Congress members disrupt question hour over illicit felling of trees



Shimla: Himachal Pradesh assembly proceedings were virtually stalled on Friday by the opposition over the issue of ruthless felling of trees by a realtor in forests of Shimla to give way to concrete jungle.

This issue was raised during the question hour. It also became apparent that the government was not keen to part with the information on a builder that is setting up an ultra-luxurious housing project. In reply to a query by Congress member Mukesh Agnihotri, the government said the information is being collected. Not satisfied with the reply, he stood up and said the government was not willing to part with relevant information about the ongoing project. He said the housing project was allotted to Bemloe Builders, a sister concern of Delhi-based DLF Universal Ltd. that has recklessly axed number of trees overnight.

He also questioned the government on the permission granted to another coloniser, Optima Construction for setting up a housing project in picturesque resort of Kasauli in Solan district. In both the projects thousands of trees were axed, he alleged. Not satisfied with the reply of Urban Development Minister Mohinder Singh on both the projects, the entire opposition was on its legs and urged the Speaker to direct the minister to provide the information and stop work on projects to save the forest wealth.

Another Congress member Kaul Singh(Darang) questioned the government’s decision to allow Bemloe Builders to set up cottages in Shimla. He said Shimla is facing water shortage, besides traffic chaos and that such projects would only add to the woes of the people. Leader of the Opposition Vidya Stokes demanded constitution of a house committee to look into the permissions granted to the builders and environmental violations allegedly committed by them. Intervening in the issue, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the government is ready to conduct any inquiry in the matter. “We are even ready to handover the inquiry to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and considering the repeal of (state) apartments,” he assured the house.

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