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The Curse of NGT Judgment – Undoing of Urban Planning

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Impact of NGT Orders on Shimla City's Development

Shimla– An old ‘common law’ proverb from the British era says “A man’s house is his castle, et Domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge]”. This principle, which needs to be strengthened in a free country, is sadly in shambles and perhaps held more truth in the colonial times than it holds now. The level of insecurity a man has with respect to the ownership or for making improvements in his living space/house or building is increasing day by day because of unreasoned judgments of Courts or illogical executive dictates.

In these series of articles (1,2 & 3), the impact of various laws and judgments which have essentially worked for depriving the common citizens in the State of H.P, of their ‘Right to Property” will be critically examined.

This article is aimed at academically discussing and pointing out the perversity and manifest errors in the ‘NGT Judgement’ which was passed on November 16, 2017. The judgment banned all construction activities in the green and core areas and also within 3 meters from national highways. It also restricted the number of stories to two-and-a-half in other areas where construction was permitted to up to 4 to 5 stories.

THE UNHEARD VICTIMS

The Order adversely affects many different categories of people. For instance, a person who has a sanctioned plan in accordance with TCP Law/By-Laws/Rules, who had saved his ‘life savings’ for the construction of his house, is now stuck in limbo, having done nothing wrong. If a man had the approval and sanctioned plan of  ‘four and a half story’ building, which was permitted under TCP law, he is now told that he cannot construct the house in accordance with that initial sanction.

Another man who has his sole plot/property in the core area is prevented from doing anything with it, though he may have buildings on either side of his plot. The significance of the initial sanction and the mandate of the Town and Country Planning Act is bypassed by the Hon’ble Tribunal which is not even competent to decide the matter under such Laws (TCP Act/ MC Act). To add insult to injury, such persons are not even heard or paid compensation before they are so monumentally impacted by the decision.

The Constitution makers bestowed right on every citizen of the country to acquire, hold and dispose of property and also provided ample safeguards against deprivation of the property by confining such deprivation only on payment of compensation to the expropriated owner. As such, the judgment is against the spirit of Article 300-A of the Indian Constitution.

IMPACTING DEVELOPMENT BY ABSURD AND BLANKET DIRECTION

1. Around 52 ‘Shimla Smart City Projects’, which aim at improving the infrastructural base of the city, are directly impacted by this judgment and are stalled. Such a wide impact of this blanket direction neither can be conceived nor can be expected to be implemented if the city has to grow. Further, such powers were never envisaged under the NGT Act which creates the Hon’ble Tribunal.

2. Another blanket and absurd direction is where the judgment prohibits new construction of any kind, i.e. residential, institutional and commercial in any part of the core area as defined under the various notifications issued under the Interim Development Plan as well by the State Government.

According to the standing laws of the State, the reconstruction in the green areas is permissible on old lines and construction in the core area with the permission of the State Government is also permissible, as per the existing laws (Notification/Statutes). If someone’s house is falling or has become structurally unsafe he should obviously be allowed to reconstruct on old lines, but this is also prevented as a consequence of these directions.    The tribunal has not quashed the relevant notifications which deal with this issue and has said something completely contrary to the existing laws. Now the situation is that we have two sets of laws, which are completely opposite to each other. The Tribunal doesn’t have the power to quash these laws nor interpret them.

3. The most Absurd direction is where the judgment says that beyond core, green and the areas falling within the authorities of the Shimla Planning Area, the constructions may be permitted strictly but not beyond two stories plus attic floor.

According to the law of the land, the construction in the core areas is being regulated by the provisions of the Interim Development Plan for Shimla as amended vide notification dated  28th June’ 2016, which clearly provides that the construction in the core area of Shimla is not story-based but is based upon the maximum floor area ratio and the maximum height of the building which is 1.50 to 1.75 & 21 meters respectively. Similarly, in the non-core areas of Shimla, the maximum floor area ratio is 1.75 & the maximum height of the building is 21 meters. Since the provisions of the Interim Development Plan for Shimla are still in operation, the same are now in conflict with the directions imparted by the Hon’ble Tribunal.

Traumatizing & Patent Illegality of the Judgement

There are numerous errors in the said judgment of the Hon’ble Tribunal, some are legal errors and others are factual errors. The judgment not only enters into a field which is outside its purview, but it also gives a shortsighted vision of its own in the matters of planning and development without comprehending the complexity of the factual problems which exists on the ground.

Though there are many flaws in the judgment, in this first article of the series, some of them have been enumerated as follows:

Firstly, the judgment dated 16.11.2017 has been passed in violation of the principles of natural justice and without giving an opportunity of being heard to those persons who stand adversely affected. The principles of natural justice concern procedural fairness and ensure a fair decision is reached by an objective decision-maker. Maintaining procedural fairness protects the rights of individuals and enhances public confidence in the process. Right of being heard is a right given to those parties who will be adversely affected by the decision. This right is a backbone for a ‘Fair Trial’. Such an important aspect of the judicial proceeding is missing in this case. Numerous persons whose property rights have been taken away have not been heard until now. The judgment should fall on this ground alone.

