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Opposed to Tribal Minister’s promise in Assembly, FRA claims of Kinnaur tribals rejected to favor hydro-power company

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HP Govt Rejects FRA Claims of Kinnaur villagers

Doling out forest land to the company but cannot grant tribal rights, shows government priorities; Empty promise on FRA made in Vidhan Sabha: Lippa Forest Rights Committee

Kinnaur: Barely few days after tall promises were made about implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the Legislative Assembly by the Tribal Minister Ramlal Markanda, the District Level Committee (DLC) at Rekong Peo has rejected the Individual Forest Rights claims of 47 tribal claimants of Lippa Village in Kinnaur District, said Forest Rights Committee, Lippa in a media statement. The order of the DLC, which was not signed by the three non-official members of the committee out of the six members, was termed as illegal and unjust by the Lippa Forest Rights Committee.

We condemn this order led by the Deputy Commissioner because the arguments for not recommending the 47 claims are totally baseless. It is clear that the officials are ignorant about the provisions of the FRA 2006. The DLC has just blindly accepted the incorrect decision taken by the bureaucratic members of the Sub Divisional Level Committee, where as we have provided the DLC detailed objections to the same, based on the provisions in the Forest Rights Act 2006,

said Subhash Negi of President of the Forest Rights Committee, Lippa.

The order of the DLC dated December 17, 2018, gives three arguments for not recommending the claims. The first is that the claims are not from ‘unsurveyed villages’ but from revenue villages. The second argument is that the evidence submitted by the claimants does not provide proof of three generations. The third argument says that the act was only for those who are primarily residing in forests and dependent on the forest land, implying that the claimants were not eligible. As per the FRC as well as the written objection submitted by the Individual claimants, all three arguments have been legally countered.

This Act is not just for ‘unsurveyed villages’ but is also applicable to revenue villages with residents who are dependent for their ‘bonafide livelihood’ needs on forest land. This has been adequately clarified by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in a circular dated June 9, 2008.

This argument by the officials that claimants from revenue villages are not eligible is ridiculous because all 17,503 FRCs in Himachal are formed at Revenue Village level. If we go by their argument then the FRA 2006 cannot be implemented in Himachal at all since there almost no forest villages here. The FRA 2006 is applicable where ever people depend on forest land,

according to Prakash Bhandari, of Himdhara Collective advocating for the implementation of the Act.

Secondly, the Act requires the three-generation evidence clause only for non-tribal people (referred to as Other traditional forest dwellers in the Act), Whereas the applicants in the case of Lippa are all belonging to the category of Scheduled Tribe. Thirdly, the SDLC and DLC have both recommended the Community forest rights for the Lippa village without any objections.

This is s a partial reading of the law. While issuing the CFR title we are considered as ‘primarily residing in the forest, forest dwellers’, while considering the individual claims won’t the same criteria apply? This shows that the officials do not have even basic knowledge of the act,

added Negi.

It needs to be noted that individual claims can be made, as per the law for both housing as well as land being cultivated. The Gram Sabha of Lippa has recommended all 47 claims almost 6 months ago.

The decision of the DLC is also contentious because the forest land under Lippa Village was leased out to Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited for the Kashang Stage 2 and 3 hydropower projects by the State cabinet on 0ctober 13, 2018. The Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti, Lippa which has been opposing the forest clearance to the project, has objected to the cabinet decision taken on the grounds that it “is a clear violation of not only of the PESA, FRA, 2006 and the NGT judgment dated 5th May 2016 but also the state’s own legislation”.

In 2016 the Green tribunal had ordered that the forest rights of the communities be settled as per provisions of the FRA and only after that the project proponents could approach the Gram Sabha for NOC.

The lease order was made under Himachal Pradesh Lease rules, 2013 for an underground area of 06-03-20 ha, situated in Up-Mohal Lappo of the Lippa Village. According to Tashi Chewang, Secretary Paryavaran Sanrakshan Sangharsh Samiti, “Rule 11 sub-rule 2 (iii) of the Himachal Pradesh Lease Rules, 2014 clearly states that

In Scheduled areas, the Sub-Divisional Officer (Civil) shall also refer the lease application to the concerned Gram Sabhas for consultation. He shall proceed further only after obtaining the Gram Sabha’s resolution

in this regard.

But during the whole process of leasing out land to HPPCL, neither the SDM has ever approached or consulted with the Lippa gram sabha nor the gram sabha ever passed any resolution in this regard.

The ‘Vanya Prani, Van Evam Jaivividhta Sanrakhsan Samiti’ formed under rule 4(E) of the FRA 2006 by Lippa Gram Sabha has issued a legal notice to the Chief Secretary and 6 other high level officials challenging the lease order.

