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Pleas of Himachal’s elderly BPL couple for a roof go unheard  

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BPL family of Una seek relief

Una: While well to do families have been enjoying the benefits by getting their names enrolled in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) lists unlawfully, needy and rightful beneficiaries are deprived of them. 

During an inspection of the BPL list conducted by the government in 2016,  2085 families of 11 districts were found wrongly availing benefits of the BPL scheme despite having two-storey concrete buildings equipped with all the luxuries. 

These wrong beneficiaries snatch the lawful share of the poor. We have a fresh example here.

A poverty-stricken elderly couple of Bangana (बंगाणा) in Una district is spending their nights in a house that has no roof. On February 8, 2018, a fire had gutted their house and cattle-shed along with the cattle and all belongings. The district administration provided the couple with a tent and Rs. 5,100 as a relief. The tent was soon blown away by winds, leaving the house roofless again.

 Thereafter, the elderly couple was allegedly made to do rounds of government offices in hope of a roof but didn’t find any, reports a Hindi Daily.

Though the family is registered in the BPL list in Thathun (ठठहूं) village of Dhanet panchayat, the district administration seems to have run out of empathy and mercy on the poor couple.

The couple lives alone with no one to take care. Despite being registered in the BPL list, the couple says they never received any pension so far.

We made several requests to the district administration regarding the damaged roof, said 59-years-old Harnaam Singh. However, so far, their pleas remain unheard and they continue to live under same conditions.

During recent rains, said Harnaam, the conditions became worse without the roof.  Water poured into their house every time it rained.

A member of the panchayat confirmed that the elderly couple is, indeed, poverty-stricken. A request was also sent by the panchayat to the administration on the behalf of the couple.  

The government mechanism to deal with poor and their poverty remain hostile and discouraging.

While wealthy and near and dear businessmen of politicians devour thousands of crores rupees as insecure bank loans and still allowed to flee the country, the poor are kept at the bottom of the long waiting list.

The government has changed in the State but there is hardly any difference visible in the governance and implementation of schemes for the poor.

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HP Govt’s failure in implementing FRA Act turning habitants into encroachers

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Kinnaur protest against eviction from forest land

The right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.

Shimla: About 1500 people participated in a rally and public meeting held on June 7, 2018, at Reckong Peo, Kinnaur, to raise their voice against on-going eviction drive that is terming a large number of occupants of forestland as illegal encroachers in complete violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

The people protested against HP Government’s poor implementation of the FRA, in their district as well as in the entire state.

The rally and public meeting were organized jointly by the Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Zilla Van Adhikar Mancha, a Kinnaur-based platform, Himachal Van Adhikar Manch, Himdhara Collective, and Himalaya Niti Abhiyan.

Activist Manshi Asher with villagers

A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner with a demand to immediately start processing the claims under FRA from Kinnaur district.

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The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, or Recognition of Forest Rights Act – commonly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA)- was passed by Parliament in 2006 to address historical injustices and exclusion meted out to a large community of forest dwellers in India. Rights over forestlands were taken away since notification of forests under colonial Indian Forest Act (1927).

While in Himachal, there was a Forest Settlement in the 1970s that settled people’s access to forestlands, for the community, these remained privileges that could be taken away any time, the activists of organizing groups said.

Since then, a process of alienation of forest-dwelling communities has intensified in the name of development, wildlife conservation, forest management, and development, shrinking survival spaces of the forest-dependent people each time, they said.
It is only logical to assume that this piece of legislation is extremely relevant for Himachal Pradesh, where 67 percent of the total land area is under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department, the activists said.

In the initial phase, the State government had implemented the Act only in the Schedule – V (Tribal regions) areas of the State. As a result of this, the process of implementation in the State faced a long delay.

In 2013, after a High Court order and repeated instructions from the Centre, the government decided to implement the Act in non-tribal areas also. Despite the formation of more than 17503 Forest Right Committees (FRCs), which would file the claims, the process is not taking off in most areas.

Local administration and government officials have a partial understanding of the act and several misgivings. As a result of it, the process is just not moving forward.
The activists informed that it is extremely unfortunate that despite the formation of FRCs in 99.82% of revenue villages, only 53 individuals and 7 community titles have been issued under the Act in Himachal in past five years.

At the same time, the rest of the country, around 17.31 lakhs individual titles and 62.92 thousands of community titles have been issued over more than 137.50 lakhs acres of forestland.
Forest Rights act in kinnaur

Further, on April 6, 2015, the Himachal Pradesh High Court ordered the removal of encroachments on “forest land” in the state within six months. It has triggered an eviction drive by the Forest Department.

This includes serving notices for removal of encroachments, disconnecting electricity and water supply provided to all “illegal” structures raised over encroached land and legal action in case of non-compliance.

In upper Shimla, the Forest Department went to the extent of felling apple trees from orchards on “forest land.” In Kinnaur, 98 such notices have been served to so-called “encroachers”.

Fearing further action, the people of Kinnaur, earlier on July 25, 2015, organised a huge rally at District headquarters, Rekong Peo, questioning the manner in which the Forest Department is implementing the orders of the High Court.

The activists emphasized on the importance of understanding the right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.

The provisions of this Act are applicable for Scheduled Tribes and other forest-dwelling communities, which mean almost the entire state. This is a special Act that supersedes all other previous acts related to forests like the Indian Forest Act 1927 or the Forest Conservation Act 1980.

It is a matter of concern that the state government failed to bring the issue of this non-implementation of the FRA Act to the attention of the High Court, the activists said.

As per the Section 5(4) of Chapter III of the FRA,

No member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.

According to the 2011 Census, of the total workforce in Himachal, around 62 percents are cultivators and agricultural labourers. This means that a majority of the population dependent completely on farming and forests (livestock rearing) as a livelihood is not a beneficiary in the state budget allocations, the activists said.

