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Misconceptions keep Himachal from making fortune on ‘green gold’ and eradicate charas mafia

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Shimla: Owing to the unawareness and lack of education regarding the difference between hemp and recreational cannabis and the political link between the two, Himachal Pradesh Government is missing a big opportunity to cash on it. Hemp cultivation has become green gold in countries like China and the United States of America. The best part is that its biodegradable, thus, eco-friendly.

At the same time, while sitting on this mine of green gold, the Hill State is facing the wrath of charas/drug mafia due to illegal cultivation in rural areas where people have bleak opportunities of alternative employment.

The public, as well as the government, are under the false impression that legalizing cultivation would make things worse, especially for the youth. The article discusses facts relating to this misconception created due to the negative image of the plant. But before that, let us take a look at the booming industry of hemp.

Overview of the booming global hemp market

As of 2017, around 36 countries were growing industrial hemp in accordance with rules and regulations of their respective governments.

Hemp is endorsed in fibre market by big names like Adidas, Nike, Specialized Bicycle, MERIDA, TREK, Capo, Assos, Rapha, Marcello Bergamo, Castelli etc.

Hemp fibre accounted for 40.4% of the revenue in 2017 on account of high demand from the textile industry.

The global industrial hemp market is booming and expected to reach USD 10.6 billion by 2025, says a report by Grand View Research, Inc.

Hemp economy of US from 2012-2022

It’s generating billions in revenue and creating investment opportunities. China is the biggest producer as it claims 50 percent of the total supply to the global market. China’s hemp industry is all set to grow into a US $14,66,49,10,000 fortune in just five years.

China is fetching US $1,500 per hectare which is higher than the common crops like corn. Its produce is mostly exported to US, Europe, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, etc.

Shanxi Greenland Textile is the largest hemp fibre processor in China.

While Indian policymakers are neglecting it, about 606 patents have already come into existence, and China holds maximum 309 patents relating to hemp products.

In the US, Hemp Business Journal predicts industry growth of 700% to a value of 1.8 billion dollars by 2020 owing to hemp-derived CBD, food, personal care and industrial products

The total sales for the U.S. Hemp Industry in 2017 were $820 million.

hemp industry in 2017-18

Hemp is useless for charas mafia

When American farmers first begin to grow hemp as a legal crop, a large number of other people believed they were growing drugs or cannabis for smoking. This is the biggest misconception faced by the policymakers in India as well as in other nations.

Hemp is one of the varieties of Cannabis sativa, which cannot be used as a psychoactive substance to get high. In simple words, it would not get you high even if you try to do so by smoking it because it contains negligible amount (.3%) of the psychoactive substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Difference between cannabis and hemp

This variety of cannabis family is different from what is being cultivated illegally in Himachal, which contains a much higher amount of THC.

Genetically modified seeds with low TCH content

The researchers are already working on developing genetically modified hybrid seeds which could deliver higher productivity with a negligible amount of THC. Similar efforts are being made in the neighbouring states of Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir where the hemp cultivation has already been made legal. However, the stigma associated with cannabis family is holding back the hemp industry.

However, the misunderstanding due to the link of hemp to the cannabis family has resulted in several restrictions on hemp cultivation, processing, distribution, and consumption.

Himachal’s policymakers should not make a similar mistake and spoil the chances of socio-economic upliftment through this green gold.

Recreational cannabis can’t be grown under cover of hemp

Countries cultivating hemp has not faced any such problems because these two types of cannabis varieties can be distinguished easily. Also, the cultivation cycle is also different from the recreational cannabis. Moreover, the cultivation area, which is beyond government’s complete surveillance throughout the year, would automatically provide all details regarding the total area of cultivation with specific locations, total produce, and sale to manufactures.

Considering this, anyone who is given license to cultivate hemp legally after fulfilling all official formalities and conditions would deter from violating it by trying to cheat the authority.

Recognized and listed in the Essential Drugs List of AYUSH

The Essential Drugs List of Ayurveda Siddha Unani and Homeopathy (AYUSH) Department includes cannabis sativa as a medicine and the ancient literature of India as well China has a plethora of documented knowledge about the medicinal properties of the plant.