Secondly, the Tribunal is not even competent, or in other words, has the necessary jurisdiction to hear or decide matters relating to TCP Act or Municipal Corporation Act. The Tribunal is specifically established for matters which relate to ‘Environment’ and laws/Acts which deal with the protection of the same for e.g Environment Protection Act, Water Act, Air Act, etc. The tribunal certainly cannot be expected to interpret TCP Act and MC Act or bypass the mandate of Article 300 A and deprive persons of their houses or stop future government projects which are necessary for effectively implementing State policies.

Thirdly A peculiar problem which has arisen right now is that ‘Town and Country Planning Act’ provisions are not struck down and NGT judgment, which is saying something completely opposite, also stands. It is a rule of thumb that when the Courts have to disagree with a statuary provision for being unconstitutional etc., they will either quash it or read it down. NGT has done none of it, nor it could have done anything in this respect since these two acts are outside its jurisdiction. These acts fall within the jurisdiction of the Hon’ble High Court or the Hon’ble Apex Court.

When the law of the land has not been quashed or struck down, it obviously means that it is still the law of the land and has to be implemented. The judgment seems to be more on the lines of guidelines rather being a dictate or laying down an authoritative pronouncement.

Another fundamental flaw in the judgment is that the Tribunal has travelled way beyond the petition/application and what was prayed by the Applicant who approached it. The Courts, as a rule of practice, are limited to the pleadings which are filed before it, in this case, the Hon’ble Tribunal has gone far beyond the petition which it was deciding. The phrase ‘knight roaming in a shining armour’ is apt for this judgment. Here, the Court has set out to make right all the problems and evils of the State and has done future planning both for urban and rural areas and for the lakhs of inhabitants of such areas.

An important principle which has been forgotten in these blanket directions is ‘Actus curiae neminem gravabit’. The act of the Court shall prejudice no man. (Cumber v. Wane, i Sm. L. C. i ith ed. p. 338.)’.  The number of people who have been condemned unheard is astoundingly large. The livelihood of thousands is at stake, the development of the urban and rural areas of the State is at stake. These people are not criminals, these development plans are not out of the ordinary rather are a necessity for a growing city. The development plans have rightly been drawn by the competent authority under a well-established law. If the law is ‘common sense’ then this sense demands that these directions need a relook. If a law makes lakhs of people in the State as lawbreakers than there is something wrong with the law itself.

Right to Shelter, Challenges of Providing Housing to the Growing Population

It must be remembered that if everyone is compelled to make two and a half stories or not construct on vacant plots, it would lead to scarcity of housing or it would lead to cutting down of more trees as more land/surface area would be required to construct such houses. To sustain the growing population 4 to 5 storied buildings which if found structurally safe and not impacting the environment were perfectly reasonable and rightly allowed by the TCP/MC laws.

Right to shelter is a fundamental right and right of people to move from rural to urban areas is also a basic right. Both these rights stand defeated if these directions are not quashed. Housing will just become more and more expensive and out of the reach of poor and middle-class families. Old structures won’t be reconstructed, no new constructions will be raised, and no new Government projects can come up. The view of main Shimla town apart from Mall Road, which looks like a ghetto, will always remain like a ghetto.

In case of an earthquake, the chances of survival of the ‘High Court building’ (7 stories) and the ‘Cecil Hotel’ building (9 stories) are way more than the two-storied buildings of  Shimla’s lower bazaar /middle bazaar.  The point is that Morden technology and latest techniques of construction allow us to provide structurally safer buildings than what we had in the past. Further, they can also sustain more population in less surface area of land and fulfil a huge public purpose by doing so. The height of buildings as provided in municipal and TCP laws in accordance with floor to height ratio were reasonably arrived at by the competent authority. The Courts certainly are not equipped nor are expected to venture into this area which is outside their powers and tell us ‘how many stories can be built’, it is certainly the domain of the executive as they have experts with them and also have a better grasp of the ground reality (At least in theory).

The cost of such broad-ranging directions and ideas is very high – particularly on Shimla Town and its housing, making the cost of living and doing business costly and hurting the local enterprises, and thereby, shifting the planned outcomes into a different direction concerning economic opportunities. The focus of the planning approach has to shift from ‘development restricting’ approach toward ‘development enabling’ approach and it requires finalization of the Developmental plan for the city. It is extremely surprising that Shimla City does not have a final development plan in place to date (this will be discussed elaborately in future articles).

There are numerous other directions and issues relating to the final development plan and some arbitrary TCP Rules such a “non-inhabitable attics, no single-window clearances and the power of the babus to extort money in the passing of plans etc which will be critically examined in the next article.

(The post was first published in https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/ )

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher.