Further, the falling number of jobs in the private sector has added to the crises between communities, which could ultimately lead to distress migration, visible in states like Uttarakhand, they said expressing concern.

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HP Govt says schools within Shimla MC area closed for week due to high tourist footfall, not water crisis

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holiday in HP Govt school in shimla city

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Government has decided to shut-down all government schools falling within the jurisdiction of Shimla Municipal Corporation for a week.

From June 4 to June 8, all primary, middle, higher, and senior secondary schools will remain closed.

However, the interesting part the reasons given in the official notification issued by the Director of Higher Education, Dr Amar Dev on June 2.

It doesn’t include even a slight reference to the ongoing chaos over water scarcity.
As per the notification, the Higher and Primary Education of Departments, HP, has decided to announce a holiday due to higher movement of tourists during the peak tourist season.

Another reason that was cited in the notification, was that the Departments have taken this reason considering the pattern of the private schools that have already announced a summer break.

There is a condition too. The schools will not get the holidays they used to get during monsoon, which was the set pattern. The Education Minister, Suresh Bhardwaj, suggested the government might change the pattern permanently. 

It’s for the first time that government schools are being given summer holidays. Shimla town has always been a popular tourist destination and the tourist footfall has always been high during the summer season,

the former Mayor of the city, Sanjay Chauhan, told Himachal Watcher.

The Government doesn’t have enough guts to admit that ongoing water crisis is a reason behind it because that would expose not only its poor response to the situation but a huge mismanagement and unfair treatment in the distribution of drinking water too,

the further added.

It appears to be an attempt to kill two birds with one stone. The hotels were forced to cancel bookings and buy water from private tankers on the very high rate. The tourist faced a lot of inconveniences and they are trying to avoid Shimla, the hoteliers have been alleging.

The registered hotels are not receiving supply from the Corporation, but hundreds of unregistered guest houses/flats that have mushroomed in residential localities illegally are consuming domestic water via tankers for commercial purpose. The registered hotels are buying water from private tankers as there is no other choice. The SMC cites High Court orders due to which the supply to hotels in the town is prohibited via SMC tankers. So, tourists are in fact facing problems, but still hotels are facilitating them at their own level, 

 

Sanjay Sood, the President of Hotel & Restaurant Association of Northern India told HW. 

So, citing a higher tourist footfall would suggest that the town is doing fine and there is only a little shortage of water but no crisis. Secondly, the Government was compelled to close the schools, as there was no water – neither for drinking nor for cooking mid-day meals and cleaning of toilets.

Does it suggest that our elected government is not being honest enough to tell the truth to its people?

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Water Crisis Shimla: Common people not receiving water despite 7 MLD increase in daily supply

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chakka jam in shimla city over water scarcity

Chief Minister, who is out of Shimla, has given a media statement claiming that 28.47 MLD water was received and equally distributed as per the schedule today.

Shimla: The series of aggressive protests continues in Shimal city on Saturday over scarcity as well as unequal distribution of drinking water to the people. The residents of the Vikasnagar Ward today blocked the Shimla-Dhalli bypass by holding a ‘chakka jam’ at Vikasnagar. The road was blocked at the time of writing and there was a long line of vehicles on both sides. 

While some Wards have received some relief, the residents alleged they are not receiving any supply for over past 10 days despite the schedule released by the Shimla Municipal Corporations for the supply of water in three zones of the city.

photos of shimla city water scarcity

Similarly, the public in Kasumpti area did not receive a supply as per the schedule. Vikasnagar and Kasumpti were supposed to get a supply on Friday. However, the supply never reached them.

The SMC had given us an assurances of supply on Thursday but didn’t do so. The same assurance was passed on for the next day (Friday). However, we have not received any supply yesterday or today.  The distribution of water is not at all equal,

the Ward Councilor, Rachana, told Himachal Watcher 

Watch: Chakka Jam at Vikasnagar 

Today, even directions were issued for suspension of an SDO of the SMC  for negligence in water distribution in Shimla town.

When, on the complaint of the locals, Himachal Watcher tried to call the numbers of the keymen and Nodal Officer given with the schedule, they were either out of reach or switched off or busy.

The divide between VIPs and common people has also come to light, as influential ones are able to manipulate the distribution system. On Thursday, the locals had exposed an illegal water pipeline connected to the apartment in a VIP locality that belong to an influential leader of the ruling party.

The extent to which the VIP culture and corruption is prevalent could be assessed from the fact that the High Court had to direct deployment of at least two policemen with each keyman to ensure equal distribution.

However, the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his ministers, especially the Health Minister Vipin Singh Parmar, are releasing media statement claiming the government has done a fantastic job and the people are getting an equal share of water.

The six-member committee constituted under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary is regularly holding meetings and monitoring the water availability and distribution process every evening to ensure that people were getting sufficient water. A schedule has been prepared and the city has been divided into three zones for water supply which was being followed strictly and being monitored by the committee,

claimed the State government.

Chief Minister, who is out of Shimla, has given a media statement claiming that 28.47 MLD water was received and equally distributed as per the schedule today.

The government claimed an increase of more than 7 MLD within a week while the public is in some localities still not received any water today.

People are asking to whom and where this water is being supplied.

HP Tourism department also claimed that there was a shortage of water but there was no crisis as being reported in a section of the press.

Health Minister Vipin Singh Parmar again gave a statement boasting that efforts of the State government to resolve the water crisis situation in Shimla town has started showing positive results.

Unaware of the ground reality, Parmar is still focusing on giving political statements to counter opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri.

The Chief Minister and Parmar are putting the entire blame on the previous government.

Congress government was responsible for the water crisis in Shimla as it failed to execute any water supply scheme for the town,

he said.

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