It is written in our Vedas that Cannabis (Vijaya) is one of the most sacred plants to grow on this land. Our Ayurvedic scriptures recognised and wrote about the miraculous medicinal properties of this plant almost 3,500 years ago.

Vijaya has been described under Upasiva Varga (Group of sub-poisonous plants) by certain texts related to Rasa Sastra.

Take a detailed look at a research titled “Exploring the pharmaco-clinical view on Bhanga (Cannabis sativa linn.): a classical unfamiliar portrayal Swagat”  by DilipTavhare and Rabinarayan Acharya  published in International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological in 2015:

A large number of such studies is available to testify in support of the aforesaid facts. 

A global cannabis market of billions of dollars is ready to make large investments in India with a potential of creating employment for approximately 2.8 million people.

The cultivators can earn approximately Rs, 40,000 per acre in 100 days. Further, India has a potential to export hemp and cannabis products worth $330 million, which could grow rapidly if the government could think in the right direction and open research facilities to study this plant. 

As per the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, in 2016, Canadian exports of hemp rose from $600,000 to $45 million and is expected to grow to $40 – $80 million by 2020.

Companies in the market are producing fibres that are water repellent, fire retardant, absorptive, and super soft. China was the first to carry out a research on hemp and use it in the military for uniforms and bulletproof jackets.

As a matter of fact, the hemp fibre is considered as one of the strongest material.  

Hemp is so strong and lightweight that the auto industry is using it for luxury car parts.

It also makes good construction material in homes, and researchers are of the opinion that hemp biodiesel could one day be used as clean fuel.

The market boom can be attributed to increasing awareness about hemp, thus, growing demand for hemp-based food products including cooking oil, dairy alternatives, flour, salad, and for bakery products such as bread and cookies

What does HP High Court say about hemp cultivation?

If the data provided in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the State High Court by advocate Deven Khanna is considered, Himachal can kill several birds with one stone if it could bring the cultivation of hemp under legal framework for industrial and medicinal purposes.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma, on July 19, after taking stock of the situation of the state in terms drug/substance use, had expressed worries about it saying the situation has reached an alarming level.

The Court has directed the government to take every possible measure including at the level of policymakers to eradicate this nuisance. Along with directions to law enforcement agencies, the court has also asked the government to consider cannabis cultivation for alternative purposes, especially medicinal.

Government may also consider hiring services of some research Agencies, who in turn may advise/recommend alternate use, especially medicinal use, if any, of cannabis plant grown in the State of Himachal Pradesh, so that local residents, involved in illegal trade of cannabis, are encouraged to use cannabis plants for producing some medicines or substances which can be used legally,

the court had stated in the order.

ND&PS Act has given powers to State Governments to legalise hemp cultivation.

On the top of these advantages including the positive response of the High Court, there is already a provision in the ND&PS act, which the government can use to allow hemp cultivation.

Section 14 of the ND&PS Act empowers the government to, by general or special order, permit cultivation of cannabis exclusively for horticultural and industrial purposes. It says that the Central Government shall encourage research and trials of cultivars of cannabis with low THC content. The Central Government shall, however, follow a cautious, evidence-based approach towards the cultivation of cannabis for horticultural and/ or industrial purposes and shall take decisions based on the result of researches.

The Section 10 of the Act when read with Section 8, empowers the state governments to licence cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.

Hemp cultivation is very specific in terms of its requirement for the climatic conditions.

As the altitude and climatic conditions of the Hill State favour cultivation of cannabis, the plants could be found in almost every region from tribal areas to International tourist destinations like Kullu and Shimla.

This alternative can also eradicate charas/hashish mafia – one of the biggest concerns of Himachal.

Also, as the hemp has no natural enemies like animals, insects, pests etc, farmers do not need to worry about the damages worth hundreds of crores caused to their crops by wild animals or making expenditure on pesticides.

