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Height of Lawlessness in Shimla City

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Full grown tree in populated Shimla locality chopped off illegally at night

Top portion (almost 40%) of a full-grown Deodar tree was chopped off on 20 January, 2017 at about 2:00 AM at a populated locality of Shimla City – Strawberry Hills. The culprit remains unidentified, but Himachal Watcher has brought the matter to the attention of Deputy Mayor Tikendar Panwar, who condemned it and ensured intervention of the DFO to initiate necessary investigation and action against the culprit.

As per initial report, the tree has been axed to pave way for construction of a plot.

A member of Himachal Watcher Community noticed this violation and captured some images that have been forwarded with the complaint. We hope, the administration would take swift action against the culprit.

Himachal Watcher requests all citizens of Himachal to report such cases where illegal felling of trees is being carried out.

Trees are humanity’s most valuable assets, Stand up for their protection!

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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‘Chai Talk’ in Shimla Engenders Ideas for Social Impact

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Fursat se shimla

Shimla-Amrita Bhasin walks in with glasses of water held in a thriftily-made tray, she indorses as her prized possession, to the room sparsely populated with individuals indulged in inconsequential conversation. The room is well lit, a corner is neatly draped in casual handicrafts, works from Robert Ludlum to Anurag Mathur stacked in parts, and handworks of modest and budding artists grace the walls. In the center of the room, an old metal trunk is used as a make-shift table while the floor is arranged with throwaway pillows, a cot, and few chairs, waiting keenly for their occupants.

This doesn’t seem a picture book setting for a conversation to make change outside of the room. But it is, it is the meeting base for Chai Talk – a safe and even opportunity dialogue to generate solicitous ideas for social impact organized by FurasatSe in collaboration with Swach Himalaya and Unbox Himachal Valley.

In attendance on Chai Talk on Sunday, 10 November, were poets, singers, teachers, social and media activists, young lawyers, ecological travelers, an Army Captain and event managers, all with single lined agenda of knowing each other and arriving at thoughtful ideas to work on over the next few months.

The session was also attended by Himachal Watcher on invitation by Amrita of FursatSe. 

The session kicked-off with introduction and a round of piping-hot chai prepared by Savitoj (founder Swach Himalaya) and served by Amrita (Founder FurasatSe), while Shivee Sirmauri of and Unbox Himachal Valley talked herself through and out, as all gathered listened to her journey filled with bumpy rides.

The discussion gathered momentum and talks at length were delivered around the ethics of media, poetry and the challenges of independent thought, after school classes for children of immigrant labourers, and how two young ladies with settled careers in Delhi, walked up to the Queen of Hills to make significant change to lives of people here.

Over another round of chai, melodious song by a promising young singer Vagisha, insightful talk on individual’s right to property, quality of life and the challenges of being a lawyer, the meet-up was culminated with the promise to create awareness campaigns on mental health, women rights, conditions of old age homes, and on educating people about alternatives of single-use plastic.

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Another Elderly Man Dies in Stray Cattle Attack in Himachal

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Stray Cattle Population in Himachal Pradesh in 2019

Mandi-The number of stray cattle on Himachal Pradesh’s roads continues to grow due to the apathy of the state government and those who abandon these animals after they are of no use. It’s leading to stray cattle menace that has now reached an alarming level with two deaths registered within two months.

Other than that, these animals are leading to road accidents in which both commuters, as well as these animals, get hurt. While humans are immediately taken to hospital, these animals are hardly attended.  

An 80-year-old man in Ledha area of Mandi district, who was critically injured after a stray bull attacked him on November 1, 2019, died at the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla, on November 5.

The elderly man was identified as Ishru of Ledha, who hailed from a poor family and worked as a daily wager. He had come to the market for shopping for the wedding of his two granddaughters. Ironically, the grandfather died on the day of the wedding. Though the news of his demise had reached a couple of his family members, it was broken to all only after the conclusion of the wedding.

Previously, on September 8, 2019, a 70-year-old man in Baroha village of Jhanduta Sub-Division, Bilaspur district, was attacked by a stray bull in which he had sustained critical injuries. He succumbed to his injuries on his way to the hospital.  

The deceased was identified as Ganga Ram, a resident of Baroh village. On the day of the accident, he was on his way home after visiting a nearby temple.

Most of these cattle are bulls who remain of no use to farmers as tractors and modern machinery is replacing them. These are simply abandoned and adds to a growing population of cattle on the roads. 

In a order passed on 7-10-2014, the State High Court, hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Bhartiya Govansh Rakshan Sanverdhan Parishad, HP, had directed that all the cattle including cows in M.C. Shimla and Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Panchayats should have a tag number to make it easy to trace the owner. The court had also directed the government to construct sufficient shelters for stray cattle. However, as usual, the orders didn’t make much difference. 

