Chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Wednesday laid the foundation stone of Rs. 922.48-crore fourth phase of the Swan river flood management project, which entails creating stone pitched embankments along 73 tributaries of the Swan river.
The foundation stone was laid at Kangar village of Haroli segment in the presence of irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes and industry minister and local MLA Mukesh Agnihotri.
While the work of constructing flood protection embankments along the main length of the 65-km-long Swan river that originates in Una is almost complete, the fourth phase of the project will create 388-km embankments along the river's tributaries and protect 7,138 hectares of agricultural land from annual flooding.
The project, which receives 90% central funding and is due to be completed in four years, will benefit 165 villages having a catchment area of 1,200 sq kilometers and a human population of more than two lakh.
Speaking on the occasion, the CM negated BJP claims that the Swan river flood protection project was the latter's brainchild. He spelt out important dates from April 2013 onwards, on which the project got various sanctions and approvals in various offices of the state government and the union ministry of water resources.
He alleged that just before the last assembly elections, the former chief minister had inaugurated the second phase of the project, when 2 km embankment work was yet to be completed and simultaneously laid the foundation stone of the third phase, for which there is no detailed project report even today. He, however, said the Congress government has decided to fund the estimated `48 crore third phase from its own funds.
Irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes said this was the biggest-ever river embankment project in north India. She said once completed, Una will be the only district of the country to have a complete channelisation of its rain water drainage system.
Referring to the magnanimity of the project, she observed that the project was to be completed within four years and if the monsoon period was excluded from the work schedule, almost Rs. 1 crore must be utilised everyday to complete it within the timeframe set by the union government.
Social justice and empowerment minister Dhani Ram Shandil, excise and taxation minister Parkash Chaudhary, Sujanpur MLA Rajinder Rana and Jwalamukhi MLA Sanjay Rattan were also present, besides
IPH engineer-in-chief RK Sharma.
The CM announced funds for the construction of a mini-secretariat at Haroli block headquarters and also announced creation of a new post of superintending engineer of the flood protection wing of the IPH department in Una district.
Earlier, Sharma and other departmental officers presented a cheque amounting to Rs. 75 lakh towards the CM relief fund. The amount was contributed as one day's salary by employees of the IPH department.
Dhumal a dictator: CM
Addressing the public at Kangar village, Virbhadra Singh said he had taken a personal loan from an acquaintance for family reasons, which was not illegal. He was reacting to Lok Sabha MP Anurag Thakur's recent statement, asking about the identity of one Bakamulla Chandershekhar, who had reportedly given a loan of a few crores to Virbhadra Singh while the latter was the union minister.
He said he had secured a personal loan to the amount of Rs. 3 crore and Rs. 90 lakh since he was in need of money and there was nothing legally or morally wrong in it. He said he had mentioned the transaction in his income tax returns and also in the documents filed for Parliament and state assembly elections.
Lashing out at former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, Singh alleged that the former had tried to politically victimise him during the BJP regime. He said during the first tenure as CM, Dhumal had lodged a complaint in the alleged Sagar Katha case and during his second tenure as chief minister, he had indicted him in the alleged CD case. “Instead of buckling, I faced the sessions trial in both cases and came out clean,” he said.
Singh said his ancestors were the bona fide rulers of their princely state and he (Virbhadra) was coronated as the ruler of the state at the age of 10. “After independence, I was signatory to the merger agreement with the union of India,” he said, adding that as on date, he owned land property less than the provisions under the land ceiling Act.
The CM termed Dhumal as a dictator and paralleled him with Italian dictator Benito Musselini, Germany's Hitler and Stalin from Russia. He said while there were political differences between him (Virbhadra) and Shanta Kumar, the latter had a respect for politicians from rival parties. He said the present lot of BJP leaders in the state had been blindly following the dictates of Dhumal without knowing his real facts.
Taking on Anurag Thakur, the CM said the state government would probe the allocation of land to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association by the state government during the BJP rule.
He said vast stretches of grazing grounds, forest and commercial areas, including school playgrounds, had been handed over to the HPCA on a token lease amount of Rs. 1 for 100 years. The HPCA had illegally changed its status from a cooperative society to a company and had constructed hotels and buildings on the allotted land.
The CM alleged that Dhumal's son had purchased prime agricultural land illegally near McLeodganj from a local peasant, rendering them homeless. “The revenue records of this transaction are also missing,” he said, adding that the government will inquire into all illegal transactions involving the Dhumal family and the HPCA. “If my son does anything wrong, I will not spare him,” he added.