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.
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 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).
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
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.
HP Health Deptt Scam: BJP Chief Bindal Resigned on “Moral Grounds” or Asked to Resign by High Command?
Shimla-In a time when the corona pandemic is haunting India as well as the entire world and a huge amount of budget is being allocated for health infrastructure, services, and equipment like PPE kits, ventilators etc., officials and politicians in India are as usual ensuring their cut in corruption. Are all the donations that people are making towards the PM/CM Relief Funds to fight COVID-19 safe in the hands of the current Government? No surprise that a cut from the 20 lakh crores, which the Prime Minister claims has been released as a relief for the people, would end up in the pockets of bureaucrats, politicians, and middlemen.
An example of this is Himachal Pradesh’s Health Department and politicians. Just after a week of an audio clip of an alleged deal between the Director, Health Services, Dr. Ajay Gupta and an employee and close aid of a politician appeared; Dr. Rajiv Bindal has resigned from the position of State BJP Chief. His resignation was also accepted almost immediately. He claimed that he resigned on “moral grounds” as he was hurt after the party’s name was associated with the alleged scam. He claimed that the party and the Government are clean and have no role in this alleged scam. It’s hard to digest that BJP Chief resigned even though no particular name of any political leader has been confirmed officially. The pubic and oppositions are sensing something fishy in this act of the BJP party chief.
The resignation came right after the mater reached the Office of the Prime Minister. Some sources say Bindal didn’t resign but was asked to resign on the behest of PM Office anticipating a political upheaval not only in the State but at the national level. Five times MLA Bindal has served as health minister, remained the Speaker of State Legislative Assembly, and then given the charge to lead the party in Himachal.
Oppositions and public are demanding a CBI probe into all purchases made during the period of lockdown. Senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister Shanta Kumar also expressed anguish over the ongoing corruption in the health department, especially when the nation is going through turbulent times due to the pandemic.
प्रैस विज्ञप्तिभारतीय जनता पार्टी के वरिष्ठ नेता एवं हिमाचल प्रदेश के भूतपूर्व मुख्यमंत्री एवं पूर्व सांसद, शांता…
It’s pertinent to mention that it’s not the first such scam, irregularities were earlier reported in the purchase of sanitizers. According to the allegations, hand sanitizers were bought at a price higher than the actual price. Moreover, last year, a letter from a BJP’s leader had created a stir in which serious allegations were labelled against the minister and officials of the health department.
What Happened Earlier
Director, Health Services, Dr. Ajay Gupta was suspended after a 43-second-long audio clip leaked in the media on May 21, 2020. In the audio, two persons can be heard talking about bank accounts and transactions of Rs. 5 lakh. The charges are that the Director was allegedly asking for a bribe in purchase-related to health equipment in wake of the pandemic.
Additional Chief Secretary RD Dhiman had to hand over the case to the Vigilance department soon after the audio clip appeared. Ordering immediate probe is something that BJP is presenting as proof of State Government and Chief Minister Jairam Thakur’s innocence.
The Director confessed that he was one of these two persons heard speaking in this clip. Later, late that night, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested Gupta.
Then, he got admitted to the Indira Gandhi Medical Hospital complaining of poor health due to his diabetic condition. He was discharged on Monday, May 25. After his discharge from the hospital, he was produced in a court from where he was remanded to five days of police custody.
His house was raided by a Special Investigating Unit headed by IPS Shalini Agnihotri and jewelry worth Rs. 4 lakh and Rs. 28 thousand cash was ceased. Several documents, mobile phones etc. have also been ceased.
On May 25, the Vigilance team informed that the Director holds over a dozen accounts in various banks. As many as 20 ATMs and Credit cards were also ceased in the raid on his office and residence.
Then, media reports said that the entire scam is linked to some influential leader of Bharatiya Janata Party. According to a Hindi Daily, the person to whom the Director was speaking is an employee of a firm that the alleged politician is affiliated to. This firm was allotted the tender for the purchase of equipment related to COVID-19. The Daily said the Director had negotiated the deal for a bribe of Rs. 5 lakh.
The politician involved was reportedly making attempts to get an extension for the Director who was to retire on May 31. After the audio clip went viral, the politicians tried to hush it up but could not do so as the Vigilance had already arrested the director.
Not only the Director but the committee constituted for taking decisions on purchases for the Health Department has come under the scanner.
Since Gupta’s arrest, the Vigilance Department has not released any information regarding the person on the other side of the phone. No other arrest has been made so far. However, it was reported that a close aid to the politician involved was being questioned regarding the scam.
However, the public fears, investigation of this scam is likely to be botched up as influential politicians and bureaucrats are said to be linked with it. In the name of investigation, the Director or a couple of other officials would be held responsible. Still, the investigation might not reach its conclusion for years, as it happens when influential politicians of a party are involved in scams.
