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Demands to Revoke Section 118 to Allow Outsiders Buy Land in Himachal Face Resistance

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Demand to Revoke section 118 of HP tenancy & land reforms act

Shimla-After revocation of special status under Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, a slew of myths, half-truths and cunning manipulations is in circulation in media. Majority of common people, unaware of the history behind the Article 370 and 35A and their complex constitutional aspects, are made to believe that now India owns J&K lock, stock, and barrel and that it would solve every problem related to the development of the state and terrorism.

Party workers are chanting hymns of Bhartiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh. Only the Communist Party of India and a Section of Indian National Congress are condemning it and terming as an undemocratic step, which was taken without following constitutional provisions.

Amid this slew of speculations, one of the main advantages of abrogating these Articles that is being preached is that now any Indian citizen can buy land in Jammu and Kashmir and set up businesses, which will lead to the development of the region.

At the same time, the special status granted to other states under Article 371 is being questioned and demands are being made to relax it or revoke it too. Under this article, North-East states like Nagaland, Manipur, Assam etc. have rules that prohibit non-domiciliary persons from owning land in these states. These states are granted special status based on their demographic and cultural histories.

The state of Himachal Pradesh, too, has the Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972. Section 118 of this Act listed in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution prohibits all non-agriculturists, whether they are Himachalis or non-Himachalis, from buying land in the State.

On Wednesday, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal demanded that outsiders be allowed to purchase land in Himachal Pradesh.

Similarly, MP Asaduddin Owaisi, while taking part in discussion in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, asked the government that when he would be able to buy land in Himachal Pradesh.

Other than that, migrants living in Himachal Pradesh for several decades were also heard raising the same demand.

In response to these demands, the HP Congress Committee has criticised Badal’s remark arguing that Section 118 of the HP Tenancy & Land Reforms Act, and said cannot be compared to Article 370.

Congress said this Act was promulgated in 1972 by the first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Dr Y.S. Parmar, to safeguard the interests of the small farmers. Moreover, Congress said, people can buy flats in the state. Also, sub-section 2 (g) has provision for non-agriculturists to purchase a house, or land for building a house, from the Himachal Pradesh Housing and Urban Development Authority (HIMUDA).

Also, unlike J&K, there is no restriction on women married outside the state on buying flats and lands.

Land can be bought for building a house or setting up a business or taken on lease for setting up industries after taking consent of the state government. The newly built residential building of Priyanka Vadra in Charabra of Shimla district is one example of it.

Further, Congress said that forest cover in the state would be destroyed if outsiders were allowed to buy land.

Congress termed this demand of providing relaxation in buying land in Himachal Pradesh to non-Himachalis as some sort of conspiracy in nexus with BJP to dilute the Act.

The President of HPCC, Kuldeep Singh Rathor, alleged BJP government of making efforts to relax the norms to provide land to the industrialists who arranged funds for the party during the recent Parliamentary elections.

This is why, he said, Congress has already launched “Save Himachal” campaign before the 114th anniversary of Dr Y.S. Parmar on August 4, 2019.

So far, BJP is also criticising this demand and terming comparison of Article 370 with Section 118 as illogical.

Misc News/Press Release

Video: Fire Wreaks Havoc at Solan Mall Road

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Solan Fire Break out 2021

Solan-A fire broke out at the congested Solan Mall Road today evening, which engulfed about three shops including a medical store and garment and shoe shops. According to the initial report received from the district administration, the fire reportedly started from a medical store, which was closed.

People first noticed smoke rising from inside the building and informed the owner of the shop and fire services. By the time, fire tenders reached the spot, the fire had spread considerably to a large part of the multi-story building. Sounds of explosions from inside the medical store caused a panic among the adjoining shopping mall and people present on the scene. These sounds of explosions reportedly came from bottles of sanitisers and other flammables products kept inside the medical store.

No loss of life was reported.

According to a report, two fire hydrants installed at the Solan Mall Road for such emergency situation did not work, which led to delay in extinguishing the fire. Meanwhile, property worth lakhs in three to four shops turned to ash. It took over two hours to extinguish the fire with the help of locals. 

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Ajay Kumar, had arrived at the spot. The exact losses were yet to be assessed. It’s pertinent to mention that the Solan Mall is a congested place with a large number of shops and the fire could have easily turned into a bigger disaster if it were not controlled. 

The cause of the fire is believed to be a short-circuit. But it would be possible to cite the exact cause only after an inquiry, if conducted. More information was awaited.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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Misc News/Press Release

Himachal Records 81% Turnout in 3rd Phase of PRI Polls, Congress Makes a Come Back in Theog MC after 20 Years

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third phase of Panchayat elections in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The third phase of elections to Panchayati Raj Institutes in Himachal Pradesh recorded around 81 percent polling on January 21, 2021. The elections were held in 1137 Gram Panchayats in this phase. The highest 94 percent polling was registered in Lodhi Majra Panchayat of Nalagarh development block in Solan district. This information was released by a spokesperson of HP Election Commission

District-wise, Sirmaur recorded 85% turnout, followed by Solan (85%) Kullu (84%),Chamba (82.8%), Mandi (82.7%), Una (81.1%), Shimla (82%),Una (81%), Bilaspur (80.3%), Hamirpur (78.1%), Kangra (78%), and Kinnaur (70%).

 Further, 48 COVID-19 patients and persons in isolation also cast their votes.

The Spokesperson said that the poll was held peacefully and there was no report of any untoward incident in the state.

Counting of votes for Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti will be held on January 22, 2021, at block headquarters.

Congress made a come back to Theog Municipal Council after 20 years. While Vivek Thapar was elected as the Chairman of the MC, Reen Roy was elected as the Vice-Chairman. Congress has already registered wins in Rohru and Rampur MCs and Chopal, Kotkhai and Sunni Nagar panchayats.

Theog MC Polls 2021

Congress After Registering Victory in Theog MC Elections

The HPCC chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore, while speaking to media persons yesterday, said that of the total seven Wards of the Theog MC, Congress has claimed victory on four wards while remaining three Wards went to independent candidates. Congress alleged that BJP had left no stone unturned to pressurize, lure, and threaten elected members to gain their support. 

Rathore mocked at the defeat of BJP MP’s bother in Mandi district. Further, the candidate in Ghumarwin of Bilaspur – home district of BJP Chief Jagat Prakash Nadda-  had also faced defeat, Rathore said. BJP candidate in Sujanpur – home to Union Minister for State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur-could also not register a victory and lost, he said.

Congress also registered a victory in elections to Parwanoo MC. Kuldeep Singh Rathore, said that winning candidate Nisha Sharma joined Congress yesterday. She had won twice from the same Ward on BJP ticket. This time, she was denied ticket and fought the elections as an independent candidate. 

Parwanoo Counciloor Nisha sharma

Nisha Sharma Joins Congress

Rathore alleged that the government has been trying to threaten Nisha by registering a fake case of illegal construction. Similarly, husband of Chandrawati – another Congress councilor in Parwanoo- who runs a depot was fined wrongfully yesterday, Rathore alleged.   

While BJP has been making claims of victory on the majority of seats, Congress had been terming it as a bluff.  Also, it had been alleging BJP of misusing government machinery. Independent candidates are being bought and allurements are being given to winning Congress candidates, Rathore alleged.  

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