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Industrial hemp can revolutionize Himachal’s economy, end war on drugs, says petition seeking legalization

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The genetically modified hemp will possess only .3 to 1 percent potency. Which means the psychoactive effect of the drug will be absent.  Apparently, these plants will be of no use to the drug users.

Shimla: These days, the debate over legalizing the cultivation of cannabis plants (hemp)in Himachal Pradesh has brought the attention of the people to the treasure nature has endowed them with – cannabis. Not because it gets you high but for the potential of revolutionizing the economy of the State, which is currently dependent mainly on apple production.

Don’t think this advocacy of cannabis legalisation is our own. All these facts are given in support of legalization in a petition filed by advocate Deven Khanna in the High Court of Himachal Pradesh. Mr. Shrawan Dogra is also the advocate for the petitioner.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel have also asked the State and Centre government to provide its response within four weeks.

What made us highlight the debate is that the petitioner has given a number of authentic references including medical journals, both national and international authoritative publications, government websites, judgments and various other articles and reports.

Further, there is already a provision to permit cultivation of industrial hemp.

Referring to the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the petitioner argues that the Indian law permits the mass cultivation of hemp for horticultural and industrial use. However, it was the government that has failed to avail it for the socio-economic growth of the farming community.

The Section 10 of the said Act bestows the state governments the power to decide the limits within which licenses can granted for its cultivation. Unfortunately, Himachal never used the provision, and did not formulate any regulation or rules to facilitate the medical or industrial use of the plant,

the petitioner Deshinder Khanna told Himachal Watcher.

The petition argues that the hemp grows in almost every part of the Hill State without any care that the other crops require. It does not even ask for much water. Hemp is a water-intensive crop as it requires 400 times less water than other crops and requires almost negligible herbicides, pesticides, manure, and protection from wild animals.

It offers a plethora of benefits. If it begins to grow on a part of the land, then you don’t have to take the pain to plough the field before sowing seeds. It grows rapidly as compared to other crops.

The commercial potential of hemp is unmatchable. If sold to industry, it can produce over 25,000 end products including health foods, organic body care, clothing, construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and so on.

It offers 2/3 times more fibre than a crop of cotton. Fabric from hemp fibre is better than cotton and has eight times the tensile strength of cotton.

From the perspective of medical use, if sold to the medical and neurological research institutes, they can study and use it against fatal diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS.

Medical marijuana treatment has become popular and accepted over the last few years in Israel, with about 15,000 registered users and 50 more approved each week.

Take a Look at List of Medical Benefits of Marijuana

Lung Function

A study published in Journal of the American Medical
Association on 11th January 2012, found that Tobacco
smokers lost lung function over time, but pot users
actually showed an increase in lung capacity.
 

Epileptic Seizures

A study published in Journal of Pharmacology and
Experimental Therapeutics on 03rd September 2003,
found that Cannabinoids like the active ingredients in
marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), control
seizures by binding to the brain cells responsible for
controlling excitability and regulating relaxation.
 

Dravet Syndrome

Effects: causes seizures and  severe developmental delays

The doctors who recommended this treatment say that
the cannabidiol in the plant interacts with the brain cells
to quiet the excessive activity in the brain that causes
these seizures. As was also found by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
(US Citizen) during his research for CNN Special
Documentary “Weed”
 

Chemotherapy

Cancer patients being treated with chemo suffer from
painful nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This can
cause additional health complications. Marijuana
can help reduce these side effects, alleviating pain,
decreasing nausea, and stimulating the appetite. As was
also found by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (US Citizen) during his
research for his CNN Special Documentary “Weed”
 

Alcoholism

Effects: Alcoholism involves disruptions in the endocannabinoid system.

