Himachal Pradesh Current Affairs - December 2013

New norms make cement plants to seek wildlife nod:
With the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) stipulating all projects falling within the purview of 10 km radius of a sanctuary or a national park to seek clearance from the National Wildlife Board (NWB), several projects, including existing cement plants, have been forced to seek a clearance, despite the fact that the plant is running for years now.

Power generation through Kol Dam to be delayed:

Electricity generation in the 800 MW Kol Dam Project situated on the border of Mandi and Bilaspur district, the first hydroelectric project of NTPC Ltd, would be further delayed as the process of water release into the Kol Dam reservoir which was started on December 19 failed within three days and the project authorities were left with no option but to drain out the water into river Sutlej again, which was stored during the release process for two days.

Himachal bags best state award in health, investment sectors:
The state has been adjudged the best state in the country in health and investment sectors in the category of big states. Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh presented the Best State Awards to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh at the State of States Conclave-2013 held today at New Delhi. According to the report of India Today, which was released today, Himachal Pradesh has outperformed in Health and Investment Sectors among the big states of the country during the last one year.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh dedicated this award to the people of the state. While speaking on the occasion, he said the state had received award both in the small and big state categories in various fields since inception of the award. “The state has outperformed in various social and economic sectors and the award has recognized the work done by the state,” he added.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the state had enhanced its health budget by 24 per cent for 2013-14 in comparison to the previous year. The state had one health sub-centre for every 2,800 people as against the norm of one for every 3,000 for hill states. “It has at least one primary health centre for every 13,000 people as against the national norm of one of every 20,000. The government was providing lucrative incentives to the doctors and shortage of the specialists was being filled up on priority,” he said.
He said the state had eradicated malaria and brought leprosy cases down to less than one per thousand.

Virbhadra said the state had 3,841 health institutions and 80 per cent of the health needs were being met by the public sector. The sex ratio in the state had also gone up from 915 to 972 and female infanticide ratio had come down to 39 per thousand from 47 per thousand during the last one year.
The Chief Minister said the state government had provided a school within the radius of 2 km. The enrollment at primary level was nearly 100 per cent and the number of education institutions had increased from 331 in 1948 to 15,292 in 2013. The Chief Minister said the state government had launched innovative Skill Development Scheme, 2013, under which all eligible unemployed registered under the scheme were being given an allowance of Rs 1,000 per month.

Chamba excels in family welfare programme in state:
Chamba district has excelled in the National Family Welfare Programme by achieving top position in the non-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) of male family planning operations in the state.
Chamba topped with the figure of 998 last year. This year, the district has been allotted the target of 2,600 male and female family planning operations and the health department is putting all-out endeavours to exceed the target.

Lokayukta in state toothless:
Himachal is among the first states in the country to have a Lokayukta. But the three-decade-old institution needs major amendments to make the anti-graft legislation more effective in dealing with corruption.

The Lokayukta was set up in the state in 1983 and to give it more teeth, the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill was passed by the Assembly on April 4, 2012. However, the Bill which had been sent to the President of India for assent in May has now been recalled as Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is keen to make some more changes to make the Lokayukta more stronger.

The Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act, 1983, in its present form gives little powers to the body to deal with complaints relating to corruption and misuse of power by those in high positions.

A look at the Lokayukta’s 30-year-old existence too is indicative of the fact that it has not been able to be effective in checking corruption as it is dependent on the state government for inquiry against officials and lacks powers under the Contempt of Court Act or taking a suo motu notice.

Sources said about 100 complaints had been received this year out of which 80 had been disposed of. In the last three years, the Lokayukta received 173 complaints out of which 155 had been dealt with, while the remaining 18 were pending. The maximum complaints were against the revenue, police and panchayati raj departments.

Barring a handful of complaints against top politicians, including a former Chief Minister, most of the complaints are against junior officials regarding irregularities in the implementation of government schemes.

The number and the nature of the complaints received by the Lokayukta, having skeletal staff too reflects the fact that people too do not have much faith or so to say expectations from the body. However with the latest outcry over giving more powers to the Lokayukta with the passing of the Lokpal Bill by the Parliament, the body may be given more powers with the consent of the legislature.

The Assembly had passed the HP Lokayukta Bill in the absence of the Opposition Congress MLAs, who had staged a walkout, had proposed many changes, including the powers to initiate an inquiry against the Chief Minister, ministers, chief parliamentary secretaries, MLAs, officers of the rank of secretary and above and heads of departments. It had also been proposed to have two Up-Lokayuktas. It was also proposed that no action would be initiated without the permission of its full Bench.

Panta's take on this:

Justice LS Panta, a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and first Chairman of the National Green Tribunal, is currently the Lokayukta. “I am of the firm opinion that the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act, 1983, requires complete change to deal with the changed scenario,” asserts Justice Panta.
He says that the proposed amendments to the Bill would give far more powers and independence to the Lokayukta by having its own separate police station, prosecutor, court and prosecuting agency. He said the government had been approached to provide more staff.

12th Five-Year Plan: Rs 22,800 earmarked for state:

A budget of Rs 22,800 crore has been earmarked for the 12th Five-Year Plan for Himachal Pradesh, which is 65 per cent higher than last Five-Year Plan. This was stated by State Planning Board
deputy chairman Gangu Ram Musafir.

Kinnaur women raise pitch for a pie in ancestral property:

Women from various parts of Kinnaur have decided to observe March 8, International Women’s Day, as a black day. They are demanding amendment to the customary laws that deny tribal women a share in ancestral property.

Sawra Kuddu project to generate costliest power:

With revised cost pegged at Rs 1,182 crore, the 111-MW Sawra Kuddu project being constructed on the Pabbar, a tributary of the Yamuna, will generate the costliest hydro power owing to huge time and cost overruns.

Age reduced for skill allowance:

Cabinet also increases monthly honorarium of anganwari workers.
The government today made amendments to the eligibility criteria of the skill development allowance by lowering the age limit from 18 to 16 years and educational qualifications from matriculation to middle standard. The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, here today. An educated unemployed applicant can apply for the allowance along with the prescribed documents to the employment exchange where he or she is registered. In yet another major move, the Cabinet approved the enhancement in monthly honorarium of anganwari workers, working in mini anganwari centres, to Rs 2,500. The enhanced honorarium will be given to them from July 4, 2013. The Cabinet also decided to make toll-free call centres for women and children in distress. A toll-free call centre with 108 toll-free number will be established for helping women and children in distress and all calls to 1091 and 1092 numbers will be diverted to this number. The Cabinet approved to reduce VAT from 4 per cent to 2 per cent on sale of goods made through CSD canteens to military and ex-military personnel.

Simbalwara park to be named after freedom fighter:

The Simbalwara National Park, near Paonta Sahib, in Sirmaur district will be renamed as Sher Jung National Park and possibilities will be explored to develop it as a tiger and elephant reserve.

Late Col Sher Jung, who hailed from Nahan, was a great freedom fighter and a hunter-turned-conservationist and to name the national park on his name would be an honor to him.

Govt to spread awareness about AIDS:

To ensure quality care and a life of dignity for all persons infected with HIV and AIDS, the Himachal Government has adopted the slogan of ‘Zero Discrimination and Zero Death’.

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