Deven Khanna is a Lawyer, practicing at High Court of Himachal Pradesh, other H.P Courts/Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India, he is an alumnus of a National Law School. For any queries related to the articles, he can be contacted at 7018469792 or at khannadeven@gmail.com. The personal blog is at https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/

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HP Govt’s Guidelines Formed in Defiance of GoI and Court Directions Leave Disabled Students Troubled

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HP Govt Guidelines for written examination for persons with disabilities

Shimla-The rights of the disabled aren’t only a human rights issue, but it is also a developmental issue. Yet, in India, this section of society is struggling to get into the mainstream and compelled to go to courts to fight for their rights, including equal access to education. Himachal Pradesh is no different when it comes to adopting a comprehensive approach and modern technology to level the field for these students. Display of sensitivity is limited to showing sympathy and feeling sad for persons with disabilities that undermines their potentials and individual capacities to excel in life.

Owing to erroneous attitude towards persons with disabilities, children trying to access education often face neglect from governments that makes their already hard lives harder.  

Very recently, such gross negligence and defiance of court orders on the part of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, HP Government, came to light after an autistic student of the first year at Government Degree College, Kandaghat, couldn’t take his exams because the current guidelines of the state government make it a mandatory condition that the qualification of his scribe should be one step below the qualification of the candidate taking the examination.

Contrary to these “Guidelines for conducting written examinations for the Persons With Benchmark Disabilities” Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India (dated 4.12.18) has clearly directed the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, to not fix any qualification and age criteria for scribes until the examining body doesn’t have its own panel of scribes. Following these orders in the said case (a writ petition), and Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment and the University Grants Commission had sissued fresh notifications with special clarification on the criteria of qualification and age on January 6, 2019, and February 26, 2019, respectively.  

Moreover, the principal of the college was not clear on the guidelines.

The college told the father of the candidate, Mr Vishal Gupta, that it had forwarded the matter to the University for further clarification, which did not come as quickly as it was supposed to. Himachal Watcher also spoke to Mr Gupta.

“My son is suffering autism (60%) and recently got admitted to BA Part-1 course at Government Degree College Kandaghat, Solan. The previous principal was very co-operative and had allowed a scribe after consulting the University. But now, ahead of my son’s house exams, I was asked to visit the college. The college asked me to provide a copy of the guidelines. I told the Principal that the college was supposed to have these guidelines already,” he told Himachal Watcher (HW).

“The Principal told me that the exams of my son will be put on hold and would be considered only after receiving a copy of the guidelines from the University. While all other classmates are taking examinations, my son couldn’t take two exams which begin from March 13, 2021,” he further told HW.

“I don’t blame the college for this. This entire issue and inconvenience stem out of a grieve negligence on the part of the HP University as it did not circulate directions of the UGC in this regard to the colleges,” Mr Gupta said.  

However, when HW took up the issue with the University authority, it turned out the varsity was not at fault either. The varsity was yet to adopt the new guidelines issued by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2020, hence, previous guidelines (2013) were already applicable. Therefore, the varsity wasn’t supposed to issue any new notification. 

Mr Gupta contacted Ajai Shrivastava, Chairman of Umang Foundation (NGO) and Expert Member, HP State Advisory Board on Disability, HPU, and brought the matter to his attention.

It’s pertinent to mention that Mr Shrivastava had been fighting vigorously for the rights of the disabled in Himachal Pradesh, especially for their right to equal access to education at all levels for over a decade now. It was on his PIL that the State High Court had given a landmark judgement directing the Himachal Pradesh Government to provide free education to the students with disabilities up to the university level. 

Also Read: HP High Court’s landmark judgment brings huge relief to children with disabilities

The court had also enhanced the amount of their scholarship and awarded Rs. one lac to the Umang Foundation to be spent for the welfare of the disabled children.

Mr Shrivastava, on being contacted by Mr Gupta, immediately wrote to the Chief Minister requesting him to make the Social Justice and Empowerment Department to withdraw its guidelines which are illegal as these did not comply with the court decision and UGC notification. He also held a press conference at the Press Club, Shimla on March 14, 2021.

“Addl. Chief Secretary (SJ&E) to the Govt. of HP has issued and further circulated the “Guidelines for conducting written examinations for persons with benchmark Disabilities 2020” for implementation on 16th December 2020,” he wrote in the letter.

“In fact, the above-mentioned guidelines have been issued by the HP Govt. in violation of the orders of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India, dated 4.12.18. In this litigation, Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment, GOI; Ministry of Education, GOI, and UGC etc. were respondents,” he further wrote.

Mr Shrivastava clarified that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on dated 1.1.2019 issued an Office Memorandum for the “Compliance of orders of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India.”

