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Himachal Dengue Outbreak: Out of total 401, 265 cases reported from BBN & Parwanoo alone

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Dengue outbreak in Himachal Pradesh

30 cases of dengue were reported in September 2015 too.  In 2010, the quality of water was given D grade on a scale of A-E by the State Department of Environment, Science & Technology. 

Shimla: The number of dengue cases in Himachal Pradesh has reached an alarming level. So far, out total 2,621 blood samples taken by the Health Department, 401 were found positive for dengue.

As many as 265 cases (66%) were reported from Solan district’s Parwanoo and Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh areas alone.

Mostly, the patients belong to a population of about 1.25 laborers employed at over 4,000 industrial units in the area.

It is pertinent to mention that, 30 cases of dengue were reported in September 2015 too. The administration had issued orders to take measure to deal with the disease and sensitize people about its causes and prevention. However, the situation has only worsen by 2017.

In 2010,the State government had itself admitted that the quality of the water was degrading in the area after it was given D grade on a scale of A-E by the State Department of Environment, Science & Technology. 

The health department is satisfied with the fact that the disease has not killed anyone yet. Also, the department did not cite the possible cause of the dengue outbreak.

The Minister claimed he has directed the Pollution Control Board to carry out inspections in the affected areas and issued an advisory to check the spread of dengue.

The advisory asks people to maintain hygiene in their surroundings and rush to hospital on experiencing symptoms of Dengue like severe joint and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fever, exhaustion, and rash. The advisory also asked the people to use mosquito repellents.

Dengue is caused by a type of mosquito that is mostly attracted by polluted water sources or accumulated water.

Scroll to The End to Know More about Dengue

The industries in the BBN are aptly creating suitable environment to facilitate growth of such agents of diseases. The pharmaceutical companies are responsible for production of about 35 percent of the total medical drug supply to the Asian market.

Most of the other industries are associated with chemicals, plastics, dying units and boilers. Heavy extraction of ground water, ground water pollution, and hazardous waste dumping in a stretch of almost 35 kms have been the key problems. The situation is affecting over 21 Panchayats and 115 villages.

Most of the companies have been openly flaunting environmental laws related to treatment of the industrial waste before discharge. The industries are saving money by illegally discharging the affluent into the Sirsa, Markanda, and Sukhna Nallah catchment.

As the situation has now taken a severe form, the government is compelled to issue a media statement, in which the health department claimed taking effective steps to deal with the situation, conducting free of cost tests, distributing free medicines, and carrying out fumigation.

Earlier, the surveys and studies showed high number of cancer and TB cases in the region that were associated with the soil, air, and water pollution due to illegal discharge of industrial waste, and now the region has reported a dengue outbreak.

Despite being aware of excess pollution by the industrial units in the BBN area, it hardly bothered the state Health Department or the Pollution Control Board.

Last year’s deadly jaundice outbreak in Shimla and Solan that had killed over a dozen and affected thousands of others was also caused by the carelessness of the government.

In this case, the contractor of the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) was releasing untreated sewage into the Ashwani Khad – the source of Shimla’s drinking water supply. The supply of the water had continued for over an week after it was found contaminated with the Hepatitis E virus.

The government did not pay much attention to the issue until people started dying of it.

Similarly, the government is waiting to make a massacre inevitable in the BBN region.

After facing a pressure from environmental groups, the HP PCB said it has prepared a plan to tackle the issue of ambient air pollution in the BBN area, which is pending with the Central PCB. However, the air pollution is clearly not the only problem in the area.

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Video: People of this village in Shimla repairing road, cleaning drains despite paying taxes

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Badhai village of shimla district

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department has been working on a new initiative under the previous and current government of the State. The department is encouraging people to repair roads and clean rainwater drains at their own level and expenses. For its pilot project, HP PWD had selected Bhadai village located in vicinity to the Shimla city and near one of the most popular temples in Shimla – Sankat Mochan.

In fact, the villagers in the village in were recently seen repairing the link road that connects them to the National Highway-5 ( Shimla-Chandigarh). Leaving aside their jobs, shops, household work, and most of all, despite paying taxes to the government, these villagers are themselves repairing the road and cleaning the drains. What could inculcate such a spirit in them? The villagers have explained it aptly in the video below:

They were motivated by the callousness of the Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department and the contractors.

Among these three parties, the people of the villages linked to this road are suffering most. The villagers don’t even remember how many times they have approached the department and panchayat with their grievance.

