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Ailing man allegedly dies few hours after forceful eviction by HP Forest Dept  

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HP Forest land encroachment row

Kundan was ill and lying on his bed and his thumbprint was taken on the papers forcefully. Within hours of the incident, Kundan passed away.

Shimla: Shattered after orders of eviction and felling of apple trees, on January 3, 2018, a retired caption of Indian Army, L.R. Chauhan of Tikkar of Rohru region in Shimla district, committed suicide by consuming a pesticide.

He was given 11 bighas of land in Tikkar as ‘nautod’ in 1971. However, the administration first shifted him to a another piece of land without completing all mandatory document work. He couldn’t prove he owned the land.

In a latest incident, a group of activists, the Himachal Van Adhikar Manch (HVAM), fighting for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 in the Hill State, alleged that a Dalit man, Kundan Singh, of Salamatpur, Paonta Sahib, Sirmaur district, succumbed to his illness after his family was forcibly thrown out of their home and land by the forest department.

The eviction took place on December 27, 2017, when the forest officials came to remove the dwelling by force. Kundan was ill and lying on his bed and his thumbprint was taken on the papers by force. Within hours of the incident, Kundan passed away.

According to  Kundan’s widow Darshini Devi, they had been living in the village for past several decades. The common village land on which the family was living was given to  Kundan after passing a common resolution.  As Kundan belonged to Dalit community (Schedule Caste) and used to tan the skin of the dead cattle, the villagers found him useful. His family was living a life of hand to mouth, and family used to cultivate some of the land around its dwelling for subsistence.

The ongoing ‘apple tree massacre’ has now become a matter of life and death for the poor or those settled on the forest lands for over three decades or more.

Kundan was given a notice regarding the encroachment in 2015, but, according to his son, he was never given a chance to be heard at the Divisional Forest Office where the case was lodged.

Shockingly,  the DFO who had issued the notice is himself a member of the District Level Committee constituted under the Forest Rights Act 2006. The DFO could have given Kundan a chance to place his claim under the FRA Act 2006 – a legislation precisely passed to protect vulnerable and marginalised sections of the society/communities dependent on ‘forest land’ for dwelling, agriculture and other common uses, said the HVAM.

The very purpose of the act was to undo the historical injustice which the poorest section of Indian populace has faced for the last hundreds of years by being labelled as ‘encroachers’.

As per the ‘HVAM’, there are more such incidents where Dalit families settled in common or private villages lands in the area are being removed.

This disastrous act came after the State High Court cracked the whip against the lackadaisical HP Government over encroachment of the forest land. The district administrations are blindly felling thousands of apple trees and evicting all dwellings. As per the court, it is being done to free the forest land from encroachers.

However, it’s implementation without giving any thought to the Forest Rights Act 2006 is proving to be an undemocratic blunder in several cases. The communities living and dependent on the forest resources are being denied their rights.

The illegal manner in which many vulnerable communities are being evicted from their lands by labelling them as ‘encroachers’ is highly condemnable, said the HVAM.

It further added that the forest and revenue departments are filing cases of encroachment against Dalit and other landless communities under the HP Public Premises & Land (Eviction & Rent Recovery) Act, 1971 and section 163 of HP Land Revenue Act 1954. The felling of full-grown apple trees and evacuation are being carried out under the garb of the order passed by the High Court in April 2015 regarding the removal of encroachments.

As per the HVAM, the Public Premises Act concentrates too much power in the hands of the DFO, who is the complainant, collector and prosecutor – all three under the legislation.

However, it is important to note that the Premises and Land Revenue Acts are State legislation. Therefore, the Central legislation like the Forest Rights Act 2006 can override it, the HVAM emphasized.

This is a gross negligence on the part of the forest administration and also a violation of section 3(g) of the Scheduled Tribes and Castes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015, asserted the HVAM.

The administration had a choice to use a pro-people legislation in favour of a poor Dalit family. However, instead of the ethically and constitutionally correct move, it chose to act in a draconian manner despite the provision of progressive laws like the FRA Act 2006. The action only aggravated agony of Kundan and his family as its struggle for survival.

The HVAM insists that the State Government needs to take immediate action against the responsible official under the provisions of the Atrocities Act and provide relief to Kundan’s family. The government must ensure no blunders of a similar kind are repeated. The rights of the forest-dwelling communities, especially Dalits, under available laws like FRA, must be protected, said the HVAM.

