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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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The Story of Himachal’s ‘Friendly Leopard’ from the Viral Videos

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Viral Himachal Leopard Cub Video

Kullu-Several videos of the ‘leopard incident’ in Tirthan Valley, Kullu district, Himachal Pradesh, are going viral in India and would soon spread to international media. Anyone who is watching these videos is wondering as to how a wild predator who avoids humans, habitats, roads etc. and is a shy feline happened to be playing with people amid a huge gathering of people around him, traffic jam, and a lot of noise. It’s just like a fantasy to see a wild animal having such close, friendly contact with humans despite not being familiar with humans. Not only it was dangerous for the animal itself but also the ignorant people chasing him with mobile cams in their hands. That’s what we could infer from the response given by forest officials after watching the behavior of the people in these video clips. Himachal Watcher has also compiled several video clips of the incident.

A lot of our curious readers had been writing regarding the incident, so we talked to people who actually have knowledge regarding wildlife and animal behaviour in order to find a possible explanation for this rare leopard-man contact. It turned out, opposite to the fun people were having with this animal, it was a sensitive matter for the wildlife officials. 

We talked to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Banjar, Praveen Thakur and HPFS, Sachin Sharma, who is currently posted as DFO, Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP).  Readers had been asking us questions; Where did it come from? How did it become so friendly with humans? What happened to the cub later? So we requested DFO, Banjar, Praveen Thakur, to answer these and some other important questions related to the incident. 

What you already know is that a leopard came out of the wild onto the road near Sarchi – Nagladi bridge in Tirthan valley on January 14. This belt comes under the Great Himalayan National Park. People stopped their vehicles and came out to record videos. The leopard was seen playfully grabbing different people. A traffic jam and a huge gathering of people, mostly locals, were seen in the videos. It was something that people had never seen, at least in this part of the world. 

The DFO, GHNP, also admitted that this is highly uncommon to see such ferocious wild predator getting so friendly within a few hours after contact with humans. But in this case, it was just a cub, aged about seven to eight months. 

“I haven’t seen or heard of such an incident where a wild leopard became so friendly with humans that he started to play with them. These animals are generally shy and smartest in the feline families. They avoid humans and their habitats,” he said.

When asked whether a cub of its age, considering strength and growth of nails and teeth, was capable of inflicting harm or not, he said that on sensing a threat it can. He condemned the behaviour of the people as it was not only dangerous for them but also the animal.

“Amid such a chaotic environment, the behaviour of any wild animal would be unpredictable. If not intentionally, the cub could have inflicted minor injuries to someone while playing. In that case, the reaction of people could have been hostile and things could have gone wrong,” he said.

In his opinion, this rare instance can’t be termed as a result of man-animal conflict. No other instances where these animals attacked or caused harm to humans in this region have been reported, he said.

The DFO, Banjar, Praveen Thakur said he was also surprised but also gave an explanation.

“It was an eight- to-nine-month-old cub, who got separated from its mother. The mother with its cubs lives in a nearby forest in a territory of four to five square kilometers. There was an incident of fire in the area and the cub, most probably, got separated from the mother due to it,” the DFO told Himachal Watcher.

Regarding the friendly behaviour of this cub, he said,

“Several videos are going viral on social media where the cub was looking comfortable and friendly with humans amid a crowd. Adult leopards show behavioural changes before becoming mature animals. They mostly avoid humans. But it was not an adult leopard, but just an 8 to-9-month-old cub,” he said.

“However, the cub did not get friendlier at the starting and was avoiding vehicles. As per my knowledge, for the first few hours, the cub was seen roaming around in a distress and avoiding humans and vehicles. (Watch Video). Initially, a couple of vehicles stopped to see the cub. As it was just a cub unable to hunt and survive at its own, it got friendlier after sensing that humans were not harming and, thus, were no threat. Cubs can get friendly on sensing no threat. Similarly, cubs and young offspring of several other animals can get friendlier.”

If watched video clips carefully, the cub was curious and trying to explore this new environment. But at the same time it was distressed as it had gotten separated from its mother and was in a environment not natural for it.

Citing a previous case, the DFO said,

“Not long time ago, we had rescued a bear cub. He had also become friendly within no time.”

“In the present case, we have identified the family. Mother lives in the forest not far from our Rest House. The area falls under the Great Himalayan National Park and is not far from the road. The family is not entirely unfamiliar with traffic and human movement,” he told HW.

In the current incident, he said that it’s a case of separation of the cub from mother.

A forest fire was reported in the territory of this family, and the mother or the cub got stuck somewhere due to it, resulting in a separation.”

He confirmed hearing calls from its mother. Mother would make a particular sound as a form of a call when trying to find its cubs, he explained.

He said that the department received the information regarding the presence of this cub among humans a little late. On receiving information, a rescue team was dispatched, which reached the spot within half-an-hour.

The team caught the cub with a net without much difficulty, he said. As it was healthy and had no injury or disease, it was released into its natural habitat as guidelines say that in such a case the animal should be released to its natural habitat as soon as possible to reduce distress.

