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Video: Employees on Election Duty in Pachhad Throw Away Food Alleging Poor Quality

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Poor quality food to pachhad election duty officials

Sirmaur- A video has appeared on social media showing employees deployed in Pachhad constituency of Sirmaur district on election duty complaining that they were served stale, poor quality packed food. They can be heard saying that such foul smell is emanating from the packed food that even dogs won’t eat it.

They are holding the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Rajgarh, responsible for it.  They were also seen throwing away the packets of food, while some other packets were already discarded either on the road or on the roadside. Surprisngly, these employees are not discarding these packets containing food properly, and instead, littering them anywhere. It appears like the Swachh Bharat campaign proved to be ineffective in creating awareness. 

The video is circulating on social media, attracting criticism. On receiving this news, the SDM, Naresh Verma, said he has asked the Tehsildar to probe the allegations and submit a report. He said an action would be taken against the contractor to whom the contract was awarded for arranging food for employees on the election duty.

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Video of Closest Snow Leopard Encounter in Himachal’s Spiti Goes Viral

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viral Snow Leopard video spiti

Lahaul-Spiti-A video clip showing two Snow Leopards sighted in Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh is going viral on social media. It is being speculated that perhaps this is the closest encounter with a snow leopard, which was captured on a mobile camera by two locals.  

Snow Leopards are also called ghost cat for their solitary and elusive nature and incredible camouflage that makes spotting them extremely difficult. Spotting and capturing these ghost cats have been a dream for wildlife lovers, especially photographers.  

However, opposed to its nature, this majestic feline was seen taking a strolling down the Kaumik-Kaza road on Sunday evening. While one of the leopards-maintained distance from the vehicle,  the other one  came surprisingly close and appeared to be inquiring curiously.  

There are only about 500 Snow Leopards in India. Natives of Central Asia’s higher mountains, these exquisite creatures are only found in the States of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, and Assam at elevations between 3,000 meters and 5,400 meters.

Other than India, these felines are found in Russia, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Snow leopards have thick grey and yellow-tinged fur, with solid spots on their head, neck and lower limbs and rosettes over the rest of the body. Rosettes are large rings enclosing smaller spots.  Snow leopards also have very long, thick tails that they use for balancing on rocks.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the global population of snow leopards is about 7,000. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have listed these animals as endangered.

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Himachal Govt Fails on Promises Made to Pulwama Martyr’s Family

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Himachal Pradesh's Martyr Tilak raj

Shimla– On this day, last year, India was shaken by one of the deadliest terrorist attacks. On February 14, 2019, a terrorist rammed a car loaded with over 300 kgs of explosives (IED and RDX) into one of the 78 buses carrying about 2500 jawans of Central Reserve Police Force on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

In this deadly attack, 44 CRPF jawans were martyred and several others injured.

Entire India stood in solidarity with the families of the martyred and protests erupted across the nation. While the people sought justice for families of martyrs, the Centre government made a lot of promises to the families of the martyrs followed by Balakot Airstrike in the wee hours of February 26. The Indian government claimed that hundreds of terrorists were killed in the attack. Thought, this claim remained unconfirmed and in question. However, the people found some solace in the fact that Indian Army Forces had avenged the martyrs.

Thereafter, the sentiments of the people associated with the Indian armed forces were exploited by the ruling party led by Prime Minister Narender Modi in every possible way to win the Lok Sabha Elections in 2019. Every issue was swept aside under the landslide of nationalistic sentiment. The ruling government fought 2019 Lok Sabha Elections by seeking votes in the name of the brave jawans of Indian Armed Forces who laid their lives to protect the country from external enemies, terrorists. While the bravery and capabilities of Indian Armed Forces never remained in question, the political exploitation by politicians to win elections is in fact unacceptable.

At the same time, state governments in BJP ruled states are in question over unfulfilled promises made to the families of these martyrs.

Tilak Raj, a resident of Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh was one of the martyrs in Pulwama.  He is survived by his wife, a 3-year-old son and a 22-day-old newborn.

He was cremated with state honour in his native village Dhewa in Nauna panchayat of Jawali region.

The State Government had announced financial assistance of Rs. 20 lakh to the kin of the martyr. Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had assured that State would provide government employment to the wife of the martyr. In addition, promises were made to provide pension to parents and construct a playground, roads, gate, cremation ground etc., in the martyr’s village.

The family did receive financial aid of announced Rs 20 lakh but none of the other promises were kept. Some members of a student organization- Student Federation of India- on February 13 paid a visit to the house of the martyr Tilak and talked to his father (video). These members included Amit Thakur, Saurabh Kaundal, and Aman Avasthi.

The student organization condemned the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled governments in states where the families have not received what was promised to them a year ago, not even the announced amount of compensation. The martyred CRPF jawans in Kerala, Andra Pradesh, and Delhi have already received Rs. 1 crore as a relief. However, other BJP-ruled states have still not fulfilled their promises made to the families of the martyred CRPF jawans, the student organization said.

The organization alleged the ruling BJP of politicizing the sacrifice of such martyrs and Indian Armed forces for its personal gains. The organization also said that the effect of economic slowdown on Armed Forces is evident from the fact there has been a delay in payment of various allowances to jawans for February month. It’s the second occasion when payment of allowances to the jawans of para-military forces has been put on hold.

