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Ruling Congress in Himachal repeals law that benefitted victims of the infamous Emergency

Himachal Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has taken the lead in repealing a scheme benefitting victims of Emergency

Shimla: The Congress government in Himachal Pradesh has decided to strip beneficiaries of Loktantra Prahari Samman— honorarium given to those who were arrested and jailed for 11 to 19 months, during the Emergency. 

On Monday, the state assembly voted legislation to repeal Loktantra Prahari Samman Act, which was an enabling law to grant monthly honorariums between Rs 12,000 to Rs 20,000 to all those who faced torture, detained and remained jailed for opposing Emergency, imposed by Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister.

Even as the opposition led by former Chief Minister Jairam Thakur opposed the scrapping of the scheme and staged a walk-out from the House, the Congress government refused to change its mind to abolish the scheme.

As both the ruling Congress and BJP MLAs clashed in the House over the move, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Harshvardan Chauhan justified the move on the pretext of austerity, and the inability of the state to afford it.

All these persons were arrested only as a preventive measure to avert a law-and-order situation. None of them was sent to jail as part of the punishment.

“The previous BJP government had not only announced honorarium for those who were jailed during Emergency but few others hailing from other states as they were imprisoned in Himachal Pradesh” he alleged.

Chauhan said that a majority of the recipients of the honorarium were well-off people. They were also getting more than one pension as Ex-MPs or Ex-MLAs. Giving them honorarium amounted to misuse of government money.

“The state’s financial position does not permit the continuation of this honorarium, which entails an annual burden of Rs 3.43 crore,” the minister said

The scheme to grant honorarium was introduced to Himachal residents in 2021 on the lines of a similar initiative taken by the BJP governments in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, and Haryana.

It particularly covered those detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), 1971, or the Defence of India Rules 1971, or the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for political or social reasons during the Emergency, were provided a monthly pension.

Former CM Jairam Thakur said:“The congress government has done this at the behest of the party high command. When some people (not naming Rahul Gandhi) are shouting from rooftops and every public forum sending an impression that democracy was in danger, this is a classic case where those who were jailed for restoration of democracy during emergency days are insulted”

The number of such people in Himachal was around 80 and doesn’t involve any big financial liability.

Thakur said, “Please do not repeal the Act passed during our regime as democracy is important for all” he appealed.

The former CM also rejected the Congress government charge that a law to grant honorarium was enacted to benefit RSS members. “Will you tell me if Jai Prakash Narain, Mulayam Singh Yadav and George Fernandes, imprisoned during Emergency, were RSS members” he asked .

Jairam Thakur quoted that the Congress NCP-Shiv Sena alliance government in Maharashtra scrapped the scheme 2020 but the current government has reinstated it again in July 2022. The Madhya Pradesh government is also continuing it as is Uttarakhand.

In the states of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, some people have challenged the Act in court.

“We are also thinking on these lines to see a legal resource while I have already said the BJP on return to power will reinstate the scheme” he told India Narrative.

The BJP has accused the Congress of wasteful expenditure by appointing Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPS) and giving cabinet ranks to favourites but has chosen to scrap the scheme.

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