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A Harrowing Challenge of Drug Menace in Himachal Pradesh

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drug abuse in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla- The drug menace, predominant among the younger generation, has been haunting the state of Himachal Pradesh for a while now. Inadvertently, an incipient problem of drug use has transformed into a full-blown problem. Over the past few months, minatory incidents such as the arrest of people in possession of contraband drugs became quotidian, and several mysterious deaths of students left the parents in despondency. The faces of the parents are masked with discernable worry and panic, albeit their stony silence on the issue, fails them in downplaying the issue.

If education is driving our children to indulge in drugs, in that case, it’s better not to send them to school/colleges and keep them illiterate,

said a man remorsefully, after reading news about the arrest of a college goer in possession of “Chitta”. The statement reflects the manifest distress and uneasiness among parents.

How dismal the situation is, can be fathomed from the fact that in the year 2018, so far, 151 cases have been registered under the Narcotics Act, and 204 people have been put behind the bars in connection to drug peddling. In addition, 94 kg of Charas, 3 kg of opium, 116 kg of poppy husk, 0.496 kg of ganja, 480 grams of heroin and 39135 tablets/capsules were seized in the state from April to June 2018, as per the report of the state Government submitted before the Hon’ble High Court in the month of August.

In response, the state cabinet under the Chief Minister, on 30 November 2018, decided an amendment in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances(Himachal Pradesh Amendment Bill) 2018, which will be moved in the upcoming winter assembly session in Dharamshala, in order to make the offense non-bailable. The opposition has welcomed the move-not surprising, as they had been making a clarion call for change in law for some time now.

Ergo, the Drug trafficking or smuggling of narcotics in the state of Himachal will become a non-bailable offense once the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Himachal Pradesh Amendment Bill), 2018 is passed by the assembly in the upcoming session.

The drug menace is not only unpalatable but if it is not quelled timely, it could become inveterate, jeopardizing the prosperity and stymieing the progress of the region. Clearly, the government was left with very few options, apart from making the crime non-bailable but this step might take care of the demand side of this complex issue. In doing this, the policymakers may be overlooking the overriding concerns on the supply side: as the amendments in the law may end up punishing the drug consumers only, whereas the supplier or the producers/manufacturer (in case of Chitta) of contraband drugs may never be nabbed. And the danger is– considering the inordinate delay and pendency of cases in our courts-the miscreants, especially the youth, may never get the second chance to redeem themselves.

After all, we all make mistakes in life, but, the key is to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

Hitherto, we have failed to underscore the crucial factors that festered drug use and it’s peddling. Be it the permeable border, high disposable income, lack of employment opportunities, temptation to make easy money or lack of awareness about the heinous repercussion of drug menace- high-risk behaviour, HIV/Aids/Hepatitis-C, violence, child abuse, risky sexual behaviour, the stigma of social exclusion, incarceration and list is endless. There are issues which require a far greater attention of the policymakers and the government.

First and foremost, we need to identify the conduit of these contraband drug and target it indiscriminately. The various studies show that once the European countries stopped the entry of drugs from “Balkan Route-the conduit of the drug trade to Europe” their problem of drug menace was half solved. Our state should follow the same approach.

With the advent of social media, the tricks of the drug trade have also changed; most of the drug sales nowadays are done on “Dark Net”. The state needs to ensure that our intelligence and police are abreast with all the latest technological advancement to nab the big fish of the drug trade. Only then this legislation will bring the desired results, or else our effort to curb the menace may belie the desired results.

Unsolicitedly, we all should provide, whatever little information we have about the drug buccaneers and miscreants in this trade to the police. The silence of the society on social evils don’t help in overcoming them but only fester them to the worse. Embrace meliorism!

We need to fight this menace from all quarters by spreading awareness about the pitfall of drug use. From parents, teachers, students, association, legislators, police, to NGOs, each one of us has a role in this battle against drugs. We, as a society, need to understand that it’s the higher socioeconomic groups that have a greater propensity to drug use, but it’s the society as a whole that pays the price.

The society, as a whole, needs to be emphatic to those who have fallen in the trap of drug use. The state also will have to ensure drug addicts are administered proper treatment-be it in prisons or in rehabilitation centers. Such an attitude for one and all will help drug addicts in overcoming the drug problem and social stigmatization.

