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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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Shimla, Manali Receive Season’s First Spell of Snow, Cheers Tourism Industry

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snowfall in shimla 2021

Shimla-First spell of snow in Shimla’s tourist destinations, Narkanda and Kufri, has cheered the tourism industry as it would increase the footfall of tourists. Similarly, higher parts of Manali also reported a light spell of snow on Sunday evening. Lahaul-Spiti, however, reportedly witnessed heavy snowfall and Atal Tunnel, Rohtang, was closed for traffic. Parts of the Kinnaur district also recorded a spell of snow.

Chopal in Shimla had received 2-3 inches of snow, while Dodra Kwar recorded one foot of snow, according to the Met Department.

In Kullu, Jalori Pass had received 3 inches of snow, Rohtang top 2.5 feet, and Atal Tunnel 1.5 feet.

In Lahaul-Spiti, Koksar/Sissu had recorded 18 inches of snow, Keylong 8 inches, Darcha 12 inches, Udaipur 4 inches, Tindi 2 inches, Kaza 1 inch, and Lossar 2 inches of snow.

In Kinnaur, Chitkul had recorded 15.4 cms of snow, Kalpa 5 cms, and Sangla 7.62 cms. Nichar also received a light spell.

This change in weather has triggered a cold wave across the state. Further, the Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department had issued a yellow alert for December 5, 2021. The Met has predicted rain and snow on December 6 too. While the weather is predicted to be dry on December 8, the state could witness more rain and snow on December 7 and December 9, according to the Met Department.

Most roads, except in Lahaul-Spiti, remain open to traffic movement, the district administrations of Shimla and Kullu confirmed. Further, the administrations said preparations are being made to keep the roads clear in case of heavy snowfall.

This tourist season is crucial for the hospitality industry which was worst hit by the pandemic induced restrictions. However, the entry of Omicron – the new variant of Covid-19 that has been termed as a variant of concern by the WHO-haunts the season. India had reported as many as 21 cases of Omicron till Sunday. If the HP Government decides to impose restrictions on the entry of the domestic tourist in view of the spread of the new variant, the hospitality industry could again face losses.  

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Himachal Achieves 100% Vaccination Target, OPD at AIIMS, Bilaspur, Inaugurated   

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vaccination second dose in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh has achieved the 100 percent target of the second dose of Covid vaccination, the State government informed on Sunday.  Himachal Pradesh has become the first State of the country in achieving the target of cent per cent vaccination of targeted eligible age group, it informed.  

According to the HP Government, all eligible 53,86,393 adults have been administered the second dose of the vaccine.

District-Wise Vaccination Details

District

Number of People Vaccinated 

Bilaspur  318150
Chamba 352605
Hamirpur 361954
Kangra 1140439
Kinnaur 68460
Kullu 322643
Lahaul-Spiti 25494
Mandi 738818
Shimla 634019
Sirmaru 410187
Solan 584326
Una 429298

A complete vaccination was performed first in the inaccessible areas and tribal areas of the state and Kinnaur district became the first district in the entire country to administer the second dose of the vaccine to all eligible adults, the government informed.

On this occasion, Jagat Prakash Nadda, the Member of Parliament and National BJP President, also addressed a felicitation ceremony of Covid Vaccination Workers at Bilaspur on Sunday.

Nadda also dedicated the first OPD at AIIMS Kothipura in Bilaspur. The AIIMS Bilaspur would be made fully functional within the next six months, said Nadda.

 

jp nadda at aiims bilaspur

JP Nadda at AIIMS Bilaspur

He said that the foundation stone of this institution was laid about three years back and it would have been completed a year ago, but the pace was affected due to the corona pandemic. He said that Himachal Pradesh has got an Rs. 500 crore Satellite centre of PGI Chandigarh at Una.

He also congratulated the State Government, doctors, health care workers and all the frontline workers for achieving this unique feat. 

Union Minister of Health, Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Singh were also present on the occasion

 

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Himachal Records Fresh Spell of Snow, HP Met Issues Alert

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snowfall in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The weather in Himachal Pradesh has taken a turn with a prediction of rain and snowfall till December 5, 2021. At the time of writing this report, Kaza in Lahaul-Spiti was receiving a fresh spell of snow, cheering the tourists, as well as, the hoteliers. So far, the traffic movement was normal in the region.

This has caused a sharp drop in temperatures across the state.

The District Administration of Lahaul-Spiti has advised the locals and tourists to avoid wandering to high altitude areas unnecessarily.

The HP Meteorological Department, Shimla, has also issued a yellow alert for December 2 and December 5. While the plains can experience light to moderate rainfall at a few places,  the middle and higher hills could witness widespread rain and snow on December 2.   

For December 4, the HP Met had predicted light to moderate rain across the state. For December 5, however, the Met has issued an yellow alert with a prediction of rain and snow at several places.

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