He also said that teams are continuously monitoring the movement of the cub to ensure that it reunites with its mother and do not venture into human habitats or comes near the road again.

The mother and the cub are only a couple of kms distance apart. The cub would also make calls, which would help the mother find it, he said.

He rejected speculations of this cub being raised as a pet.

“His mother would have not been making calls if the cub was raised as a pet. These calls imply that the cub got separated very recently,” he said.

“After consulting wildlife experts, we have decided that in case the cub is seen venturing into human habitats or places having human presence and displaying same friendly behaviour again, then it would have to be captured and sent to the rescue centre in Gopalpur in Kangra district,” he said.

If it would grow up while remaining in friendly contact with humans, it might not get capable of attaining hunting skills to survive at its own in the wild. Moreover, these animals could inflict grieve injuries unintentionally while playing.

However, we are certain that the mother would soon find the cub. We will keep monitoring it until the mother stops making distress calls, he said.

On being asked whether this cub was capable of hurting or injuring a human, the DFO said that cubs of this age lack hunting skills, and it’s mostly after one year of age that the mother starts training them.

The DFO, however, expressed more concern over the behaviour of the people than that of the animal.

Most of these people were locals and they are often made aware about dos and don’t on an encounter with a wild animal.

“As soon as I came across the videos, I contacted a few people who were present on the spot including the Pradhan of the area and told him to ask people to stay away from the cub and to not chase him for photos and videos. I had even spoken to the local police to help manage the situation as people were not even listening to our Rangers,” he told HW.

“It was a complete nuisance that the people were creating by causing a traffic jam, chasing the cub, and trying to get close to it. We are trying to identify some people visible in the video deliberately going near the cub,” he added while informing that there are provisions of three to six months of imprisonment for those creating nuisance for or teasing wild animals, especially those protected. Leopards are protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.

He urged the people to avoid wild animals if they happen to encounter them. Stay away from them, do not gather around and obstruct their path. Left alone, on sensing no threat, these animals eventually find their course and go back to their natural habitat, he said. In the current case, the situation would have led to chaos if it was a mature leopard, he said.

Even if you want to watch the animal then, at least, maintain a safe distance or remain in the vehicle, he added.

When asked whether this instance can be related to man-animal conflict and is a matter of concern or not, the DFO said,

“This can’t be termed as a matter related to man-animal conflict and isn’t a matter of concern as long as animals do not enter human habitats and kill livestock or attack humans. Moreover, such judgement can’t be made based on a single instance.”

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Farmers Welcome SC Order to Stay Implementation of Farm Laws But Suspicious About Formation of Committee

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stay on farm laws

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of three contentious farm laws passed by the Centre Government, which has led to huge protest from hundreds of farmer groups. The stay implies that the Centre Government can’t take any executive actions based on these laws till further order. 

“The implementation of the three farm laws (1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; (2) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and (3) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, shall stand stayed until further orders,”

said the order passed by a panel headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A Bobde on Tuesday.

Further, the MSP system would continue as it was before the enactment of the laws.

“As a consequence, the Minimum Support Price System in existence before the enactment of the Farm Laws shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws,”

the order said.

With this order, the SC hoped to end the ongoing impasse over the contentious farm laws.

The farmers who have been protesting for over the last 45 days, welcomed the SC’s order.

However, at the same time, the Apex Court ordered the formation of a committee to listen to both sides and make recommendations to the court. The committee, which would comprise of Agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, Bhupinder Singh Mann, Dr Prmod Kumar Joshi, former director of National Academy of Agricultural Research Management), and Anil Ghanwat from Shetkari Sangathan, was asked to submit its report in the court within two months.

The CJI, in its order, speaking about the purpose of this “extraordinary” order, said,

“While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmers’ bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.”

Though a stay on the implementation of laws was welcomed by protesting farmers, several unions said that they would not accept this committee and the protest will continue. They said the Government is trying to form this committee through the Supreme Court. This committee, they said, included persons who have already been justifying the farm laws. They said the purpose of this committee is nothing more than creating a diversion. The protest would be armed up and only a repeal of laws would be accepted, the unions said. 

At the same time, the SC was undeterred with these statements and said there is nothing that can stop it from forming a committee. The SC asked the farmers to cooperate with the committee.

On the other hand, the Government was more concerned about that other political parties would think of the stay as a “political victory”.

Further, the Government has also expressed apprehension about security breach due to the tractor rally planned by protesting farmers on the Republic Day.

K.K. Venugopal, Attorney General, told the court that there are reports that the farmers’ bodies may take out a tractor rally on January 26, 2021, disrupting the Republic Day Parade and celebrations However, the same was stoutly denied by Dushyant Dave, learned senior counsel appearing for a few of the farmers’ bodies on the ground that at least one member of the family of each of the farmers from Punjab is in the Army and that they would not disrupt the Republic Day celebrations.

The Court, in its order, said that several rounds of talked between farmers and the Government have failed and there was no solution in sight.

“The situation on ground is: (i) that senior citizens, women and children are at site, exposing themselves to serious health hazards posed by cold and covid; (ii) that a few deaths have taken place, though not out of any violence, but either out of illness or by way of suicide,”

the order said.

