A year before assembly polls sops start raining in Himachal Pradesh 

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Bureau Report

Shimla: Battered by the recent loss on all the three assembly and one parliamentary seat for which the by-polls were held last month, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Himachal Pradesh under Jai Ram Thakur is now racing against time as the state is set to go to polls in less than a year.

The party seems to have read the writing on the wall that reflects the public mood and the government seems to have resorted to the traditional method of extending sops to various sections to win back support of the masses. Whether the public falls for this will get reflected with time but as of now it is raining sops as well disgruntlement from the sections that have been led out.

One of the major moves made by the government has been the announcement of new pay scales for the employees giving them a 15 to 20 per cent hike from 2016 onwards. Reports say that the state spends almost 43 per cent of its budget on its employees and pensioners and this is set to go up to 50 per cent after the implementation of the sixth pay commission recommendations.

This announcement was accompanied by reduction of contractual period of employees from three years to two years. The government has also formed a committee for appointments on compassionate grounds.

But these announcements led to anger among those left out of the largesse. Among them were the cops who reportedly staged a protest outside the chief minister’s house demanding a reduction in their contractual period from eight years to two years, a month’s extra salary for being on duty round the clock every day of the year, better housing facilities and ration allowance besides a higher pay band. Thakur has promised to address their concerns.

The capital also saw a major demonstration by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) affiliates on Monday bringing traffic to a halt. Their main demands included minimum wage of Rs 18,000 per month to all workers in organized and unorganized sector, three per cent annual increment, allowing all types of holidays, framing policy for regularization of ASHA workers and outsourced employees in government departments and public sector undertakings.

Lapping up the opportunity to hit out at the government, the state Congress chief Kuldeep Singh Rathor accused the chief minister of trying to achieve its political goals by following discriminatory policies in context of employees. He said that this was probably the first time that the police personnel had protested outside the chief minister’s residence in uniform. He expressed doubts whether the government was in a position to pay the sops announced for the employees.

Even otherwise Thakur has been on a spree to inaugurate new projects and make new announcements.

On Monday alone he inaugurated and laid foundation stones of 96 developmental projects worth Rs. 381 crore in Dharampur assembly constituency of Mandi tht also houses his constituency of Seraj. The Congress candidate Pratibha Singh wresting the Mandi parliamentary seat from the BJP candidate Brigadier (Retired) Khushal Chand Thakur who is a Kargil hero has come as a big setback to the saffron party as its attempts to polarize the electorate on the its brand of nationalism and patriotism failed to yield results.

Thakur has claimed that even during the pandemic, he inaugurated and laid foundation stones of developmental projects worth Rs. 4500 crore in about 42 assembly segments while the Congress leaders did nothing in this crisis and tried to politicize this sensitive issue. The sops are expected to continue flowing in the days to come.

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