If you are planning a retreat this week to Himachal's cool hills to escape from the sizzling plains - think twice. There is a fair chance of protesters or major traffic snarls leaving you frustrated en route to your favourite holiday destination.
Starting Tuesday, the state-run Himachal Road Transport Corporation's 8,000-odd employees will go on a two-day strike over demands such as regularisation of contract staff after three years of service and protection of pension benefits. HRTC has over 1,900 buses.
The transport employees, who earlier struck work June 5, have even threatened to stop the operations of chartered and other states' roadways buses in the hilly state.
Friday will see state-wide protests called by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against price rise and the central government's "discriminatory attitude" towards non-Congress-ruled states. State BJP president Satpal Satti said that party workers would court arrest during protests held at the district, tehsil and block levels across the state.
The opposition Congress, too, has planned a public rally in the state capital Shimla Saturday - the 77th birthday of union minister and five-time state chief minister Virbhadra Singh. It is a "show of strength" and will mark Singh's 50 years in active politics, a party leader said.
"We are expecting more than 50,000 people from across the state at the Raja Saab's (as Virbhadra Singh is popularly called) rally," an organiser told IANS. Currently, Singh, who is keen to return to state politics, is touring the state.
With tourism in the hilly state expected to be hit by the protests and the opposition-sponsored rally, hoteliers expressed concern as they expected a heavy rush of tourists this week owing to the searing heat in the plains.
"More than 20,000 tourists are expected here till the onset of the monsoon in the plains. But the sudden announcements of the rally and the protests have dashed our hopes of brisk business," said a hotelier from Shimla. On an average, about 25,000 to 35,000 tourists from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi go to Shimla and nearby destinations on weekends.
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