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Legalisation of Non-Narcotic use of Cannabis (Hemp) in Himachal: Policy in Making

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Cannabis Legalizatoin in Himachal Pradesh 2019

Shimla-A policy for the cultivation of Cannabis (Hemp) in Himachal Pradesh could see the light of the day as the government has hinted at legalizing it for non-narcotic use. The Excise and Taxation Department, HP, is framing a policy on the lines of neighbouring state Uttarakhand to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for the production of life-saving medicines and some other limited number of industrial products. It was confirmed by Sanjay Kundu, the Principal Secretary, HP Excise and Taxation Department recently.

Advocate Deven Khana, a resident of Shimla, has been fighting a long legal battle in the state high court. The High Court had already given a green light and directed the government to take the final decision time and gain. However, the state government has been seeking time for the past two years in the Court. In the last order of the High Court, eight-week time was given by the division bench headed by Hon’ble Chief Justice Surya Kant and again by the bench headed by Justice V Ramasubramanian (both now justices of Hon’ble Supreme Court). The petition has been heard by 4 different benches of the Hon’ble High Court i.e 8 judges, all have agreed with the submissions and have asked the state to take action.

Advocate Deven Khanna, a resident of #Shimla, currently practicing at the State High Court of HimacahlPradesh is…

Posted by Himachal Watcher on Wednesday, 24 July 2019

However, now, it is being speculated that ahead of government’s Global Investor Meets, some foreign countries have shown interest in procuring cannabis as raw material from the state for production of medicines, research, and other products.

There is a possibility that the government would consider approving this policy in the cabinet meeting to be held in November before the Investors Meet.  If legalized, this step would offer an alternative source of income to the people of rural areas like Malana, which are currently infamous for narcotic use of cannabis.

UP has already become the first state to sanction a research and development (R&D) project on cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), compounds found in cannabis. The same direction has been given by the state high court of Himachal Pradesh.

Earlier, unawareness and lack of education regarding the difference between hemp and recreational cannabis and the political link between the two, the topic of legalization had been facing criticism and state was missing a big opportunity to cash on it. Himachal Watcher (HW) had published a detailed report to clear this misunderstanding.

It’s available here. HW has also highlighted the fact as to how the legalization of hemp cultivation could revolutionize the economy of the state. 

The petition further states that the goal of such a policy would be to ultimately reduce the availability of narcotic cannabis plant to the drug market and instead make it available for non-narcotic purposes to our scientists, doctors, industrial leaders and farmers. Further, the drug problem will be checked If industrial hemp or low THC plant is grown as it will reduce the potency of wild cannabis (which is high in THC) due to cross-pollination (this has been tried in other countries and backed by research in the petition).

Must Watch: Impact of Hemp Legalisation in Himachal Advocate Deven Khanna, a resident of #Shimla, had filed a petition in the HP High Court, seeking directions to the State Government to legalise hemp cultivation in #HimachalPradesh. Owing to his battle for the legalisation, the court also gave a green signal. He created awareness among people in villages, and now a large number of panchayats are supporting him in this campaign. You must listen to Deven speaking why he is perusing a vigorous fight to legalise hemp cultivation in the State. "When the laws are more dangerous than the drug itself, a fight for civil liberties becomes necessary Stopping research and science are not only unconstitutional but a crime against evolution. The petition seeks to open the market for medical and commercial use of cannabis in the Himalayas so that the locals have some alternative source of income, patients have access to effective natural medicines, making available biodegradable alternatives to plastic," he says. #HempLegalisation #Hemp #Cannabis #CannabisLegalisations #Himachal #HPGovt

Posted by Himachal Watcher on Friday, 22 March 2019

Other Details Regarding the Petition Filed in the State High Court

Approx 8000 pages of research have been submitted from the past 2 years in the High Court and with the State government by the Petitioner Advocate.
  1. The research includes 60 peer review ‘medical hemp studies’,
  2. Comparative analysis of ‘ market projections of industrial hemp’ by various companies and foreign Governmental bodies,
  3. Projected profits for farmers, Government, and Companies for Himachal Pradesh,
  4. Comparative analysis of laws of various countries (like Canada Israel, USA, South Africa, Mexico, etc),
  5. licensing terms and conditions of different countries,
  6. Testimonials of patients especially those who suffer from cancer and epilepsy who need immediate help,
  7. The research of Indian research institutes like AYUSH, CSIR, etc,
  8. The text from Indian scriptures and mention in Ayurveda of the plant and its recorded medicinal usage from past centuries.

