Shimla- The cacophony of the political campaign for the Himachal Pradesh Bye-Elections 2021 is getting louder as the date of polling nears. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is creating noise over nationalism and self-proclaimed achievements in the name of development, the Indian National Congress is targeting BJP over inflation, price hike of fuels and essential commodities, neglect towards protesting farmers and their interests etc. The remaining statements comprise personal and sarcastic attacks. But what do the voters think about real issues? How do they see these crucial issues and their impact on the election results? An online survey throws some light on the perspective of the public with help of some questions.
This online survey was conducted in October 2021, to understand the voting behaviour and general opinion of the people of Himachal Pradesh on the forthcoming bye-election for a Lok Sabha Seat (Mandi) and three Assembly Seats (Jubbal Kotkhai, Arki and Fatehpur). The survey was led by Dr. Devender Sharma, from the Department of Political Science, Centre of Excellence, Government College, Sanjauli, and Dr. Baldev Singh Negi, from the Department of Inter-disciplinary Studies, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, in 12 districts of Himachal Pradesh.
Total 566 respondents participated in the online survey and shared their opinion on pre-designed questions. The objective of the survey was to analyze the impact of contemporary national issues like, price rise of LPG, Petrol, Diesel and other basic commodities, economic slowdown along with state-level issues like farm crises and farmers not getting appropriate prices of apple and other farm products on the voting behaviour. Since there is a popular discourse in public and political circles that these bye-elections will prove as the semi-final of the assembly elections to be held next year, the objective was to establish this discourse and to check the validity.
In this online survey, the participation was across the districts in the State. There was 51.4 percent Shimla District, 9.7 percent from Mandi, 9.5 percent from Solan, 9.2 percent from Chamba, 8.8 percent from Kullu, 0.7 and 0.7 percent from Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti respectively, 0.2 percent from Hamirpur and 1.1 and 1.1 percent from Bilaspur and Una respectively.
Respondents represent almost every section of the society 72.1 percent was from the general category followed by 15.5 percent scheduled caste, 7.8 percent scheduled tribe and 4.6 percent from other backward classes. As far as professional background is concerned there were 54.8 percent students, 29.3 percent employees, 8.5 percent farmers and 7.4 percent were unemployed youth.
The respondents who participated in the present online survey were having the educational qualification graduate or more 78.1 percent followed by 20.1 percent secondary and 1.8 percent high schools.
Question.1: Whether constantly rising prices of LPG, petrol, diesel and other basic commodities will affect voting behaviour?
Responses: 61.5 percent respondents responded that certainly this will highly influence the voting behaviour. 26.1 percent have the opinion that it will affect voting reasonably and 7.8 percent responded that this will not affect these elections.
Question.2: Whether Ongoing farmers’ protest will affect voting behaviour? Evidently, farmers are in grim crises and they are not getting appropriate prices for apple crops and other vegetables. So, will these crises get manifestations in these elections?
Responses: 43 percent responded that farm crises in Himachal will make the unity of farmers and they will join hands with the farmers protest and this may definitely affect the voting behaviour.
Question.3 Will demand of OPS and implementation of new pay commission recommendations and mobilizations of employees affect the voting behaviour or not?
Responses: 33.2 percent said that this will certainly affect voting behaviour. 32.5 percent responded that it will affect to some extent and 24.7 percent responded that there will be no impact of the issue.
Question.4: Are these elections like the semi-finals of the next year scheduled assembly elections?
Responses: 70.3 percent of respondents have the opinion that definitely these elections will turn up as semi-finals for coming assembly elections and 29.7 percent of respondents have a contrary opinion.
Question.5 Whether these elections are the battleground for a few reputed politicians like Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Pratibha Singh as these elections will decide their political future?
Responses: 76.7 percent of respondents agree with this statement and 23.3 percent rejected this preposition.
Question.6 To what extent internal dynamics and contradictions among political parties would impact the results?
Responses: 84.5percent responded that the cost of these conflicts would have to pay by the parties and 15.5 percent have the opinion that these conflicts will hardly affect the results.
Question.7 Will the demise of two stalwart leaders Sh. Vir Bhadra Singh and Sh. Narendra Bragta and the sympathy wave roused after their death make plus to the votes of both the parties in Mandi and Jubbal Kotkhai?
Responses: 66.8 percent of respondents endorsed the opinion and 33.2 percent rejected this argument.
Question.8 Will rebels contesting elections harm the party candidates or not?
Responses: On this question 31.1 percent of respondents that largely it will cause losses to the party candidates. 57.2percent said that it will not affect that much and 8.8 percent rejected the preposition out rightly.
About the Survey Coordinators
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.