The people of Lippa village for the last ten years have been struggling against the projects because of the havoc that diversion of the Kerang Khad would cause. Kerang is a perennial stream that flows adjacent to the Lippa village and it helps in flushing out the huge silt and debris that come towards the village from another stream called the Pager Khad.

If the Kerang is diverted by the project then the Pager khad will destroy the village, added Chewang. The Chilgoza forest and other biodiversity on which the livelihood of locals is directly dependent will also be impacted by the forest diversion and construction

, according to members of the Paryavaran Sanrankshan Sangharsh Samiti.

Our struggle is for our day to day survival and livelihood using every law that is available for protection of tribal rights. But when the State is violating all these constitutional laws and provisions, what is the community to do?

asks R.S Negi leader of Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur, a platform for tribal rights in the District.

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Himachal’s Viral Letter Case: Politics on the Boil, Listen What CM Jairam Says About It

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Jairam thakur Statement on viral Letter

Shimla- The Viral letter alleging the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Jairam Thakur, the Health Minister Vipin Parmar, and Industries Minister Bikram Thakur of corruption has charged up the political atmosphere ahead of the by-elections in two constituencies of the state legislative assembly.

After the name of BJP’s own senior leader and former minister, Ravinder Ravi, appeared in the case, the government was left speechless as well as embarrassed.

BJP Leaders, Chief Minister, and other ministers tried to remain silent over the allegations labelled in the anonymous letter address to the former CM Shanta Kumar. However, after it went viral on social media, the mainstream media has also picked it up. Now, the reporters are not missing any opportunity to seek comments of leaders, ministers, and the Chief Minister on the letter. The letter has become unavoidable for the government.

On September 14, 2019, the HP Health Department was compelled to issue a clarification refuting the allegations made in the letter.

Today, media persons asked the Chief Minister about the possible effect of the letter on the by-elections. The Chief Minister clearly seemed bothered at the repeated encounter with the matter.

The Chief Minister, who was at the Shimla Mall to visit the Town Hall, replied that this case would not affect the results of the by-elections, and the BJP would claim a victory.

Regarding probing the allegations, the CM simply termed such anonymous letters as means of spreading false propaganda against the government. He said such letters have appeared previously on several occasions too and this occasion was no different.

He challenged that probe would be conducted if anyone would show guts to come out with evidence. We will go to the roots of the matter and will not rest until the persons responsible for this letter isn’t identified, he said.

Behind him was seen the Mayor Kusum Sadret nodding her head in agreement.

On the other hand, Congress remains adamant that a probe should be conducted to verify the truth behind the allegations labelled in the letter. Congress said the government has given clean chit to its ministers without any probe, which is questionable.

Moreover, ahead of by-elections, Congress will make full use of this matter as ammunition. In nutshell, the case has become a headache for the BJP-ruled state government.

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Sex Racket in Paonta Sahib Busted, One Arrested, Two Women Rescued  

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Sex Racket in Paonta sahib busted

Sirmaur-A sex racket was busted in Paonta Sahib of Sirmaur district on Saturday in which the couple operating this racket was arrested and two females were rescued. As per the initial information provided by the police, the inter-state racket was running in a Paying Guest facility in Ward Number 9 of Municipal Council, Paonta Sahib for some time now.

The police laid a trap and used a fake customer to reach the supplier, who is said to be a resident of Uttarakhand.  A team headed by SHO, Women Police Station, Nahan, along with Special Investigation Unit on Saturday evening raided the PG and nabbed the persons operating this racket and rescued two females. 

The report was confirmed by ASP Virender Singh Thakur. More details are awaited.

After this incident, over two dozen PGs running in the area have also come into the light. Most of these PGs are not registered with the police or the local authorities, sources said. 

Earlier, on Thursday night, a sex racket in Shimla city was busted when police nabbed a supplier and rescued two girls near Dhalli. The inter-state racket was being run online by accused Virender Singh from Chandigarh. While the supplier was identified as a resident of Zirkpur, Mohali, the girls were also said to be the residents of Punjab.

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Himachal’s Viral Letter Case:  Health Department Issues Clarification Refuting Allegations of Corruption

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Viral Letter alleging Corruption in HP Health-Department

Shimla-The viral letter alleging corruption in Himachal Pradesh Health Department, which created ripples in the political sphere and caused embarrassment to Bhartiya Janata Party, has compelled the state government to come out with an official clarification. Regional media and Hindi dailies are calling this letter “the Patra Bomb” as it appeared right before the by-polls to the legislative assembly on Dharamshala and Pachhad seats.