 

The petition states that by making Non-Narcotic use of the plant, dependent upon the Government’s discretion (through Section 10 of NDPS), makes it incumbent upon the government to take a reasonable and a rational decision. By not taking the decision, the State is violating fundamental rights and is also hampering the economic and commercial growth of the society. The Non-Narcotic use for medicines and economically/ecologically viable products has the potential of revolutionizing the economy of the State, and better the lives of people suffering from various diseases.

The petition extensively quotes various sections of the NDPS Act 1985 and its interpretation by the courts of law. The petition also goes through cases of various countries involving medicinal use of cannabis and its industrial applications where the courts have declared them to be a matter of right for citizens.

After hearing the petition and the arguments, in its  order dated 01.2018, it was directed by the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court that:

“Based on scientific data, writ petitioner points out that perhaps if the Executive were to rationally formulate a policy and also effectively implement the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, also with the genetic modification of the plants of cannabis, not only there would be rapid economic growth checking problem of unemployment in the rural areas, but would also reduce pollution. In fact, the larger public interest would be served with the use of the extract of the genetically modified plants for health purposes. The end product of the cannabis plants, which thus far, rather notoriously, has been used as a psychotropic substance, with proper regulation, sensitization and awareness, can be used for advancement of industrial economic growth and betterment of life of such of those persons, who in particular are suffering from cancer and neurological disorder. Perhaps, it is in this backdrop that the Central Government has also made an endeavour to formulate a policy, which is commonly known as the National Fiber Policy, 2010. The writ petitioner also points out the extensive research, so carried out by him, indicating the change in the trend, throughout the world, of putting the end product of a genetically modified plant, for medical use.”

 

Then in an order dated 07.2018 in it was directed by the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court that;

 

“Para 20, (ii). Government may also consider hiring services of some Research Agencies, who in turn may advise/recommend alternate use, especially medicinal use, if any, of cannabis plant grown in the State of Himachal Pradesh, so that local residents, involved in illegal trade of cannabis, are encouraged to use cannabis plants for producing some medicines or other substance which can be used legally.”

 

Then in an order dated 07.2018 in it was directed by the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court  again directed;

“The matter has been adjourned from time to time to enable the State Government to revisit the whole issue, take a holistic view and come out with a new policy decision. Various stakeholders and subject experts are stated to have been consulted in the process of decision making. On 23rd April 2019, the petitioner also has filed/supplied voluminous record along with DVD, containing relevant material on the issue to the State Authorities. Learned Senior Additional Advocate General seeks and is granted more time for the final decision. We have no reason to doubt that the competent Authority shall consider the entire material, including one supplied by the petitioner before taking a final decision in the matter. It shall be appreciated if the decision is taken within a period of eight weeks.”

The petition in the High Court of Himachal Pradesh is seeking two things:

1. Cultivation of Industrial Hemp (or a Non-Narcotic Plant) , about 0.3% – 1.5% THC

2. Collection by Government of Wild Himalayan Cannabis Plant, 5% – 10% or more THC (Tetrahydrocannabinoids, the intoxicating ingredients that makes you high)

Hemp and Marijuana both come from the same plant – Cannabis Sativa L. The term ‘Hemp’ commonly refers to the industrial/commercial use of the cannabis stalk and seed for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics, and building materials.

The term ‘marijuana’ refers to the medicinal, recreational use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers. Industrial Hemp can not be used as a recreation drug.

Industrial hemp is a nonpsychoactive verity of cannabis which can be used for 50000 commercial products, as it does not contain THC  (narcotic compound) it can be grown like any other crop. It can be grown in rotation with apple. It grows in a cycle of 90 to 120 days and can be used to make paper (which saves cutting of trees) and bio-plastic, fibre and medicines, etc.

 Not only is Industrial Hemp useful for economically viable raw material, but it also prevents the growth of high THC plant.

The petition further states that if farmers have this alternative source of income, it will provide them with a choice of making money through the legal means,  and it will prevent them to falling pray at the hands of the illicit drug market for quick money.

