Outbreak of jaundice, Scrub typhus and a child swapping case rattled Himachal Pradesh in 2016 which saw clamour for the ouster of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh generating political acrimony.
The year, which coincided with completion of four years of the Congress government in power, started on a sad note with jaundice outbreak in Shimla and adjoining areas resulting in 22 deaths and over 1,500 people getting infected. Investigations pointed out that sewage mixed with drinking water and 10 people including engineers of Irrigation and Public Health department and contractor of sewerage treatment plant were arrested.
Pumping of water from the source was taken over from IPH department and entire control of water supply including pumping and distribution was handed over to Shimla Municipal Corporation. Close on the heels of the jaundice outbreak, Scrub typhus gripped the state and 30 people died while over 900 were infected.
The recovery of skeletal remains of four-year-old Yug Gupta from a water tank at Kelston here more than two years after he was kidnapped rocked the town and massive protests including candle marches continued for days. All three accused arrested in the case are facing trial in the court.
A case of child swapping in government-run Kamla Nehru hospital here came to light and the swapped children, a baby boy and girl were united with their biological parents after five months following DNA tests and intervention of the court.
More than 80 people died in six major road accidents in Chamba, Kinnaur, Kangra and Mandi districts while five youth from Punjab were washed away in cloudburst near Chewadi, on Sunni-Luhri road of Shimla district.
On the political front, Singh faced attacks from BJP over the cases registered against him by Income Tax department, CBI and Enforcement Directorate and after a year-long campaign, it submitted a charge sheet vowing to oust Congress from power.
The state Congress too mounted attack on Modi government and launched statewide campaign “Modi ke bol, jumlon ke dhol” to remind people of “unfulfilled poll promises”.
Asha Kumar, a former minister and sitting Congress MLA was convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment by a Chamba court in a land grab case. However, the high court stayed the sentence and the matter is pending.
The Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), floated by BJP dissidents ahead of assembly polls in 2012, was virtually wound up with its president Maheshwar Singh and other senior leaders merging with the BJP and the residual leaders joining the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The strength of BJP in the 68–member state assembly rose to 28 with addition of lone HLP MLA Maheshwar Singh but was again reduced to 27 with the death of veteran party leader and six-time MLA Ishwar Dass Dhiman.
Monkey menace remained a major issue of contention and under pressure from farmers’ organisations, monkeys were declared vermins in Shimla Municipal Corporation areas and 38 tehsils but not even a single monkey was shot by people who wanted the government to kill them.
The government passed the HP Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act, providing for regularisation of all illegal structures on “as is, where is basis”, kicking a row and the governor withheld assent to the bill.
The Centre sanctioned 61 new national highways to the state but the state government was yet to prepare the detailed project reports (DPRs) of these projects and both the Congress and the BJP were blaming each other.
The state government launched an intensive campaign against drugs and cannabis and opium and over 3.60 cannabis plants were uprooted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with jawans in Kinnaur district and also addressed a BJP rally at Mandi in run-up to assembly polls and Amit Shah addressed the workers at Solan.
Congress too invited Rahul Gandhi, who addressed a rally at Dharamsala to mark completion of four years of Congress government in power on December 24 last.
The Raghunath temple takeover in Kullu stirred a war of words between BJP and Congress and the high court stayed the orders of the government on a petition filed by BJP MLA Maheshwar Singh, who is chief caretaker of the shrine and who claims it was his private property.
Congress swept the first ever elections held to newly created Dharamsala Municipal Corporation, winning 14 of the 17 seats.
Himachal Pradesh also earned the distinction of becoming the first open defecation-free state in the country.
The appointment of V C Pharka, a 1983 batch IAS officer as chief secretary, superseding five senior IAS officers raised some eyebrows and two seniormost IAS officers Deepak Shanan and Vineet Chowdhary are on leave since June while Upma Chowdhary has taken over as Director Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy at Mussoorie.
The Himachal Pradesh University, under attack for abolishing direct elections to central student associations and hasty implementation of RUSA, got “A” Grade from NAAC for the first time.