Research in Harm Reduction Journal, 03rd December
2009, shows that some people use marijuana as a less
harmful substitute for alcohol, prescription drugs, and
other illegal drugs. Some of the most common reasons
for patients to make that substitution are the less
adverse side effects from marijuana and the fact that it
is less likely to cause withdrawal problems
 

Cancer

1. CBD (Cannabidiol) may help prevent cancer from
spreading, researchers at California Pacific Medical
Center in San Francisco reported in 13th December
2012.
2. Cannabidiol stops cancer by turning off a gene
called Id-1, the study, published in the journal
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics on 05th September
2007, found. Cancer cells make more copies of this
gene than non-cancerous cells, and it helps them
spread through the body and;
3. Cancer cells in the lab that had high expression
levels of Id-1 and after treating them with
cannabidiol. After treatment the cells had decreased
Id-1 expression and were less aggressive spreaders
 

Alzheimer’s Disease

Effects: term loss of the ability to think and reason clearly affecting persons daily functioning

A study published by The National Center for
Biotechnology (USA) on 06th October 2008, found that
THC, the active chemical in marijuana, slows the  formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme
in the brain that makes them. These plaques are what
kill brain cells and cause Alzheimers.
 

Multiple Sclerosis

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association
Journal on 14th May 2012 when
Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom studied 30 multiple sclerosis
patients with painful contractions in their muscles.
These patients didn’t respond to other treatments, but
after smoking marijuana for a few days they were in
less pain.
The THC in the pot binds to receptors in the nerves and
muscles to relieve pain. Other studies suggest that the
chemical also helps control the muscle spasms
 

Leeuwenhoek’s Disease

Effects: Causes non-stop spasming in the  abdominal muscles which are not only painful, but interfere with breathing and speaking

Smoking marijuana is able to calm the attacks almost
immediately, as it calms the muscles of the diaphragm.
As was also found by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (US Citizen)
during his research for his CNN Special Documentary
Weed
 

Hepatitis – C Infection

A October 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86 percent of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy, while only 29 percent of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessens the treatments side effects. Marijuana also seems to improve the treatment’s effectiveness: 54 percent of Hep-C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low and kept them low, in comparison to only 8 percent of non smokers  

Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Effects: Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, severe internal cramps/muscle spasms in the region of the pelvis and weight loss. Anemia is the most prevalent extra-intestinal complication of inflammatory bowel disease.

Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Israel), stated the following in their January 2012 “Digestion” article, “Impact of
Cannabis Treatment on the Quality of Life, Weight, and
Clinical Disease Activity in Inflammatory Bowel
Disease Patients: A Pilot Prospective Study”:-
1. “In the present preliminary prospective study, we
have found that treatment with inhaled cannabis
improves quality of life in patients with longstanding
CD [Crohn’s disease] and UC
[ulcerative colitis]. Treatment was also shown to
cause a statistically significant rise in patients’
weight after 3 months of treatment, and
improvement in clinical disease activity index in
patients with CD.
2. Moreover, the data demonstrated a statistically
significant improvement in almost all aspects of
patients’ daily life. After 3 months’ treatment with
inhaled cannabis, patients stated an
improvement in their health status, their ability
to perform daily activities and their ability to
maintain social life. Patients reported a
statistically significant physical pain reduction
during treatment, as well as improvement in
mental distress…
3. None of our patients complained of any side
effect that disturbed their working ability. In fact,
as was shown in the results, there was a
statistically significant improvement in patients’
ability to work after treatment.”
 

Arthritis

The study conducted in 09th November 2005, funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes Sativex (a cannabinoid medicine), found patients who had taken the CBM (cannabis-based medicine) had statistically significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, quality of sleep, inflammation, and intensity of pain.  

Metabolism

A study published on 16th May 2013 in the American Journal of Medicine suggested that pot smokers are skinnier than the average person and have healthier metabolism and reaction to sugars, even though they do end up eating more calories.  

Systemic Lupus Ertyhematosus

Effects: The body starts attacking itself for some unknown reason.

A team of University of South Carolina researchers led
by Mitzi Nagarkatti, PrakashNagarkatti and Xiaoming
Yang found that chemicals in marijuana seem to have a
calming effect on the immune system, which may be how it helps deal with symptoms of Lupus. Their
research has been published online in the Journal of
Biological Chemistry and is dated 19th May 2014, and,
available on Science Daily, dated 02.06.2014.
 

