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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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Garbage Dumping Polluting Giri Ganga River – A Drinking Water Supply Source of Shimla

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Giri Ganga River pollution in Shimla

Shimla– The Gumma Nagar Panchayat in Kotkhai, Shimla district, like most of the other rural areas, lacks a proper solid waste management system. As a result, the usual method adopted here is dumping daily solid waste down the hill in an official dumping yard.

The locals from the panchayat wrote to Himachal Watcher regarding the adverse effect the dumping site in Gumma causing.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (2)

Overflowing dumping site in Gumma

They said the panchayat has allocated the site shown in the photo above to dump their garbage. This garbage is mostly left unsorted. 

With the growing population and increasing number of shops, the hillside is now overflowing with rubbish. This overflowing waste from the dump finds its way down to the Giri river water. 

It not only looks unsightly but also emits a foul smell. Moreover, the half-burnt rubbish flies in all directions, mostly downhill into the water.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 3

The office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH Subdivision Gumma, is located near to this location. Still, the issue is being ignored. 

“Interestingly, the Department of Irrigation & Public Health is sitting above the location, blind and oblivious to it all,”

Devanshe Chauhan Lidgley, a local told Himachal Watcher.

IPH Office in Gumma

Office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH, Gumma

She further added,

“Complaints have been made to the Gumma Panchayat Pradhan who showed helplessness since it was a decision made by higher officials,”

The panchayat pradhan of Gumma told HW that, indeed, the area is facing a problem with daily garbage. There are five wards in the Nagar panchayat, and villagers do not have any common dumping ground. 

“The villagers have found suitable spots near their habitats where they dump their daily garbage,”

Tara Chauhan, the Pradhan of the panchayat told HW

“The dumping site shown in the pictures is particularly created to accommodate daily waste generated by shops in the market. The market has about 300 shops, and the daily waste is transported through pic-ups to the dumping site,”

she added.  

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (1)

A Pick-up dumping Gumma Market’s daily waste downhill

She also accepted that this dumping site is now overflowing as the amount of waste dumped is increasing. The issue has been brought to the attention of district administration of Shimla, she said, adding that the administration has asked the panchayat to find a new location for the creation of another dumping yard. However, it’s hard to procure land for it as no one would allow the creation of dumping site on private land, she said. 

“Earlier, we used to set the garbage ablaze when dumping reached on the verge of overflowing. However, now, we have directions not to burn garbage as it causes air pollution,”

Chauhan told HW. 

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district

As a matter of fact, the said dumping site is overflowing and, in monsoon, a lot of waste is likely to find its way into the Giri Ganga. 

Giri Ganga is one of the main sources of drinking water supply to Shimla, and there is no need to say more why it requires immediate intervention of the district administration and the state pollution control board to prevent water pollution.

In the past, Shimla has already witnessed instances of jaundice outbreaks due to contaminated water that had killed about two dozen people.  However, it appears, we are waiting for another catastrophe to happen before appropriate action is taken.  

The garbage dumped here needs to be removed regularly and disposed of properly before the next truck of garbage is dumped. 

“Is the ‘Swaacch Bharat’ campaign only on papers? How can the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) succeed if the sources of Ganga are being polluted?”

asked the local.

It is a matter of concern that the district administration is still stuck at creating dumping yards, which is not a proper way to dispose of solid waste. At the same time, the villagers are left at their own to deal with the daily waste they generate. The State government needs to provide a solid waste treatment facility in rural areas.  

However, there are reasons to believe that the government is hardly concerned about this gigantic environmental issue. The only waste treatment plant that was supposed to convert Shimla town’s municipal waste into energy, is lying defunct. Instead, the locals allege, the plant has been turned into a dumping yard, which was on fire last month. The fire kept smouldering for over a week. 

A similar example was witnessed in Kenduwal of Baddi in Solan district where the Municipal Council and the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) were supposed to construct a solid waste treatment plant. They had obtained the clearance for the same on August 13, 2015, and were allotted 42 bighas and 13 Biswas of land in Kenduwal. 

However, the plant never came up and the two responsible authorities created a huge dumping site by violating a number of environmental laws and guidelines. Not only they created this site on the flood-plains of Sirsa river but also ignored human habitat located at a distance of 30 meters from it.  The families living in this habitat had to approach the state High Court to get relief from the hellish conditions created by this illegal dumping site. 

 

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Enraged Protesters Barge Into MD HRTC Office Over Poor Bus Services, Leaves Staff Speechless

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Protest at MD HRTC Office

Shimla– After the tragic Banjar bus accident that killed 46 people and left about 37 injured and the school bus accident in Shimla‘s Khalini in which two students and the driver were killed, the Himachal Pradesh Government may have shown some strictness towards overloading, but it forgot to ensure delivery of additional services to facilitate commuters. Protests, especially from the student community are frequently being reported in newspapers and media portals.