Poor roads in shimla

The condition of the road is so poor that now the cases of damage to vehicles and tyre bursts are being reported by the villagers. Minor accidents have become a common affair. The wait for major accidents is still on.

tyre burst due to poor road

Tyre burst due to poor road conditions

This road bifurcates at the entrance of the popular Sankat Mochan temple. As per the villagers, the road is in tatters since 2014, as it wasn’t attended even once during this period. In 2014, Himachal Watcher, as well as other some dailies, had also carried the news regarding the grievance of the villagers.

The tender was also awarded in 2014, but the contractor never showed up.

The villagers said they had hoped that things would change in the HP PWD with the formation of a new government with a fresh leader at the Chief Ministerial post. To their demise, the callousness is only growing in the department despite the fact that the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur himself holds the charge of HPPWD.

On the other hand, the PWD has been washing its hands off by putting the entire blame on contractors. Currently, the department and the contractor have the ‘rainy season’ as a reason to cite for not initiating the work on the road.

However, the contractor can do some soling to fix major potholes, which could have provided partial relief to the people.

The impact of the claims made by the current government regarding the achievement of new milestones in the development of the state is not visible on the ground level. Otherwise, how difficult is it to repair a patch of the road that hardly exceeds 1 kilometre in length?

If the same attitude of the state government continued then the same initiative could be extended to more villages of the state in future.

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HP High Court’s gift to daughters of freedom fighters on Independence Day

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HP High Court on Wards of Freedom Fighters in Himachal PRadesh

Shimla: The State High Court of Himachal Pradesh on August 14, 2018, struck down a 1984 policy of the State, which discriminated against the married women. The policy did not consider the married women at par with the married sons and specifically excluded them from reservation being provided to “wards of freedom fighters” category in Govt. Jobs in the state of H.P.

The occasion is apt to echo the four decade old illuminating words of one of the greatest Judges of our Apex Court, Hon’ble J. Krishna Iyer where he said:

If a married man has a right, a married woman, other thing being equal, stands on no worse footing. This misogynous posture is a hangover of the masculine culture of manacling the weaker sex forgetting how our struggle for national freedom was also a battle against woman’s thraldom.

In the year 1984, it was decided by the state of H.P that 2% reservation in services be provided to the children/grandchildren of freedom fighters belonging to the State of H.P. in direct recruitment to all services/posts i.e. Class-I to IV including all Public Sector Undertakings/ Boards/Corporations. As per Scheme, the benefit of the reservation was applicable in respect of sons/grandsons, daughters/ granddaughters of Freedom Fighters. The married daughters/ granddaughters of Freedom Fighters were excluded from the scheme.

The issue of this exclusion was taken up and judicially reviewed by the bench of Hon’ble J.Sanjay Karol and J. Sandeep Sharma on a petition by Letter petitioners Ms Rekha Sharma and Ms Geeta Sharma, daughters of late Shri Het Ram Sharma (a Freedom Fighter).

The court appointed Advocate Deven Khanna as Amicus Curie who made submissions on behalf of the married daughters of freedom fighters (petitioners).

The stand of the state as reflected from the affidavit filed in 2017 was that;

So far as the question regarding giving reservation quota to the married Daughters/ granddaughters of Freedom Fighters is concerned, it is submitted that status of a married woman has to be construed in consonance with the general understanding of the word family as well as a status of married woman in the society. After marriage, a married woman loses the status of being a member of the parent’s family.

On an Affidavit dated October 10, 2017, filed by the Deputy Secretary (GAD) in the Court it was stated:

According to common knowledge and general understanding, the married daughter does not constitute to be a part of the family in its real sense. A daughter of a freedom fighter after her marriage, gets herself transplanted into the family of her husband and cannot, therefore, be claimed to be a part of the family in its real sense of the freedom fighter her father at least for anything relating to her children.

The State effectually took a stand that after solemnization of marriage; daughter severs her relationship with her parental family, for she gets “transplanted” into the family of her husband, and as such, cannot claim herself to be part of family of a Freedom Fighter.

It was argued on behalf of Married daughters (petitioners) that exclusion of a married daughter is plainly an act of hostile discrimination which is violative of the fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The condition which has been imposed by the State does not prescribe financial dependence and does not exclude married men.

It was argued that the contrary the purpose here is to give benefit to the family of freedom fighter for their services, family here includes married daughter as much as married son,if we look at the classification made by the state between a married man and married daughter, it does not bear any connection with the object of the policy which seeks the benefit of the family members, hence this violates the basic rights.

It was stated that Discrimination law now sees as its focus the redressal of structural and institutional conditions, that have been historically responsible for subordination on the basis of gender roles. Gender roles here being married daughter considered dependent on her husbands family and losing her identity as it was prior to marriage.