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MIS for processing grade mangoes approved, would open 34 fruit collection centres: Govt

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HP Mango MIS approved 2

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Government has given approval for implementation of the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for Mango procurement of processing grade mangoes in the State during the year 2018.

Under the scheme, 250 metric tonne fruit of seedling, 200 metric tonnes of grafted and 50 metric tonnes of unripe Achari varieties of mangoes will be procured at the rate of Rs. 6.00 per kg Rs. 7.00 per kg. and Rs. 6.00 per kg. respectively.

A Spokesman of the State Government today said that procurement would be done through HPMC and HIMFED in crates and these agencies would be allowed handling charges at Rs. 1.30 per kg. Like the previous year, average sale returns from the fruits have been assessed as Rs. 2000, Rs. 3000, Rs. 2000 per metric tonnes for fruits of seedling, grafted and unripe Achari mango varieties respectively.

He said that 34 fruit collection centres will be opened under the scheme for which HPMC and HIMFED would coordinate on the basis of procurement data for the last three to five years.

These centres would be opened by the procurement agencies in case of need and would be manned and operative by HPMC and HIMFED with their own staff.

Under the scheme, 2.5% extra fruit (by weight) will be procured from those farmers/orchardists who possess horticulture cards and who own ten bighas or less land under mango cultivation. As such, no fruit would be procured from the contractors.

He said that this scheme would be implemented in the State with immediate effect till August 15, 2018.

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Industrial units seeking expansion will have to employ 80% Himachalis: Govt

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Employment to himachalis in industries

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Government today said it has made amendments in the provisions of Rules regarding grant of incentives, concession, and facilities to the industrial units of the state.

As per the new notification of the State government, all existing industrial units (as on April 1, 2018) set up in the state which seek to undertake expansion will have to employ at least 80 percent bonafide Himachalis, informed a spokesperson of the Industries department.

The hiring could be undertaken on regular/contractual/Sub-contractual/daily basis or any other mode of employment including the persons hired through a contractor or through outsourcing agencies against the additional manpower which may be generated as a result of the substantial expansion, it was informed.

This condition would also apply to the new units to be established in the State after 1 April 2018.

Only those industries, which undertake substantial expansion, have to abide by this Rule. Hence, the existing industries, which are not going to undertake substantial expansion, are not bound by the amended/notified provision of this Rule.

He said there is no shortage of trained technical manpower in the State now, therefore, the condition of 80 percent employment of Himachalis has been incorporated in the Rules.

There are around 250 ITIs, 30 Polytechnics Institutes and around 40 Engineering Colleges and Universities in the State and thousands of technically qualified persons are completing their courses and coming out from these institutes in search of jobs.

New trades as per the demand of the industries are also being included in the courses of ITIs, Polytechnics and Engineering Colleges, the spokesperson said.

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Rs. 423 crore HP Mushroom Development project will help in women empowerment: Govt

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Mushroom cultivation in himachal pradesh


Shimla:
The Indian Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance has approved Rs. 1131.87 crore projects for Himachal Pradesh.

These include Rs. 708.87 crore for Water Conservation Project for the Department of Irrigation and Public Health and Rs. 423 crore Himachal Pradesh Integrated Mushroom Development project for the Department of Horticulture.

As per the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, an Rs. 423 crore integrated mushroom development project would help to double the income of farmers and provide employment and self-employment opportunities to youth.

The government also expects the project would boost mushroom cultivation in the State. All varieties of mushroom would be cultivated under the project besides importing technical knowledge for cultivating mushroom, which would give a fillip in increasing the income of the farmers, said the government.

The Chief Minister said that this project would also provide an opportunity to the growers of the state to diversify their farming pattern and go for viable and profitable farming avocation.

The mushroom cultivation would also help in women empowerment as more and more women would be motivated to go for mushroom cultivation for increasing their income, thereby making them self-dependent since mushroom cultivation is an indoor activity.

He said the demand for mushrooms is increasing within the state as well as outside the state including export, and it offers better prospects for enterprising growers to take up cultivation on large scale. He announced that modern infrastructure will be developed under the proposed project for controlled cultivation of mushroom round the year.

Further, it was informed that the first phase of the Rs. 4751.24 crore water conservation project worth Rs 708.87 crore will include construction of check dams, ponds, Kuhl’s and other water harvesting structures.

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