A Year On – Dhumal Government Still On Trial

dhumalShimla: Much like the watered down year, BJP governments one year in office that began with resolutions for change have yet to settle down to the task of good governance as electoral compulsions keep populism high on the agenda.

Starting out the new term with asking for doing away with the demeaning feet touching culture, Prem Kumar Dhumal took oath as chief minister at the turn of the year and decreed that flowers be not wasted on greeting political leaders or school children be not asked to attend government functions.

Like everything else that accumulates around power centers much of the ideals advocated stand watered down.

Going beyond the election manifesto of linking daily wages to inflation rate, the new government at the outset hiked daily wages from Rs 75 to 100 at one go, providing much relief to the worker class reeling under rising prices.

Social security pensions for about 2.35 lakh marginalized sections of old people, widows and destitute was enhanced from Rs 200 to Rs 300, at an additional cost of Rs 30 crore to the state exchequer.

A by-election for the Hamirpur parliamentary seat that Dhumal had vacated to take charge of state affairs ushered in BJPs Anurag Thakur, who inherited his fathers mantle with a record margin of about 1.75 lakh votes in May.

To book acts of omission and commission under the previous Congress government, former minister Singhi Ram, education board Chairman BR Rahi and senior bureaucrat Subhash Ahluwalia bore the brunt of investigating agencies and face criminal charges.

Global slowdown coupled with uncertainty over extension of the industrial package, for the state impacted the investment climate. To improve industrial infrastructure, the government got approved a four lane Pinjore-Baddi road and got the Punjab government to move on connecting Chandigarh with Baddi.

The year passed without the state experiencing a summer as rains, which started in April, prolonged the season till September, causing much damage to road, water and power infrastructure and costing many lives, including a rain related stampede at Naina Devi temple in Bilaspur district where 146 people died.

As many as 53 people died because of landslides, house collapse and other rain triggered damages. The state moved the centre for calamity relief putting losses at Rs 1589 crore. By far Shimla district suffered the most.

Going against the grain of the manifesto, the government scrapped the State Administrative Tribunal and put all services matters for adjudication before the High Court.

Constrains of generating employment avenues and fighting climate change had the government eyeing more cement plants and at the same time advocating increase of green cover so as to attain carbon emission neutrality as well as earn carbon credits.

A proposal to secure the north western frontier by laying a rail track to Leh found favour with the central government, and a feasibility survey was ordered by the railway ministry for extending the proposed Bhanupali-Bilaspur rail line to the border through Kullu-Manali.

To create more jobs, the government announced filling up of about 28,000 posts even as it decided to withdraw grants to teachers recruited under the Parent Teacher Associations by the previous government. The PTA teacher are agitating the move.

To harness hydro potential, the government secured a $ 800 million (Rs 4000 Cr) loan from Asian Development Bank for generation projects to be executed by HP Power Corporation Ltd, a new government generation company.

Caught up in a corporate battle over allotment of a 960 MW Jangi-Thopan-Powari power project the Dhumal government ended the year with endorsing the previous Congress governments decision of allotting the prestigious project to the highest upfront bidding Dutch company Brakel Corporation NV.

Contentious issues like the special economic zones (SEZs) in Solan and Una did not make much headway and so did the government not take any decision about going ahead or scrapping the controversial Himalayan Ski Village project.

After courting much controversy over rolling out a Rs 80 crore free compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) scheme for all domestic users in order to reduce power consumption as well as earn carbon credits, the scheme finally got underway lately and may not meet its 25th December deadline for completion.

The government decided to continue with a subsidsed ration scheme and provide relief from price rise. While the scheme did not translate into political dividends for the earlier Congress government, the budget has ballooned beyond the Rs 80 crore that chief minister Dhumal had marked out and is expected to touch a figure of Rs 150 crore by close of financial year.

The upcoming general Lok Sabha is being considered a litmus test for the BJP government and has state political forces polarized once again as BSP that secured over 7 percent votes in December 2007 assembly election, stands decimated.

BSP state convener Vijay Singh Mankotia announced his retirement from politics and Sanjay Chaudhary, the lone legislator of the party merged with BJP, only last week.

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