It was further submitted by the amicus that discriminatory treatment, in this case, causes substantive disadvantage to women on grounds of their sex in public employment which is violative of article 16.

It was stated by the amicus:

It is the duty of the State to “not perform” an act which would discriminate on grounds of sex., there is also a positive obligation on the State to perform an act which would remove such existent discriminations.

The Court discussed a Plethora of judgments which had carved out a landscape of principles against gender discrimination in recent years.

Finally, the court struck down the policy to the extent it discriminates against married women and was contrary to the constitution.

The Court speaking through Hon’ble J. Karol came down heavily on the line of defence adopted by the state while striking down the unconstitutional part of the policy, the court held:

“******We find the stand adopted by the State to be absolutely archaic and disappointing..
::…..We notice that, under the instant Policy, the object and purpose of providing reservation is to confer the benefit upon the wards of the Freedom Fighters. Stand taken by the State that daughter gets transplanted into the family of her husband, in view of what the Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed, noticed by us supra, is not in tune with the changing times. The primary object and purpose of the Policy is not to confer benefits only on the male members of the Freedom Fighters. It is to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the Freedom Fighters, by giving employment to their wards.

….The primary object to provide employment to wards of freedom fighters is to recognize the outstanding services rendered by them to the Nation during the struggle for Independence and thus their wards are given benefit towards employment by making reservation to them under the category of “Wards of Freedom Fighters”. In our considered view, Daughters and Granddaughters, even if married, would be eligible for public employment.

…The action of the respondents by not giving reservation to married women and not allotting them Wards of Freedom Fighter Certificate, is illegal and arbitrary and an example of colorable exercise of power, for marriage does not have and should not have a proximate nexus with identity. The identity of a woman, as a woman continues to subsist even after and notwithstanding her marital relationship.

The time has, therefore, come for the Court to affirmatively emphasise that it is not open to the State, if it has to act in conformity with the fundamental principles of equality which are embodied in Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution, to discriminate against married daughters by depriving them of the benefit of the reservation, which is made available to a son irrespective of his marital status.”*******(excerpt is from the judgement in CWPIL 114 of 2018)

The Court also took note of the fact that the policy was an old policy, passed before the guarantees of sex equality under Articles 14 and 15 had an adequate expansion through various judgements of the apex court. The Court also referred to conflicting opinions passed by its previous benches.

The present case strengthens the fight for equality and strikes at the Differential treatment of men and women on the basis of presumed “gender roles” between the sexes, it exposes that discrimination results from conscious, chauvinistic Mindset and sometimes a product of social, economic, and cultural structures and institutions that create “patterns of exclusion”.

This significantly advances Indian sex discrimination jurisprudence, not only because of what the Court held i.e “that the policy discriminates against married women”, but also because how it was expressed, Justice Karol commenting on the stand of the state observed:

It is certainly not in tune with the changing times. In fact, it is out of sync with the constitutional values and principles. The predominant mindset of male chauvinism is all-pervading.

The language here is highlighting the impact of discrimination, because such practices end up reproducing existing social inequalities and hierarchies, and are the cause of stereotyping a particular gender into set roles. The need is to change the mindset and spread the constitutional morality of equality and freedom, to counter the chauvinism prevalent in the society at large and to provide a level playing field for all to prosper.

The case is a victory for women rights movement and an example of the justice system coming to the rescue of fundamental rights, against, biased and prejudicial laws which have a legacy of discrimination and are nursed by misogynistic mindsets of our society.

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Misconceptions keep Himachal from making fortune on ‘green gold’ and eradicate charas mafia

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Shimla: Owing to the unawareness and lack of education regarding the difference between hemp and recreational cannabis and the political link between the two, Himachal Pradesh Government is missing a big opportunity to cash on it. Hemp cultivation has become green gold in countries like China and the United States of America. The best part is that its biodegradable, thus, eco-friendly.

At the same time, while sitting on this mine of green gold, the Hill State is facing the wrath of charas/drug mafia due to illegal cultivation in rural areas where people have bleak opportunities of alternative employment.

The public, as well as the government, are under the false impression that legalizing cultivation would make things worse, especially for the youth. The article discusses facts relating to this misconception created due to the negative image of the plant. But before that, let us take a look at the booming industry of hemp.

Overview of the booming global hemp market

As of 2017, around 36 countries were growing industrial hemp in accordance with rules and regulations of their respective governments.

Hemp is endorsed in fibre market by big names like Adidas, Nike, Specialized Bicycle, MERIDA, TREK, Capo, Assos, Rapha, Marcello Bergamo, Castelli etc.