What Does HP Govt Claims About Eradicating Stray Cattle Menace

On the other hand, the Animal Husbandry Minister and Chairman of ‘Gau Seva Aayog’ Virendra Kanwar, in an official statement issued on November 3, 2019, claimed that according to the cattle census of the year 2012, 32107 destitute cows were on the roads. So far 9119 animals have been provided shelter in cow-shelters, Kanwar claimed. It’s pertinent to mention that the census refers to 2012. The number is probably much higher by 2019. Moreover, after the government’s policy to ban beef, abandoning has cows become way more frequent.  

The Chairman also claimed that About 146 cow shelters are being operated by NGOs in the state. Cow shelters, cowsheds, cattle ponds, etc. are being constructed for destitute cows at the Panchayati level, he claimed. He also urged the people not to abandon their cows and ensure registration of their animals under the Panchayati Raj Act 2006.

The government claims that it also established ‘Gau Seva Aayog’ on March 1, 2019.

Also, the government had been collecting 15 percent of the income of temple trusts and one rupee Gauvansh cess on sale as per bottle of liquor, from which the amount of Rs. 7.95 crore has been collected in Aayogs account.

Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center to be set up in Kutlehar Assembly constituency

The State Government has been claiming that it is setting up a Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center at a cost of Rs. 47.50 crore. In this center, such injections will be prepared for indigenous cow breeds that will produce only female calves. 740 kanals of land have been selected for the establishing Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center in Lamlahdi of Kutlehar Assembly constituency. The government believes this will reduce the problem of destitute animals on the roads and it will also motivate farmers to adopt livestock activities.

Cow-Sanctuaries, Large Cow Shelters in Himachal Pradesh

The government further claims that cowsanctuaries and big cow shelters have been established by the Aayog across the state. The foundation stone of cowsanctuary worth Rs. 1.52 crore have been laid at Kotla Badog in district Sirmaur and similarly the process of setting up ‘Gau Sadan’ is going on in other districts as well. A cowsanctuary will be constructed at Thanakala Khas in District Una at the cost of Rs. 1.69 crore and Rs. 2.97 crore at Hada-Kudi in District Solan. In addition, an amount of Rs. 77.90 lakh has been released by the Aayog for the fencing of Gaushala operated by the temple trust in Bai Attariyan of district Kangra. With this, the capacity of ‘Gau Sadan’ will be increased to 1000 cows. Land has been selected for the establishment of cowsanctuaries at Barota Dabwal and Dhara-Tatoh in District Bilaspur. An amount of Rs. 21 lakh rupees has also been released for the construction of four new cow shelters in district Kangra, Mandi and Solan.

The government further claimed that an amount of Rs 1.20 crore has been released by the Aayog for the construction of nine new cow shelters and for the expansion of old cow shelters to provide shelter to the destitute cows of local areas.

However, despite government’s claims of rehabilitating destitute cattle, the number doesn’t seem to be decreasing. 

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Video: HP Govt’s Alleged Illegal Demolition of Sheds Leaves Over 70 Cattle Shelter-less Ahead of Winters

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BBNDA Waste Treatment Plant Petition

Solan-Four families living in Kenduwal in Baddi, Solan district, for over past 35 years and are dependent on selling milk, received a big jolt when some government officials along with police force with armed jawans allegedly trespassed and demolished all cattle-sheds on October 30, 2019. These families own over 70 cattle including 40 cows.

The families told Himachal Watcher (HW) that despite their repeated requests, they were not shown any permission or orders regarding the said tress passing and demolition. The officials with the police force just came with a JCB machine and demolished the cow-sheds. Now, all the cattle are spending cold nights under the open sky, which also jeopardise their lives and health, especially newborns, thus, the business on which these families depend on for their livelihood.

It’s shocking that under the rule of Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been using cows as an agenda for elections at both State and Centre, in reality, showed such insensitivity towards these animals in this case.

Considering the petition filed in relation to the same in the State High Court, it appears that the reason behind this action has more to do with grudges of the BBNDA with these families than law and order. These families – living in Kenduwal for over last 35 years- have become a thorn in the side of BBNDA, District Administration, and the State Government right after they reached the court with a petition.

In the petition, it was exposed that BBNDA had proposed an Rs.9.7 crore Integrated Solid Waste Management facility in Kenduwal in 2012 and obtained clearance for the same in 2015. Entire garbage from Baddi and area under BBNDA was to be treated in this plant.

However, the plant never came up, and instead, the piece of land was turned into a huge open dumping yard.

 

It should be noted that According to the 2011 Census, the total pollutions of the Baddi MC and BBNDA area were 29911 and 29293 respectively while the total amount of waste generated per day was 25.50 tons and 20.30 tons respectively. The number of migrant labourers or workers from other states was not included in this Census. The populations in both areas have increased by 2018, which implies growth in a waste generation too.