He also clarified that the UGC dated 26.2.2019 wrote to all Registrars of Universities across the country for compliance with the order of the Hon’ble High Court for implementation. The Ministry of S.J. & E. and the UGC, both have reproduced the order of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi as under:

“Till the panel of scribes is formed if any examination is conducted by any of the departments wherein the petitioner and similarly situated persons appear in the exam. the guidelines dated 29.8.2018 shall not be applicable, however, the candidate shall appear in terms of guidelines dated 26.2.2013. ”

Mr Shrivastva further went on to say that it very unfortunate that despite the above, the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Himachal Pradesh ignored the directions of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and issued its guidelines.

“It’s gross negligence on the part of the state government. And, the Department of Higher Education whose examinations are governed by UGC through Himachal Pradesh University, has already implemented the said illegal guidelines. HP State, he said.

Further, he wrote that the Education Board has also implemented it.

Mr Shrivastva asked the Chief Minister to keep in view the directions of The Ministry of S.J. & E. and the UGC, withdraw these guidelines of the State Government issued on dated 16.12.2020 in the interest of justice to persons with benchmark disabilities.

However, the Chief Minister Office seems to have its priorities.

Currently, one of the topmost priority of the current government led by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur appears to be the preparation for the Swarnim Himachal” celebrations and Swarnim Himachal Rath Yatra. Chief Minister is personally looking into preparations and has even constituted a High Power Committee regarding preparation for the said celebration. As a matter of fact, yesterday, the Chief Minister held a review meeting for the same at Peterhof, Shimla. Another priority,  which huge billboards placed across the state indicate, is to advertise the “Swarnim Himachal” celebration.

The state of these students is a spoiler for the “Swarnim Himachal” celebration as it contradicts claims of achieving milestones in developmental works. 

It should be kept in mind that fighting their battle in courts for their rights wasn’t enough to make the state government attend to this section of students. Further, the deliberate contemptuous approach of the bureaucracy is also clearly visible.

Before jumping to some references to the government’s grieve world of neglect for the disabled, try to realize the sensitivity of the matter with comments provided by Deven Khanna, a practising advocate at the HP High Court.

“It is necessary that an explicit, unequivocal and comprehensive procedural mechanism are constituted for the benefit and betterment of disability rights. It is pertinent to fathom that human rights of those living with disability cannot be fought for and secured in a vacuum,” Deven says.

It is apparent that the issue of disability is linked with several other social, economic and political aspects including those of chronic poverty, gender inequality, mal-administration and political victimization. This must be eradicated to create the ‘disability right’ an actual reality. As far as planning and policy-making process about lives and complete recognition and implementation of the human rights of the disabled and other associated rights are concerned, there must be active inclusion of the disabled people in the same process, he says.

India, one of the first few signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities, has not complied with the provisions of the same, he says.

The Constitution of India, under Article 41, imposes a duty on the State to generate necessary and effective provisions for securing the right to work, right to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement.

Laws Relating to Disability:

  1. Constitution of India – Article 19, 21, 41 and 226
  2. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
  3. UNCRPD Article 9
  4. Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992
  5. The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, 1999
  6. Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
  7. Mental Health Care Act, 2017

“The State must conduct a discussion of human rights for the persons with disabilities in-depth, so that benefit can be availed out of it. As human beings along with access to and realization of all fundamental and elementary rights, persons living with disabilities require a safe, secure, convenient, beneficial and accessible environment which respects their human dignity,” Devens adds.

Now, consider the following references:

In May 2016, Mr Shrivastava had highlighted how the government was violating orders of the High Court by not providing library facility to the blind and deaf students in the special school at Dhalli. Blind students needed digital library apart from Braille books.

Also Read: Despite HC orders, Himachal’s blind & deaf students denied hostel, library facility at special school Dhalli: NGO  

There was no science laboratory in the school. The dead line fixed by High Court to appoint new teachers had also expired on 3rd December 2015, he had alleged. 

Also Read: HPU’s Disabled Students Denied Reservation and Basic Facilities Despite Court Orders

The government had completely failed to implement the High Court orders that had given relief to the disabled children studying in special schools at Sundernagar and Dhalli, Shimla on the PIL filed by Ajai Srivastava.

Also Read: Despite High Court orders, disabled students in Himachal deprived of rights by Govt.

In September 2016, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) from the Centre was visiting Himachal Pradesh to take stock of the status of facilities for disabled persons, Mr Shrivastava had alleged that the state government of portraying a misleading picture of the disability sector. He had submitted to the CCPD  alleging the government had not implemented the CCPD’s examination guidelines for the blind persons despite the High Court’s order on his PIL. He had apprised the CCPD that special school for blind and deaf girls at Sundernagar and a special school for boys at Dhalli, Shimla were poorly managed and lack basic amenities.

Also Read: Now HP Govt. misleading CCPD on disability issue after blatantly violating High Court orders

In a separate case, Indu Kumari, a poverty-stricken girl from the backward region of Chamba district, in her letter on July 21, 2017, told the Chief Justice that she completed her BA from Rajkiya Kanya Manha Vidyalaya College, Shimla.