The second part of the petition deals with collecting wild Himalayan cannabis and using it for medicinal purposes, as it is all on govt land or forest land, the government can collect it That wild-growing cannabis plant thus can be collected and supplied as raw material (its stock for fibre, its seeds as medicine) to industries and stakeholders. This will not only reduce the availability of the plant for drug use, but it would also generate income for the villagers (who collect) and commercial units.

Summary of Relief Sought from the High Court

First, the government should define industrial hemp (based on the percentage of THC) and authorize the cultivation and possession of industrial hemp by creating an advisory board or commission.

The petition also appeals to facilitate the cultivation, processing, and use of only industrial and medical hemp, so that the public could receive is commercial and medical benefits.

The petition seeks to authorize a state licensing or registration program for growers and seed breeders. The state departments should be allowed to collect funds for research programs, said the petition.

The government can promote research and support the development of markets for industrial and medical hemp.

The court can direct the government to collect important information on industrial and medicinal hemp to further make regulations/guidelines on easy access to open industries, scientific research labs, and institutes for Industrial and medicinal hemp use.

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

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Himachal Pradesh: A Report on ‘Plight of Migrant Workers’ during the Lockdown & Need for Protection of their Rights

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Himachal pradesh - a report on migrant labourers during lockdown

Shimla-Poor people like migrant labourers and workers are nothing more than insects for the governments in India. The attitude of the government and its treatment of the poor workers, who had migrated to other states in search of livelihood, during the lockdown is a very clear evidence of it. What is more pathetic is the fact that that their plight remained invisible to the remaining public as mainstreamed media was being paid more by their political masters for diverting public attention from real issues to rubbish, spicy news. Our society is rotten to such an extent that public also preferred the rubbish served by the media over the bitter truth. Except for a small section of people including social activists, volunteers and non-profit-organizations actually worked to provide some relief like ration to the poor. Spare some time to go through a report on the plight of the migrant workers prepared by the Himachal Pradesh Workers Solidarity (HPWS) – a voluntary solidarity platform.

The first day of Lok Sabha’s monsoon session earlier this week saw MPs raising questions about the condition of Migrant Workers during the lockdown. The response of the Labour Minister that no data on migrant deaths for the period was available has drawn much flak. Additionally, no data on return of migrant workers was available for many states including Himachal Pradesh.

The issue of invisibilisation of migrant workers in a state like Himachal Pradesh has now been raised in a report, highlighting the impacts of the ongoing crisis on this community which contributes significantly to the state economy. Himachal Pradesh Workers Solidarity (HPWS) – a voluntary solidarity platform formed in April 2020, in its report, describes the havoc that a sudden, un- facilitated and unplanned national lockdown announced in response to the COVID19 pandemic six months ago had on the interstate migrant workers stranded in Himachal. HPWS ran a helpline during the period, provided assistance in accessing ration and other relief, travel to home states, through administrative coordination, registrations, and information dissemination etc.

Himachal, in the context of migration, is different from neighbouring Uttarakhand, where the rate of migration out of state is higher, whereas in Himachal the rate of in-migration is slightly higher than out-migration.

Gagandeep, a journalist based in Karsog and part of HPWS, elaborates,

“Post the decade of 1980 -90, expansion of industrial activities in the Shivalik hill region, multi-level infrastructure and development projects, growing local interests in horticulture, and cash crop farming alongside tourism-dependent economy made Himachal an emerging centre for in-migration.”

Today, workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Nepal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Kashmir constitute a large chunk of the migrant population in Himachal. Most of them are from Scheduled Caste, OBC, STs and minority communities. Difficult work areas and geography, insecure and unsafe living conditions, along with payment and other labour law violations, makes the situation even more difficult for them in mountain state like Himachal.

While the 2011 Census suggests that Himachal had approximately 3.10 lakhs migrant workers, this figure seems to be severely under-estimated due to lack of registration (under the Inter-State Workmen Act 1979), non-maintenance of data by State Labour Department and non-publication of all statistics of Census. The lack of data further worsened the pandemic crisis and impacted relief facilitation.

In response to the issues, the focus of the State was limited to distributing ration but ration alone was not enough for survival and sustenance. Ritika Thakur, another member of HPWS elaborates,

“Having some cash in hand was an urgent need to access gas cylinders, milk, medicines and other essential things like phone recharge, so that workers can at least call for support. Most of the people who contacted HPWS”, she adds, “had not been paid their wages and their savings had died out in payment of room rents and ration as loans and debts kept on piling up.”