Himachal’s struggle to check drug/substance abuse nuisance

If we take a look at the current situation, in district Shimla only, the police have registered about 24 cases under the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (ND&PS) Act from July 1 to August 8, 2018. In July, about 70 percent of cases were registered against Heroin (Chitta) offenders other than Charas, opium, and other drugs.

However, in August, the Shimla Police seized a high quantity of Charas in two cases, which could be considered as significant achievements. On August 8, police allegedly nabbed three persons including a female with 8.143 kg of Charas, and the case was registered at the Police Station, Theog.

Earlier, on August 2, the police had got it hands on a person who was allegedly carrying 3.3 kg charas.

However, such a high number of cases under ND&PS also indicate a commercial level cultivation of cannabis illegally. Ironically, the government is spending on uprooting these crops.

As per the Director General of the Police, SR Mardi, 94.267 kg charas was recovered between April, May and June 2018.

As per the DGP’s affidavit submitted to the court,

In the year 2012, 282.370 Kgs. charas was recovered from Himachal, whereas in the year 2013, it increased to 314.962 Kgs. As per the ‘NCB’, 356.963 Kgs. charas was recovered in the year 2014.

In 2016, the amount of seized charas rose to 377.535 kgs and 134 kg charas in first seven months of 2017.

Replacing current cannabis variety with hemp could go a long way in checking this nuisance and the black market.

Need for crop diversification in Himachal 

Cannabis legalisation in Himachal PRadesh

Further, the climate change has affected Himachal’s common crops and fruit crops, especially apple. Amid such times, the policymakers need to work for diversification of cultivation of crops so that a supplementary income could be provided through the cultivation of Hemp in a rotational growing cycle along with major conventional crops.

It’s needless to say that hemp cultivation in addition to the common crops could assist it in achieving its target of doubling the income of farmers. 

Major challenges for the hemp industry in India

The major challenges that the hemp industry face in India are lack of precedence with regards to regulatory landscape, interlayered ministerial roles and responsibilities, regulatory void caused due to lack of independent and consolidated regulator, lack of standard material for research amongst academics and institutions, concurrent policy clarity with regards to forward-looking nature of the hemp industry.

The State High Court would be conducting next hearing in the petition filed regarding the legalisation of hemp cultivation in Himachal on August 14, 2018. The court had already directed the state government to make a call over the decision. The ball is in the government’s court.

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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Kotkhai Custodial Death Case: Forced to Consume Liquor, Cannabis, then Tortured, Witness Tells Court

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Kotkhai Custodial Death case trail witnesses

Shimla-In the Kotkhai custodial death case, six more witnesses recorded their statements in the special CBI court in Chandigarh on October 9, 2019. One of the witnesses included Ashish Chauhan – an accused in Gudia rape and murder case, who was later discharged by the CBI.

While three accused – former Inspector General of Police, Zahur H Zaidi, former SP, Shimla, DW Negi, and DSP, Theog, Manoj Joshi-were already granted bail by the court, the bail plea of three others was dismissed yesterday. These three accused included former Station House Officer (SHO), Kotkhai Police Station, Rajinder Singh, head constable Rafee Mohammad, and constable Raneeta.

In his statement, prosecution witness Ashish Chauhan told the court that he was picked up from his home on July 9, 2017, by three policemen and was taken to Bankufer rest house, where he was interrogated. On July 9, he was taken to Chhaila police post where he was kept till July 10.

Ashish, in his statement, told the court that Zaidi, Bhajan Dev Negi, Rattan Negi, PSO Sushil, PSO Sunil, and Manoj Joshi started torturing him from July 11 using different techniques. They asked him to confess to the crime, which he had not committed, Ashish said. He alleged that he was tied upside down with a rope and beaten brutally with sticks and given electric shocks. He also alleged that during this torture, he has sustained grieve injury to his spinal cord. 

He also alleged that Zaidi forcefully made him consume neat alcohol. Zaidi smoked cannabis and also forced him to smoke the same, Ashish alleged.

On the intervening night of July 13-14, his signatures were taken and he was told that an FIR was registered. The police was also alleged of keeping him in custody illegally without taking him to the court within 24 hours of arrest. It was only on July 15 that he was taken to the local court in Theog and was officially taken on remand.  

