September 15, 2020 11:49:18 pm
Opposition Congress and CPI(M) on Tuesday accused the Himachal Pradesh government of carrying out wasteful expenditure at a time of Covid-induced economic crisis after the government introduced a legislation enabling it to appoint any person as the vice-chairperson of the state’s Tourism Development Board. The House passed the bill amid opposition.
The Tourism Development Board was established in 2002, with its chairperson and vicechairperson being the chief minister and the tourism minister respectively. The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development and Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2020, passed on Tuesday provides for the tourism minister to occupy a newly-created post of senior vice-chairperson while the post of chairperson will now be held by any person nominated by the government.
Kinnaur MLA said that the move will lead to fruitless expenditure and asked whether the Board actually performs any work. “You’re creating an army of chairpersons, and this is one more post. If the appointment is too urgent, an MLA chosen by the House can be made the chairperson. It will save the expenses of allotting a car and a House to the appointee,” he said, and also proposed an amendment to this effect.
Theog MLA Rakesh Singha proposed an amendment of appointing the chairperson without any remuneration or allowances apart from TA/DA. Singha said that such an appointment will send a “wrong signal” to the public because of its timing. “On the one hand, you’re saying that your coffers are empty, resources have shrunk and there’s nothing to give (because of the Covid pandemic)… This bill is understandable because every elected government has certain compulsions, which have to be fulfilled to prevent instability. But don’t do it at the time of corona, so that nobody can raise fingers. Once the corona pandemic subsides, you can appoint two such persons,” he said.
Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, demanding a withdrawal of the bill, said that the CAG report tabled in the House on Monday highlighted the growing debts of the government. “This is about morality. Either you could have done it discreetly without creating a new post, like you have done in finance and animal husbandry,” he said.
In his reply, chief minister Jai Ram Thakur said that the state has immense potential for the development of tourism. “If it were your government, perhaps you would have filled even more such posts,” he told CPI(M)’s Singha. He also accused the Congress of filling various posts of chairpersons within a month after coming to power during the previous tenure.
“We heard and respect your amendments. They are good suggestions. But accepting them is our vyavastha. We would not be able to accept them,” he said. He also read out the provisions related to the establishment and role of the Board.
The BJP-led House then rejected both the proposed amendments and passed the bill by a voice vote.
Dharna by Congress
Before the sitting of the assembly, Congress MLA’s staged a dharna outside the Speaker’s office, alleging that their voice inside the House is being silenced. Opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri alleged that he raised an important matter regarding the cancellation of four-laning of the Shimla-Matour highway, but the Speaker decided it would not be placed on record. Later, Congress members also walked out of the House during the question hour, alleging a notice moved by them was not brought up in the list of business. Meanwhile, Speaker Vipin Parmar said that the notice has been forwarded to the government for a reply as per the rules and procedure. CM Thakur said that the Congress is disrupting the question hour on a daily basis even though the Speaker earlier allowed an adjournment motion moved by them for the first time ever in the Assembly’s history.
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