Shimla/New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation teams on Saturday filed a case against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh and raided his residence in Shimla to probe an inquiry into a disproportionate assets case against him, officials said.
The officials, with vehicles of Chandigarh and Punjab registration numbers, reached Virbhadra Singh’s private residence, Holly Lodge, located in Jakhu hills in the morning.
“Searches were conducted at 11 locations in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi,” a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer in New Delhi said.
The raid coincided with the marriage of the chief minister’s daughter in Shimla.
Virbhadra Singh and his family were not at home when the team reached their residence.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on June 18 initiated a preliminary inquiry against Virbhadra Singh and his family over allegations of corruption and acquiring disproportionate assets during his tenure as union steel minister.
However, Virbhadra Singh refuted the allegations.
Official sources said that CBI restarted the preliminary inquiry on the basis of the income tax department order that said the agricultural income of Virbhadra Singh and his family dramatically increased in the revised return, which was an apparent attempt to justify the investments made in the purchase of insurance policies worth over Rs 6.1 crore.
For the monkeys, it’s no more business as usual in Himachal Pradesh tourist resorts, for now.
In the absence of adequate food in the populated areas of the state capital and other popular destinations when close to 8.6 billion people staying indoors following the COVID-19 clampdown, the monkeys are no more dangling there.
They have, it appears, made a tactical retreat into the woods, till their predecessors win the war against the pandemic.
Wildlife officials say without tourists on the streets in most of the resorts, monkeys entered to nearby forests for the natural vegetation to forge.
Local residents are stunned by how they moved to the outskirts of cities and towns on their own.
Old-timers say in Shimla that the city hasn’t been rid of monkeys for decades. It is time to grow natural food in their habitat when the coronavirus is defeated so they could not return to the ‘concrete’ jungle.
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Sandeep Rattan, Assistant Director with the Forest Department’s wildlife wing, has been monitoring three troupes of monkey in the Jakhu residential area of Shimla for quite some time.
“With the imposition of the city lockdown, there is a shortage of foodstuff in human wastes,” Rattan told IANS.
With the closure of restaurants, shops and temples and no humans on the streets, the monkeys have moved to nearby villages and forest areas where they are feeding on natural vegetation, he said.
Now only some dominant ones remain in town, wildlife veterinary surgeon Rattan said.
“We got reprieve from the marauding monkeys after a long, long time. We are praying they should not come back with the lockdown getting over,” octogenarian Ramesh Sud said, while pointing towards an iron grill erected outside his home to prevent straying of monkeys.
As per the last census conducted in 2015, Himachal Pradesh has a population of 2.07 lakh monkeys.
Barring Lahaul-Spiti district and some pockets in Kinnaur district, the state is in the grip of monkey menace as they have caused crop losses worth hundreds of crores of rupees in recent years.
As the religious sentiments prevent the people from kill the monkeys, their population is multiplying and their menace has increased manifold in cities and villages.
Marauding monkeys, prowling in gangs on streets of Shimla, Kasauli, Chail, Manali and other places create panic among residents and tourists. They have been causing havoc by biting passersby and snatching food.
Pictures of monkeys drinking from abandoned coke bottles and carrying food wrappers up into the trees are common once.
Officials say on an average at least 50 monkey bite cases are being reported every month in the Rippon Hospital in Shimla alone.
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In Shimla’s localities like Jakhu, Tutikandi, Nabha, Phagli, Kaithu, Summer Hill, Tutu, Boileauganj, Chotta Shimla and Sanjauli, the residents have literally converted their houses into jails by erecting iron grills on the doors and windows to check the intrusion of monkeys.
Wildlife officials said over a decade-and-a-half ago monkeys were trapped from streets of Shimla and banished to the jungles — a technique to reduce their population.
But Rattan believes the translocation has not resolved the conflict rate, conversely such translocations shifted the problem to new areas instead of resolving the issue.
Activists working for the cause of farmers have been demanding the monkeys should either be eliminated professionally by hiring hunters or lifting the ban on the export of monkey for bio-medical research to check their rising numbers.
The central government had banned the export of wild animals in 1978.
In written reply last month, Forest Minister Govind Thakur informed the assembly apart from monkey sterilization, the state has got the monkey declared as vermin in the most affected 91 tehsils and sub-tehsils of the state and within the Shimla Municipal Corporation.
He said for designing effective strategy of mitigating damage by monkey, the population estimation of monkey has been carried with the help of primate specialists from the Wildlife Institute of India and the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural Historyin December 2019 and the estimation report is under preparation.