Other than Ashish, statements of other prosecution witnesses including Dr HV Acharya, Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory, Gujarat, who had conducted BEOS and narco test on Ashish Chauhan, Rajinder Singh, Lokjan, Deepak and Subhash Singh, was also recorded. 

As per the conclusion of the report, no the role of five accused was observed in the act of rape and murder of Gudia as the motive of rape and murder were not established. Similarly, narco and BEOS test did not suggest any role of Rajinder in the killing of Suraj inside Kotkhai Police Station lock-up.

Further, prosecution witness Dr Ashwani Soon, who is a radiologist with DDU Zonal Hosptial, Shimla, Pritam Chand, Amar Singh Verma and constable Ajay Kumar also recorded their statement and were cross-examined.

Earlier, in the previous hearing in the case in September 2019, six prosecution witnesses had recorded their statement in the court. As a crucial revelation, the driver of Zaidi had told the court that he was with the accused from July 11 to July 13, 2017. He confirmed that he took Zaidi to the spot where the body of the rape victim was lying on July 11. Later, the driver said, he took Zaidi to Kotkhai Police Station and then to the Guest House of Public Works Department in the afternoon. Five accused were also kept at the HPPWD guest house illegally after their arrest.

Similarly, during a hearing on August 16, 2019, two villagers, Prashant Negi and Ishan, had given statements that they were illegally detained and kept at the said guest house. They had also told the court that they were brutally beaten, kept naked, and given third-degree torture between July 11 and July 13. These two CBI witnesses had identified Zaidi and then SP DW Negi and other police officials who were present during this time.

There are total 60 prosecution witnesses of CBI in the case. Statements of over 26 witnesses have already been recorded.

On August 29, 2017, CBI had arrested eight Police officials including the IG Zaidi in relation to the custodial killing of Suraj – an accused in the Gudia rape and murder case- on July 18, 2017. Later, then SP DW Negi was also arrested. CBI had later discharged all remaining accused alleging that they were innocent and were framed by the said police officials.

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Himachal BJP Leaders Including President Satti Make Mockery of HC Orders and Laws of Entry on Sealed Roads

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Hp BJP President Satpal Satti Breaks Rule

Shimla-Entry of vehicles on the Ridge Maidan is prohibited except for the emergency vehicles and vehicles of the Governor and the Chief Minister. But this is not the only concern; the Ridge Maidan and the tank beneath it have developed cracks. The movement of vehicles could make things worse. However, the Ministers, MLAs, Govt Officials, and even leaders of the ruling BJP do not care about what the law or the state High Court says or they don’t care about the sensitive condition of the Ridge Maidan.

The Chief Minister Jairam Thakur led Bharatiya Janata Party government had made a promise to the people of the state that it will put a check on VIP culture. However, neither the Ministers nor the MLAs of BJP are keeping this promise. They are openly defying laws related to entry and parking on sealed roads, as well as, showing disregard to the orders of the State High Court. The VIP culture is flourishing.

In such an instance, on September 25, 2019, on the occasion of Birth anniversary of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya, a drive to clean statues of great leaders of the Nation established in Shimla town was organized. The Chief Minister also took part in the drive and cleaned the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, former Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi, and first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Dr. Y.S. Parmar and Lt. Gen. Daulat Singh situated at The Ridge Shimla.

BJP State President Satpal Singh Satti also took part in it. But he forgot to show regard to rules and regulations and to the orders of the state High Court. His car was seen parked in front of the state library on the historic Shimla Ridge Maidan. Some other government vehicles including that of the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur was also on the sealed road.

As per the rules, as well as, the High Court orders, except emergency vehicles and vehicles of the Governor and the Chief Minister, no vehicle is allowed to enter the sealed road. However, enjoying the perks of power, the BJP President, displayed how political power allows leaders to over-ride rules and regulations.

This is not the first instance. Earlier, on August 28, 2019, at an event organized by BJP to pay tribute to their senior party leader Arun Jaitley, several ministers, MLA, and other government officials reached the Gaiety Theatre in their vehicles. The police was helpless and instead of enforcing the orders of no entry on the sealed Ridge Maidan, they were seen facilitating them.

