SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur announced on Thursday a four per cent hike in dearness allowance to government employees and pensioners in what may be termed as an Independence Day gift to them.
Presiding over the 73rd Independence Day function at the historic Ridge Maidan here, Thakur said the DA hike would be paid retrospectively from January this year, providing an annual additional financial benefit of Rs 260 crore to the state employees.
The chief minister announced that the girl candidates of the state would not have to deposit examination fee for appearing in the entrance tests conducted by the state public service commission and subordinate services selection board.
He also announced free textbooks to government school students of Class 9 and 10, which would benefit over 65,000 children.
Thakur was addressing the gathering after hoisting the national flag and taking salute from the march-past by various contingents, including school children.
Remembering freedom fighters and slain soldiers, Thakur paid rich tributes to the first chief minister, Yashwant Singh Parmar, for laying a strong foundation for the future development of the state.
Thakur said state government had framed a vision document, 'Drishtipatra Himachal Pradesh-2030', to achieve developmental goals in a time-bound manner.
The chief minister said a target of attracting investment worth Rs 85,000 crore had been set from the 'Rising Himachal Investors Meet', to be held in Dharamshala on November 7 and 8.
He added that memorandums of understanding (MoU) worth Rs 38,000 crore were already signed with various prospective investors.
Thakur said Chanshal valley of Shimla, Janjehli valley of Mandi and Bir Billing of Kangra districts were being developed as tourist spots under the 'Nai Raahein Nai Manzilein' scheme.
He said programmes like the Jan Manch, Him Pragati portal, e-Samadhan were started to ensure good governance, adding that the 'Mukhya Mantri Helpline' would be launched soon to facilitate the public further.
The chief minister presented the Himachal Gaurav Award to Nishad Kumar and Lieutenant Commander Pratibha Jamwal.
He gave away the Prerna Strot Award to Subedar Rinjin Dorje, Alikya and Himkara Organisation. Thakur presented the Civil Services Award to the state disaster management authority.
The district-level disaster management authority awards were presented to Kullu, Lahaul and Spiti districts.
Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, legislators Balbir Verma and Vikramaditya Singh, Shimla Mayor Kusum Sadret, Deputy Mayor Rakesh Sharma, Chief Secretary B K Agarwal and other officials were present at the event.
Several other functions were also held in the district and sub-divisional levels to mark the 73rd Independence Day.
Health minister and Industries minister Vipin Singh Parmar and Bikram Singh Thakur unfurled national flags in Dharamshala and Kullu respectively.
Independence Day was also celebrated in the high court, with Chief Justice V Ramasubramanian unfurling the Tricolour and inspecting the guard of honour.