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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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Himachal Pradesh: A Report on ‘Plight of Migrant Workers’ during the Lockdown & Need for Protection of their Rights

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Himachal pradesh - a report on migrant labourers during lockdown

Shimla-Poor people like migrant labourers and workers are nothing more than insects for the governments in India. The attitude of the government and its treatment of the poor workers, who had migrated to other states in search of livelihood, during the lockdown is a very clear evidence of it. What is more pathetic is the fact that that their plight remained invisible to the remaining public as mainstreamed media was being paid more by their political masters for diverting public attention from real issues to rubbish, spicy news. Our society is rotten to such an extent that public also preferred the rubbish served by the media over the bitter truth. Except for a small section of people including social activists, volunteers and non-profit-organizations actually worked to provide some relief like ration to the poor. Spare some time to go through a report on the plight of the migrant workers prepared by the Himachal Pradesh Workers Solidarity (HPWS) – a voluntary solidarity platform.

The first day of Lok Sabha’s monsoon session earlier this week saw MPs raising questions about the condition of Migrant Workers during the lockdown. The response of the Labour Minister that no data on migrant deaths for the period was available has drawn much flak. Additionally, no data on return of migrant workers was available for many states including Himachal Pradesh.

The issue of invisibilisation of migrant workers in a state like Himachal Pradesh has now been raised in a report, highlighting the impacts of the ongoing crisis on this community which contributes significantly to the state economy. Himachal Pradesh Workers Solidarity (HPWS) – a voluntary solidarity platform formed in April 2020, in its report, describes the havoc that a sudden, un- facilitated and unplanned national lockdown announced in response to the COVID19 pandemic six months ago had on the interstate migrant workers stranded in Himachal. HPWS ran a helpline during the period, provided assistance in accessing ration and other relief, travel to home states, through administrative coordination, registrations, and information dissemination etc.

Himachal, in the context of migration, is different from neighbouring Uttarakhand, where the rate of migration out of state is higher, whereas in Himachal the rate of in-migration is slightly higher than out-migration.

Gagandeep, a journalist based in Karsog and part of HPWS, elaborates,

“Post the decade of 1980 -90, expansion of industrial activities in the Shivalik hill region, multi-level infrastructure and development projects, growing local interests in horticulture, and cash crop farming alongside tourism-dependent economy made Himachal an emerging centre for in-migration.”

Today, workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Nepal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Kashmir constitute a large chunk of the migrant population in Himachal. Most of them are from Scheduled Caste, OBC, STs and minority communities. Difficult work areas and geography, insecure and unsafe living conditions, along with payment and other labour law violations, makes the situation even more difficult for them in mountain state like Himachal.

While the 2011 Census suggests that Himachal had approximately 3.10 lakhs migrant workers, this figure seems to be severely under-estimated due to lack of registration (under the Inter-State Workmen Act 1979), non-maintenance of data by State Labour Department and non-publication of all statistics of Census. The lack of data further worsened the pandemic crisis and impacted relief facilitation.

In response to the issues, the focus of the State was limited to distributing ration but ration alone was not enough for survival and sustenance. Ritika Thakur, another member of HPWS elaborates,

“Having some cash in hand was an urgent need to access gas cylinders, milk, medicines and other essential things like phone recharge, so that workers can at least call for support. Most of the people who contacted HPWS”, she adds, “had not been paid their wages and their savings had died out in payment of room rents and ration as loans and debts kept on piling up.”

Many migrant labourers complained about the interrogatory, apathetic and discriminatory attitude of the officials when they were called for ration support. Seeing no transport facility forthcoming, many workers were forced to walk back home on foot. When caught at borders they were put into quarantine centres forced to return or were left with no choice but to escape on foot.

“The online registration mechanism was completely inaccessible for workers and for weeks there was no response to registrations”,

according to Sukhdev Vishwapremi, a social activist and member of HPWS.

The first ‘shramik train’ ran as late as May 22, 2020.

“The government, meanwhile, allowed private bus operators to run on exorbitant prices,”

he adds.

Many workers were pushed to take loans or sell property/artefacts to be able to return home through these buses while 5000 HRTC buses remained standing in bus stands.

“The fact that the Central government shifted the burden of facilitating transport on the states without any significant co-ordination and clarity made matters worse, aided by lack of coordination and communication between nodal officers, both between Himachal and other states and within Himachal”,

Vishwapremi emphasized further.

According to the information shared by an officer from Himachal Pradesh Government (SDMA), 94,819 migrants had gone out from Himachal to various states of the country by June 23, 2020. As per the information received from SDMA under RTI, 14 shramik trains ferried around 13,183 people out of the state.

Himshi Singh from HPWS reminds, “more than 80% of the migrants took the road on their own expense in which the government merely provided e-passes for private transportation, and the number of people who walked on foot is not yet known.”

