Shimla: Oddly enough the Himachal government has ended up paying lease money to itself for handing out government land to a private developer for laying a ropeway to Jhaku hill top as a commercial tourism venture.
Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who holds the tourism portfolio told My Himachal News, “strangely enough instead of the promoter, the previous government ended up paying Rs 35 lakh as lease money and compensatory forestation amount for the commercial Jakhu ropeway project.”
“The anomaly will be corrected and persons accountable for the lapse will be booked after an inquiry is conducted,” he said.
Sources revealed that the money was paid out from the tourism departments account itself and the issue was pushed through with taking the law departments opinion or obtaining the then cabinets consent.
Interestingly, the amount was paid by the tourism department despite Shimla Municipal Corporation having asked Delhi based Jagson International, the developing company, on 24th July, 2007 to pay the lease amount within 15 days.
When the project was approved, felling of 31 trees in the dense forest area was permitted to pave way for the ropeway.
To contain damage to trees, height of the ropeway was raised over the tree line and an 11 storey base station was approved by the town planners.
However, only the bottom four and top floors were approved for operating the ropeway. The 7 floors in between have been declared non-usable.
Municipal authorities had to intervene when excessive cutting by heavy machinery at the base station caused much damage and proceedings under u/s 253 of the HP Municipal Act 1994 was initiated.
A ropeway to the highest point in Shimla city was proposed over a decade ago and initially the municipal corporation was to construct it, but in 2003, the government decided to get it done by the tourism department. In turn, the tourism department decided to have the project executed under the private public partnership (PPP) mode.