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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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Martyr Tilak Raj Cremated with State Honour, Crowd Throngs to Pay Last Respects

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HP CRPF Martyr tilak raj cremated in Kangra

Kangra-Today, Tilak Raj, one of the 40 CRPF jawans martyred in Pulwama terror act on February 14, 2019, was cremated with state honour in his native village Dhewa in Nauna panchayat of Jawali region in Kangra district.

A pall of gloom descended on the village after the mortal remains of the Shaheed Tilak Raj reached his native village draped in tricolour. Villagers surrounded the father Layak Ram and his family and extended moral support to them in this hour of great grief .

His brother, Baldev, lit the pyre while entire area echoed with slogans of “Shaheed Tilak Raj Amar Rahe (Long Live Martyr Tilak Raj)” and “Pakistan Murbdabad.

While the wife of Tilak was in a semi-conscious, inconsolable state, her 3-years-old son was unaware of the fact that he had lost his father. This pain is further aggravated with the mention of his newborn baby who is only 22 days old.

His mortal remains arrived at Nurpur today morning. Chief Minister Jairam Thakur also paid his last respects by laying a wreath on the coffin.  The Chief Minister also took part in the last journey of the martyr.

 The State Government has already announced financial assistance of Rs. 20 lakh to the kin of the martyr. Today, the Chief Minister assured that State would provide government employment to the wife of the martyr.

 The Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda, former CM and MP Shanta Kumar, Food and Civil supplies Minister Kishan Kapoor, Health Minister Vipin Singh Parmar, and MLAs Arun Mehta and  Rakesh Pathania also paid their last respects to the martyr and met his family.

Tilakraj was a talented man, a good singer, and an athlete. He had written, sung, and released some of the songs. Some songs like Neelam Gaddan, Pyari Monika, Apne Ghar are also available on his YouTube channel Tilak Shanu Productions.

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Rs. 292 Crore Loan Agreement Signed with WB for Greater Shimla Water Supply & Sewerage Services

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World Bank Loan for Greater Shimla Area Water Supply and Sewerage services

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government, Government of India and World Bank have signed Development Policy Loan – I ( DPL 1) amounting Rs. 292 Crores for the water supply and sewerage services in Greater Shimla Area in a meeting held at New Delhi today.

The total negotiated loan amount is Rs. 986 Crores

As per the official report, the components to be covered under Shimla Water Supply and Sewerage Project include:

  • Construction of water supply system from Satluj and rehabilitation of Giri and Gumma pumping systems to supply 107 MLD at a cost of Rs 366 crore
  • Improvement in water distribution and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)  at a cost of Rs 270 crore,
  • Extension of sewage network at a cost of Rs 246 crore
  • Rehabilitation and a capacity addition of sewage treatment plants at a cost of Rs. 104 crore

These will ensure per capita supply of water to 135 LPCS (Litre per capita per day) besides round the clock supply universal coverage, the official sources claimed.

The State Government claims that this is the first Development Policy Loan in the water sector for institutional reform, volumetric tariff, water connections, energy efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Shimla’s water supply infrastructure with a capacity of 40 million litres daily (MLD) is unable to meet the current demand of 56 MLD. As elsewhere in urban India, around half the available water is lost to leakages and unauthorized siphoning. As a result, the water supply reaches citizens only once in two days and for limited hours. With at least 30-40% of the city’s population of around 200,000 not covered by the sewerage system, sanitation has also emerged as a public health issue in Shimla.

The State Government has, jointly with the Shimla Municipal Corporation, set up a dedicated utility which will take over WSS services for the city; these responsibilities were hitherto fragmented between different agencies and departments, leading to blurred accountability. This utility — the Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Ltd or SJPNL – will run the city’s WSS system. Policy decisions such as setting water tariffs and subsidies will be done by the State Government and the City Municipality.

The $40 Million Loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 4-year grace period and a maturity of 15.5 years.

This DPL will help SJPNL orient itself as a customer-focused utility that has the technical capacity, governance framework, and performance-based management policies needed to provide reliable water and efficient sanitation to the citizens of Shimla,

said Mr Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director

Prabodh Saxena Principal Secretary Urban Development signed the loan agreement and Program agreement on behalf of Government of Himachal Pradesh.