Parkinson’s Disease

Research from Israel shows that smoking marijuana significantly reduces pain and tremors and improves sleep for Parkinson’s disease patients. Particularly impressive was the improved fine motor skills among patients. The said finding can be found in the CNN Special Documentary “Weed”  

Post Traumatic  Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Naturally occurring cannabinoids, similar to THC, help
regulate the system that causes fear and anxiety in the
body and brain. The said finding can be found in the a
CNN Special Documentary “Weed” 
 

Brain Damage caused by Stroke

Research dated 03rd December 2013, from the
University of Nottingham shows that marijuana may
help protect the brain from damage caused by stroke, by
reducing the size of the area affected by the stroke — at
least in rats, mice, and monkeys.
This isn’t the only research that has shown
neuroprotective effects from cannabis. Some research
shows that the plant may help protect the brain after
other traumatic events, like concussions. 
 

Brain Damage caused by  Concussions andTrauma

A study dated 19th August 2013, in the journal Cerebral
Cortex showed that in mice, marijuana lessened the
bruising of the brain and helped with healing
mechanisms after a traumatic injury.
 

Brain Tumours

Specialists at St George’s, University of London,
studied the treatment of brain cancer tumours in the
laboratory and discovered that the most effective
treatment was to combine active chemical components
of the cannabis plant which are called cannabinoids.
The said research can be referred to on Science Daily is
dated 14th November 2014.
 

HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus

 

 

Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers have discovered that marijuana-like chemicals trigger receptors on human immune cells that can directly inhibit a type of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
found in late-stage AIDS, according to new findings
published on 20th March 2012.
 

 

 

Hemp can save trees

Have you heard of Hemp Paper? Hemp cultivation can save lots of trees that we fell to manufacture paper. For instance, it can produce the same amount of paper in just one acre, which currently takes the sacrifice of trees in 2 to 4 acres of land.

Environmental Benefits

The present policy of burning the cannabis plant not only causes environmental pollution but also causes a great loss to the biodiversity and the eco-system. The plant has a great capacity to maintain the richness of the soil cover.

How cannabis helps fight cancer

As per the appeal made in the petition,  BioChemist Dennis Hill research reads

“In every cell, there is a family of interconvertible sphingolipids that specifically manage the life and death of that cell. This profile of factors is called the “Sphingolipid Rheostat.” If endogenous ceramide (a signalling metabolite of sphingosine-1-phosphate) is high, then cell death (apoptosis) is imminent. If ceramide is low, the cell is strong in its vitality.Very simply, when THC connects to the CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptor site on the cancer cell, it causes an increase in ceramide synthesis which drives cell death” 

Can End Himachal’s War on Drugs

The State’s ‘war on drugs’ can also be ended by legalizing medical and industrial marijuana, the petitioner claims.

By keeping medical and industrial uses of Marijuana prohibited, the State has only allowed drug mafia to develop a parallel black economy and they are targeting children first. 

All that the government would have to do is to procure genetically modified species of cannabis which have far less content of the Tetra hydro cannabinol (THC) – content in the plant responsible for its psychotropic effect on smoking and providing such modified seeds to the farmers.  As compared to currently found marijuana which as a potency of 4 to 5 percent, the genetically modified hemp will possess only .3 to 1 percent potency. Which means the psychoactive effect of the drug will be absent.  

Apparently, these plants will be of no use to the drug users.

This way, the government can take control of the plant from the drug mafia and give it to our scientists, doctors, textile manufacturers and other relevant industries, said the petition.

The Commercial Potential

As per the well-researched petition, allowing regulated cultivation of hemp can lead to rapid economic growth and reduce unemployment in the rural areas.

The hemp has a potential to add more to State’s exchequer (as tax money) and substitute apple as the major cash crop. Legalization of medical and industrial use of Marijuana would make the state more progressive, reduce expenditure, said the petition.

With proper regulation, sensitization and awareness, the hemp cultivation can be used for industrial economic growth. It will lead to a rise in the growth of GDP.