However, she was denied admission in MA (Political Science) by HP University despite a provision of a five percent quota for disabled candidates under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Not just Indu, but several other students were also told that the provisions of the new Act were not implemented in the university. These students had to return disappointed.

However, the High Court had come to the rescue of these students by considering the letter as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

In August 2017, as a tight slap on the face of Himachal Pradesh University and the State Government, the State High Court had asked them to explain reasons for not ensuring a five percent quota in higher education institutes for disabled students.

Also Read: HP High Court pulls up Govt & HPU over denial of 5% quota to disabled students

Earlier, the division bench comprising Justices Rajiv Sharma and Tarlok Singh Chauhan has passed a judgment on 4th June on the PIL filed by Umang Foundation (No. 30 / 2011). The bench had directed the Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF) Solan, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and CSK Agriculture University, Palampur to provide free education to disabled children within a period of six weeks. But despite court orders, the UHF Nuani had denied doing so and Ajai Shrivastava had to write to the Registrar of Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, warning that if the university does not provide free education as per the court’s order, a contempt petition will be filed.

Also Read: HP University of Horticulture & Forestry says no to disable students despite HC orders

In September 2017, the Disabled Student Association had alleged the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment of withholding scholarships of the thousands of disables studying at the government educational institutes.

When these students approached the Directorate of Scheduled Cast, OBC, and Minority Affairs; they were simply told that there was no budget for their scholarship. Pertinent to mention here that the majority of these disables belong to economically weaker sections of the society and come to the varsity from remote regions in hope of higher education.

Also Read: Thousands of Himachal’s disabled denied scholarship, No budget, says Govt: DSA

In October 2017, The Disabled Students Association (DSA) wrote to the Governor of Himachal Pradesh Acharya Devvrat and urged him to immediately demanding the implementation of reservation of seats in MPhil and PhD under the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016. 

However, it did not bring any relief to them.

Also Read: HPU’s disabled students demand stay on M.Phil, Ph.D entrance exam results

Further, this indifference toward disabled students is apparent from the fact that the accessible library for the disabled students of Himachal Pradesh University was inaugurated by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on July 22, 2019, didn’t have basic facilities like a washroom and students, especially visually impaired girls faced huge inconvenience. For a toilet, the Disabled Students and Youth Association (DSYA), Himachal Pradesh, had to submit a memorandum to the Governor and Chancellor, Bandaru Dattatreya, on December 13, 2019. 

It was not surprising that the Chief Minister inaugurated a library facility without basic facilities because it was merely a formality performed in response to an order of the State High Court passed in a PIL filed by a disabled student, Banita Rana, in 2014.

Also Read: HPU’s Disabled Students Denied Reservation and Basic Facilities Despite Court Orders

In March 2020, visually impaired and other disabled candidates, who were qualified for teaching posts, had to approach the Himachal Pradesh High Court complaining that the government is violating the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2017 by not implementing reservation to visually impaired and other disabled candidates, who are qualified for teaching posts, in schools, polytechnics and colleges.

Also Read: HP Govt Ignoring Rights of Disabled, No Reservation in Teaching Posts Despite Provision: DSYA

Considering the way disabled students were made to fight for their right to equal access to education and even the most basic facilities, previous and current governments laid more focus on their political interests than attending to the hardships of these children.  

Unfortunately, while the previous Congress Government failed these disabled children, the current BJP Government went one step ahead in making their lives harder by passing new Guidelines of its own in 2020 which contradicts court orders and directions of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Also Read: Extremity of HP Govt.’s corruption – Swallows share of deaf & blind students

The topmost priority, not only of the current government but also previous ones, is to ensure retention of power through politics than attending to very sensitive and urgent matters, like making education equally accessible to disabled children of the state.  

Regarding Court Orders in Writ Petitions Filed in 2013 and 2018 Over Availing Scribe for Written Examinations

On a Writ Petition filed in the Delhi High Court (Subhash Chandra Vashishth vs Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) in 2012, the Court in its judgement given on 11, 2013 had directed the Government of India “to abolish current restrictions/conditions imposed on scribes in terms of qualifications.”

Later, in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India case dated 4.12.18,  the Delhi high court clarified on revised guidelines and made it clear that “Till the panel of scribes is formed if any examination is conducted by any of the departments wherein the petitioner and similarly situated persons appear in the exam. the guidelines dated 29.8.2018 shall not be applicable, however, the candidate shall appear in terms of guidelines dated 26.2.2013. ”

But no such panel was formed and the responsibility of availing scribe still lies on the candidate.  

Based on a notification issued from the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare in January 2019, in February 2019 UGC issued a notification to all concerned Universities directing them to communicate the same to all colleges/institutes affiliated with it.