Today, a spokesperson of the HP government said that the news reports appearing in a section of media and social media regarding irregularities in purchase of medicines are totally baseless.  Health Department has termed these allegations as unnecessary rumours being spread to mislead the people.

The spokesperson said it is wrong to say that any person has been given supply orders amounting to Rs. 35 crores as the government has enlisted 42 firms for this purpose, and it is not possible to give supply orders to any individual.

About two weeks ago, an anonymous letter addressed to Shanta Kumar, former Chief Minister, went viral on social media. The letter named the Health Minister Vipin Parmar, CM Jairam Thakur, and Industries Minister Bikram Thakur, alleging them of facilitating the supply of low-quality medicines worth Rs 35 crores. The letter had alleged that these ministers and others in power compelled the Health Department to buy these medicines from a specific supplier at a higher cost.

The case became more interesting when a senior leader of BJP and former minister, Ravinder Ravi, was named as the main person behind creating and circulating this letter. The police had questioned Ravi multiple times and had confiscated his mobile phone. A case under section 505 of the IPC (spreading misinformation) and 506 (criminal intimidation) was also registered against him. Though police did not make any comment regarding the progress in the case, the appearance of the name of BJP’s own leader in the case brought infighting withing the party into the limelight. Ravinder is believed to be a close aid of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal. BJP has two factions currently – one supporting Dhumal and another supporting CM Jairam Thakur. The infighting intensified after this letter.

While BJP tried not to comment on the viral letter, Congress grabbed the opportunity and sought fair probe into the allegations labelled in the letter instead of taking action against those who wrote and circulated it. Congress had also alleged that BJP is trying to cover up the case by directing investigation towards those who labelled these allegations of corruption against the government.

Under immense pressure, today the government ultimately had to issue an official clarification rejecting the allegations.

In the clarification, the government further rejected the reports regarding the purchase of medicines by a Doctor in Mandi at a high rate of Rs. 16 (instead of Rs. 2). The government said no such instance has come to the notice of the department. Similarly, the claim of allotting a medicine shop at Palampur is also false and baseless since this shop was allotted to Civil Supplies Corporation in 1997 and the pharmacists are also appointed by the Corporation, the government clarified.

Regarding the purchases of equipment by the Ayurveda Department at higher rates is concerned, the then Director has been charge-sheeted for misconduct and causing loss to the State exchequer to the extent of Rs. 39 lakh. Simultaneously, three members of Purchase Committee were placed under suspension and are also being charge-sheeted for negligence and causing loss to the State, the government said.     

The spokesperson said that the e-tendering has been started in Himachal to ensure complete transparency in procurement of all types of medicines/drugs, surgical items and consumables in the health department. He said before the year 2018, the medicines and surgical items used to be procured as per the rate contract finalized by the Himachal Pradesh State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd.

However, now after introducing e-tendering in August 2018, medicines and medical equipment for all the government health institutions including medical colleges of the state are being purchased by the department itself, he said.

He said that e-tenders for the supply of medicines, drugs and consumables to the state health institutions were invited by the health department for the first time in August 2018 and the bids were invited from the manufactures/direct importers in which 118 firms participated and 73 qualified. All supply orders are being issued through Drugs Vaccine Distribution Management System (DVDMS) portal to the successful bidders by generating code of the successful bidder being operated at the level of CMOs/BMOs and Medical Superintendents.

The Spokesperson said that efforts have been made to bring maximum drugs on rate contract and the medicines not available on the state rate contract are being procured from the Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs), rate contract of medical colleges, ESI rate contract, Bureau of Pharma PSU of India (BPPI) rates (Jan Aushadhi) and also by calling local tenders. He said that all the CMOs and Medical Superintendents have also been permitted for making procurement subject to certain conditions.

He said that purchase order amounting to around 44 crores has been made by the indenting officers (CMOs, BMOs Medical Superintendents) including about Rs. 8.30 crores for district Mandi during the year 2019 on the rates approved by the government of Himachal Pradesh. He said that the branded drugs cannot be purchased by any indenting officer since all drugs available on rate contract are generic. However, if anyone was found purchasing branded drugs from outside or out of the rate contract on a specified ladder, stringent action will be taken against him as it leads to misconduct and loss to the state exchequer.

He said that the health department is ensuring complete transparency in the purchase of medicines and equipment but if any person has solid proof regarding any irregularity, he should come forward to bring it to the notice of the government and the department will conduct an appropriate enquiry in any case of irregularity.

 

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