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The habitat enrichment plantation scheme is being implemented across the state under which fruit bearing trees of different species are being planted in 10 adversely affected forests for providing natural food resource for the monkeys and other wild animals so that they may not come over to agricultural fields.
Also, the Shimla Municipal Corporation has been requested to adopt effective waste management practices to help managing the conflict as throwing of waste specially food items lead to increase in the commensalism in monkeys, the minister said.
Commensalism refers to increased dependence of monkeys on human food.
There will be no “white” Christmas in Shimla and elsewhere in Himachal Pradesh this time too. A mellow sunshine will greet you throughout the day at most of the tourist destinations with the weather bureau on Tuesday predicting open skies in the state.
“There is no significant Western Disturbances active in the region. Most of the towns in the state will witness sunny days till December 28,” Manmohan Singh, Director of Shimla’s Met office, told IANS.
He said there are chances of rain and snow in the state on or after December 31 with active western disturbances.
Temperatures have been unusually low in most of the popular tourist spots like Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda, Kasauli, Chail, Manali, Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Palampur and Chamba.
Keylong, the headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti district, was the coldest place with the minimum temperature dipping to minus 12.4 degrees Celsius.
The night temperature in capital Shimla was 2.2 degrees Celsius, whereas Kalpa, some 250 km from here, saw a low of minus 4.4 degrees Celsius.
It was minus 2.8 degrees Celsius in Manali, 2.2 degrees in Dharamsala and 2.7 degrees in Dalhousie.
However, foggy conditions would continue in low hills, mainly in Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur and Kangra districts.
Una town, adjoining Punjab, saw a low of 6.4 degrees Celsius, 11 notches below normal owing to dense fog.
But excited holidaymakers, mainly from the northern plains, have already started descending on tourist resorts across the state with a hope of white Christmas.
Shimla, which had season’s first snowfall this time on December 13, last recorded snowfall on Christmas in 2017 after a gap of over two decades.
“From tomorrow onwards, most of all our properties have been packed to capacity,” a senior official with the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) told IANS.
The HPTDC has 57 economy and high-end hotels across the state.
He said the arrival of the tourists in Shimla, Narkanda, Chail, Kasauli, Manali, Dalhousie, Dharamsala and Palampur is quite good.
The mountain peaks viewed from Shimla’s historic Ridge and Dharamsala and Palampur towns have been wrapped in a thick white blanket of snow.
Popular resort Manali is getting a good share of tourists as its nearby hills have plenty of snow.
The weather is ‘cosy’ these days in hills of Himachal Pradesh compared to the Northern plains where dense fog is screening out the sun.
The hilly state is receiving regular sunshines and for a longer duration.
The weather in picturesque tourist resorts of Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda, Kasauli, Chail, Dharamsala, Palampur and Manali is ‘warm’ and perfect for a break from the biting chill of the plains where the sun has largely been fogged out.
“What a mellow sunshine is in Shimla,” remarked Kriti Aggarwal, a tourist from Delhi.
She said it was a great relief from the prevailing fog that did not allow sun rays to penetrate over ground levels.
Her friend Kanika Gupta added: “For hours, we relaxing and basking under the sun. Even nights are cosy here compared to the plains.”
Manmohan Singh, director of Shimla’s meteorological department, told IANS on Monday that most of the hill destinations have a pleasant weather owing to long sunny days compared to the plains.
“The maximum temperature in the hills is two-three degrees below average but due to prevailing sunny days the temperature will see rise and will be normal in a day or two,” he said.
According to him, dry weather would largely prevail in the state till December 31, ruling out the possibility of snow and rain across the state.
The humidity level over 80 per cent causes fog. In the the hills it’s around 50 per cent currently, compared to 80 per cent in the hills.
In Shimla, located around 7,000 feet above sea level, the maximum temperature on Sunday was 13.8 degrees Celsius, while the minimum was 3.6 degrees on Monday.
The night temperature in Dharamsala was 2.6 degrees Celsius, whereas popular tourist resort Manali saw a low of minus three degrees.
At 14.3 degrees below freezing point, Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district was the coldest in the state. Kalpa, some 250 km from the state capital, saw a low of minus 2.9 degrees Celsius.
In Chandigarh, the maximum temperature was 0.6 degree Celsius less than Shimla’s on Sunday, with the minimum hovering around 9 degrees Celsius.