Hemp fibre accounted for 40.4% of the revenue in 2017 on account of high demand from the textile industry.

The global industrial hemp market is booming and expected to reach USD 10.6 billion by 2025, says a report by Grand View Research, Inc.

Hemp economy of US from 2012-2022

It’s generating billions in revenue and creating investment opportunities. China is the biggest producer as it claims 50 percent of the total supply to the global market. China’s hemp industry is all set to grow into a US $14,66,49,10,000 fortune in just five years.

China is fetching US $1,500 per hectare which is higher than the common crops like corn. Its produce is mostly exported to US, Europe, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, etc.

Shanxi Greenland Textile is the largest hemp fibre processor in China.

While Indian policymakers are neglecting it, about 606 patents have already come into existence, and China holds maximum 309 patents relating to hemp products.

In the US, Hemp Business Journal predicts industry growth of 700% to a value of 1.8 billion dollars by 2020 owing to hemp-derived CBD, food, personal care and industrial products

The total sales for the U.S. Hemp Industry in 2017 were $820 million.

hemp industry in 2017-18

Hemp is useless for charas mafia

When American farmers first begin to grow hemp as a legal crop, a large number of other people believed they were growing drugs or cannabis for smoking. This is the biggest misconception faced by the policymakers in India as well as in other nations.

Hemp is one of the varieties of Cannabis sativa, which cannot be used as a psychoactive substance to get high. In simple words, it would not get you high even if you try to do so by smoking it because it contains negligible amount (.3%) of the psychoactive substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Difference between cannabis and hemp

This variety of cannabis family is different from what is being cultivated illegally in Himachal, which contains a much higher amount of THC.

Genetically modified seeds with low TCH content

The researchers are already working on developing genetically modified hybrid seeds which could deliver higher productivity with a negligible amount of THC. Similar efforts are being made in the neighbouring states of Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir where the hemp cultivation has already been made legal. However, the stigma associated with cannabis family is holding back the hemp industry.

However, the misunderstanding due to the link of hemp to the cannabis family has resulted in several restrictions on hemp cultivation, processing, distribution, and consumption.

Himachal’s policymakers should not make a similar mistake and spoil the chances of socio-economic upliftment through this green gold.

Recreational cannabis can’t be grown under cover of hemp

Countries cultivating hemp has not faced any such problems because these two types of cannabis varieties can be distinguished easily. Also, the cultivation cycle is also different from the recreational cannabis. Moreover, the cultivation area, which is beyond government’s complete surveillance throughout the year, would automatically provide all details regarding the total area of cultivation with specific locations, total produce, and sale to manufactures.

Considering this, anyone who is given license to cultivate hemp legally after fulfilling all official formalities and conditions would deter from violating it by trying to cheat the authority.

Recognized and listed in the Essential Drugs List of AYUSH

The Essential Drugs List of Ayurveda Siddha Unani and Homeopathy (AYUSH) Department includes cannabis sativa as a medicine and the ancient literature of India as well China has a plethora of documented knowledge about the medicinal properties of the plant.

It is written in our Vedas that Cannabis (Vijaya) is one of the most sacred plants to grow on this land. Our Ayurvedic scriptures recognised and wrote about the miraculous medicinal properties of this plant almost 3,500 years ago.

Vijaya has been described under Upasiva Varga (Group of sub-poisonous plants) by certain texts related to Rasa Sastra.

Take a detailed look at a research titled “Exploring the pharmaco-clinical view on Bhanga (Cannabis sativa linn.): a classical unfamiliar portrayal Swagat”  by DilipTavhare and Rabinarayan Acharya  published in International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological in 2015:

A large number of such studies is available to testify in support of the aforesaid facts. 

A global cannabis market of billions of dollars is ready to make large investments in India with a potential of creating employment for approximately 2.8 million people.

The cultivators can earn approximately Rs, 40,000 per acre in 100 days. Further, India has a potential to export hemp and cannabis products worth $330 million, which could grow rapidly if the government could think in the right direction and open research facilities to study this plant. 

As per the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, in 2016, Canadian exports of hemp rose from $600,000 to $45 million and is expected to grow to $40 – $80 million by 2020.

Companies in the market are producing fibres that are water repellent, fire retardant, absorptive, and super soft. China was the first to carry out a research on hemp and use it in the military for uniforms and bulletproof jackets.

As a matter of fact, the hemp fibre is considered as one of the strongest material.  

Hemp is so strong and lightweight that the auto industry is using it for luxury car parts.

It also makes good construction material in homes, and researchers are of the opinion that hemp biodiesel could one day be used as clean fuel.

