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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.

Campus Watch

UHF Nauni Bags Rs.25 Crore Funding, Set for Major Overhaul

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UHF Nauni gets IDI funds

Solan: The learning and teaching environment at the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni is set for a major overhaul under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) National Agricultural Higher Education Plan (NAHEP) funded by the World Bank, informed the Public Relation Officer, Suchet Attri. He said that under NAHEP, UHF has been awarded the prestigious Institutional Development Project  (IDP). The total outlay of the three-year project is Rs 25 crore with ICAR share of Rs 20 crore and Rs 5 crore funded by the state.

He said that this is one of the biggest projects in UHF’s history and a major achievement for the university. It will help to provide a holistic learning and teaching environment to the students and faculty as scientists and students will be exposed to foreign universities to learn and exchange researchable ideas and issues. The University Vice-Chancellor is the project leader while Dr KK Raina, Professor and Head, Department of Business Management is the coordinator and Principal Investigator of the overall project, he informed.  

The main objective of the project entitled ‘Quality Education in Horticulture and Forestry to generate Human Resource’ is to revamp the university’s UG education through innovative and modern pedagogy, skill development, improving placement opportunities and catalyzing entrepreneurship through global thinking and input. He further said that under IDP, the university will look to strengthen collaborations with leading academia and industry for student exchange and faculty development programmes. 

He informed that around 150 UG students and 50 faculty members will be selected through a competition, to visit top-flight foreign universities for a period of 3-6 months. Organization of webinars and seminars, workshops and capacity building, and engaging industry experts as adjunct faculty is also included in the project. In addition to the creation of several student amenities, the university will establish UG and language labs for improving soft skills, eight smart and two virtual classrooms. He said that the project will also push green initiatives like the use of solar energy for cooking, lighting, use of battery-operated vehicles, solid waste management and recycling, campus landscaping and development of nature parks.

He said that one of the highlights will be the development of Short-Term International Certificate course on temperate horticulture and forestry crops and the strengthening of Student Development and Career Development Cell by developing a proactive industrial interface to create job and internship opportunities. Remedial courses, special attention towards weak students, agri-incubation centres on hi-tech plant nursery, processed food and forest products for entrepreneurial and agribusiness skills will also be taken up during the course of the project.

He further informed that several works have already begun under the project, and initiatives like raising new plantations have been undertaken. The students are eagerly looking forward to this project and have been actively taking part in all activities. A review meeting of the core project team and the statutory officers under the chairmanship of the Vice-Chancellor was held on Saturday. Director Extension Education Dr PK Mahajan, Deans Dr Bhupinder Gupta and Dr ML Bhardwaj also took part in the meeting. 

“This is a very proud moment for the university as we are among the national group that has got grants under this project. It will help us to improve the work culture and change the outlook of the students by providing a holistic learning environment. Besides, it will also help to enhance the quality of study and potential of the faculty will be fully utilized,”

said Dr Parvinder Kaushal, UHF Vice-Chancellor.

He said that only a select few agricultural universities have managed to bag the project through nation-wide competition.

The university will further focus on skill enhancement of students through study programmes with international collaborations and provide an inclusive and equitable quality education for the students through the faculty development programme. Dr Kaushal added that under the project, the university will ensure the sustainability of quality education and system effectiveness through the strengthening of the University Alumni network and industry interface. 

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Misc News/Press Release

Himachal Pradesh: Nine More COVID-19 Deaths in Two Days Including a Doctor

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Shimla-As the COVID-19 pandemic tightens its grip on Himachal Pradesh, the number of casualties witnessed an alarming rise. According to the Health Department’s COVID-19 Bulletin, during the last two days, the state has reported nine COVID-19 deaths and detected 502 new confirmed cases. Five deaths were reported on September 19 and four on September 20. The state has also reported death of a doctor. Dr Pradeep Bansal succumbed to the infection at a hospital in Chandigarh. The death tally for the state has now jumped to 117.

Rakesh Jamwal – a BJP MLA from Sundernagar- also tested positive on Sunday. Mandi reported the highest 80 cases.

The total for the state has now risen to 12129, of which 4444 are active.  Of the total cases, 7548 have recovered. However, the actual number could be much higher as not all new cases are traceable due to ongoing community spread. The state, as well as, the Centre government have no strategy to contain the spread. Himachal Pradesh has even begun to witness tourist activity without any restriction at all, which would further aggravate the situation. Though the state government has been maintaining that it is prepared to combat the community spread, the rate of casualties is alarming and likely to rise further.

The people have taken government’s this casual approach as a hint that there is no escape from the spread, resulting in relaxation in precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing. There is hardly any sanitization drive for public transport and public places. The SOPs are hardly being followed. According to health officials, what is fueling the spread is the reluctance of people with mild Influenza-like Illness (ILI) to get themselves tested.

Further, as the infection has now reached the rural areas, where health infrastructure is mostly in tatters, it’s to be seen as to how prepared the government is in saving lives.

Those having elderly and chronic disease patients in the family need to be more precautious.

Find the details of the deceased persons below:

Himachal PRadesh COVID-19 deaths on september 20, 2020

Feature Image: [email protected]

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Himachal: 12 COVID-19 Deaths in a Day, 68 in Past 19 Days

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Himachal Pradesh COVID-19 deaths

Shimla-The COVID-19 fatality rate in Himachal Pradesh is spiralling up. On September 18, the state reported a record 12 deaths in a single day. The deceased aged between 42 to 95 years and most had other pre-existing medical conditions. A total of 432 new confirmed cases took the COVID-19 case tally for the state to 11622 till the last official update from the Health Department (9 PM).

The situation is alarming as 5367 of the total cases and 68 fatalities were reported during the past 19 days of September month. So far, the highest 24 deaths have been reported from Kangra district, followed by Solan (21) and Shimla (20). (View the table below for statistics from other districts).

Available data of fatalities suggests that elderly persons and patients of Diabetes Mellitus, Cancer and Chronic Kidney Disease are highly vulnerable. Take a look at the medical conditions and symptoms of the 12 patients who succumbed to the infection yesterday:

Himachal Pradesh Daily COVID-19 deaths

 So far, Solan district has reported the highest 2566 cases, followed by Kangra (1759), Siramur (1482), Mandi (1228), and Una (1057). The tally for Shimla is witnessing a steep rise as the number has reached 826, of which 730 cases were reported during the past 19 days.

HP Health Department COVID-19 Bulletin- September 18, 2020 (9 PM)

Himachal Pradesh COVID-19 data till september 18, 2020

These numbers are official statistics and the original number could be much higher as it is not possible for the government to trace all cases due to community spread. The government itself admitted that people with mild symptoms are not getting tested or reporting it and isolating themselves. These people are fueling community spread, the government said. 

Regarding the fatalities, the health officials say that people are coming to hospitals very late only when their symptoms worsen. They have urged people to not ignore the appearance of symptoms and get tested or inform the authorities.

Meanwhile, lifting all restrictions on inter-state movement of people including tourists would add fuel to the situation. Tourists have begun to visit the state and the attitude of the public is becoming more casual, following the lead of the state government.

As usual, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur continues to maintain that the state government is prepared to deal with community spread. Moreover, with this surge in cases and fatalities, the blame is being shifted on the people alone. 

Feature Image: [email protected]_s

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