Imposing a tax on selling of marijuana will anyway help in keeping a control over its production, and it would be a help to the State economy.

The petitioner said that according to the central government’s Ministry of Textiles, internationally, hemp production is estimated to be around 0.1 million tonnes annually.

Allowing Indian farmers to cultivate hemp will give them a stake in the $1.5 trillion hemp industry currently dominated by China, France and Germany.

Regularising the plant could create an industrial hemp textile market in India that could be valued at an estimated Rs 240 million.

The petition said such Marijuana in Netherland contributes about $3.2 billion with an annual gross

Further, the petitioner referred to the State government of Uttrakhand that has recently directed officials to facilitate the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp in the State to capitalize on its fibres. Meanwhile, the academic institutions have been asked to conduct research to ‘develop’ modified hemp species with only 0.3 to 1.5 percent THC content.

The neighbouring state of Himachal, Uttrakhand has already permitted regulated cultivation of hemp.

Some other facts about industrial hemp

 

  • The industrial hemp’s product hempcrete could be a greener alternative to concrete. The plant acts as a carbon store, absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). One square metre of a timber-framed, hemp-lime wall (weighing 120 kg), stores 35.5 kg of CO2. In contrast, about 198kg of CO2 is emitted to make one tonne of reinforced concrete.
  • Cannabis has 450 ingredients, of which 80 are chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The human brain has cannabinoid receptors, which control physiological processes such as appetite, pain, mood and memory, together called the endocannabinoid system. The cannabinoids from cannabis interact with the receptors in the brain and work as a smooth muscle relaxant and receptor blocker, alleviating pain, and symptoms of arthritis, diabetes,
  • Hemp Plastic-Hemp can also act as a good plastic substitute to produce products which are strong, durable and environment-friendly.
  • Biodiesel can be produced from the fibrous stalks  reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power
  • Cannabis oil is the most potent of three main cannabis products, which are the actual cannabis flower (marijuana), resin (hashish), and oil (cannabis oil). Cannabis oil is the most concentrated form of References to history the three main cannabis products. That is what makes cannabis oil the most potent.
  • The cannabis plant is being grown world over to reduce radiation effects in areas where nuclear disasters have happened because of its properties to soak up radiation.
  • The plant acts as a carbon store, absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)

 

Further, the petitioner said the rest of the world has already initiated the process of decriminalizing marijuana. In the United States of America, it’s legal with strict regulations in States of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Bar & Bench Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington.

Constitutional Context

The petitioner appeals that the “The Constitution Of India 1949” guarantees right to preserve cultural identity. In addition to it, India also has National Fiber Policy, 2010.  

Historical Background

  • The petitioner has also pleaded the court to dwell upon the cultivation and use of marijuana in historical context. It is one of the oldest crops used for cultivation. It was cultivated in China as early as 4000 BC.
  • Cannabis has a long history in India and dates back to as early as 2000 to 1400 B.C. The earliest mention of cannabis can be found in The Vedas or sacred Hindu texts.
  • According to The Vedas, cannabis is one of five sacred plants and a guardian angel lived in its leaves. The Vedas call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear, said the petition.
  • The Zend-Avesta, a sacred book of Zoroastrianism, used by the peoples of India dating back to 600 BC, talked about hemp’s intoxicating resin.
  • The Chinese emperor and herbalist, Chen-Nung wrote about hemp’s medicinal uses 5000 years ago.
  • In Great Britain, Hemp cultivation extensively started back in 800 A.D
  • During the 17th Century, American farmers were ordered to grow Indian hemp. The law also passed an order that a person could be sentenced if they weren’t growing hemp on their land. At that time, hemp was considered as a legal tender. Moreover, for more than 200 years, hemp was used as a currency to pay off their taxes. Rudolph Diesel created a famous engine in 1896.

The petition said this step can epitomise a wholesome, credible solution towards alleviating conditions of poor farmers and uplifting society by tracing the timeless benefits of Hemp to drive measurable social impact. The petitioner urged the State to take steps in providing a regulatory framework to facilitate cultivation of industrial hemp.