The court also lauded the farmers for carrying on the agitation peacefully without any unwanted incident.

Further, the Court orders also mentioned separate petitions filed by individuals/residents of the NCR complaining of blockade of roads/highways leading to Delhi and terming it an infringement of the fundamental rights of other citizens to move freely and to carry out trade and business.

Stay on 3 Farm Laws and Formation of Committee: Read Full Order of Supreme Court

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Inflation, Increased Cost of Food Items, Ration, Crumbling Health Infrastructure, and 100 Gram Sugar: Govt’s Diwali Gift to People

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hp govt's gift on diwali 2020

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh Government has collected over Rs. 86 crores in the name of the COVID-19 relief fund, but only Rs 25 crore was spent. It was stated by Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a senior CPI (M) leader. It’s a shocker considering negligible relief measures and the state of health infrastructure crumbling amid a pandemic. The unpreparedness of the state government to deal with community spread of coronavirus is coming to light as its COVID-19 hospitals have begun to run out of beds in isolation wards. Two major medical facilities -Indira Gandhi Medical College & Hospital and DDU Hospital in Shimla- are packed to their full capacity. 

What’s not shocking is that Chief Minister did hail the Prime Minister, exactly as he was told, claiming that the nation is out of COVID-19 crisis. It suggests that the Chief Minister is little aware of the surge in cases and over 400 COVID-19 deaths, of which 93 were reported during the last 12 days of November month. Yesterday, the state has reported over 700 cases with six deaths, which is alarming.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves all praise for his dynamic leadership as he is successfully steering the Country amid all troubles and difficulties. He has successfully brought the Nation out of Covid-19 crisis,” 

said Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, while addressing a public meeting at Sihunta under Bhatiyat Assembly Constituency on Wednesday. 

Talking about the real situation and relief measures, the state Government became a laughingstock and was being trolled on social media after it announced 100 gram sugar and 500-gram rice per person to all ration cardholders as a Diwali gift. If that was not enough, according to a media report, this quota has still not reached the depots. There is a possibility that it would reach the cardholders only after Diwali.

The reason behind this backlash is not only that 100-gram sugar is too trivial to be called a gift or relief, especially amid a pandemic when common people, especially those falling in middle and lower-income groups, are faced with unemployment and economic crisis.

While the people were hoping for relief from their elected government, inflation was on the rise. Currently, prices of food items including vegetables and other essential commodities have also witnessed a huge increase. Further, cut in subsidy on electricity, hike in bus fare, increase in property tax, rise in diesel and petrol prices etc. have put additional burden on the commoners. 

Then there were other issues like relaxation in garbage collection fee for the period of lockdown. Sadly, the public did not get any relief even in garbage bills despite staging protests. 

Meanwhile, Ministers made news for spending tax money on buying luxury vehicles and VIP numbers. 

Oppositions, Congress and CPI (M) have also targeted the government over its failure to provide any considerable relief to the people when it’s most needed. As per oppositions, the current government has no control over the market or inflation.

Chauhan also raised the issue of thousands of vacant posts of doctors, para-medical staff, nurses etc. at medical facilities across the state. He said that of the total 1000 posts of lab technicians, 700 were still vacant. He said that the government did not prepare for a community spread despite having a time of eight months during the lockdowns. It was due to this lackadaisical attitude of the government that currently IGMC and DDU hospitals have run out of space in isolation wards, he said.

He also said that, in an all-party meeting convened on March 21, CPI(M) had given the government 12 recommendations to effectively deal with the situation. The party had suggested that thousands of vacant posts should be filled at the earliest, all government buildings construction of which were completed should be prepared to accommodate COVID-19 patients. Similarly, at least four blocks of the under-construction building of IGMC should also be equipped with facilities to accommodate patients, the party had suggested. 

On November 8, 2020, the state unit of Mahila Congress staged a protest over a huge increase in prices of food items. They wore garlands of potatoes and onions and marched from the party headquarter to the Office of Deputy Commissioner, Shimla. Women alleged that the people have received no relief despite such a huge crisis. Instead, the current government is encouraging hoarding of essentials.

The opposition also said that the government has increased the rate of cereals provided through the public distribution system. This increase is Rs 5 for cereals and Rs. 9 for mustard oil. Vegetable prices have gone beyond Rs 50 during the festival season. It also said that the registration fees of vehicles have also been increased.

Sanjay Chauhan is of the view that to provide relief, the government should deposit at least Rs 7500 in the accounts of consumers and provide them with 10 kg ration per person for free.

He also said that recently the government has hiked the charges for electricity and installation of meters. The government has now withdrawn its notification restricting schools to charge only tuition fee and allowed them to charge full fees, including those pending for the period of lockdown, he said. This decision has come as a huge financial burden for parents and is causing mental harassment. 

The policies of the current government are only benefiting corporates, while other sections like labourers/daily wagers, small scale industries and businesses, shopkeepers, farmers are faced with financial crisis and unemployment due to lockdowns imposed in view of corona pandemic, Chauhan said. 

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