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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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Corona Curfew in Himachal Pradesh From May 7, Public Transport to Remain Operational, Educational Institutes Closed Till May 31

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curfew in Himachal pradesh from may 7

Shimla-A corona curfew in Himachal Pradesh would be imposed from May 7, the State Government decided today in a meeting of HP Cabinet held today.

The state government said that in order to break the virus chain, the Cabinet decided to impose Corona curfew in the whole State.

“All the government and private offices/ establishments would remain closed from 7 May, 2021 to midnight of 16 May, 2021. It was also decided that all essential services such as health, electricity, telecommunication, water supply, sanitation etc. would remain open,” the government said.

The Cabinet decided that work would continue at civil work sites, horticultural/agricultural and other project sites. Educational institutions in the State would remain closed till 31 May, 2021. All government and private transport would ply at 50 percent of occupancy and inter-state transport would continue. Industrial establishments would work as per the guidelines issued by the State Government.

The government said that detailed SOPs would be issued by today evening. 

Also Read: Situation Grim in Himachal With Record 48 Deaths in a Day, Senior Leader Shanta Kumar Advises Govt to Impose Lockdown

Keeping in view the sharp surge of covid-19 cases in the State, it was also decided in the meeting that the annual examination of 10th standard of Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education would stand cancelled. All the students would be promoted to 11th class by the Board as per the norms suggested by CBSE for its students for the 10th standard examination. It was also decided that 12th standard examination of Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education and annual examination of colleges would also remain suspended till further orders. 

For the department of Excise and Taxation that handles work related to collection of the revenue, which form major part of revenue earned by the State and to properly administer and regulate, the various tax laws in the State, the Cabinet gave its nod to create a specialized and dedicated separate service in the State ‘H.P. Revenue (State Taxes and Excise) Services in place of existing posts of the officers in the department.

The Cabinet gave its approval to upgrade regional hospital Una as 300 bedded regional hospital along-with creation of 76 posts of different categories to ensure better health care facilities hospital to the people of the area.

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Situation Grim in Himachal With Record 48 Deaths in a Day, Senior Leader Shanta Kumar Advises Govt to Impose Lockdown

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covid-19 testing rate in himachal pradesh

Shimla- While the state government remains indecisive over imposing more restrictive measures to check the COVID-19 spread, the state lost 48 more lives – the highest in a day so far. On Tuesday, with the increase in sampling to 15954 from 8511 on Monday, the number of daily cases also jumped to 3824 in the state. According to the official statistics of the state health department, Kangra districts reported the highest 877 cases and 16 fatalities. Solan district reported 11 fatalities and 411 new infections.  Mandi district reported  807 cases and one fatality. (Scroll down to view all details of deceased)

View the District-wise Details of all COVID-19 Cases for May 4, 2021 (Till 7 pm) Below:

daily cases

Source: HP NHM

Pertinent to mention that Himachal Watcher had been raising questions over a very low sampling in the state when the fatality rate has reached an alarming level. The sampling was decreased from 14649 on April 29 to 8511 on May 3 while the fatality rate rose continuously. Also, the state government didn’t provide any clarification over this decreasing number of sampling. But health experts believe that sampling needs to be boosted further to assess the true scale of the spread.

Also Read:  Testing Increases in Govt’s Statements Only

Speaking on the worsening situation in the state, especially Kangra district, former Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar has advised the state government to impose a lockdown.

Meanwhile, some reports of mismanagement and unpreparedness of the COVID are hospitals are appearing on various media platforms, especially on social media. A citizen in Shimla yesterday complained that the Ayurvedic Hospital, Chotta Shimla, did not admit his mother who needed immediate oxygen support.

A 53-year-old woman in Ramshahar, Solan district, died as she failed to receive ventilator support. According to a report in a daily, the patient was referred to the government hospital in Katha where ventilators were available but weren’t operational. Chief Medical Officer said that there is a shortage of staff, regarding which higher officials had been informed, the report said.

Claims of contact tracing also proved to be empty as a report appeared which said a bus conductor (HRTC) was on duty when he received information that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Questions are being raised as to how the conductor was allowed to carry on with his duty in a bus and why he wasn’t isolated after his sample was taken.

View the District-wise Details of all COVID-19 Deaths for May 4, 2021 (Till 7 pm) Below:

Daily COVID-19 deaths in Himachal PRadesh on May 4, 2021

Source: HP NHM

Daily COVID-19 deaths

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Himachal’s Current Bed Capacity 3346, Daily Oxygen Availability 53 MT, Says HP Govt, But No Clarification on Low Testing

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Bed capacity in himachal pradesh

Shimla- A Spokesperson of the state government said here today that there was no shortage of oxygen supply and beds in the hospitals and efforts were being made to enhance the bed capacity and oxygen supply day by day. As of now, 3346 beds were available in various health institutes of the state.

He said that keeping in view the increasing cases of Covid-19, the state government has increased the number of beds to 1924 in various Covid dedicated health institutes, hospitals and Covid centres. He said that 1422 beds were available in various Covid hospitals in the state on 21 April 2021 while presently the bed capacity has been enhanced to 3346.

The Spokesperson said that the per day availability of oxygen in the hospitals was 53 MT while the requirement was 23 MT. The PSA plant would be made functional in Chamba Medical College within a week which would meet the oxygen requirement in the Chamba district, he said.

Also Read: Himachal: 115 COVID-19 Fatalities in 3 Days, Testing Increases in Govt’s Statements Only

The state government, however, did not clarified on the low number of sampling/testing. Pertinent to mention that while the fatality rate has witnessed a massive surge, the sampling in the state had fallen to below 8000 on Monday. The rate of daily sampling has come down continuously with the surge in deaths. On April 29, according to the official data, 14649 samples were taken, on April 30 it dropped to 13715, to 10804 on May 1st, to 9684 on May 2, and to 8511 on May 3.

Also Read: Himachal Sees 44 Deaths in 24 Hours, Sampling Drops as COVID-19 Fatality Rate Rises  

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had been issuing repeated directions to increase testing in statements, but according to the government’s statistics, the reality is contrary to them.

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