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Here is What CM Jairam and MLA Dhawala Said While Proposing Legalization of Cannabis (Hemp) Cultivation in Himachal

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Cm jairam on cannabis legalization at budget session

Shimla-As usual, while the Budget presented by the Himachal Pradesh Government for the 2021-22 financial year is being hailed by legislators and leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party, the oppositions are terming it an eye-wash and a directionless budget. As usual, the budget speech contains a plethora of promises including filling up about 30,000 functional posts and constructing 12,000 news houses for the poor.

However, there is one proposal that deserves appreciation in particular. Not only it would open more doors of employment in rural areas, but could also prove to be a crucial decision in revolutionizing the state economy. A potential source of income that remained untapped.

It’s about permitting commercial hemp cultivation in the state. In his budget speech, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur told the House that the State Government would frame a policy to legalize hemp cultivation.

“Commercial hemp cultivation is permitted & regulated in many countries and in some States in India. This creates investment and employment opportunities. State Government proposes to frame a policy to permit commercial hemp cultivation with the proper regulatory framework,” he said during his budget speech on March 6, 2021.

The State High Court had already given its nod and put the ball in State Government’s court by stating that it has no objection over permitting the cultivation of industrial and medicinal hemp. Himachal Watcher had covered the issue when it was in court.

It’s pertinent to mention here that 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 a negligible amount (.1%) of the psychoactive substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Also Read: Misconceptions keep Himachal from making fortune on ‘green gold’ and eradicate charas mafia

On March 5, 2021, Ramesh Chand Dhawala, MLA of Jawalamukhi constituency, introduced a resolution in the Budget Session proposing the legalization of the cultivation of hemp.  He had argued over the benefits of doing so at a length. Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had also agreed that the state should frame a policy and undertake the cultivation of cannabis in a controlled manner. Chief Minister had also said that cannabis is has a strong association with the culture of the state. He admitted that traditionally fibre obtained from cannabis plants, which is known as “Shail” was used to make ropes, shoes and matts. He mentioned how extracting cannabis oil to use it in winters with food or as body lotion was common practice. Further, these seeds were used to be a part of the famous Himachali cuisine “Siddu”, he mentioned.

“American Cancer Research Association has found that cannabis is effective in slowing down the development of brain tumour and lung and breast cancer,” he said in the House.

Further, he mentioned that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — where it was listed alongside specific deadly, addictive opioids, including heroin, recognized as having little to no therapeutic purposes.

Video

Dhawala, prior to Chief Minister’s reply, told the house that the NDPS Act was introduced to check substance abuse, not to prevent the manufacturing of clothes and medicine. Traditionally, the cannabis plant was used locally to create clothing. Currently, he said, 70-80 percent of prisoners are booked under the NDPS Act. Record cases under NDPS have come to light in Kullu and Chamba for the illegal cultivation of cannabis.

Also Read: Industrial hemp can revolutionize Himachal’s economy, end war on drugs, says petition seeking legalization

These include poor people who remain behind bars for decades as trials take a huge amount of time. The use of cannabis as a drug is rising among youth who are getting addicted to it. Legalizing hemp cultivation can solve this problem along with opening new doors for employment, he told the House.

In higher hills, the rural people can harness only one crop as the land remains covered in a thick blanket of snow for six months. Which pushes these people to get indulged in illegal cultivation of cannabis and paddling of smokable substances extracted from cannabis plants, like charas and hashish, for livelihood.

While those who are caught with a quantity more than 100 grams and kingpins must be acted upon, there are youngsters who are booked for possessing even small quantities, he said.

Further, emphasizing on commercial use of hemp, he told the house that a large number of goods that can be manufactured from hemp in addition to cannabis oil, which is in huge demand in the international market for its medicinal use, can bring fortunes to the state and the rural population deprived of any other sources of income.

Video

He referred to other states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand etc. where the governments have framed policies to permit the cultivation of commercial hemp. He said industries have been established which uses this cultivated hemp, especially its oil for the manufacture of medicines.

Further, not only goods like cloth, shoes, furniture, ropes etc. but bricks can be manufactured by using waste material. These bricks are highly durable when combined with lime. He said these bricks have more strength, are light-weight and are waterproof. In Island, Mark and Spencer’s company constructed its showroom completely using these bricks and world-renowned car manufactures like Ford are also using hemp for manufacturing of car accessories, he said.

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

Dhwala also said that legalizing hemp cultivation can also revolutionize the clothing industry. In India, mostly cotton is used in the clothing industry. Cultivation of cotton requires double the land and four times the water required for the cultivation of hemp. Also, hemp can be harnessed within three to four months as compared to cotton which takes about nine months, he said.

He also referred to the mention of cannabis as a medicine in Vedas.  All parts of the cannabis plant – root, stem, leaves, fruit, seeds- are usable for various purposes. Ayurveda, in which cannabis is called ‘Vijaya’, also recommend the use of cannabis for cancer, neurological diseases, bacterial infection etc. and modern science also verify it, he said. The United States of America is using cannabis-based medicines for the treatment of diseases like Parkinson’s, Autism, Alzheimerinn ol, and others related to dementia. Other foreign countries are also using it as a medicine to treat heart-blockage, he told the House. Further, it is also used to provide relief to people suffering from disorders like migraine and stress.