Surprisingly, this strictness is limited to Himachal Pradesh Road Corporation buses, while private buses continue to ply overloaded. The public in rural areas is suffering a lot because of this faulty policy of the government. The people complain that even if no one is standing in buses, HRTC conductor or police do not let them board these buses.  The situation has worsened to a level that people are now feeling harassed due to inefficiency and lack of vision of the state government.

The locals from Shimla district had submitted a memorandum regarding the shortage of staff in HRTC and problem they are facing due to suspension of routes without any prior notice to the government through Managing Director, HRTC a couple of days ago. Shockingly, they were not given any response.

Eventually, on Thursday, aggrieved by and enraged over an acute shortage of bus services and harassment in the name of overloading, villagers from various parts of Shimla district gathered at the Old ISBT of Shimla to meet the Managing Director, HRTC. Their anger was fueled as soon as they found that the MD was not present in his office. Led by senior leaders of Communist Party of India (Marxist) including former Mayor of Shimla Town, Sanjay Chauhan and Rakesh Singha, a sitting MLA from Theog Constituency, people sat down outside MD ‘s office and staged an aggressive protest.

Watch How Protesting Locals Left HRTC Staff Speechless


The villagers alleged that while several HRTC routes were suspended in various parts of the district without any prior notice, private buses are encashing on the opportunity by overloading, to which Police is showing a blind eye. The villagers also alleged that in the name of overloading, the passengers are forced out of HRTC buses without provision of adequate services. At the same time, they alleged, the government is allowing overloading in private buses. 

Villagers complained that their vegetable produce is rotting either because the bus routes to their areas were suspended without information or the frequency of HRTC buses plying to the area was reduced to twice or thrice a week. In addition, the problem of not allowing them to load their produce in busses beacuse of the overloading gimmick was just adding to their woes.

Villagers also alleged that school students in rural areas are compelled to miss their classes, even exams due to lack of bus services.

“The number of girl students who have left school and are sitting at home because of the paucity of bus services is in thousands. Their schools are located at a distance of two to three hours, and without bus services, it is not possible for them to travel to schools and back home from schools. These students are dragged out of HRTC buses in the name of overloading but no additional service is provided to them,”

said one of the locals.  

“Biometrics are installed at offices for attendance nowadays. The employees are not able to reach office on time and their attendance is suffering,

said another local present among protestors.   

Later, when the Managing Director arrived at his office and met the protestors, he admitted that HRTC is facing a shortage of drivers and conductors which is adversely affecting bus services in several routes.  The MD agreed to the demand of restoring services on routes where only single buses were plying.

The protestors ended their protest only after the MD assured them to take effective steps to curb the shortage of HRTC bus service. The protestors warned the MD of more aggressive protests if adequate services are not delivered within a week.

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Strict Vigil on Unauthorized Parking, No Parking in Areas Children Board, Deboard School Buses: CM

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Jairam thakur's statement on school bus accident

Shimla-After witnessing outrage among people over the accident of school bus in Shimla district’s Khalini that devoured three persons including two students and the driver and left five others injured, the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur called a meeting. Apparently, due to lapses on its part that played a major role in causing the accident, the State government came under heavy pressure. The Chief Minister had to make some announcements like it was done after the Nurpur school bus accident that had killed 24 children and three others in 2018 and the recent Banjar bus accident that killed 46 passengers.

In today’s announcement, the government assured that in Shimla town, parking will be allowed on one side of the road with yellow line and unauthorized parking will be dealt with strictly.
As done in such cases, a magisterial probe was also ordered.

He said signboards regarding ‘Authorized Parking Zone’ as well as ‘No Parking Zone’ would be erected in the town. It’s pertinent to mention that erection of signboards doesn’t work until these rules are implemented. In Shimla city, vehicles can be seen parked right in front of no parking signboards.

Further, he added that the work on three big parking slots in the town would be expedited whereas district administration and Municipal Corporation, Shimla would identify locations particularly in residential areas where small parking could be developed. This would not only ensure proper parking place for the commuters but also help in decongesting the city roads, he added.

District administration and Municipal Corporation were directed to identify parking areas with yellow line alongside the roads and sites where small parking slots could be developed by 10th July, this year. He said that the state government would also explore various aspects to allow private parking by individuals within the setbacks so that ample parking space could be developed.

He said that all the government offices should ensure that they have their own parking with sufficient space so that their vehicles could be accommodated thereby avoiding decongestion of main roads. He said that parking within a radius of 50 meters would not be allowed in such places where school children embark and disembark their school buses.

A massive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities would be carried out in the state to sensitize the people regarding road safety, he said. The narrow roads would be identified and steps would be taken for widening the same, he assured.

It was informed in the meeting that over 1,65,000 vehicles are plying daily in the Shimla town. Therefore it is the need of the hour that alternative roads are constructed for the convenience of the people.

The Chief Minister said that rupees five lakh are being provided to the next of kin of the deceased besides free medical treatment to the injured.

Like he had assured after the Nurpur bus accident, the Chief Minister again said that the condition of transport vehicles would be ensured properly and laxity in this regard would not be tolerated at any cost. All the school buses would be regularly monitored and school management would be sensitized about the safety guidelines.

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