Staff Correspondent

SHIMLA: Himachal Health Minister Rajiv Bindal has disclosed that 264 cases of hepatitis-E have been reported from Shimla town recently due to consumption of contaminated water from natural sources.In a reply to a call attention motion on the increasing number of jaundice cases in the hill town raised by Congress MLA Kaul Singh Thakur, the Minister said the recent spurt in such cases is a serious problem and damaging the image of the town from the tourists' point of view. He said though these cases are limited to just one suburb of the town and the government has warned people who are continuously consuming non-piped water from unsafe natural resources. He has also assured the House that serious action would be taken against all those households who have not taken proper sewerage connections in the main town. There are just 10,728 sewerage connections and 24,000 water connections against more than one lakh ration card holders in the town, he pointed out.

The intermixing of drinking water with sewerage leakage is the main cause of diseases, he said.

Meanwhile Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal told media persons outside the House that the Annual Plan for the State would be approved on March 8 and the State budget would be presented on March 12.

He said the government is contemplating action against all private educational institutions which are arbitrarily increasing their fees without providing any facilities to the students or using only 15 to 20 per cent of such money for the benefit of disabled and below poverty line children.

In reply to another question he expressed surprise at some Congress leaders appreciating the Railway Budget after the inclusion of six socially desirable rail lines for a future survey of the hill State. He said there has been an expansion of just 36 km of rail line in last 63 years in the hill State and discrimination is clearly visible when the Centre refused the most strategically desirable Bhanupalli-Leh rail line up to the China border.