 

What Exactly the Petitioner Seeks from High Court  

Do not take the petition as a hope that it would mean decriminalization of smoking cannabis. On the behalf of the people living a poverty-ridden life in rural areas, who could not reach the court to avail already existing provisions due to lack of kaleidoscopic legalities associated with this sensitive topic, the petitioner seeks the directions of the court for removal of restrictions on growing only commercial and medicinal hemp.

First, the government should define industrial hemp (based on the percentage of THC) and authorize the cultivation and possession of industrial hemp by creating an advisory board or commission.

The petition also appeals to facilitate the cultivation, processing, and use of only industrial and medical hemp, so that the public could receive is commercial and medical benefits.

The petition seeks to authorize a state licensing or registration program for growers and seed breeders. The state departments should be allowed to collect funds for research programs, said the petition.  

The government can promote research and support development of markets for industrial and medical hemp.

The court can direct the government to collect important information on industrial and medicinal hemp to further make regulations/guidelines on easy access to open industries, scientific research labs, and institutes for Industrial and medicinal hemp use.

The Research Centre, Pant Universities, and agricultural industry should be directed to develop seeds having a THC level apt for industrial use. These seeds will be disseminated to the villagers. It will act as an effective measure to prevent the growth of cannabis having an illegally high THC content, said the petition.

Note: All the factual information published in the above story are taken from the petition filed in the High Court of Himachla Pradesh.

 

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Watch: Tribals in Kinnaur village blow off HPPCL, police allegedly trying to fool them over hydro project

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Lippa villager tribals vs hppcl

Kinnaur: The Lippa Village in Kinnaur is one of the several villages including Rarang, Pangi and Telang that are facing pressure from the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL) to allow them to start construction work on the 130 MW Kashang Stage II and III power project despite a stay given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in May 2016.

As per the villagers, the NGT had held that no objection certificate should be obtained from the affected village gram sabhas before issuing a forest clearance. However, the gram sabhas never gave any NOC as their individual claims under the Forests Right Act 2006 were not settled yet. However, the HPPCL claims it possesses the NOC given by the villages and trying to re-open the construction work using various pressure tactics, allege the villagers. The villagers question the Corporation from whom did it obtain the NOC.

On October 9, 2018, the HPPCL staff came to Lippa village with a heavy local police force to discourage villagers from protesting. What requires attention here that the district administration and the local police, thus the State Government, are assisting the Corporation in its bid to violate the court orders. Moreover, as seen in the video, a local police official was also seen arguing in support of the Corporation with the villagers when it wasn’t actually his job.

They definitely underestimated the villagers considering them mere bunch of tribals and tried to fool them.

However, they faced severe protests and demonstrations from the locals, united under the banner Paryavaran Sanrankshan Sangharsh Samiti. Eventually, the HPPCL staff and police force had to retreat after villagers stopped and reasoned with them.

Another fact that needs attention here is that the villagers reasoned with them legally. They were aware of all proceedings of the court as well as its directions to the Corporation. The Corporation and the police tried their best but couldn’t confuse villagers by flashing papers signed by the Deputy Commissioner of the Superintendent of the Police.

The work on the project cannot be started by HPPCL on account of the non-completion of the process under the Forest Rights Act 2006 in the area,

said members of the Samiti.

Watch Video

The National Green Tribunal on May 4, 2016, directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the State Government of Himachal to place the forest clearance proposal in front of the affected Gram Sabhas for their perusal. The judgment was passed in an appeal filed by Paryavaran Sanrankshan Sangharsh Samiti Lippa against the forest diversion for the said project.

Lippa village picture

Lippa Village in Kinnaur, Photo: Manshi Ashar

The appeal was made on the grounds that HPPCL had violated the provisions of the FRA Act, which require a mandatory NOC of the Gram Sabha of villages to be affected by the diversion of forest lands for the project.

The judgment had concluded that “the Gram Sabha shall consider all community and individual claims” in the process bringing under it the cultural, religious, environmental and livelihood impacts caused due to the loss of forests and water sources.