The organization has termed this indifference as an insult to the martyrs. The organization demanded a judicial inquiry in the Pulwama attack, status of a martyr for the jawans of CRPF who lay their lives while performing their duty, and the facility of pension. Further, the organization has demanded that promises made to the families of these martyrs should be fulfilled.

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad also paid homage to Pulwama attack martyrs in an event organized at the campus of Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla. ABVP also demanded an inquiry into the attack to find out how 300 kgs of explosive could reach the convey of the buses carrying CRPF jawans.

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SC’s Forest Diversion Regulation a Blockade on Forest Rights Act Implementation in Himachal: Himdhara

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Supreme Court On Forest Diversion in Himachal Pradesh 2

ShimlaHimdhara Collective, a Himachal-based environment research and action group, has released a report on the implications of the regulation imposed by the Supreme Court on forest diversion under the Forest Rights Act 2006 in Himachal, through a series of orders passed last year. This brought to a screeching halt the implementation of Section 3(2) of the FRA which grants powers to gram sabhas and Divisional Forest Officers to divert upto 1 hectare of forest land for 13 types of village welfare activities like roads, schools, community centres, PDS shops etc. 

The court orders were based on the conclusions drawn by a Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, headed by a retired PCCF, V.P Mohan, that the diversions were leading to green felling and deforestation in the state. Initially, a stay was imposed on all green felling in the state (in a matter of forest diversions under FCA 1980 and FRA 2006) on 11th March 2019. This stay was partially relaxed but the Supreme court sought all FRA proposals to be brought before it for further diversion.

The report titled ‘Missing the forest for Trees’, assesses the ground reality behind the conclusions drawn by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee based on which these diversions have been restricted.

“We have found that the Supreme court’s orders need to be reviewed because the alarm raised by the V.P Mohan committee with regard to FRA was a false one”,

stated authors of the report which is based on analysis of RTI information as well as field research.

RTI data sought from the Forest department for all cases under section 3(2) of the Forest Rights Act 2006 from 2014 to 2019 (up to January 2019), was analysed to reveal that 17237 trees were felled in an area of 887.56 hectares for 1959 activities in 41 of the 45 forest divisions of the state.

Roads, followed by schools and community centres dominate the type of activities carried out. Of the total land diverted 91% is for roads. It was found that almost 64% of these diversions showed ‘nil’ trees felled. The average number of trees felled per hectare is very low (19.52) and it may be induced that most activities have been carried out in areas with open forest or no trees.

Rohru (Shimla), Nachan(Mandi), Kinnaur and Chopal were some of the divisions which had a large number of diversions, again mostly for roads.

Case studies we carried out in Mandi and Kangra district showed the desperate need for amenities like village link roads and schools. In Himachal, there remain about 41% villages that have no road connectivity which affects access to health, education and market centres.

On the other hand, large development activities like four lane highways, hydropower projects and transmission lines, have had a much larger ecological footprint in terms of tree loss in the state compared to the very minute, incomparable diversions under FRA.

The report also finds that as far as green cover is concerned in the period corresponding to the high number of forest diversions under FRA (2015-2019), the forest survey of India’s statistics show a 333 sq.km increase in the forest cover.

Why development rights under FRA important for Himachal?

1.No Land available with revenue departments and panchayats for ‘welfare activities’ thus forest land only option

The report concludes that given the fact that 2/3rd of the geographical area of the state is recorded ‘forest area’ where strict forest laws have restricted non-forest use, the FRA provides relief for communities to access basic welfare facilities, which should be seen as their fundamental right and therefore should not be hindered.

2.Cumbersome, costly and lengthy process under FCA 1980

Before FRA it was the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 which governed forest diversion even for small local development activities. This required not only permission from the Central Government (MoEFCC Regional or Delhi Office) but also warranted that user agencies deposit funds (Net Present Value of trees) to carry out Compensatory Afforestation. The whole diversion process under FCA was cumbersome, lengthy and costly, and thus a major hurdle in providing the rural areas, especially remote areas, access to basic welfare development facilities.

 “The section 3(2) of the FRA provides relief for both governmental departments and local communities as it overrides the FCA and puts in place a simple and decentralized process for diversion”states the report.

3.FRA is meant to correct the problems that were posed by strict central forest laws

The Forest Rights Act was passed by the parliament of India in 2006 recognising that across the country there are lakhs of communities dependent on land which is legally categorised as ‘forest land’ and are unable to exercise their basic livelihood and development rights due to extremely strict forest laws. Under this act’s Section 3(1), forest-dependent communities can file claims for their individual and community rights exercised before the cut-off date of 13th December 2005.

“As it is Himachal has been sluggish with FRA implementation and only 136 titles have been issued under section 3(1). But atleast the government was proactive with the implementation of section 3(2). With the Supreme court orders regulating this provision, there seems to be an impression amongst the implementing agencies and officials that there is an over-all blockade on FRA in the state”

added members of the collective.

The report has recommended that the state government and nodal agency for the Act – the Central Ministry of Tribal Affairs, put forth the case in favour of section 3(2) of the FRA strongly in front of the Supreme Court and also move swiftly to ensure implementation of all provisions of this law in Himachal.  

 

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