Many migrant labourers complained about the interrogatory, apathetic and discriminatory attitude of the officials when they were called for ration support. Seeing no transport facility forthcoming, many workers were forced to walk back home on foot. When caught at borders they were put into quarantine centres forced to return or were left with no choice but to escape on foot.

“The online registration mechanism was completely inaccessible for workers and for weeks there was no response to registrations”,

according to Sukhdev Vishwapremi, a social activist and member of HPWS.

The first ‘shramik train’ ran as late as May 22, 2020.

“The government, meanwhile, allowed private bus operators to run on exorbitant prices,”

he adds.

Many workers were pushed to take loans or sell property/artefacts to be able to return home through these buses while 5000 HRTC buses remained standing in bus stands.

“The fact that the Central government shifted the burden of facilitating transport on the states without any significant co-ordination and clarity made matters worse, aided by lack of coordination and communication between nodal officers, both between Himachal and other states and within Himachal”,

Vishwapremi emphasized further.

According to the information shared by an officer from Himachal Pradesh Government (SDMA), 94,819 migrants had gone out from Himachal to various states of the country by June 23, 2020. As per the information received from SDMA under RTI, 14 shramik trains ferried around 13,183 people out of the state.

Himshi Singh from HPWS reminds, “more than 80% of the migrants took the road on their own expense in which the government merely provided e-passes for private transportation, and the number of people who walked on foot is not yet known.”

Adding further she remarks,

“It’s tragic that in the midst of this crisis, FIRs were registered against reporters who did stories on migrant worker’s condition and on the other hand no action was taken against fake news or media who communalised the issue leading to violence on minority communities like the migrant workers from Kashmir”.

The report highlights how Himachal was one of the 12 states who made major dilutions in labour laws in favour of companies and ‘ease of doing business’.

Almost five months have passed living with this epidemic and even as the success and failure of the lockdown are debated- the economy is falling in doldrums and our governments seem inconsistent and directionless. As per the estimate by ILO, 400 million informal workers in India will fall to critical levels of poverty than ever before- a situation that demands urgent cognizance, state accountability and a responsible approach.

In this regard, HPWS in this report has made the following recommendations for the State:

  1. Release in the public domain all the information about relief/support provided to migrant workers
  2. A joint task force be set to bring out a comprehensive report on the conditions and needs of migrant labourers in the state within 6 months
  3. Provide universal Access to Ration, Economic and other Relief Facilities
  4. Housing facilities for Migrant workers who have been living in Himachal and hostel facilities for seasonal labour
  5. Housing facilities for Migrant workers who have been living in Himachal and hostel facilities for  seasonal labour
  6. Compliance of SC/HC orders-setting up helpdesk/grievance redressal centres at Panchayat, Block, Tehsil  and District levels and conducting employment and skill-based survey of the migrant workers who have returned from other states
  7. Dilution in labour laws be withdrawn and all changes scrapped and strengthening the time-bound  ‘Grievance Redressal’ system and Labour Courts Mandate the registration of all migrant labourers working in the state under ISWMA 1979

HPWS will be submitting the report to various state and central agencies for further advocacy and hopes that the HP Government will take adequate measures to protect the interests of the migrant worker communities in the state.

Read Complete Report

Feature Photo: Sumit Mahar, Volunteer HPWS

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Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases in Himachal, Speculation of Complete Lockdown Gains Momentum

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Himachal Pradesh Lockdown from August 1st speculations

Shimla-The number of COVID-19 cases is rising at an alarming rate in Himachal Pradesh as for the past five consecutive days, the state had been reporting nearly 100 cases per day. With Monday’s 95 new cases, the tally  for the state jumped to 2270. The number of active cases has crossed the 1000 mark to reach 1025 on Monday. So far, 1216 patients have recovered while 12 of them succumbed to COVID-19 infection.

Among Monday’s cases, Sirmaur district reported the highest 31 cases from Govindgarh (mohalla) locality in Nahan. Complete lockdown of two days was imposed in this area but the spurt in cases continues. Fifteen new cases were reported from Baddi and Parwanoo in Solan district while remaining cases were reported from Bilaspur (11), Mandi (10), Kangra (16), Shimla (5), Una (2), Hamirpur (1), and Chamba (3).