The process of filing claims on forest land under the Forest Rights Act was initiated by the Forest Rights Committee of Lippa, formed for verification of the claims in the year 2016 itself. As many as 47 individual claims and one community claim were sent to the sub-divisional level committee (SDLC) Pooh, the Samiti said. However, the process of settlement under FRA 2006 has been slow due to the apathy of the administration and the State Government, the Samiti alleges.

It said that last month the District Level Committee has recommended the Community forest rights claim of Lippa whereas the Individual claims were not yet recommended. No specific objection or reason has been stated by the SDLC held on August 31, 2018, as to why the individual claims were being returned and not recommended. The people are in the process of filing petitions to the DLC requesting the SDLC to state the reasons based on which they have not been recommended.

Meanwhile, the Samiti alleges, the company, instead of waiting it out till this process is complete has been pressurizing the villagers to allow them to start work on the project in the area for which the forest rights claims have been filed.

In 2017, the State of Himachal Pradesh falsely contested in front of the NGT that despite sufficient time the claimants (residents of Lippa) have not submitted their claims and have not been cooperating, said the Samiti.

Following submissions from the Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti that the claims were already under process, the NGT put on record in December 2017 and January 2018 that individual and community claims had, in fact, had been filed by the villagers.

It needs to be noted that the final judgment and subsequent orders of the NGT clearly state that the project proponent can approach the village for the consent of Lippa gram sabha on forest diversion for Kashang integrated project stage I and III only when the process of settlements of rights under FRA gets completed

Despite this, the HPPCL has used various pressure tactics on us to allow construction work. Various visits have been made by project authorities to the village to misguide and intimidate the people and begin work. On August 24, 2018, the Superintendent of Police, Rekong Peo issued a letter stating that the project proponent would have to be given police protection as they had completed all legal requirements as per the NGT orders. This is completely false,

said the members of the Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti.

We are extremely troubled that instead of waiting for the process under FRA to be completed and following the spirit of this act of the Parliament as well as the NGT order, the company is misleading the police and seeking police protection against the interests of the community,

the members further said.

The Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti Lippa also sent a counter to the Superintendent of Police with a point-by-point response on the false objections raised. The counter also stated that “in case of any violation we will be forced to file a complaint under the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Amendment Act, 2018”.

The Section-3(g) of this act states that wrongfully dispossessing a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe from his land or premises or interfering with the enjoyment of his rights, including forest rights, over any land or premises or water or irrigation facilities…by a non-SC-ST person (without consent or against will) is a punishable offence.

Despite that, the police entered the village on October 9 to pressurize the villagers. However, after the protests and detailed deliberations, the official team and police were forced to return.

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In times of climate change, how do Himachal’s people want their mustard?

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Farming of Mustard Oil in Himachal Pradesh

If one was to walk through a village in Himachal Pradesh in the early 1940s, there would be the sound of many wooden wheels turning. One of them would be the spinning wheel (charkha) used to make thread from sheep’s wool for weaving coats or chola and pattu on a loom (khaddi).Another would be a water wheel (gharaat), which rotated in the water of the kuhlsor canals, grinding the wheat in the mill or chakki above. While these first two wheels continue to exist, albeit in small numbers, the third village wheel has almost completely disappeared. The third wheel, the oil mill or kolu, used the force of ox and buffaloes to turn a heavy stone, which in turn would grind mustard and flax oil seeds into fresh oil.Although Himachal does not produce as much mustard as the larger states in North and Western India, it has always been an essential crop to everyday life.

Spinning the wheel of time back to the 1940s again, we learn that the kolus or oil-press mills were run mainly by Muslim families. As Pradan Ram of Rakkar village, Kangra district said,

The Muslim families that were our neighbours ran these oil mills. They were the telis. Some of them also played shehnai at the temple, but most of them ran the oil mills. We would take our mustard or flax seeds and get them ground at the mills. In the higher up regions of Kullu- Lahaul, people made walnuts, apricots and other oils. Nobody bought oil from any shop! We would pay the teli with our grain.

