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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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Video: Massive Landslide in Sirmaur Caught on Camera, NH 707 Closed for Traffic

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Sirmaur landslide nh 707

Sirmaur-Incessant rains have caused another massive landslide in the Sirmaur district on National Highway 707. A 100 to 150 meters stretch of Paonta Sahib – Shillai road near Kali Dhank, Badwas, caved in within a few minutes.

According to the initial information received, no loss of lives or damage to any vehicle was reported as a minor slide from the hill had alerted the people.

The landslide completely damaged several electricity poles, causing a blackout in some parts of the region.

The district police is re-directing all traffic from Paonta Sahib to Shillai to the Puruwala-Kilod-Jong-Kafota-Shillai route.

Further, all traffic movement towards Shimla from the region has also been re-directed.

The HP Meteorological Department has issued a yellow alert for the state till August 2th, while widespread rain has been predicted till August 4th. 

The Met has also issued an alert for flash-floods for Chamba, Mandi, Kullu, Shimla, and Solan districts.

It’s pertinent to mention that furious monsoon has already claimed over 200 lives and caused damages to property worth hundreds of crores in Himachal Pradesh.

During the last two days, as many as 21 people had died due to landslides and flash floods triggered by cloudbursts. Some of the persons who were swept away or buried were yet to be traced.

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Himachal: Cloudbursts, Landslides Claim 9 Lives in 48 Hours, 7 Still Missing, Met Issues Alert Till August 1st  

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monsoon damage in himachal pradesh 2021

Shimla-Monsoon continues to pummel Himachal Pradesh with deadly ferocity, leading to more cloudbursts, landslides, and flash floods. Several rivers and rivulets are in spate. Incessant rains could bring more destruction as the HP Meteorological Department has forecast widespread heavy rains till August 1st. While a red alert was issued for July 28, an orange alert has been issued for July 29 and July 30 and a yellow alert for July 31st and August 1st.

An advisory has been issued for locals and tourists to not venture near the river banks and avoid unnecessary travel as incessant rains could lead to more landslides, flash floods, and uprooting of trees.  However, tourists could be seen resolutely ignoring these warnings and partying near river banks and water bodies.

As devastation unfolds, the death toll due to monsoon induced calamities has reached nearly 200, while damages to property were assessed to be in hundreds of crores. Over 350 roads, including Manali-Leh, Pathankot-Chamba, and Shimla-Kalka, were blocked due to landslides.  Half a dozen bridges, as many as 30 houses and several vehicles were destroyed. Hundreds of tourists were reportedly struck in Lahaul.

lahaul-spiti cloudburst

After a flash flood in Dharamshala, a massive landslide in Shahpur constituency, and a horrid rockslide in Kinnaur district that killed nine tourists and injured four people, a cloudburst triggered a flash flood in Lahaul-Spiti district on Tuesday that washed away over a dozen of people, who were said to be labourers.  

cloudburst in lahaul-spiti

According to the Director of the State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar, at the time of writing this report, seven bodies had been recovered while four others were missing. The cloudburst occurred over Tonzin nallah in the Lahaul region of the tribal district. Rescue operations were in progress to trace missing persons.

A team of the National Disaster Response Force, which was on its way to Lahaul-Spiti through road, remained stuck in Mandi for several hours.  

On Wednesday morning, cloudburst was reported in Kullu district resulting in deluging of Bhramhaganga – a tributary of Parvati river. A  tourist, a 25-year-old mother along with her 4-year-old son, and a hydropower official came in its spate and were yet to be traced. Beas river was also in spate and people living in shanties on its bank were evacuated. 

Beas in spate

Rackham area in Kinnaur district also reported heavy losses due to a cloudburst on Wednesday morning.

While a rockslide killed one person in Chamba’s Saluni, a helper tagged with a JCB deployed for clearing Bharmaur-Pathankot National Highway was swept away by gushing waters of a nullah on Tuesday night. His body was recovered on Wednesday.

In Shimla, a landslide between Vikasnagar and Panthaghati crushed a vehicle and caused damaged to some others. Gumma khud in Chirgaon was also in spate and reportedly swept away a bridge and about four vehicles. 

landslide in shimla crushed car

Dharamsala received the highest 122 mm of rain, followed by Una 119 mm. In Solan district, Kasauli and Nalagarh also received over 105 mm rain. 

This widespread destruction has worried climatologists and environmentalists who are linking increased instances of landslides and cloudburst to environmental degradation and destabilization of hills due to developmental projects, including cutting of hills for widening of roads, construction of four lanes, hydropower projects etc. 

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Kinnaur: Massive Landslide Caught on Camera, Kills 9 Tourists, Injures 4, Destroys Bailey Bridge

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kinnaur landslide in batseri

Kinnaur: A massive landslide in Batseri on Sangla-Chitkul road in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday killed nine persons and injured at least four others. Huge boulders rolled down the mountain following the landslide and destroyed an iron Bailey bridge and many vehicles parked along the road within a few seconds.

A tourist vehicle, which was reportedly carrying about 11 tourists from Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Chattisgarh, was hit by boulders near Gunsa, killing nine tourists. A couple of videos of this heart-wrenching incident went viral on social media. In the video, some people can be heard whistling and shouting to warn others.

“Nine people died, and three were injured after boulders rolled downhill due to a landslide in Kinnaur district. Batseri bridge collapsed in the incident. A rescue team is present at the spot,” Superintendent of Police (SP), Kinnaur, Saju Ram Rana said.

The intensity with which boulders hit could be assessed from the fact that the iron bailey bridge on the Baspa river collapsed instantly. 

Video of landlside in himachal pradesh

On receiving the information, teams of district police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police rushed to the spot and initiated a rescue operation. The district administration was also assessing the situation. As per reports, rocks sliding down from the hilltop made the rescue operation difficult for the teams.

sangla valley landslide

As per initial reports, a request was made to make a helicopter available to aid rescue work, which was yet to be fulfilled.

landslide in himachal pradesh

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur also expressed grief over the incident. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the deceased while injured would be given Rs. 50 thousand.

The exact cause behind the landslide was yet to be ascertained.

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Pratiksha Sunil Patil (27) from Sadhbhawna Nagar, Nagpur, Maharashtra
  2. Deepa Sharma (34) from Jaipur
  3. Amoghi Bapat (27) from Korba Darri in Chhatisgarh
  4. Umrab Singh (42) of Tagore Garden West Delhi
  5. Kumar Ulhas vedpathak (37)
  6. Anurag Biyani (31) from Sikar in Rajasthan, his mother Maya Devi Biyani (55) and his sister Richa Biyani (25)
  7. Satish Katakbar (34) from Chhatisgarh.

Those injured have been identified as Shiril Obroy (39) from West Delhi, Naveen Bhardwaj (37) from Kaharar in Mohali and Ranjeet Singh (45) from Batseri in Sangla.

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