Response of Judiciary to India’s Migrant Crisis During Lockdown
Shimla-Judiciary has a duty to make the Government accountable for the conditions that migrant workers are facing today. In a series of articles, we will be going through the response of Indian Judiciary to the present Migrant Crisis. In the first of these series, we go through two important directions of the Patna High Court to the Government, which can help in elevating the condition of the Migrant Workers who are the victims of the present lockdown.
Patna High Court this month acknowledged the seriousness of this crisis and passed two important Orders which are marked by empathy for the plight of the present victims.
In one of the order, it has sought a reply from the Bihar government on a petition alleging ‘poor condition of quarantine centres’ in the state where migrant workers have been mandated to stay for three weeks upon their return from other parts of the country. In the other order, it has urged the State Government to reconsider its policy of not engaging with members of civil society in handling the COVID-19 crisis.
Order regarding the poor condition of quarantine centres
(C.W.P No.5656 of 2020)
A Division Bench headed by Hon’ble Chief Justice Sanjay Karol directed the state government to file its reply, noting with concern that Bihar has the “highest population density” in the country and “any mismanagement” at the quarantine centers could lead to a substantial increase in the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
“From the record, it can be inferred that perhaps in the State of Bihar, more than 2450 quarantine centres stand established by the Disaster Management Department, in anticipation of housing 2.5 lakhs persons, termed as migrants, who are desirous of returning home. Perhaps the figure may be more. Such quarantine centres are to be established and managed as per the guidelines for quarantine facilities framed by the Government of India. There has to be proper segregation of the areas, prominently labelled as low risk, moderate risk and high risk areas. The entry and exit points of the said centres are required to be secured properly, with proper facilities of sanitation etc. Any mis-management in proper handling of such centres may result into the spread and/or increase of the disease in Bihar.
..The relevance, significance and importance of ensuring proper sanitization, cleanliness and orderliness at the Centres is highly imperative, more so looking into the economic condition, demography and population of Bihar. Today, 1/10th of the population of India lives in Bihar with highest density of population ratio. Hence the need, all the more, for monitoring the centres directly by senior level officer(s) at the level of the Government and with a greater vigil.
..In the response, it be categorically stated, in a tabulated form, district-wise, (a) the number of quarantine centres established in the State of Bihar; (b) number of persons (migrants) housed therein; (c) number of persons who have been allowed to return to their respective places of destination after expiry of the mandatory period of quarantine; (d) total number of persons (migrants), who are further expected to enter the State of Bihar; (e) the capacity of centres to house such persons; (f) whether provision for security, sanitation and food exists at each one of such centre or not; (g) whether such facility stands outsourced or is being provided or sought to be provided directly by the employees of the State; (h) whether there is a provision for providing medical aid/facilities; and (i) mechanism for lodging complaints and its redressal.”
Direction for engaging members of civil society in the fight against Corona Virus.
(C.W.P No.5609 of 2020)
A division bench headed by Justice Sanjay Karol in another order observed that “in a democratic society, the Civil Society cannot be ignored”, Order Stated:
“Well, at this stage, we need not say anything further, save and except, that the role of Civil Society, be it in the form of individuals/ CSOs/NGOs, in helping the orphans; elderly persons; and specially challenged persons, cannot be undermined. Public and private participation to overcome natural disasters and adversities is not alien to the culture and heritage of this great nation. Also Practices and teachings of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira are well entrenched in the State of Bihar. One cannot forget the importance and significance of the Directives Principles of State Policy, Part IV, (Article 39) and Part IV-A Fundamental duties, more specifically, (Article 51-A (h)) of the Constitution of India, while dealing with the problems arising out of the Pandemic Corona Virus (COVID-19).
We are also of the view that for centralized monitoring of the problems faced by the sectors mentioned above and the relief provided/action taken, technology be used. Perhaps, a Website, to be operated at the level of the Government of Bihar can be opened up where any member of the Society (organized or un-organized) wanting to help the Government or the citizenry, in whatever manner, be it in the form of material or human resources, can register their request and the same dealt with promptly by a duly authorized competent and a responsible officer. We only hope that the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar shall have part of this order implemented latest by day-after-tomorrow, 29.04.2020.”
List of verified NGOs, charities and private institutions, which are working on the ground:
- fdci.org or write to them at [email protected]seedsindia.org/covid19/
Migrant Workers in Himachal’s Baddi Forced to Walk Back Home as State Govts Remain Apathetic
Solan: The heart-wrenching exodus of stranded migrant workers from cities back to villages in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown happening across the country is now unfolding in Himachal’s industrial belt Baddi as well. About 30 organisations, comprising of trade unions, civil rights groups, youth alliances, independent social organisations and networks from Himachal, Uttar Pradesh and the country today issued an appeal in support of workers from other states stranded in Himachal and the need for urgent coordination between states to ensure and facilitate their safe return to their homes.
The Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industrial area in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh houses more than 2000 industrial units and is known as the pharma hub of Asia, said the collective appeal of these organizations.
With an annual turnover of more than 60,000 crores, this zone has a major concentration of migrant workers in the state of Himachal Pradesh, possibly between 1.25 to 1.5 lakh people. These workers belonging to various states mainly Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa have been under severe distress due to the sudden announcement of a country-wide lockdown, the appeal said.
The appeal specifically highlights the distressful state of thousands of migrant workers in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial area and the lack of response of the administration and respective governments to ensure urgent evacuation of those who want to leave.
“Post the lock-down, as factories remained closed down, in the absence of any sources of income, these workers soon ran out of the savings, if any, to buy rations and pay off their room rents. In the initial period contractors took care of some relief which soon ended and accessing the government-sponsored relief has not been easy either. Their only desire and demand, for the last month and a half, has been to be able to return to their homes, but it is unfortunate that while the Himachal Government has been able to bring back its native residents, the same efficiency and empathy has not been shown in ensuring the return of these workers who contribute hugely to the state’s economy”,
the statement said.
“Although the news has clearly stated that Himachal government will bear the cost of travel for migrant labourers, private operators have started plying their buses with the permission of administration but have been charging exorbitant amounts from the already deprived workers. This has been causing further panic and stress among these communities. Over the last few days, with no Government assistance forthcoming, after losing all hope and patience, workers have picked up their bags and baggage, their tiny children, the elders and the women and have started walking on foot the journey of several kilometres in a desperate attempt to return back to their homes,”
the statement said.
Specifically highlighting the case of workers from Uttar Pradesh, who have long registered themselves on the online portals to travel back, the statement also raised that “private bus operators are charging exuberant fares from already deprived people and with no State help forthcoming, the migrant labourers have been forced to walk back home several hundred kilometres with their children, elders and women”.
The statement also condemned the dilution of labour laws as well as the suppression of freedom of the press by filing charges against journalists reporting the plight of the workers and the negative impacts of the lockdown and demanded the withdrawal of these. Highlighting that the Haryana Government has arranged for free food and public transportation trains as well as buses till state borders for labourers to reach their respective States, the statement questions why Himachal has not done the same.
“The Himachal Government needs to understand that any coercive or apathetic measures in regard to forceful retention of these workers will only lead to psychological insecurities and loss of their trust in Himachal as a State”
read the statement.
The signatories in their appeal stated that it is the responsibility of the State government to ensure that the dignity, the constitutional and human rights of these migrant labourers are protected and respected.
Following Are the Demands Made Through This Appeal:
- Himachal government needs to coordinate with other state governments and urgently facilitate movement of migrant labourers stuck in Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Industrial area.
- Public transportation by bus for the evacuation up till the state borders needs to be arranged by the state government free of cost.
- Up until then a mechanism of ensuring that relief rations with regular follow-ups are provided to the families of stranded migrant workers without having to make repeated demands needs to be put in place.
- The status update of these arrangements should be released in public domain through the media and regular press releases so that people have all information and clarity is established.
- We condemn the suppression of freedom of press through the FIRs on media persons reporting on issues of migrant workers and demand that these charges be dropped immediately.
- The suspension and dilution of labour laws along with the provision of extension of working hours for adult workers from 8 hours to 12 hours be immediately withdrawn.
List State and National Signatories
Himachal Pradesh Organizations
- All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)
- Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti
- Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)
- Citizens’ Rights Forum, Kangra
- Communist Party of India, Himachal Pradesh
- Himalayan Students Ensemble (HSE)
- Himdhara Environment Collective
- Jagori Grameen
- Mountain Women Rights Forum
- People’s Action for People in Need (PAPN)
- People’s Campaign for Socio-Economic Equity
Uttar Pradesh Organizations
- Sangatin Kisan Majdoor Sangathan (SKMS)
- MNREGA Majdoor Union
- Purvanchal Kisan Union
- Mahila Yuva Adhikar Manch
- Rihai Manch
- National Alliance of People’s Movements, UP
- Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN)
- National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
- Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Rajasthan
- National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
- Socialist Party of India
- Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS), Bihar
- Pennurimay Iyakkam, Madurai, Tamilnadu
- National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (Inland) [NPSSFW(I)], West Bengal
- Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU)
- Kosi Navnirman Manch, Bihar
- Telangana Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union
- Sanyukt Trade Union, Pithampur, Madhya Pradesh
- COVID Action Support Team (COAST)
- Khudai Khidmatgar
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