Post-partition, the Muslim population in most parts of Himachal Pradesh diminished, and now stands at around 4% living mainly in Chamba, Una and Solan districts. From a history of great syncretism, and communities living and sharing resources together, what followed were times of great division. These divisive times were seen in agriculture with the impact of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, where the Barah Anaaj or 12 mixed crop system, of which mustard is an important crop, began to disappear in favour of monocropping. These 12 crops used to include combinations of maddua (finger millet), ramdana (amaranth), rajma (kidney bean), mung (green gram) lobia (black-eyed peas), kuttu (buck wheat), kulath (horse gram), makki (corn) and math (a local soya bean), alsi (flax seed for oil), sarson (mustard seed), sorghum (jowhar), pearl millet (bajra), chana (chickpeas). In addition to this gourds, greens and wild vegetables and flowers were grown and collected.

Each of these crops has a different resilience, some thrive acidic soils, some can survive floods, while others can survive droughts. In fact, the traditional seeds of our region are treasures that also have unique tastes and health properties.

shares Mansingh of Nain village, Kangra district.

As wheat and rice became more popular, in the 1990s, farmers began to practice mixed farming, however no longer of twelve crops. Mustard continued to be the main crop, grown in almost every farmer’s field. While the Kharif crop would have corn in the higher fields, rice in the lower fields mixed with chickpeas or lentils, the rabi crop, would have wheat along with math and mustard. While the math seed provides nitrogen to the soil, the mustard was known to support the wheat crop.

When it rains heavily, the wheat crop can fall, therefore we grow mustard alongside so that they can bear each other’s weight,

shared Kavitha Devi a farmer of Sukkad village in Kangra district.

Another turning event for farmers was in 1998 when the Indian government ordered all traditional oil mills to shut down and they were deemed unsafe. Coincidentally, this was the time when cheap GMO soya oil began to flood the Indian markets. Many farmers who did not grow enough mustard for oil and depended on the shops were now caught in a dilemma.

There was a time when we began to receive refined oil in the fair-price ration shops at one time, which sold cheaper than mustard oil. While some of the people bought it, they realised that they were increasingly getting joint paints. We complained in our panchayat and then demanded sarson oil,

Says Jagat Ram the owner of a fair price shop in Rakkar in Kangra district. Both Tibetan and Ayurvedic doctors in the region back up this claim saying that mustard oil eases joint pains and is good for health in general, whereas refined oils cause mass arthritis. Although the mustard oil in the ration shops comes from Punjab and not their own fields, farmers in Himachal stood up for the mustard seed as an important part of their lives.

However, since the 2000s, this intrinsic importance has begun to be questioned. This is for several reasons, one of them being the financial pressure to grow cash crops (apples, ginger, kiwis, off-season vegetables) that can sell at a higher price. Another big factor is climate change, where unpredictable weather patterns have set in. The Agriculture Department has identified that the local mustard varieties are facing a major aphid insect problem due to climate flux and recommend the use of hybrid seeds.

The University recommends the gobi and farm hybrid seeds and this is what we distribute,

says a worker at the Agri Department outpost in Sheela Chowk, Kangra District. Most farmers nowadays grow their wheat crop without intercropping with mustard. They grow the two crops separately.

As traditional seed saving dwindles, adding in the problem of monkeys and furthermore erratic rains and hailstorms, farmers are in crisis. In what scientists of Delhi University and the Deepak Pental team feel is the solution for agriculture, seeds of GM Mustard are being proposed as a move towards the future.

When told about GM Mustard, some farmers like Vimla Devi of Banala, Kangra district outrightly refuse the idea. She says that there are plenty of local varieties of mustard in Himachal and it is a question of reviving them.

We prefer our local mustard seeds, black and white seeds, as the saag is tasty, they give plenty of oil for cooking, medicine and our hair and we can use the dried stalks as a broom as well,

she said. 