Back in old days, cannabis oil was used as a pain reliever to mothers during delivery, he added.

The cannabis plant is the only plant that has up to 80 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids and a high quantity of nutrients Omega-3, Omega- and Omega-9. Other than cannabis, only fish contains these nutrients.

India’s neighbouring country Nepal has realized the potential of this plant and has formed a separate ministry that looks into the cultivation of hemp.

“It’s a matter of surprise that clothing, bags, shoes etc. made of hemp in Nepal are sold at high prices in Dharamshala, McLeodganj, and Manali,” he said.

Instead of wasting time and energy of the police force in uprooting cannabis plants and wasting them, the state government should permit its cultivation for industrial and medicinal use under Section 8, 10 and 14 of the NDPS Act, like it has been permitted in Uttarakhand, M.P, Orissa and some North Eastern States.

Scientists have confirmed that cannabis can be used for the treatment of cancer patients and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients.

Clothing made of hemp fibre is known for its anti-bacterial features, which is why countries like Canada has patented undergarments made of hemp fibre, he said.
cannabis cultivation in himachal

He further argued that currently, the wood used for the manufacture of furniture takes years before it’s ready for use, while a hemp plant takes only four to five months. Comparatively cheaper furniture could be prepared from this plant, which would not only offer an alternate source of income and employment but also prevent deforestation.

Though the United Nations had prohibited cannabis cultivation from 1985 onwards, in 2020, the same organization has lifted the restriction on its cultivation considering its immensely beneficial medicinal use, he told the House.

This plant is in high demand in the international pharmaceutical market and this demand is only growing.

The ban on cultivation relates to using cannabis as a psychoactive drug, which is only one of its 400 characteristics. There are two sub-species of cannabis – one which has a high amount of THC and others which have a negligible amount of THC (.3%), he said. In Uttarakhand, the type of plant which is being cultivated possess a negligible amount of THC and, thus, can’t be used as a psychoactive substance, he said.

Though Himachal Pradesh is known for apple production, the fact is that the cultivation of apple is limited to only Kullu, Shimla, Kinnaur, Bharmaur etc.

He also compared it to alcohol in terms of hazards.

“People die after consuming alcohol, but I never heard that anyone ever died after consuming cannabis, “he argued.

Citing another example to control the use of cannabis as a psychoactive substance, Dhawala said,

“People in a village that doesn’t have a legal liquor vendor start producing and selling home-made liquor. But if a legal liquor shop is allowed, it works as a deterrent for illegal production and sale.”

“Similarly, I believe that cultivation of cannabis should also be legalized so that not only people could get employment but also refrain from indulging in peddling, he said.

He also referred to the dependence of the State on debt taken from the Centre and said legalizing cannabis cultivation can help solve this problem.

“When the laws are more dangerous than the drug itself then a fight for civil liberties becomes necessary. Stopping research and knowledge is not only unconstitutional but a crime against evolution, Deven Khanna, a practising advocate at Himachal Pradesh and the man behind this initiative to transform the state’s economy.

Deven has been working with policymakers and arguing his petition to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the State High Court for the last four years. It was on his petition that the court had given a go-ahead to the government. Not only the court, but Deven had also been collaborating with stakeholders in the hemp industry/villagers and doctors.

“The purpose of my petition was to open the market for non-narcotic/medical and industrial use of Hemp so that the locals have an alternative source of income, patients have access to safer natural medicines and for making available biodegradable /organic alternatives to plastic and construction material in the state,” Deven told Himachal Watcher.

“The foremost objective was empowerment and “creation of choice” for the local inhabitants who presently are being lured into illegal activities due to lack of avenues for making a decent livelihood. The only way to prevent people from doing illegal drug trade is sadly not deterrence which everyone is really fond of, its actually giving them an alternative choice to make a decent life,” he added.

“People are deterred by hunger more than jail. If this plant is used for non-narcotic purpose which generates money for the locals then there is a hope that they will choose the less risky and equally rewarding source of income rather than selling contraband,” Deven said.

“Right now, there is very little choice/opportunity in the villages and the drug mafia is solely controlling this plant. It’s appalling that drugs are easily available in society and medicines are not! What we seek is that the plant is rather put in the hands of our doctors, industrialists, food manufactures and not in the hands of the illegal drug market, he said.

“There are 100s of industries and youth startups who want to open hemp businesses in the State and with a billion-dollar industry the state can prosper a lot, this plant can do more for the people of the state than what apple did many years ago,” Deven said.

