Himachal Pradesh Cabinet on Friday cleared four ropeway projects, including long awaited Shimla passengers’ ropeway project between Tourist Information Centre (TIC) to Mall road, besides two projects in Kangra district- of these one to connect McLeodganj with Dharamshala and other proposed for Rohtang Pass near Manali in Kullu district.
Two ropeway projects viz Dharamshala to Mcleodganj and Chamunda temple to Adi (Himani) Chamunda, which had a single favoured bidder offering an annual concession fee of Rs 75 lakhs and Rs 7.21 lakhs respectively to the government, received opposition from some cabinet ministers forcing the government to set-up a high level committee for re-negotiations with the entrepreneur.
Transport minister G S Bali was one who raised objections over low bids, apart from approval granted to a single bidder. Chief Minister was quick to accept suggestion for re-negotiations.
The committee will be headed by Commissioner (Tourism) Mohan Chauhan with two other members including special secretary (Finance) and Chief General Manager of HP State Infrastructure Development Board.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, currently on his winter sojourn at Dharamshala, presided over the meeting.
Highly placed sources said while there were no voices of dissent on the annual concession fee offered by the highest bidder (only two in the competition) in case of Shimla ropeway project, eyebrows were raised on the bidder for McLeodganj ropeway project and Chaumunda temple project.
It was suggested that the investor should be raised to give fresh offer as current fee proposed was too low and could create serious controversies.
Even in case of Palchan-Ropan ropeway, which was brought to the cabinet discussion at the last moment (as initially only three projects were in the agenda), the cabinet opted to ask the Committee to get the annual concession fee improved.
Infact, the state government had sometime back decided to abandon the Palchan Ropeway project, after Ropeway inspector had given a report that the project was no feasible.
Later, National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed severe strictures against the ropeway inspector-who was also summoned with records. The Tribunal directed the government to explore possibilities of setting ropeway project to connect Rohtang Pass with ropeway inorder to reduce the vehicular traffic on the road.
In another significant move, cabinet also cleared the ducks for setting-up State Administrative Tribunal- which was scrapped during the previous BJP regime.
Besides the Chairman of the tribunal- who will be the retired judge of the High Court (Justice V K Sharma), there will be two other members-one Judicial member from the higher judicial service and another administrative member (could be retired IAS ) officer- who had handled service matters.
The opposition BJP had advised the Congress government to drop the move as it will impose additional financial burden on the exchequer in the small state.
To give relief to Bhakra oustees, the cabinet decided to convert all plots allotted to Bhakra Dam oustees on free hold basis from perpetual lease holder basis for 99 years, at token consideration of Rs. 1 per square meter. The plots were allotted in the new Bilaspur township earlier.
In a controversial move the cabinet approved expansion of Jaypee groups Cement plant at village Baga in Solan district for an enhanced clinker capacity. Some time back High Court had imposed penalty of Rs 100 crore on company’s extended cement plant in Solan district for serious environmental violations.
The state government last year had detected irregularities in promoters unilateral enhancement of capacity óf the cement plant without seeking any official approval.
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