Shimla | Last summer some Shimla residents went on social media telling tourists to keep off. An acute water shortage had hit the Himachal Pradesh capital, and the massive influx of tourists around that time of the year was only making things worse.
But the monsoon brought its own problems with the state reporting 343 deaths due to flash floods, landslides, cloudbursts, and weather-related road accidents.
The year also saw an anti-encroachment drive going off script when hoteliers resisting it turned violent, killing two members of the team. Former chief minister Virbhadra Singh found himself in trouble in a case related to disproportionate assets. A plot of land allotted to Yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali triggered a row. An Indian Air Force plane crashed in Kangra, killing its pilot.
The water scarcity in Shimla led to the high court stepping in. It ordered that the VIPs, including the judges themselves, will not get preferential treatment in the allocation of the precious commodity.
The crisis also forced the state government to postpone the prestigious Shimla Summer Festival, held from June 1 to 5 every year to attract tourists. Some hotels even encouraged their clients to cancel their bookings. In the middle of the crisis, Shimla mayor Kusum Sadrate went to China on an official tour, inviting flak from the opposition.
Congress leader Virbhadra Singh’s legal problems worsened when a special CBI court in Delhi ordered the framing of charges against him and his wife Pratibha for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets of over Rs 10 crore.
But another former CM got relief from the courts.
The Supreme Court quashed an FIR against BJP leader P K Dhumal and his MP-son Anurag Thakur for alleged irregularities in granting land on lease for the construction of a cricket stadium in Dharamshala. That was when Dhumal was in power. The FIR was lodged when Virbhadra Singh’s government took over.
There was a row over another piece of land in 2018.
The state cabinet decided to lease out 28 acres of land in Solan district to Yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust at a concessional rate of Rs 2.39 crore. The Congress accused the Jai Ram Thakur government of doing Ramdev a favour for supporting the BJP in last general election.
But the court verdict that caught the public imagination was the death penalty for the murder of a four-year-old child. A Shimla court awarded the maximum sentence to three men who had allegedly kidnapped Yug for ransom, brutally killed him and then dumped his body in a municipal water tank.
Assistant Town Planner Shail Bala Sharma was shot dead by a hotelier when she was leading a Supreme Court-mandated demolition drive against illegal construction in Kasauli. A few days later a public works department employee Gulab Singh, who was part of the same drive, also succumbed to his injuries.
The apex court pulled up the state government for not providing adequate security for the team razing illegal structures.
The ruling BJP ended 2018 with a celebration earlier this month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a public meeting in Dharamshala to mark one year of the Jai Ram Thakur government in Himachal Pradesh. The opposition Congress observed it as Nikamma Divas, highlighting what it called were the government’s failures.
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