Small farmers across India have gone on a Sarson Satyagraha to prevent GM Mustard from being released. Although India illegally imports GM foods, if GM Mustard is approved, it will be the first GMO food crop being grown in India. Governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and W. Bengal have said NO to GM Mustard stating that GMOs have been proven to have health effects but more to take away farmer sovereignty and make them dependent on companies, Universities and the State. GM crops also destroy diversity, meaning that they require a monocrop plantation, and cannot co-exist in mixed farming fields like earlier.

At this critical juncture, in times of climate change, one can only hope that the “wheel of time” in Himachal Pradesh withstands the pressure of the future, looks to its small holder farmer with their history of successful mixed farming and manages to revalue what the past has left behind. After all, without mustard oil in the madra curry in the village dhaam feast or pathrode made of mustard and collocasia leaves in the monsoons, and even more ‘makki di roti and sarson da saag’ in the winters, life for pahadi people is incomplete!

Author Aditi Pinto is based in Rakkar, Himachal Pradesh. She uses writing to give a historical perspective to the current environmental crisis.

This story is being published as part of a GIZ-CMS Fellowship

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Himachal’s fitness enthusiast shines at Indian TV Reality Show

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Himachal's Fitness enthusiast sachin sharma of Shimla

Shimla: Sachin Sharma, a handsome man of 26, is currently a person who stands in contrast to Himachal Pradesh’s ill-famed youth struggling with drug and substance abuse – a crucial issue that has sounded an alarm in the State. Sachin is the one who joined a gym at the age of 19 – an age at which teenagers are struggling to escape from the jaws of drug/substance abuse, especially Heroin (Chitta).

Sachin, born in a middle-class family of Deha village, Theog, Shimla district, recently appeared in what could be called India’s first fitness reality show “Indian Fitness League.” It wasn’t a bodybuilding show, but the challenge was to undertake tasks designed to check who is the fittest. Sachin was the only one from Himachal to have made through the auditions. He was selected as one of the 40 fittest people of India. He earned the special attention of the hosts of the show as well as among other competitors.

The next episode of the TV show would be telecasted on October 6 on Discovery Sports at 4 PM.

To know more about him, Himachal Watcher interviewed him (Watch Video). We found that his story is inspirational in its own way:


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Far from ill and unhealthy habits, he doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink or take anything that would toy with his physical and mental fitness. He definitely doesn’t take steroids. Since last seven years, he has followed a strict discipline in diet and habits. He didn’t compromise with his studies either. He completed his schooling from Dayanand Public School in Shimla.

In 2018 he completed his post graduation in Masters of Business (MBA) from Himachal Pradesh University and had procured a placement for himself too.

He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth so placement did matter for him. His father Mohan Lal Sharma and mother Subhadra Sharma are both serving with the Crime Investigation Department (CID), HP, as Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) and Head Constable respectively. It wasn’t easy to manage an additional expenditure of Rs. 15,000 – 20, 000 on his protein diet for seven years.

At this point, his decision-making ability was put to test. He had to choose one of the two: job placement and passion for fitness. He listened to himself and decided to seek a career in the fitness industry.

Though Sachin’s body is in good shape, he isn’t actually a bodybuilder. He is a fitness enthusiast, who has trained without a professional trainer or a mentor. He made ample use of YouTube to learn. He didn’t take up fitness as his passion because he was inspired by someone. He was his own inspiration.

He first received an opportunity to get on a stage at annual Mr. Himachal competition. Later he won the Maruti Suzuki Devils Circuit held in Chandigarh.

Now, after his tremendous performance at the IFL, Sachin has received sponsorships and was inducted in the TG Athlete group. Opportunities in the fitness industry have begun to appear before him. He believes that someday, he would extend support and guidance to other fitness enthusiasts of the state, which he could hardly receive for himself.

He is an idol for the youth of Himachal, especially because fitness is an antonym to drug/substance abuse and indiscipline. In the majority of cases filed under the Narcotics, Drugs & Psychoactive Substances (ND&PS) Act, the accused are reported to be between 20-25 years. A couple of days back Shimla Police arrested a 22-years-old local boy with a packet of Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) stamps. 

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