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HP Budget 2021-22: Key Sector Allocation in Seven Charts

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HP Budget 2021-22 simplified charts

By – Utkarsh Berwal and Vijay Kumar, both Research Scholars at the Centre for Studies in Economics and Planning, Central University of Gujarat

Chief Minister, Mr. Jai Ram Thakur, presented the Budget of Himachal Pradesh for the financial year 2021-22 on March 6, 2021. He referred to the problems created due to the COVID-19 pandemic and potential of the state to overcome it. The focus was on boosting the Service and Tourism sector and in that respect here is the breakdown of the 50,192 Crore budget in seven charts concerning key sectors.

General Services

The allocation of  the budget to the general services for the coming financial year is Rs. 18146.99 lacs, i.e., less than what was proposed last year. The general services include fiscal services, police, stationery & printing, public works, and other administrative services. Among all the departments, highest allocation of budget is provided for public works (Rs. 9274.99 lacs) and least is provided for fiscal services (Rs. 0.00 lacs). Further, capital outlay on police, stationary & printing, and other administrative services are Rs. 7230, Rs. 42, Rs. 1600 (in lacs) respectively.

General Services

 Social Services

The government proposes to spend Rs. 159052 lacs in 2021-22. As per revised estimates, the government spent Rs. 191176.63 lacs in 2020-21. Though 2021-22 budget allocation is higher compared to the actual spending (Rs. 122386.1 lacs) for the year 2019-20 but still it is less than what was proposed in the 2020-21 budget. The social services include: education, sports, art & culture; health and family welfare; water supply, sanitation, housing, and urban development; information and broadcasting; welfare of SC, ST, and OBC; social welfare and nutrition; others. Among all the departments, highest allocation is provided for water supply, sanitation, housing and urban development (Rs. 112667.01 lacs) and least is provided for information and broadcasting (Rs. 61 lacs).

HP budget 2021 for Social Welfare

Education, Sports, Art and Culture

It has been around a year since schools and colleges are closed because of COVID-19. The education sector has been shifted towards exploring the online space and due to this many individuals have lost their jobs and educational opportunities. However, instead of increasing the planned expenditure, government reduced the spending in the present year budget plan. The allocation of budget for the education, sports, arts and culture is only Rs. 28400 lacs which is even less than previous year revised estimates (Rs. 34708.37 lacs).

HP Budget 2021 for education

 Health and Family Welfare

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a serious strain on the Indian health sector and thus, it was expected by everyone in the state that the allocation for the healthcare sector would rise tremendously. However, allocated spending for healthcare was least in comparison with past budgets. The actual spending for the year 2019-20 was Rs. 22842.74 lacs while the revised estimates of the budget in 2020-21 was Rs. 32857.54 lacs. But for this year, the total amount allocated is Rs. 16304 lacs only. It was totally a surprising step taken by the government considering the present status of the health sector in the province.

HP Budget 2021 for health

Economic Services

In the previous year, budget estimates (Rs. 308780.96 lacs) and revised estimates (Rs. 320494.09 lacs) were less than the 2019-20 actuals (Rs. 340281.45). But this year there is a big jump in the budget estimates for economic services. The allocation of budget to economic services this year (2021-22) is Rs. 429934.15 lacs. The economic services include agriculture & allied services, rural development, irrigation & flood control, energy, industry & minerals, transport, and general economic services. Among all the departments, highest allocation of budget is provided for transport (Rs. 306785 lacs) and least is provided for rural development (Rs. 489 lacs).

HP Budget 2021 for economic services

 Agriculture and Allied Services

As the farmers are opposing the new agricultural law introduced by the centre, it was predicted that the allocation would rise considerably for the agriculture sector. And in that respect a huge difference has been witnessed in the budget allocation for the current year in comparison to the previous years. The government’s plan to spend Rs. 16810.64 on agriculture is a huge rise from the proposed sum of Rs. 11397.25 lacs for the financial year 2020-21. The agriculture & allied services include crop husbandry, soil & water conservation, animal husbandry, fisheries, forest & wildlife, food storage & warehousing, and co-operation. Among all the sectors, highest allocation of budget is provided for crop husbandry (Rs. 7338.05 lacs) and least is provided for co-operation (Rs. 17 lacs).

HP Budget 2021 for agriculture

Tourism

It was predicted by economic pundits that the allocation would rise for the tourism sector as this sector is the backbone of Himachal’s economy, but such an enormous increase in the budgetary allocation was quite surprising. Tourism industry of the hill state has been badly affected by the COVID-19 and to overcome this, the government has allocated Rs. 5376.01 lacs for the year 2021-22. The allocation for the specified sector is nine times more than the previous year allocation.

HP Budget 2021 for tourism

Overall, the budget amount is Rs 1061 crore more than the last budget. Also, the debt liability of the state is at an all-time high at 60,500 crores and it remains to be seen whether the gamble taken on some key sectors will pay off in these unprecedented times where a new coronavirus wave is very well on the cards. Especially concerning the increase of the allocation to the tourism sector and allotment of a very low amount for the health and education sector. Rest, only time will tell whether this was the correct move by the government.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.

 
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