Moreover, neither the Dailies nor online news portals highlighted it.

Even the Chief Minister isn’t following the orders of the Supreme Court regarding the ban on usage of the multi-toned horns in official vehicles. As per information obtained through an RTI, the vehicles of the Chief Minister and several other ministers were allegedly still using sirens/multi-tone horns in their official vehicles. A Division Bench comprising acting Chief Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua has sought a reply from the state government in its order passed recently. The order was passed on a petition filed by the HP High Court Bar Association.

Then, daily, several VIP cars with stickers of MLA could be seen parked on the sealed road near Clarks hotel. Pictures of these vehicles could be seen on social media posted by commoners. Several readers have shared these images with Himachal Watcher too. These posts receive a lot of critical comments from the people, but it never bothers these VIPs.

Parking on Sealed Roads Is Prohibited by Court Orders?Though the parking is prohibited on sealed roads of Shimla for…

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई बुधवार, 7 अगस्त 2019

Then, there are VIP cars breaking traffic queues and parked wrongly, causing traffic jams.

#HPGovt Vehicles Continue Creating Traffic Nuisance With govt stickers on their cars, govt officials continue to…

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई गुरुवार, 12 सितंबर 2019

What message the ruling party and the government want to send to the people? Do they want to make it a matter of prestige to violate laws and defy court orders

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APMC Bill 2019: Will it End Exploitation of Farmers in Himachal? This is What Minister Markanda and MLA Rakesh Singha Have to Say

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APMC Bill 2019 agriculture minister markanda and mla rakesh singha

Shimla-The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Bill 2019 would check exploitation of farmers and apple growers by commission agents and traders, says the Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda. Unless this Bill is passed, the government has no control over existing APMC, thus, despite being the Agriculture Minister, he is helpless to get justice for the farmers, Markanda had told media couple of weeks ago.

However, Rakesh Singh, MLA of Theog Constituency, has a different opinion regarding the Bill. He said he has gone through the Bill thoroughly. Singha rejected Markands’s claim that the government has no control over the APMC. He asks as to how it is possible when the majority of the APMC members are officials of the state government.

Video: MLA Rakesh Singh on Agriculture Minister’s Claim That He Has No Control Over APMC

When asked whether the new APMC Bill would actually benefit farmers and fruit growers of the state, Singha said it was the other way round. With this bill, the government would permit that anyone from anywhere in India could open a market in Himachal. It’s natural that giant firms would use this opportunity, leading to shut down of small local businesses. He asserts that existing laws are equally strong.  

Video: Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda and MLA Rakesh Singha on APMC Bill 2019

It’s pertinent to mention that apple growers, as well as, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti had been protesting over pending payments of hundreds of apple growers, which were not being paid by commission agents. Then there were complaints of unregistered and even blacklisted commission agents infiltrating the market and depriving growers of receiving justified prices for their produce. The growers approached the APMC and the state government several times with pleas to help them in recovering their payments worth lakhs of rupees. None of the two came to their rescue.

Led by the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, the growers were forced file FIRs against commission agents, following which some of the pending payments were recovered.

The response of the Agriculture Minister to these repeated instances of frauds and exploitations by traders and commission agents despite provisions of rules and regulations regarding the payments and conducting business in the markets was that he has no control over the APMC at all. As per Markanda, the solution lies in the new APMC Bill 2019, which was to be passed in the monsoon session of the HP Legislative Assembly. However, it was deferred till the winters session and was sent to Select Committee after some MLAs pointed out that the Act should be carefully analysed before passing and implementing it.

Markanda says that the APMC Bill 2019 would be passed in the winter session and it would bring relief to the growers. He asserts that the Bill has provisions to prevent farmers and apple growers from frauds.

The Bill would apply on the commission agents based outside the state. After the implementation of this bill, the market fee would only be charged at markets and all other barriers would be lifted. It would open the market of entire India to growers by facilitating online trading, Markanda claimed. 

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