In a move that could raise eyebrows, the Himachal Pradesh government on Wednesday allowed tea estates to use a part of their land parcel for “tea tourism”, subject to certain conditions. Though tea estates in the state are exempted from the HP Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1972, they are barred from running commercial activities by replacing tea plants.
Today’s decision was taken after a half-an-hour debate at the Cabinet meeting presided over by CM Virbhadra Singh.
Sources said the revenue department had been vehemently opposed to the move. The issue was earlier taken up by the Cabinet at least three times but was dropped due to divergent views. The government has claimed the permission to tea estate owners on diversion of land will be limited to promoting “tea tourism” and that there will a series of restrictions on preserving the green belt.
“The revenue department will prepare a proposal outlining broad contours taking into account all issues and spirit of the cabinet decision. Thereafter, a notification will follow,” said an official. Most of the tea estates are located in Kangra district, including in Palampur.
Meanwhile, the cabinet also approved a proposal to enhance maternity leave to women employees of the state government from existing 135 days to 180 days. The cabinet accorded its approval to appoint Indian women cricket team wicketkeeper Sushma Devi Verma as DSP in HP Police Services as a special case, against three per cent reservation in direct recruitment for distinguished sports persons.
It also decided to reserve one seat for single girl child in PG (MD/MS) courses in government medical colleges under the state quota seats.