The state also needs to usherradical reforms in sectors like education. At present, numerous youth get disillusioned when they get rejected for a job or don’t find a job. In frustration, they feel disheartened by the system and take up drugs. Whereas the real problem is, a majority of them lack the skill set and are often unemployable. The skill set is correlated with quality of education imparted to the students. The reform in the education system should commensurate with the requirement of the modern day age. It’s sad that we have commodified the education system, which further exacerbates the problems of the society, instead of remediating it.

Our policymakers need to introspect whether they have been able to formulate the policies that promote job creation and environment that thrives on an idea of innovation and technology.In absence of both these, youth is like to become susceptible to drugs to find solace. The policymakers need to avoid this trap and make sure the policies cultivate an environment on which our society can prosper for the best, not for the worst.

A bit of lateral thinking will also help. We need to create more options for our youth to have fun and frolic. Let’s understand, if we can offer an environment full of alternative activities to our youth, it will prevent the youth from falling prey to drugs. More parks, health clubs, library, reading rooms (sadly reading habits are declining in society worldwide), playgrounds will certainly help. Our pedagogy and parents can help immensely in this, by encouraging the youth to develop different interest and hobbies. Remember the old adage: An idle brain is a devil’s workshop.

Interestingly, most of the towns in the state or villages for that matter have a painful story related to the drug menace to tell- some certainly veracious, some may be apocryphal. The imminent challenge is to overturn the predicament. In the future, the tales from the state should be about drug survivor who fought his way back to health, not about the one who languished all his life in the hope of emancipation.

We are blessed with a young population but the asset has to be preserved by creating an environment that gets the best out the youth. If we err in doing so, the same asset can easily turn into liability and spell doomsday for the state. It would be a tragedy if we allow our youth to embrace the darkness.

Let’s get our act together; it’s high time! Let’s build a bulwark in the path of slow death by presenting new avenues of life to the youth. They deserve this much, if not better.

Author: Sunny Grack

About Author: Sunny Grack is a former banker. Interested in matters on economy, globalisation ,financial market and public policy; an Economic and Management graduate. He lives in Shimla.

Disclaimer: Himachal Watcher may not necessarily share the same opinion as expressed by the author.

A former banker, interested in matters on economics, globalization, emerging markets, financial sector and public policy; Economic and Management graduate. He lives in Shimla.

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Another Elderly Man Dies in Stray Cattle Attack in Himachal

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Stray Cattle Population in Himachal Pradesh in 2019

Mandi-The number of stray cattle on Himachal Pradesh’s roads continues to grow due to the apathy of the state government and those who abandon these animals after they are of no use. It’s leading to stray cattle menace that has now reached an alarming level with two deaths registered within two months.

Other than that, these animals are leading to road accidents in which both commuters, as well as these animals, get hurt. While humans are immediately taken to hospital, these animals are hardly attended.  

An 80-year-old man in Ledha area of Mandi district, who was critically injured after a stray bull attacked him on November 1, 2019, died at the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla, on November 5.

The elderly man was identified as Ishru of Ledha, who hailed from a poor family and worked as a daily wager. He had come to the market for shopping for the wedding of his two granddaughters. Ironically, the grandfather died on the day of the wedding. Though the news of his demise had reached a couple of his family members, it was broken to all only after the conclusion of the wedding.

Previously, on September 8, 2019, a 70-year-old man in Baroha village of Jhanduta Sub-Division, Bilaspur district, was attacked by a stray bull in which he had sustained critical injuries. He succumbed to his injuries on his way to the hospital.  

The deceased was identified as Ganga Ram, a resident of Baroh village. On the day of the accident, he was on his way home after visiting a nearby temple.

Most of these cattle are bulls who remain of no use to farmers as tractors and modern machinery is replacing them. These are simply abandoned and adds to a growing population of cattle on the roads. 

In a order passed on 7-10-2014, the State High Court, hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Bhartiya Govansh Rakshan Sanverdhan Parishad, HP, had directed that all the cattle including cows in M.C. Shimla and Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Panchayats should have a tag number to make it easy to trace the owner. The court had also directed the government to construct sufficient shelters for stray cattle. However, as usual, the orders didn’t make much difference. 