To make it worse, BBNDA didn’t even follow guidelines under the environmental laws. The dumping yard was created on the riverbed of Sira River.

Another disaster was that BBNDA didn’t even follow the guideline related to maintaining a distance of at least 200 meters from human habitat. For years, tons of waste was dumped on this site and eventually, it made the lives of these families a living hell – posing serious health hazards.

The situation became so ugly that these families had to seek legal help and approach the State High Court. The families filed a petition seeking relief.

As per the proceedings, the BBNDA and District Administration could not justify in the court why a dumping yard was created on a land that was sanctioned for building a treatment plant. It made this act as unlawful and this dumping yard illegal. These authorities had to face the the wrath of the court. Eventually, the court directed the authorities to stop dumping waste at Kenduwal and dispose of it in accordance with the environmental laws. The court also directed that the affected families, which were living in inhumn conditions, are relocated within a stipulated period of eight weeks.

Petitioner’s request for relocation and halting of the illegal dumping was allowed by the Hon’ble Court vide its Orders dated 04.10.2018, 21.05.2019 and 4.9.2019.

The order passed on 04.10.2018, the Hon’ble Court had directed,

“In the interregnum, we direct that no garbage shall be dumped into the land owned by the present petitioner or dumped at any other site, save and except, in accordance with the law.”

In an order passed on 21.05.2019, the Hon’ble Court had directed,

“…the request made by the petitioner in CMP No.4422 of 2019 regarding the relocation of his house at a distance from garbage dump be also considered and specific response be given in the status report”

Again, in another order passed on 4.9.2019, the court had directed,

“It is stated by the learned Senior Additional Advocate General that the petitioner may be relocated and reported to this Court within two weeks. Post after two weeks.”

The petitioner said that the BBNDA and District Administration had no regard towards or fear of the court orders. They still continue to dump waste at the same site and did not relocate the family.

Instead, these families, which belong to Gujjar community (recognised as Scheduled Tribes), begun to face the wrath of the government system following it. The families alleged that they were even threatened in order to dissuade them from reaching the court or taking any legal step.

The families on October 30, 2019, had to approach the court again with a contempt petition.

As per the contempt petition, the BBNDA did not even obtain permission to establish an SWT plant from the Pollution Control Board, which is a mandatory condition under Section 19 (3) of the 2016 Rules. There is also a flagrant violation of Section 24 and 25 of Water Act 1974, and Air Act 1981, the petition says.

As per the petition, none of the 36 Conditions mentioned in the Environment Clearance letter are fulfilled by BBNDA.

On October 30, 2019, when the family again approached the court complaining that its orders were not followed by authorities, their cowsheds were demolished within a few hours without showing any order, the petitioner alleged.

As per the advocate for the petitioner, no authority can issue orders of demolition on that property because the case is pending in the High Court as well as in the lower court. To issue any such order, these authorities will have to obtain permission from the court. No such permission was taken from the court, he said. This means that the entire act was a case of tress passing and illegally conducting demolition.

The families also told HW that a letter seeking relocation as per the court orders was written to the DC too.

The contempt petition clearly mentions,

“Representation dated 10th June 2019 was made to District Commissioner, Solan, Himachal Pradesh and a copy was also sent to competent Sub Divisional Magistrate for Seeking adequate compensation and rehabilitation under “The Right to Fair. Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013”, for relocation in accordance with law…”

When HW talked to the DC, Solan, KC Chaman, he said that he is not able to recall receiving any such request.

About the demolition, he said the matter was not in his knowledge.

He further told HW that the land belongs to the government and these families have encroached upon it. Keeping aside the orders of the HC, the DC said these families are not entitled to get any land under any scheme or policy.

However, the petitioner’s advocate argued that once the court has passed orders of the relocation of these families, it doesn’t matter whether they were entitled under any scheme or policy or not. The authorities are ought to obey the order and relocate them.

“The entire area, which is about 41 bighas, falls within the planning area. It’s government land that is allotted to BBNDA for construction of waste treatment plant. Therefore, fencing and the process of clearing the land are being carried out by the BBNDA authority,”

the DC said.

“The BBNDA does not need my permission to issue such orders and it can do so at its own discretion. The Town and Country Planning Department might have issued such orders,”

the DC said when he was apprised of the allegations of the families that they were given no notice and shown any orders.

Other than that, the family has written to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribe seeking justice. Similarly, applications were given to the Superintendent of Police, Solan, in 2018 complaining that BBNDA was violating court orders. The SDM, Nalagarh, was also requested to intervene. For years now, they are running from post to pillar. However, no relief came from anywhere. 

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