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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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CM Jairam Thakur Tests Positive for COVID-19, Quarantined

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HImachal Pradesh CM Tests Positive for COVID-19

Shimla-Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Jairam Thakur, have tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined at his official residence. The report was confirmed by the Chief Minister through a tweet in which he informed that he was under quarantine at his residence after coming into contact with a COVID-19 positive person. On the appearance of symptoms, he got himself tested and the report was found to be positive, he informed.

According to the initial report, the Chief Minister had come in contact with some COVID-19 positive persons in Manali. MLA of Banjar, Surinder Shourie, who was positive for COVID-19 had participated in the event organized on the occasion of the inauguration of Rohtang Tunnel, had also tested positive. Shourie had spent the entire day with the Chief Minister, reports said.

His private secretary had also tested positive, and there are chances that the Chief Minister might have contracted the infection from him. However, there is no certainty regarding the contact who infected the Chief Minister.

Other than Chief Minister, three Cabinet ministers – Urban Development Minister Suresh Bharadwaj, Power Minister Sukh Ram Chaudhary, Jalshakti Minister Mahender Singh- have tested positive so far.  Over ten MLAs have already tested positive and some of them have recovered too.

Meanwhile, despite community spread, the testing and tracing seem to have fallen and the fatality rate has witnessed a steep rise. Till 12 pm today, the COVID-19 death tally for the state was 245, and the total number of cases registered was 17414. But these are official statistics and these numbers are likely to be much higher. 

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Himachal: COVID-19 Kills 59 in 9 Days, Govt Still Clueless About Actual Number of Cases

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Himachal PRadesh Jairam Thakur

Shimla-COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc in Himachal Pradesh as the death tally spirals upward rapidly. Currently, 240 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Fifty nine of these deaths have been reported during the last nine days of October month, which is quite alarming. But contrary to that, the attitude of the state government, as well as, the public is becoming more casual. The SOPs issued by the government are hardly being followed anywhere. The fact that with the community spread, the cases of COVID-19 are falling in the official information released by the state Health Department.

On October 9, the Department traced only 199 cases but reported seven deaths. The total number of active cases was cited to be 2856. The deceased included three females and four males aged between 49 -75 years. View details of the deceased in the below-given table:

Shimla-covid-19 deaths in himachal pradesh

The total number of cases, as per the official statistics, had reached 16977 till yesterday evening (9 PM). But these are official statistics and the real number is likely to be much higher due to a community spread. Similarly, the actual number of COVID-19 deaths could be higher than the official statistics. Despite it, the state government is reluctant to release any projection regarding the real numbers. No statements have been issued regarding the current situation and strategy to combat the rising fatality rate. Rather, the state appears to be refraining from bringing up the matter.

The oppositions, HP Congress and CPI (M), are targeting the government over its failure to combat the spread of COVID-19. However, this opposition is quite feeble and hasn’t resulted in any reforms in the attitude of the government.

In a statement to media, Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a senior CPI (M) leader, said that the rise in fatalities is the result of the government’s lackadaisical attitude. The suicide committed by a positive patient at the DDU COVID-19 hospital is evidence of it, he said. He said this approach has endangered health lives of ministers, officials, and the staff at their offices. Further, he said, health staff, paramedical staff, and police staff are getting infected, and even losing lives due to the government’s unpreparedness.  The government had even compromised the safety of the Prime Minister and Education Minister by violating norms set regarding COVID-19, he said.

HP Congress chief, Kuldeep Rathor also expressed shock over the presence of COVID-19 positive MLA of Banjar, Surender Shourie, in the event organized for the PM. He alleged that by violating all norms, the MLA concealed information regarding his COVID-19 positive status and did not quarantine himself, which reflects the state government’s attitude toward management of the corona pandemic. He had demanded registration of an FIR against Shourie and action against erring officials.

Sanjay Chauhan, further said that the government did not prepare itself to combat the pandemic the way it was expected to. The people of the state had followed the lockdown and sacrificed their livelihood with a hope that the government would prepare itself during this period to combat the spread and to strengthen the health infrastructure and services. But instead, the government indulged itself in making people clap and beat ‘thalis’.  The Chief Minister adopted and preached unscientific practices like performing a ‘havan’.  Despite a steep rise in fatalities, the government is still not serious about the situation, he said. 

He said the CPI (M) demands that the government starts working on war footing to prepare a strategy by involving health experts, strengthening the health services by recruiting doctors, para-medical and other staff, and constitute a task force to deal with the situation. The government should work diligently on following the norms set for prevention from COVID-19, he added.  

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Shocker for Himachal as Ex-CBI Chief & Governor Ashwani Kumar Found Dead at His Shimla Residence

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Himachal IPS Officer Ashwani Kumar found deat in shimla

Shimla-Ashwani Kumar – 1973 IPS officer from Himachal Pradesh cadre who had served as the Director-General of HP Police (2006-2008) and CBI chief (August 2008 to November 2010), and was later appointed the Governor of Nagaland in 2013-was found dead at his residence in Shimla on Wednesday evening. The news came as a shocker as Kumar was considered as one of India’s finest and honest officers.

Superintendent of Police, Shimla, Mohit Chawala, in statement to news agencies, confirmed the report. According to the initial report, he reportedly hanged himself and ended his life. However, no formal statement was issued regarding the suicide. According to the police, a suicide note was also recovered from the spot. However, the note was yet to be verified.

Kumar was a well known name as he had dealt with famous cases including that of Arushi Talwar murder and fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which current Home Minister Amit Shah was arrested in 2010.

He was one of the first appointees made to resign from the post of Governor, Nagaland, as soon as the current ruling party came into power in 2014. He also remained Governor of Manipur for a short period of time. After his retirement, Kumar was serving as the Vice-Chancellor of a private university in Shimla.

The officials who have served under Aswani Kumar have expressed shock over his demise in such a manner. 

Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, and a team of medical staff was rushed to the spot. More details are awaited as the district police have not issued any formal statement regarding the incident.

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