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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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Misc News/Press Release

Himachal makes HIV/AIDS test mandatory for all expectant mothers

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HP Aids control Society

The cases of AIDS are increasing in the State. Currently, the official number of the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) is around 5700 in Himachal.

Shimla: The State government on January 22, 2018, launched the nutrition scheme for children living with HIV-positive in Himachal Pradesh. The launch was announced by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur during an awareness campaign organised by the HP State AIDS Control Society to mark the National Youth Day.

The purpose is to deliver nutritional supplement and boost immunity of around 400 HIV positive youth up to the age of 18 years. In addition, it aims to enable them to lead a normal and healthy life.

The government has made it mandatory for every expectant mother to go through the HIV test. It would prevent passing on of the virus to the baby in case the mother is HIV-positive.

The cases of AIDS are increasing in the State. Currently, the official number of the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) is around 5700 in Himachal.

The government said the awareness campaign should be intensified in schools and colleges including organisation of skits, street shows, which are effective ways of communicate to the masses.

The education department will work in close coordination with the health department to provide special facility to educate all children living with HIV-positive.

HP AIDS Control Society also organized a Red Ribbon fair on the Ridge along with flagging-off a half marathon.

The AIDS Control Society also launched its official website and twitter handle.

Further, there is a dire need to initiate massive awareness campaigns about this disease up to rural areas. The Non-profit Organizations (NGOs) and individuals will have to come forward and supplement the efforts of the health department in creating awareness.

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Video: Fire in Shimla’s Gumma devours Rs. 40 lakh property  

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gumma-fire

Shimla: In a tragic incident of fire breakout in Gumma area of Kotkhai region in Shimla district on Saturday, about six rooms of a three-story building were lost. The fire brigade saved the two storeys and buildings adjacent to it.

No loss of life was reported, but the estimated loss of assets was initially assessed at about 40 lakh rupees.The owner of the house was identified as Rohit Chauhan.

Rohit’s mother was alone at the house when the fire broke out at about 3 PM. His mother called for help. However, the fire gutted six rooms on the third storey along with all belongings by the time the fire service reached the spot.

gumma-fire

The cause of the fire is believed to be a short-circuit.

While the other two stories housed shops, the third one was Rohit’s home.

The district administration has given Rs. 20,000 as a relief to the victim family.

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Sirmaur Tragedy: 7-year-old mauled to death by pack of stray dogs

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stray dogs maul a kid to death in Hiamchal pradesh

Shimla: In a spine-chilling incident, a pack of about half-a-dozen stray dogs on Saturday attacked and mauled a 7-year-old boy in Amarkot village in Paonta sub-division, Sirmaur district, Himachal Pradesh. As per the initial reports, the brutal attack by the dogs inflicted severe injuries on the head, throat, and neck.

On hearing the cries of the boy, the nearby people rushed to rescue the boy. However, dogs were so aggressive that they bit a couple of these people too.

The boy succumbed to the injuries on the way to the hospital. The boy was identified as Vikki, son of a migrant labour of Uttar Prades. The family was heart-broken after their piece of heart died a horrible death.

The head of the Amarkot village, Rakesh Mehraloo, said repeated complaints were made regarding the growing stray dog menace to the administration. Rakesh told media that some incidents of attack by stray dogs were also reported previously, which were also brought to the attention of the administration.

The administration, however, turned a blind eye towards the complaints and did not take any measure to solve this grieve issue, he said.

If the administration had acted timely, such a horrific incident could have been prevented.

It is pertinent to mention that the state government has also ignored the provision of dog-shelters and showed lackadaisical attitude in regular sterilizing of stray dogs.

Rest, the littering of food waste attract stray dogs and facilitate their reproduction, leading to such a nightmare.

The incident has created panic among the residents about the safety of their children.

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