Adding further she remarks,

“It’s tragic that in the midst of this crisis, FIRs were registered against reporters who did stories on migrant worker’s condition and on the other hand no action was taken against fake news or media who communalised the issue leading to violence on minority communities like the migrant workers from Kashmir”.

The report highlights how Himachal was one of the 12 states who made major dilutions in labour laws in favour of companies and ‘ease of doing business’.

Almost five months have passed living with this epidemic and even as the success and failure of the lockdown are debated- the economy is falling in doldrums and our governments seem inconsistent and directionless. As per the estimate by ILO, 400 million informal workers in India will fall to critical levels of poverty than ever before- a situation that demands urgent cognizance, state accountability and a responsible approach.

In this regard, HPWS in this report has made the following recommendations for the State:

  1. Release in the public domain all the information about relief/support provided to migrant workers
  2. A joint task force be set to bring out a comprehensive report on the conditions and needs of migrant labourers in the state within 6 months
  3. Provide universal Access to Ration, Economic and other Relief Facilities
  4. Housing facilities for Migrant workers who have been living in Himachal and hostel facilities for seasonal labour
  5. Housing facilities for Migrant workers who have been living in Himachal and hostel facilities for  seasonal labour
  6. Compliance of SC/HC orders-setting up helpdesk/grievance redressal centres at Panchayat, Block, Tehsil  and District levels and conducting employment and skill-based survey of the migrant workers who have returned from other states
  7. Dilution in labour laws be withdrawn and all changes scrapped and strengthening the time-bound  ‘Grievance Redressal’ system and Labour Courts Mandate the registration of all migrant labourers working in the state under ISWMA 1979

HPWS will be submitting the report to various state and central agencies for further advocacy and hopes that the HP Government will take adequate measures to protect the interests of the migrant worker communities in the state.

Read Complete Report

Feature Photo: Sumit Mahar, Volunteer HPWS

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Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases in Himachal, Speculation of Complete Lockdown Gains Momentum

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Himachal Pradesh Lockdown from August 1st speculations

Shimla-The number of COVID-19 cases is rising at an alarming rate in Himachal Pradesh as for the past five consecutive days, the state had been reporting nearly 100 cases per day. With Monday’s 95 new cases, the tally  for the state jumped to 2270. The number of active cases has crossed the 1000 mark to reach 1025 on Monday. So far, 1216 patients have recovered while 12 of them succumbed to COVID-19 infection.

Among Monday’s cases, Sirmaur district reported the highest 31 cases from Govindgarh (mohalla) locality in Nahan. Complete lockdown of two days was imposed in this area but the spurt in cases continues. Fifteen new cases were reported from Baddi and Parwanoo in Solan district while remaining cases were reported from Bilaspur (11), Mandi (10), Kangra (16), Shimla (5), Una (2), Hamirpur (1), and Chamba (3).

In Shimla, five family members of a policeman, who had tested positive a couple of days ago, also tested positive.

HP Health Department’s COVID-19 Bulletin July 27, 2020 (9PM)

himachal pradesh demand of lockdown amid surge in covid-19

Some leaders of the ruling party (BJP) continue to invite criticism for behaving irresponsibly. The government itself is not learning any lesson from the situation in Govindgarh- a hot spot where the outbreak was triggered due to a marriage ceremony.

On Monday, the opposition Congress filed a police complaint against three persons including a BJP leader for violating rules by roaming around and meeting a large number of people instead of placing themselves under home-quarantine. The opposition said that samples of these persons were taken after they showed symptoms of the COVID-19 infection. Still, these persons kept roaming around after giving samples. The opposition has also alleged a discrimination was seen in initiating legal action for violations of social distancing norms. In Spiti, hundreds of tribal women were booked for staging protest against Minister Ram Lal Markanda for not adhering to the resolution passed by the locals regarding mandatory quarantine for all including the residents of the district. Cases have been filed against the opposition Congress too for violating these norms during recent protests. 

Earlier, a leader from Mandi had introduced the coronavirus in Chief Minister’s office and the State secretariat and infected about two dozen of his contacts including the Advocate General and his family. The leader reportedly visited the IGMC, Shimla, State High Court and other offices.

Now, another ex-MLA from Nadaun and the Vice-Chairman, HRTC, was reported to have met several party workers and even attending an event as the chief guest. Vijay Agnihotri reportedly continued shopping, roaming around, and meeting people after giving a sample. Reportedly, he also attended a marriage ceremony. The district administration would now have a task to trace all his contacts.

At the sametime, the Congress was also seen disregarding the social distancing norms during their recent protests against the hike in bus fare.