What Does HP Govt Claims About Eradicating Stray Cattle Menace

On the other hand, the Animal Husbandry Minister and Chairman of ‘Gau Seva Aayog’ Virendra Kanwar, in an official statement issued on November 3, 2019, claimed that according to the cattle census of the year 2012, 32107 destitute cows were on the roads. So far 9119 animals have been provided shelter in cow-shelters, Kanwar claimed. It’s pertinent to mention that the census refers to 2012. The number is probably much higher by 2019. Moreover, after the government’s policy to ban beef, abandoning has cows become way more frequent.  

The Chairman also claimed that About 146 cow shelters are being operated by NGOs in the state. Cow shelters, cowsheds, cattle ponds, etc. are being constructed for destitute cows at the Panchayati level, he claimed. He also urged the people not to abandon their cows and ensure registration of their animals under the Panchayati Raj Act 2006.

The government claims that it also established ‘Gau Seva Aayog’ on March 1, 2019.

Also, the government had been collecting 15 percent of the income of temple trusts and one rupee Gauvansh cess on sale as per bottle of liquor, from which the amount of Rs. 7.95 crore has been collected in Aayogs account.

Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center to be set up in Kutlehar Assembly constituency

The State Government has been claiming that it is setting up a Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center at a cost of Rs. 47.50 crore. In this center, such injections will be prepared for indigenous cow breeds that will produce only female calves. 740 kanals of land have been selected for the establishing Sex-Sorted Semen Facility Center in Lamlahdi of Kutlehar Assembly constituency. The government believes this will reduce the problem of destitute animals on the roads and it will also motivate farmers to adopt livestock activities.

Cow-Sanctuaries, Large Cow Shelters in Himachal Pradesh

The government further claims that cowsanctuaries and big cow shelters have been established by the Aayog across the state. The foundation stone of cowsanctuary worth Rs. 1.52 crore have been laid at Kotla Badog in district Sirmaur and similarly the process of setting up ‘Gau Sadan’ is going on in other districts as well. A cowsanctuary will be constructed at Thanakala Khas in District Una at the cost of Rs. 1.69 crore and Rs. 2.97 crore at Hada-Kudi in District Solan. In addition, an amount of Rs. 77.90 lakh has been released by the Aayog for the fencing of Gaushala operated by the temple trust in Bai Attariyan of district Kangra. With this, the capacity of ‘Gau Sadan’ will be increased to 1000 cows. Land has been selected for the establishment of cowsanctuaries at Barota Dabwal and Dhara-Tatoh in District Bilaspur. An amount of Rs. 21 lakh rupees has also been released for the construction of four new cow shelters in district Kangra, Mandi and Solan.

The government further claimed that an amount of Rs 1.20 crore has been released by the Aayog for the construction of nine new cow shelters and for the expansion of old cow shelters to provide shelter to the destitute cows of local areas.

However, despite government’s claims of rehabilitating destitute cattle, the number doesn’t seem to be decreasing. 

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Video: HP Govt’s Alleged Illegal Demolition of Sheds Leaves Over 70 Cattle Shelter-less Ahead of Winters

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BBNDA Waste Treatment Plant Petition

Solan-Four families living in Kenduwal in Baddi, Solan district, for over past 35 years and are dependent on selling milk, received a big jolt when some government officials along with police force with armed jawans allegedly trespassed and demolished all cattle-sheds on October 30, 2019. These families own over 70 cattle including 40 cows.

The families told Himachal Watcher (HW) that despite their repeated requests, they were not shown any permission or orders regarding the said tress passing and demolition. The officials with the police force just came with a JCB machine and demolished the cow-sheds. Now, all the cattle are spending cold nights under the open sky, which also jeopardise their lives and health, especially newborns, thus, the business on which these families depend on for their livelihood.

It’s shocking that under the rule of Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been using cows as an agenda for elections at both State and Centre, in reality, showed such insensitivity towards these animals in this case.

