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Crisis for Himachal’s Tourism Industry Deepens with Peak Season Washout for Second Consecutive Year

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HP govt no relief to tourism industry
  • Stakeholders of the tourism industry face financial hardships as working capital exhausts completely 

  • Majority of tourism stakeholders not able to benefit from the scheme due to stringent conditions

  • Interest subvention scheme yet to be implemented

  • Biggest hurdle in the scheme is the cut off date of the outstanding balance of the loan

  • Defaulting EMIs ruined the reputation of the stakeholders and bared them to procure financial assistance in future from the financial institutions

  • The Association asks the government to ease down the restrictions and conditions on tourists as the daily cases have declined

Shimla-The tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh, one of the major sources of state economy and employment, is bearing the brunt of the pandemic more than any other sector as Covid related restrictions have brought tourism movement to a grinding halt. The sector has reported an estimated Rs. 1500 crores loss since the pandemic. It’s estimated that over two lakh people associated with the tourism sector are now unemployed. There is no count of medium and small-scale tourism-related ventures in Himachal that are now shut because of the pandemic-induced restrictions.

The cab drivers and transporters, who are an integral part of the hospitality industry chain, are also facing hardships. For several, paying instalments of loans procured to buy cabs/carriage vehicles is the biggest challenge.  This crisis is not only driving them into a debt trap but also causing extreme psychological stress.

Meanwhile, the state government has failed in providing any substantial relief to the stakeholders of affected sectors. In April 2021, the state government had announced a 50 per cent concession on stage carriage special road tax (SRT) for three months from April. A 50 per cent concession on passenger tax on taxis and contract carriage was also announced along with an interest subvention scheme. The stakeholders say that the interest subvention scheme was yet to be implemented. Also, they can’t take loans as they have defaulted on loan instalments last year.

The situation for this sector has grown grimmer as the peak season gets washout for a second consecutive year. The Tourism Industry Stake Holders Association has once again pleaded Chief Minister Jairam Thakur to rescue the sector and its stakeholders from this crisis by providing reliefs.

“Three months of summer make peak tourist season and play a major role in the sustenance of the hotel industry,” says Mohinder Sethi, President of the Association.

“The tourism industry faced a complete loss of summer season last year due to Covid -19 pandemic. This year too, 75% of the season is lost,” he adds.

“The stakeholders of the tourism industry are facing financial hardships firstly because their working capital has completely exhausted and secondly because tourism in Himachal Pradesh has again come to a grinding halt since March 2021,” he further adds.

He further RBI’s restructuring of loans with a condition that the loan account should be standard as of March 31, 2021. However, the hotels have no occupancy for the last three months due to which the stakeholders could not pay their EMIs for March, April and May months.

The tourism industry remained closed for almost eight months last year due to nationwide lockdown. Now this year again just before the tourist season the second wave Covid pandemic has compelled the hoteliers to keep their units closed due to nil occupancy, Sethi says.

Stakeholder Deprived of Availing Benefits of RBI Scheme

The RBI has introduced the  Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme 3.0 to provide relief to the tourism, hospitality and travel sector but the majority of tourism stakeholders could not take benefit of this scheme due to its stringent conditions, Sethi says.

“The biggest hurdle in the scheme is the cut off date of the outstanding balance of the loan, which is 29 February 2020 that also with a condition that the account should not have a default of more than sixty days as on February 2020, Sethi adds.

He argues that the majority of tourism units were compelled to take fresh loans during the past year to meet their running expenses of the units because the state government had extended no assistance last year. 

The Association says that the RBI needs to make amendments by extending the cut off date to March 31, 2021, and relax the condition of the number of days of default of EMI.

“The state working capital interest subvention scheme is still awaited. It has been observed that the process of extending help to the industry takes a very long time which creates a big gap between the ground reality,” Sethi says.

He says that the fear of declaring loan accounts as NPA by banks is a live example of it.

“If the financial assistance were provided on time it would have saved many tourism units loan account from slipping to non-performing accounts,” Sethi says.

He says that the labelling of  NPA accounts has ruined the reputation of the stakeholders and bared them to procure financial assistance in future from the financial institutions.  The tourism industry is worst affected throughout due to pandemic, he adds.