The market boom can be attributed to increasing awareness about hemp, thus, growing demand for hemp-based food products including cooking oil, dairy alternatives, flour, salad, and for bakery products such as bread and cookies

What does HP High Court say about hemp cultivation?

If the data provided in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the State High Court by advocate Deven Khanna is considered, Himachal can kill several birds with one stone if it could bring the cultivation of hemp under legal framework for industrial and medicinal purposes.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma, on July 19, after taking stock of the situation of the state in terms drug/substance use, had expressed worries about it saying the situation has reached an alarming level.

The Court has directed the government to take every possible measure including at the level of policymakers to eradicate this nuisance. Along with directions to law enforcement agencies, the court has also asked the government to consider cannabis cultivation for alternative purposes, especially medicinal.

Government may also consider hiring services of some research Agencies, who in turn may advise/recommend alternate use, especially medicinal use, if any, of cannabis plant grown in the State of Himachal Pradesh, so that local residents, involved in illegal trade of cannabis, are encouraged to use cannabis plants for producing some medicines or substances which can be used legally,

the court had stated in the order.

ND&PS Act has given powers to State Governments to legalise hemp cultivation.

On the top of these advantages including the positive response of the High Court, there is already a provision in the ND&PS act, which the government can use to allow hemp cultivation.

Section 14 of the ND&PS Act empowers the government to, by general or special order, permit cultivation of cannabis exclusively for horticultural and industrial purposes. It says that the Central Government shall encourage research and trials of cultivars of cannabis with low THC content. The Central Government shall, however, follow a cautious, evidence-based approach towards the cultivation of cannabis for horticultural and/ or industrial purposes and shall take decisions based on the result of researches.

The Section 10 of the Act when read with Section 8, empowers the state governments to licence cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.

Hemp cultivation is very specific in terms of its requirement for the climatic conditions.

As the altitude and climatic conditions of the Hill State favour cultivation of cannabis, the plants could be found in almost every region from tribal areas to International tourist destinations like Kullu and Shimla.

This alternative can also eradicate charas/hashish mafia – one of the biggest concerns of Himachal.

Also, as the hemp has no natural enemies like animals, insects, pests etc, farmers do not need to worry about the damages worth hundreds of crores caused to their crops by wild animals or making expenditure on pesticides.

Himachal’s struggle to check drug/substance abuse nuisance

If we take a look at the current situation, in district Shimla only, the police have registered about 24 cases under the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (ND&PS) Act from July 1 to August 8, 2018. In July, about 70 percent of cases were registered against Heroin (Chitta) offenders other than Charas, opium, and other drugs.

However, in August, the Shimla Police seized a high quantity of Charas in two cases, which could be considered as significant achievements. On August 8, police allegedly nabbed three persons including a female with 8.143 kg of Charas, and the case was registered at the Police Station, Theog.

Earlier, on August 2, the police had got it hands on a person who was allegedly carrying 3.3 kg charas.

However, such a high number of cases under ND&PS also indicate a commercial level cultivation of cannabis illegally. Ironically, the government is spending on uprooting these crops.

As per the Director General of the Police, SR Mardi, 94.267 kg charas was recovered between April, May and June 2018.

As per the DGP’s affidavit submitted to the court,

In the year 2012, 282.370 Kgs. charas was recovered from Himachal, whereas in the year 2013, it increased to 314.962 Kgs. As per the ‘NCB’, 356.963 Kgs. charas was recovered in the year 2014.

In 2016, the amount of seized charas rose to 377.535 kgs and 134 kg charas in first seven months of 2017.

Replacing current cannabis variety with hemp could go a long way in checking this nuisance and the black market.

Need for crop diversification in Himachal 

Cannabis legalisation in Himachal PRadesh

Further, the climate change has affected Himachal’s common crops and fruit crops, especially apple. Amid such times, the policymakers need to work for diversification of cultivation of crops so that a supplementary income could be provided through the cultivation of Hemp in a rotational growing cycle along with major conventional crops.

It’s needless to say that hemp cultivation in addition to the common crops could assist it in achieving its target of doubling the income of farmers. 

Major challenges for the hemp industry in India

The major challenges that the hemp industry face in India are lack of precedence with regards to regulatory landscape, interlayered ministerial roles and responsibilities, regulatory void caused due to lack of independent and consolidated regulator, lack of standard material for research amongst academics and institutions, concurrent policy clarity with regards to forward-looking nature of the hemp industry.

The State High Court would be conducting next hearing in the petition filed regarding the legalisation of hemp cultivation in Himachal on August 14, 2018. The court had already directed the state government to make a call over the decision. The ball is in the government’s court.

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