Due to the rising Covid graph in the state, the Himachal Pradesh Cabinet Tuesday decided to defer the winter session of the state assembly, which was scheduled to be held at Dharamshala from December 7 to 11. In a meeting held here in the afternoon, the Cabinet decided to recommend to the Governor to cancel the scheduled session.
On November 10, the Cabinet had decided to convene the winter session, but Himachal saw a sharp growth in Covid cases in the following days, compelling the government to impose restrictions on social gatherings in the state and night curfew in four of the worst-hit districts.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj told the press after the Cabinet meeting that as per constitutional provisions, the session can be held anytime till March 18 next year.
“The last session ended on September 18, and the gap between two sessions should not exceed six months. So, we are not under any constitutional obligation to hold the session right now,” he said.
Bhardwaj said that prior permission from the sub-divisional authorities will now be required before holding any social functions such as weddings and birthday parties anywhere in the state. The total number of persons in such a gathering cannot exceed 50 and violation of this rule will henceforth invite a penalty of Rs 5,000. If the violation persists, further legal action under the Disaster Management Act can also be taken, and executive magistrates would be mandated to enforce the rules and SOPs, he added.
The Cabinet also decided that politicians including ministers, MPs and MLAs will not be allowed to hold any public function and only virtual functions can be held by adhering to the government-issued SOPs.
Security unit for Atal Tunnel
The state Cabinet Tuesday decided to create an Atal Tunnel Security Unit comprising 64 personnel from Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti district police establishments. The unit will look after the tunnel's security-related and other matters and will be provided 4x4 wheel drive vehicles and motorcycles for traffic management and policing. The tunnel, which connects Manali and Lahaul, witnessed heavy traffic and frequent accidents after it was opened to the public in early October.
The Cabinet has further decided to enforce containment zone rules strictly and conduct more random sampling. Bhardwaj said that two more dedicated Covid centres in Khaneri and Rohru will ensure that patients from Kinnaur, Rampur and Rohru do not have to travel all the way to Shimla in winter when roads in the area often get blocked by snow. MLAs have been asked to regularly visit Covid patients in their constituencies to raise their morale, he said.
The Cabinet decided that Mahila Mandals would now be included in the ongoing Him Suraksha campaign in the state in which the entire population is being screened for symptoms of Covid, leprosy and TB in a door-to-door survey. Young volunteers would also be roped into Covid awareness campaigns.
Cabinet nod was also given to create a provision for open-to-sky parking in the HP Town and Country Planning Rules to meet the increasing parking requirement in towns of the state. Under the new provision, all buildings located on valley side or hill sides of the roads and having a minimum clear setback of two metres within the plot, after controlled width/retaining wall and having clear access from the road, will be permitted to have open-to-sky parking (uncovered and parallel to the building) on 50 percent frontage of the setback.
In case of buildings on Valley side, owners would be allowed to construct a temporary steel frame structure/ramp on 50 per cent frontage of such setback for open-to-sky parking. The temporary parking platform so proposed should be see through/perforated/meshed (not solid sheet) in order to have sufficient gaps/spaces for light and ventilation and should not obstruct any disaster management efforts. It should not obstruct smooth flow of traffic on the abutting road and should be duly certified by a registered structural engineer, the provision states.
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