest in the world. He said that about 3.51 crore people have been administered the Covid-19 vaccine in the country till date.

A total of 3,64,67,744vaccine doses have been given, as per the provisional report till 7pm yesterday. Further, more than 23 crore COVID tests has been conducted across the country according to the latest update available. 

These include 75,47,958 HCWs who have taken the 1st dose and 4608397 HCWs who have taken the 2nd dose, 76,63,647 FLWs (1stdose), 17,86,812FLWs (2nd dose), 1,24,74,362beneficiaries more than 60 years old and 23,86,568beneficiaries aged 45 and above with specific co-morbidities.

He said that India was second after the United States in the number of people administered the vaccine. 

 

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HP Statehood Day 2022: Relaxation in Electricity Charges, Third Option in New Pay scale, Higher Pay scale to Constables and other Announcements

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Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government, on the 52nd Statehood Day, has made several announcements. It announced 31 percent DA to employees, relaxation on electricity charges up to 60 units, enhancement of annual income for availing benefit of pensions and welfare schemes.

Benefits of higher scales would be provided immediately to all those constables who were eligible for higher scales. All the constables appointed after 2015 would be eligible for higher scale as per other categories of employees, the government announced.

The State Government announced that now while implementing the new pay scale, the employees would be given a third option besides two options already given to them. The State has recently implemented new pay scales for employees of the State Government. The state government said it felt that few disparities existed in the new pay scales of few categories.

Pensioners of the State Government would also be given pension as per the new pay scales of the Punjab government, the government announced.

The government also announced 31 per cent DA to all the employees of the State at par with the Central Government employees. Also, an increase in annual income for availing the benefits of various welfare schemes and pensions for the weaker sections of the society from existing Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000 was announced.

Now, the domestic consumers of the state whose electricity consumption is up to 60 units per month would not be charged any fee per electricity unit.  They would be incurred zero cost per unit of electricity consumed. With this decision, domestic consumers whose electricity consumption is up to 125 units, would be charged only one rupee per unit cost.  Over 11 lakh domestic consumers would be benefitted from this decision and the State government would incur an additional expenditure of Rs 60 crore on providing this relief, the government informed.

For the farmers in the state, the government announced to reduce the present per unit cost of electricity from 50 paise to 30 paise.  This benefit will be payable from April 2022.

Further, the HP Government said that in the year 1971, the per capita income of the state was only Rs 651 which has increased to Rs. 1,83,286, the GDP of the State has gone up from Rs 223 crore in 1971 to Rs 1,56,522 crore. The literacy rate of the State has gone up to 82.80 percent which was 23 percent in 1971. The agricultural production in the state has increased from 954 metric tons to 1500 metric tons and food grain production in 1971 was 9.40 lakh MT which has increased to 16.74 lakh MT, the state government said.

The state-level function of 52nd Statehood Day was celebrated at historic Thodo ground in Solan, where Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur unfurled the Tricolor and took salute from the contingents of Police, IRB Jungalberi, Home Guards and, NCC girls etc.

The parade was commanded by DSP Pranav Chauhan.

The Chief Minister also honoured three war widows of Solan District including Dil Kumari Thapa, Savitri Devi and Nirmala Devi on this occasion. Head constable Sandeep Chandel was also felicitated by the Chief Minister who has been awarded Prime Ministers Police Medal for life-saving for the year 2018.  

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Covid Restrictions in Himachal Extended Till Jan 31st, State Reports 11 Deaths in 24 Hours

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Shimla-Covid-19 restrictions in Himachal Pradesh has been extended till January 31, 2022. Currently, the state is witnessing a sharp spike in daily Covid-19 cases and deaths. Today, despite a low sampling of 7896, the State reported 1766 new cases and 11 Covid-related deaths. During the last eight days,  the State has recorded over 50 deaths due to Covid-19.

The deceased included a 2-year-old female child too. Shimla district reported the highest five deaths. The Covid death toll in the state had risen to 3927 according to the latest update. But the State did not impose any new restrictions, like on the entry of visitors and curtailing capacity of public transport. Further, during the last 24 hours, Shimla, Solan, and Kangra districts reported more than 250 cases each. 

Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh extended

 A notification in this regard was issued by the Government of Himachal Pradesh (Revenue Department – Disaster Management Cell) on Monday. 

“Taking note of the present situation of Covid-19 in the State, the restrictions announced on January 5th, 8th, 9th, and 13th will continue to remain in effect till 6 am of 31st January 2022,” the notification said.

Programs scheduled on the occasion of Himachal Pradesh Statehood Day ( 25th January) and Republic Day (26th January) would be held on the condition of 50% capacity of indoor/outdoor spaces.

The educational institutes, including ITI, polytechnic colleges, and coaching institutes, would remain closed. Online classes, however, would continue in schools.

With the ongoing surge in daily cases and deaths, more restrictions could be in stock.

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Mandi Hooch Case: Political Storm Over Arrest and Expulsion of Hamirpur Congress Leader

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Mandi-On Sunday, the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee expelled General Secretary of the Hamirpur District Congress Committee following his arrest from Chandigarh in alleged connection with the Mandi hooch case.

It’s pertinent to mention that last week seven persons had lost their lives in two days and eight others are still hospitalized due to consumption of spurious liquor in Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, Mandi district. Following this tragedy, a police SIT was formed, various places were raided, seizures of incriminating materials were made, several persons were arrested. So far, the police have arrested 13 persons in this connection and more arrests could be made as the SIT unfolds layers of people involved.

Neeraj Thakur, who was said to have risen to a political leader from a salesman at a liquor shop, had created an empire for himself allegedly from the illicit trade of spurious liquor. The worth of his properties and assets is being assessed, but the initial reports suggested his assets were disproportionate to his income. Now every political leader he was in contact with is under the scanner of the police SIT.

Also Read: Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

According to Superintendent of Police, Mandi, Shalini Agnihotri, on Sunday, police detained Praveen Thakur, who is a resident of Hamirpur, two persons, identified as Sunny and Pushpender of Uttar Pradesh, AK Tripathi of Jammu and Kashmir, and Sagar Saini of Delhi. The police have claimed that it has also apprehended the kingpin.

The state Congress chief and the opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri who had been issuing statements holding the BJP government responsible for the Mandi hooch tragedy is on backfoot following the expulsion of Neeraj. At the same time, the failure of the state Excise and Taxation Department in checking this flourishing illicit trade of spurious liquor right under its nose is also evident.

State BJP general secretary Trilok Jamwal, State BJP spokesperson Baldev Tomar and co-media-in-charge Karan Nadda on Sunday issued statements referring to the expulsion of Neeraj as evidence that the Congress leaders were involved in, as well as, patron of liquor mafia in the State.

Further, with elections to the Shimla Municipal Corporation and elections to the state Assembly later this year, this issue has turned into a political storm.  

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor.

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