Laxity in Organization of and Checking Gathering in Govt Events

While the state government has issued guidelines for attending funerals and marriages, there is hardly any seriousness when it comes to organizing government or the party events. The ‘havan’ organized in Shimla where hundreds of people had gathered and several party leaders including Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had visited it. The event had invited criticism as the Chief Minister and workers of BJP Mahila Morcha were seen disregarding every social distancing norm. 

An employee of HP University also tested positive recently. A few days prior to the confirmation of this case, an event was organized at the varsity on the occasion of the Foundation Day a large number of people including media persons were present.  

Amid such a sharp increase in cases, instead of being so lax, the government is supposed to prohibit any such gathering or at least issue guidelines regarding the maximum number of persons allowed to attend such events/functions.

Solan district where the total COVID-19 cases have reached 553 has begun to witness a shortage of health staff.  The BBN area is the worst hit and has reported about 80 percent of the total cases in Solan. According to a media report, there are only 10 doctors at the CHC at Nalagarh and six at the Civil hospital, Baddi. There are only 28 nurses.

Amid this panic, the public, especially from Shimla district has been suggesting the imposition of a lockdown and questioning the government over still keeping the border open for tourists. To make thing even worse, there are instances where people violated quarantine rules after their samples were taken or were not monitored properly. In Mandi district’s Bagsaid market, a person had opened his meat shop giving a sample. It was after the arrival of his report that the shop was closed. 

Further, the online opinion poll of the State Government inviting public opinion over the imposition of a complete lockdown in the state has led to speculations of a possible lockdown from August 1st.  The matter regarding a lockdown is expected to be taken up in the Cabinet meeting to be held on July 30. The public is confused and preparing to stock up ration/essentials or planning to leave for villages. Several readers have also been writing to Himachal Watcher to inquire about the possibility of imposition of a complete lockdown.  

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First Open for Tourism, Then Train Staff, HP Govt Goes Topsy Turvy

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Himachal pradesh CM jairam thakur on hotel staff training

Shimla- In the last week, the Himachal state government has taken decisions that could have a long-lasting impact on citizens without consulting or even informing all stakeholders.

First, it came out with guidelines for tourism that did not have any inputs from the tourism industry. Second, it decided to open the state for tourism without consulting hotel and travel industry or keeping village pradhans in the loop.Six days after the decision to allow tourist activity and opening State borders for tourists, the state government of HP has decided to train people employed with the industry.

“Online training for the Hospitality sector would also be held in wake of COVID-19. About 10,000 candidates would be provided one-day training on hygiene and sanitation procedures. Three weeks training on basic essential of a tourist guide communication skill etc. would be provided to about four hundred candidates,”

said Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in a review meeting with Tourism Industry officials on 8th July. It’s surprising that the Government did not find the time to either have this ‘1 day training’ program ready or train the staff of hotels and restaurants before throwing open state borders for tourists. The government gave no time to the hotel industry to understand, prepare and implement directions given in the issued SOPs.

Major Hotel Associations have already decided to keep hotels closed at least till September and  Village Pradhans have also refused to allow tourists into their jurisdiction. The Chief Minister said that the State Government is following the lead of states such as Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala etc. where the Governments have decided to open the State for tourists.

To enter Himachal Pradesh, tourists have to meet three conditions, a valid booking for at least five days, a COVID-19 test report from an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) certified laboratory not older than 72 hours and their vehicle should have a sanitisation certificate.

About 600 tourists have already entered Kangra district. Police arrested a couple in Kangra district who managed to enter the State by furnishing a fake COVID-19 negative report.

“A case was registered at Damtal police station against a couple who entered HP from Bhadroya barrier based on fake COVID Negative test report. Legal action is being initiated against them for cheating, fraud & forgery. They are currently lodged in an institutional quarantine facility at Parour,”

SP, Kangra, Vimukt Ranjan, said confirming the report. In another case in Kullu, five tourists, who managed to enter the State and reach Bajaura barrier in Kullu, were detained for not carrying required documents. A total of 12 tourists have been allowed in to Kullu district after they met the three conditions needed for tourists.

According to Kullu district police, about 70 tourists from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh etc. were sent back for not fulfilling conditions prescribed by the State Government. Tourists who should be sent back for a lack of required documents and fulfilling conditions given in the SOPs issued by the State Government are able to cross barriers at borders, like Parwanoo and Swarghat.

Police manning barricades are also frontline staff who are at risk.

We have provided police who are manning the barricades with N95 masks, raincoats that will serve a double purpose for rain and COVID protection and long gloves, policemen over the age of 50 years and those with existing conditions are not deployed at barricades,

said DSP, Kullu, Priyank Gupta.

While the majority of the hospitality industry players, (which is worst hit by the loss of business), is against opening the State for tourism, there are some, especially those who have leased hotels and taken loans who want to open for tourism. However, until the state government takes steps to add healthcare facilities and make more dedicated COVID hospital wards especially in rural areas, large scale tourism could endanger locals.

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