Considering the petition filed in relation to the same in the State High Court, it appears that the reason behind this action has more to do with grudges of the BBNDA with these families than law and order. These families – living in Kenduwal for over last 35 years- have become a thorn in the side of BBNDA, District Administration, and the State Government right after they reached the court with a petition.

In the petition, it was exposed that BBNDA had proposed an Rs.9.7 crore Integrated Solid Waste Management facility in Kenduwal in 2012 and obtained clearance for the same in 2015. Entire garbage from Baddi and area under BBNDA was to be treated in this plant.

However, the plant never came up, and instead, the piece of land was turned into a huge open dumping yard.

 

It should be noted that According to the 2011 Census, the total pollutions of the Baddi MC and BBNDA area were 29911 and 29293 respectively while the total amount of waste generated per day was 25.50 tons and 20.30 tons respectively. The number of migrant labourers or workers from other states was not included in this Census. The populations in both areas have increased by 2018, which implies growth in a waste generation too.

To make it worse, BBNDA didn’t even follow guidelines under the environmental laws. The dumping yard was created on the riverbed of Sira River.

Another disaster was that BBNDA didn’t even follow the guideline related to maintaining a distance of at least 200 meters from human habitat. For years, tons of waste was dumped on this site and eventually, it made the lives of these families a living hell – posing serious health hazards.

The situation became so ugly that these families had to seek legal help and approach the State High Court. The families filed a petition seeking relief.

As per the proceedings, the BBNDA and District Administration could not justify in the court why a dumping yard was created on a land that was sanctioned for building a treatment plant. It made this act as unlawful and this dumping yard illegal. These authorities had to face the the wrath of the court. Eventually, the court directed the authorities to stop dumping waste at Kenduwal and dispose of it in accordance with the environmental laws. The court also directed that the affected families, which were living in inhumn conditions, are relocated within a stipulated period of eight weeks.

Petitioner’s request for relocation and halting of the illegal dumping was allowed by the Hon’ble Court vide its Orders dated 04.10.2018, 21.05.2019 and 4.9.2019.

The order passed on 04.10.2018, the Hon’ble Court had directed,

“In the interregnum, we direct that no garbage shall be dumped into the land owned by the present petitioner or dumped at any other site, save and except, in accordance with the law.”

In an order passed on 21.05.2019, the Hon’ble Court had directed,

“…the request made by the petitioner in CMP No.4422 of 2019 regarding the relocation of his house at a distance from garbage dump be also considered and specific response be given in the status report”

Again, in another order passed on 4.9.2019, the court had directed,

“It is stated by the learned Senior Additional Advocate General that the petitioner may be relocated and reported to this Court within two weeks. Post after two weeks.”

The petitioner said that the BBNDA and District Administration had no regard towards or fear of the court orders. They still continue to dump waste at the same site and did not relocate the family.

Instead, these families, which belong to Gujjar community (recognised as Scheduled Tribes), begun to face the wrath of the government system following it. The families alleged that they were even threatened in order to dissuade them from reaching the court or taking any legal step.

The families on October 30, 2019, had to approach the court again with a contempt petition.

As per the contempt petition, the BBNDA did not even obtain permission to establish an SWT plant from the Pollution Control Board, which is a mandatory condition under Section 19 (3) of the 2016 Rules. There is also a flagrant violation of Section 24 and 25 of Water Act 1974, and Air Act 1981, the petition says.

As per the petition, none of the 36 Conditions mentioned in the Environment Clearance letter are fulfilled by BBNDA.

On October 30, 2019, when the family again approached the court complaining that its orders were not followed by authorities, their cowsheds were demolished within a few hours without showing any order, the petitioner alleged.

As per the advocate for the petitioner, no authority can issue orders of demolition on that property because the case is pending in the High Court as well as in the lower court. To issue any such order, these authorities will have to obtain permission from the court. No such permission was taken from the court, he said. This means that the entire act was a case of tress passing and illegally conducting demolition.

The families also told HW that a letter seeking relocation as per the court orders was written to the DC too.

The contempt petition clearly mentions,

“Representation dated 10th June 2019 was made to District Commissioner, Solan, Himachal Pradesh and a copy was also sent to competent Sub Divisional Magistrate for Seeking adequate compensation and rehabilitation under “The Right to Fair. Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013”, for relocation in accordance with law…”

When HW talked to the DC, Solan, KC Chaman, he said that he is not able to recall receiving any such request.

