Shimla-Temples and religious places have re-opened in Himachal Pradesh, inter-state public transport resumed operation with 317 buses allowed to ply on about 500 routes, and most higher educational institutes have also been re-opened by the HP Government.
Himachal Pradesh Government had announced these relaxations in restrictive measures and re-opening of most activities after its Cabinet meeting held on June 22, 2021.
Religious places/places of worship are allowed to open for darshan only with the condition that they follow requisite SOPS issued by the Department of Language, Art and Culture, Himachal Pradesh. No kirtan, bhajan, jagratas etc. will be permissible. (Scroll Down to Read Details SOPs)
Medical colleges, Ayurvedic colleges, Dental colleges, Nursing and Pharmacy colleges were already allowed to open. From today, Engineering colleges/polytechnic and ITIS are also permitted to re-open.
The examinations for the undergraduate classes will also commence today. A section of students is protesting against this decision to hold offline exams without vaccinating all students and staff. The National Student Union of India (NSUI) leaders are on a chain-hunger strike, demanding the cancellation of exams. The Indian National Congress, HP, also supported the strike of the student body.
Although long lists of the SOPs have been issued and their implementation have been cited to be mandatory, the ground reality is likely to be the opposite. Re-opening the state in one go amid warning of the impending third wave and spread of the new Delta Plus variant describes the carefree attitude the state government and the people have adopted. The SOPs are hardly being followed, especially regarding maintaining social distancing and physical contact. Not only the people but the government officials, ministers, and political leaders of both the ruling party and the opposition were seen violating the SOPs often.
The law enforcement agencies and the district administrations appear to be helpless in taking action against these violations in protests and political events.
Tourists are already flooding popular destinations of the state since June 23 – a day after the government lifted all restrictions including carrying an RT-PCR report and obtain an e-Covid pass. Now, with the opening of the religious places, pilgrims would add to the visitors’ influx.
HP government has still not considered keeping RT-PCR and e-Covid pass as checks on tourist movement at least from the states affected by the Delta Plus variant. For this negligence, the state government has been facing criticism.
SOPs for Himachal Pradesh’s Religious Places/ Places of Worship (Unedited Official Notification)
- At the entrance of the temples, the particulars of all the visitors shall be recorded in a register. A Register shall be maintained properly.
- Entrance shall have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitiser dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.
- Visitors/ devotees shall wear proper masks and maintain proper social distancing in the temple premises.
- Separate entry and exit for visitors shall be provided.
- Circles will be marked at the proper distance to manage the queue and ensure social-distancing in the premises.
- Devotees will not touch the bells, idols, railings, floor or any other surface.
- Entry to the sanctum sanctorum shall be prohibited and only Darshan will be allowed.
- No physical offerings like Prasad/ distribution or a sprinkling of holy water, etc. will be allowed.
- There will be no Puja, Havan, Mundan, Community Kitchens/ Langar etc.
- In view of the potential threat of the spread of infection, recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed. 11. Cash shall be donated in the DAAN PATRA/ donation box only.
- Staggering of visitors shall be done.
- Proper crowd management shall be ensured in the parking lots and outside the premises-duly following social distancing norms.
- Large gatherings/congregations will continue to remain prohibited.
- The visitors shall not be allowed to roam around in the temple/ temple premises unnecessarily.
- Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., located outside the premises shall follow social distancing at all times.
- Physical contact while greeting each other will be avoided.
- Spitting should be strictly prohibited. 19. Frequent cleaning and disinfection will be maintained by the Management of the religious place.
- Effective sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with a particular focus on toilets.
- The floors should particularly be cleaned multiple times in the premises.
- No face covers/masks/gloves shall be left over by visitors or employees.
- The Chief Medical Officer, Shimla shall deploy health officials in the temples which are visited by people in large number.
- Only asymptomatic persons shall be allowed in the premises. Persons found to have ILI symptoms will not be allowed to enter the temple. He/ she shall be isolated in the identified isolation room in the temple complex from where the ambulance deployed by Health Department will take them for sampling.
- Posters/standees on preventive measures about COVID-19 shall be displayed prominently in the premises at a conspicuous place.
- Installation and use of Aarogya Setu shall be mandatory.
In case a suspected or confirmed case is found in the premises, the following action will be taken:
- Shift the person to a room or area where he/she is isolated from others.
- Immediately inform the health official deployed in the temple and nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or call the Local Administration/CMO .
- Disinfection of the premises will be taken up if the person is found positive. The Sub-Divisional Magistrates and Police shall strictly ensure that there is no violation of these SOPS.
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.