Sameer Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance, GoI signed the legal and program agreement on behalf of Government of India.

 Bandana Preyasi, Director DEA was also present in the meeting. Sh. Junaid Director Ahmad, Country and Smt Smita Misra, Team Leader represented the World Bank in the meeting.

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Himachal braveheart among 40 CRPF jawans martyred in Pulwama attack

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Himachal CRPF Jawan Tilak Raj of Kangra

Kangra- The 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force martyred in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir, in one of the most ghastly terror attacks also included a braveheart of Himachal Pradesh.

Tilak Raj, 32, hailed from Dhewa village in Jawali area of the Kangra district. He was survived by wife and two sons. His second son is only 22 days old. He had returned to join the duty on February 11, 2019, after attending the birth of his second baby.

The family was left heartbroken as the news of his martyrdom reached them. The villagers were visiting his house to consol the grieving family.    

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur expressed grief over the departure of all Jawans. He announced a compensation of Rs. 20 lakh to the family of martyr Tilakraj.

Tilakraj was a talented man, a good singer, and an athlete. He had written, sung, and released some of the songs. Some songs like Neelam Gaddan, Pyari Monika, Apne Ghar are also available on his YouTube channel Tilak Shanu Productions.

The entire nation was shocked when the news of the attack broke out yesterday evening. A suicide bomber reportedly rammed an SUV loaded with over 300 kg of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) into the vehicles of the CRPF convey.

The anguish against terror groups as well as Pakistan broke out in India and several foreign nations also condemned this despicable act.  Hashtags seeking revenge were trending on social media. 

The terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), founded by Masood Azhar, and claimed the responsibility for the attack. The suicide bomber who rammed the explosive-laden SUV into the convoy was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, also known as Adil Ahmad Gaadi Takranewala. He was a resident of Gundibagh village in Pulwama district of South Kashmir 

Governor Acharya Devvrat also expressed deep grief over the attack. The Governor also called off the dinner to be organised on Friday evening at Raj Bhawan for the Members of the state Assembly.

Statement of HP Chief Minister

Expressing his grief, the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said that the State Government would provide all possible assistance to the bereaved family members of the martyr Tilak Raj. He said that this incident was a very unfortunate and cowardly act by the militants and that those involved in this incident would not go unpunished. 

Statement of Prime Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that perpetrators of Pulwama terror attack act will be punished. He has warned the perpetrators and those aiding and abetting terrorists that they have made a big mistake and will have to pay a heavy price. Stating that free hand has been given to the security forces to act, PM dared Pakistan not to live in the illusion that it can destabilize India.

Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the leaders of the opposition, Indian National Congress, said they stand with the government amid this dreadful terror attack.

With this attack, several questions are being raised over the failure of the Intelligence Agencies and State Police. About 2500 jawans were travelling in a convoy of 70 vehicles, which was not a usual protocol. 

The State Police or surveillance agencies had no clue that such a massive amount of explosives was present in an SUV, which managed to get on the road and ram into the convey.

At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that contamination of the working culture of the Defense sector with politics is also responsible for inciting terrorist groups.

After the militant attack in Uri in 2016 in which 19 jawans were martyred, politicians marketed the surgical strike of the Indian armed forces like a product for image building. Some veterans of the armed forces and political leaders had also asserted that information related to such operations should not be publicized.  Sadly, the valour of the armed forces was exploited for political gains.   

The government even started observing Surgical Strike Day. There was an effort to send a message that the victims of the Uri attack were avenged and that terrorists were hit and afraid.  It was obvious that terrorist groups would react to it with bigger, more damaging attack whenever they would receive any opportunity.  

Currently, as a response to the attack, India on Friday announced that it had decided to withdraw the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan and would take all possible steps to isolate the country at the international level. 

A curfew was imposed in the affected region and teams of the NIA and NSG were on their way to visit the spot of the attack. Some suspects were also detained in relation to the attack.

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