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The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association has had a fraud case slapped against it. The HPCA has helped bring the state on the international cricketing map by building a world-class stadium in Dharamsala and hosting ODI and IPL matches,but has also been facing allegations of violating land laws and fraud. While in opposition,the Congress had frequently targeted HPCA president Anurag Thakur,MP and son of then chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. The states vigilance and anti-corruption bureau has now lodged an FIR on allegations that the HPCA had fraudently got government benefits,including village common land on lease,when its credentials were doubtful. The HPCA was registered initially as a society in Shimla but later converted into a Chandigarh-registered company,which Congress leaders allege would not have been entitled to such benefits.
Struggle & spend
A fortnight ago,Himachal Pradesh was presenting itself as a struggling state before a Finance Commission team,saying it was heavily in debt and could barely afford its monthly salary and pension bills. Since then,the assembly has passed a bill for hikes of 40 to 65 per cent in the salaries and allowances of members. Some time earlier,the government had inducted a fleet of Toyota Camrys for ministers,and two Fortuners for the CMs escort and pilot. The ministers have since been demanding that the Camrys be replaced with vehicles better suited to the hilly terrain.
Around the time when a cloudburst and flash floods hit Uttrakhand,Himachal Pradeshs Kinnaur,a tribal district on the China border,too witnessed unprecedented rains and landslides. These damaged roads and bridges,besides affecting power supply,irrigation,drinking water,and crops such as apples and green peas,besides the flow of tourists. Government agencies are making slow progress rebuilding the roads and restoring power supply. With the Centre having not granted relief,the assembly has passed a resolution,with the opposition BJP backing the Congress,to seek a Rs 1,972 crore package from New Delhi. The view in Himachal is that Kinnaurs loss was overshadowed by the Uttrakhand tragedy.
The Viceregal Lodge,also known as Rashtrapati Niwas,is set for a massive restoration project funded by the HRD ministry. An architectural landmark from the British years,it has been going into decay for lack of funds. The ministry has now sanctioned Rs 50 crore for a conservation project. A master plan has been prepared by architectural conservationist Abha Narain Lambah. The building houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS),which recently had a visit from Ashok Thakur,the ministry’s secretary for higher education,and who hails from Himachal Pradesh. It also houses an international Tagore centre and the UNDPs International Centre on Human Development,introduced during the tenure of Peter Ronald deSouza as IIAS director.