About the demolition, he said the matter was not in his knowledge.

He further told HW that the land belongs to the government and these families have encroached upon it. Keeping aside the orders of the HC, the DC said these families are not entitled to get any land under any scheme or policy.

However, the petitioner’s advocate argued that once the court has passed orders of the relocation of these families, it doesn’t matter whether they were entitled under any scheme or policy or not. The authorities are ought to obey the order and relocate them.

“The entire area, which is about 41 bighas, falls within the planning area. It’s government land that is allotted to BBNDA for construction of waste treatment plant. Therefore, fencing and the process of clearing the land are being carried out by the BBNDA authority,”

the DC said.

“The BBNDA does not need my permission to issue such orders and it can do so at its own discretion. The Town and Country Planning Department might have issued such orders,”

the DC said when he was apprised of the allegations of the families that they were given no notice and shown any orders.

Other than that, the family has written to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribe seeking justice. Similarly, applications were given to the Superintendent of Police, Solan, in 2018 complaining that BBNDA was violating court orders. The SDM, Nalagarh, was also requested to intervene. For years now, they are running from post to pillar. However, no relief came from anywhere. 

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Two Himachal Youngsters to Launch State’s First Hemp Start-up: An Online Market for Green Products

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Its Hemp Dharamshala

Kangra-Two youngsters of Kangra district have founded Himachal Pradesh’s first-ever hemp-based online marketplace – Its Hemp, which they plan to launch very soon in November 2019.  

“Its Hemp” – as an online marketplace will offer a vast range of hemp-based green products from various sellers across the country, the founders expect. The platform is recognised as a start-up by the DIPP under the Startup India Program.

“Its Hemp” is dedicated to make hemp products a regular commodity,”

said co-Founders Srijan Sharma and Apurva Sheel

Srijan Sharma, 25, belongs to Kangra district and is an engineer by education. He completed his B.Tech in ECE from SRM University, Chennai. Srijan works as a marketing consultant with businesses all over the country. Previously, he had also founded “365 degrees” in 2012.

Apurva Sheel, 25, belongs to Dharamshala. She has completed her MA in Linguistics from Deccan College PGRI, Pune, Maharashtra. She is a Communications Consultant by profession and has worked as PR Manager for IBC Media. This is her first start-up.

The startup deserves a mention because it is linked to the idea of sustainable living. In a time when adopting a sustainable lifestyle has become the need of the hour. The startup (Its Hemp) would offer organic and environment-friendly alternatives to everyday products.  Hemp as a commodity has a long-rooted relationship with human existence. It is an organic, nutritious, chemical-free, and eco-friendly alternative to present-day products. Adoption of all kinds of hemp-based products, from apparels to accessories to hemp milk and even biodegradable plastic, is one of the many ways for humans to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, the founders said.

Nearly 25 thousands of green products can be manufactured from Cannabis (hemp) plants. Hemp Industry is one of the fastest-growing industry globally. In Himachal Pradesh, after hearing a petition filed by advocate Deven Khanna, seeking legalization of cultivation of industrial hemp in the state for manufacturing non-narcotic products including life-saving medicines, the State High Court had given a green nod and had asked the state government to formulate a policy. Considering these facts, it’s good news that Himachal’s own youth is showing interest in this industry. The government had hinted that ahead of Global Investors Meet, some foreign hemp companies have expressed their interest in Himachal’s market. 

If the government decides to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp for the production of limited green products and medicins, then it would be a boon for rural areas where the plant grows in abundance. 

“Our experience with hemp products got me intrigued. On researching on the crop, we were fascinated to know the long-lost history it holds with our existence and its minimal eco-print just inspired me to promote its use,”

said co-Founders Srijan and Apurva. 

 “In addition to orally advocating it among communities,  we wanted to build a platform where users could gain access to these eco-friendly products and experiment with them. That is how Its Hemp came into existence. We are working with hemp products manufacturers and wholesalers from all over the country to create a single has-it-all stop for users,”

they further added.

They hope to make sustainable living a reality by educating people about this eco-friendly alternative.

 

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