“The stakeholders are helpless because state government provided no financial assistance. On the other hand, there is no inflow of tourists to the state due to stringent restrictions imposed by the government to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

The Association is now asking the government to ease down the restrictions and conditions on tourists as the daily cases have declined.

“Now the graph of Covid cases is drastically reduced, and the need of the hours is to remove the restrictions like e- Covid pass and compulsory RTPCR negative report for tourists intending to come to Himachal. This will give some oxygen to the dying tourism industry because the tourism units can at least generate some revenue to meet their expenses up to some extent during the remaining 25,% tourist season,” Sethi says.

“We request Chief Minister Jairam Thakur to introduce an interest subvention scheme and remove the restrictions on entering the state in the upcoming cabinet meeting to be held on May 5, 2021, in the larger interest of the survival of the tourism Industry, Sethi said on the behalf of the Association.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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HP Cabinet Decisions Sept 24: Approval to Open Schools from 27 Sept,  Fill 8,000 Posts, Changes in Transfer Policy of JBT, C, and V Teachers

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HP Cabinet Decisions september 24, 2021

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Cabinet, in a meeting held today, has decided to open schools from September 27 for the students of 9th to 12th classes. The students of class 10th and 12th would attend schools on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, whereas students of class 9th and 11th would attend schools on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in a week. Online classes and examinations will continue for classes upto 8th standard.  

Further, the HP Cabinet also decided to create and fill up 8000 posts of Multi-Task Workers in the educational institutions under the Higher and Elementary Departments as per the provisions of the Part-Time Multi-Task Workers Policy 2020. As per the policy, these Multi-Task Workers would be provided with a consolidated honorarium of Rs. 5625 per month for 10 months in one academic year.

The Cabinet decided to amend the transfer policy for inter-district transfer of JBT and C and V teachers in the State by reducing the existing tenure from 13 years to five years, including the contract period, for transfer to another district and also increase the quota from existing 3% to 5%.

It also decided to enhance the honorarium of IT teachers outsourced in various educational institutions in the State by Rs. 500 per month from April 1st, 2021.

It also gave its approval for renaming Forest Training Institute and Rangers College Sundernagar as Himachal Pradesh Forest Academy.

The HP Cabinet gave its consent to draft a proposal for the Customised Package of Incentives for Mega Industrial Projects in the State under Himachal Pradesh Industrial Investment Policy and Rules -2019.

It gave its approval for filling up 20 posts of Naib Tehsildar in the Revenue Department through direct recruitment on regular basis.

It also gave its approval to the policy of replacement/maintenance of damaged crash barriers in the State.

It also decided to rename Himachal Grihini Suvidha Yojna as Mukhyamantri Grihini Suvidha Yojna.

It also decided to rename Himachal Health Care Yojna- Himcare as Mukhyamantri Himachal Health Care Yojna-Himcare.

The Cabinet gave its nod to rename Sahara Yojna as Mukhyamantri Sahara Yojna.

The Cabinet gave its consent to create and fill up 10 posts of different categories in Himachal Pradesh Staff Selection Commission, Hamirpur for its smooth functioning.

The Cabinet decided to upgrade Primary Health Centre Swarghat in Bilaspur district to Community Health Centre along with the creation of requisite posts.

It also decided to upgrade Primary Health Centre Gadsa in Banjar area of Kullu district to Community Health Centre along with creation of requisite posts to man this health institution. 

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Kinnaur Landslide: 14 Bodies Recovered in 30 Hours, Several Still Missing

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Kinnaur landslide rescue operation photos

Kinnaur: Landslide in Kinnaur district is unfolding as one of the biggest catastrophe in Himachal Pradesh as the of fatality count continues to rise. After 30 hours of the rescue operation, which was hampered multiple times due to shooting stones at the site, 14 dead bodies had been recovered till the suspension of the operation on Thursday evening. While 10 bodies were recovered on Wednesday, four more were exhumed from the rubble on Thursday.

As many as 15 persons were rescued and taken to Bhavanagar CHC for treatment.

The wreckage of the HP Road Transport Corporation bus was found scattered about 500 meters below the National Highway-5 in Nigulsari – the site of the massive landslide. The condition of the wreckage suggested there was little hope of survival of any passenger. The distraught relatives of the missing persons remained at the site, grieving with diminishing hope to see their family members alive as the rescue operation for today was suspended.

Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

HRTC Bus Wreckage

The state of exhumed bodies added to the horror of the families, as well as, the rescuers. Some of the bodies were in such a state that their identification was next to impossible. While some bodies had their limbs cut off, one of them was found without the head.

As the rescue operation would be entering its third day on Friday, the death toll is likely to rise as the driver of the bus, who had survived the accident and was seriously injured, had estimated that 25-30 passengers were onboard when the landslide pushed it down the NH.

Further, there is still no sign of one vehicle (Bolero SUV), informed Director, State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta. The exact number of people feared to be buried under the rubble was yet to be ascertained. According to the district administration, based on calls received from families, the number of missing people could be anywhere between 30-50.

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

Meanwhile, some family members of the missing persons complained that while the rescue operation was initiated immediately from the Negulsari side, JCB machines took over five hours to reach the spot from the Chauri side. They complained that such a big delay was crucial and could have saved more lives.

It’s pertinent to mention that the HRTC bus had remained untraceable on Wednesday and the wreckage was found on the second day of the rescue operation. However, most passengers were yet to be traced.  

According to the Deputy Commandant, ITBP, Dharmender Thakur, shooting stones and sliding rubble posed a huge challenge for the rescue teams, which comprised of hundreds of personnel of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, local police, and CISF. Undertaking this operation on a steep slope further created difficult circumstances for the teams. The lives of the rescuers were also at risk as the site remained vulnerable to reactivation of landslide.

This landslide in the Kinnaur district has become a matter of debate for geologists, environmentalists, seismologists and climatologists. Unscientific cutting of fragile mountains and blasting for the widening of roads and construction of tunnels for hydropower projects, changing patterns of rains, and seismic activity are being referred to be the reasons behind the increased incidents of landslides, especially in Kinnaur district.

At the same time, the inability of the state government to consider technical suggestions given by geological experts from time to time for mitigation of such hazards is also finding mention in the critical comments given by experts. The lackadaisical attitude of the government in the adoption of technologies, such as the early warning system developed by the IIT Mandi for mountainous regions vulnerable to landslides, is also attracting criticism.

It’s pertinent to mention that after the Kotrupi disaster – a massive landslide that had buried two buses and claimed 48 lives in August 2017-experts from IIT Mandi had carried out surveys and studies and provided several suggestions for minimizing damages, which fell into deaf ears.  

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Rohit Kumar
  2. Vanshuka
  3. Meera Devi
  4. Nitisha
  5. Prem Kumar
  6. Gyan Dassi
  7. Devi Chand
  8. Kumari Radhika
  9. Bhupender
  10. Kamlesh Kumar
  11. Lakshman Thapa
  12. Vijay Kumar

Two others were yet to be identified. The state government has announced ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 5o thousand to the injured. HRTC has also announced Rs. 1 lakh ex-gratia to the passengers of the bus killed in the mishap. 

Further, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and several other political leader visited the spot and met the relatives of victims on Thursday. 

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Kinnaur Tragedy: HRTC Bus Wreckage Found, Death Toll Rises to 13 and Likely Rise

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Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

Kinnaur-The rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Nigulsari, Nichar Tehsil of the Kinnaur district, was resumed on Thursday morning. The wreckage of the ill-fated bus of the HP Road Transport Corporation was found 500 meters below the road and about 200 meters above the Sutlej River. The pictures showed that the bus was completely crushed and torn to pieces. 

So far, 13 dead bodies had been recovered and 14 injured including the driver and the conductor of the HRTC bus, which was on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar, were rescued and taken to hospital. The death toll is likely to rise as the passengers were yet to be traced. According to the driver, there were 25-30 passengers in the bus when it was hit by the landslide. A Bolero SUV alongwith passengers was also missing and was yet to be traced.  

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

The mishap occurred at about 12:30 pm on Wednesday. The rescue operation was suspended at 9 pm due to dark conditions and shooting stones, which made the rescue operation difficult.

Till the suspension of the operation, the rescue teams comprising of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, Central Industrial Security Force, and local police had traced three cars and a tipper.  

The rescue teams were searching from two directions and were using drones too.   

Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

The landslide had hit about 200 meters patch of the National Highway-5 – about 10 kilometres away from Bhavanagar.

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