In Shimla, five family members of a policeman, who had tested positive a couple of days ago, also tested positive.

HP Health Department’s COVID-19 Bulletin July 27, 2020 (9PM)

himachal pradesh demand of lockdown amid surge in covid-19

Some leaders of the ruling party (BJP) continue to invite criticism for behaving irresponsibly. The government itself is not learning any lesson from the situation in Govindgarh- a hot spot where the outbreak was triggered due to a marriage ceremony.

On Monday, the opposition Congress filed a police complaint against three persons including a BJP leader for violating rules by roaming around and meeting a large number of people instead of placing themselves under home-quarantine. The opposition said that samples of these persons were taken after they showed symptoms of the COVID-19 infection. Still, these persons kept roaming around after giving samples. The opposition has also alleged a discrimination was seen in initiating legal action for violations of social distancing norms. In Spiti, hundreds of tribal women were booked for staging protest against Minister Ram Lal Markanda for not adhering to the resolution passed by the locals regarding mandatory quarantine for all including the residents of the district. Cases have been filed against the opposition Congress too for violating these norms during recent protests. 

Earlier, a leader from Mandi had introduced the coronavirus in Chief Minister’s office and the State secretariat and infected about two dozen of his contacts including the Advocate General and his family. The leader reportedly visited the IGMC, Shimla, State High Court and other offices.

Now, another ex-MLA from Nadaun and the Vice-Chairman, HRTC, was reported to have met several party workers and even attending an event as the chief guest. Vijay Agnihotri reportedly continued shopping, roaming around, and meeting people after giving a sample. Reportedly, he also attended a marriage ceremony. The district administration would now have a task to trace all his contacts.

At the sametime, the Congress was also seen disregarding the social distancing norms during their recent protests against the hike in bus fare.

Laxity in Organization of and Checking Gathering in Govt Events

While the state government has issued guidelines for attending funerals and marriages, there is hardly any seriousness when it comes to organizing government or the party events. The ‘havan’ organized in Shimla where hundreds of people had gathered and several party leaders including Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had visited it. The event had invited criticism as the Chief Minister and workers of BJP Mahila Morcha were seen disregarding every social distancing norm. 

An employee of HP University also tested positive recently. A few days prior to the confirmation of this case, an event was organized at the varsity on the occasion of the Foundation Day a large number of people including media persons were present.  

Amid such a sharp increase in cases, instead of being so lax, the government is supposed to prohibit any such gathering or at least issue guidelines regarding the maximum number of persons allowed to attend such events/functions.

Solan district where the total COVID-19 cases have reached 553 has begun to witness a shortage of health staff.  The BBN area is the worst hit and has reported about 80 percent of the total cases in Solan. According to a media report, there are only 10 doctors at the CHC at Nalagarh and six at the Civil hospital, Baddi. There are only 28 nurses.

Amid this panic, the public, especially from Shimla district has been suggesting the imposition of a lockdown and questioning the government over still keeping the border open for tourists. To make thing even worse, there are instances where people violated quarantine rules after their samples were taken or were not monitored properly. In Mandi district’s Bagsaid market, a person had opened his meat shop giving a sample. It was after the arrival of his report that the shop was closed. 

Further, the online opinion poll of the State Government inviting public opinion over the imposition of a complete lockdown in the state has led to speculations of a possible lockdown from August 1st.  The matter regarding a lockdown is expected to be taken up in the Cabinet meeting to be held on July 30. The public is confused and preparing to stock up ration/essentials or planning to leave for villages. Several readers have also been writing to Himachal Watcher to inquire about the possibility of imposition of a complete lockdown.  

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First Open for Tourism, Then Train Staff, HP Govt Goes Topsy Turvy

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Himachal pradesh CM jairam thakur on hotel staff training

Shimla- In the last week, the Himachal state government has taken decisions that could have a long-lasting impact on citizens without consulting or even informing all stakeholders.

First, it came out with guidelines for tourism that did not have any inputs from the tourism industry. Second, it decided to open the state for tourism without consulting hotel and travel industry or keeping village pradhans in the loop.Six days after the decision to allow tourist activity and opening State borders for tourists, the state government of HP has decided to train people employed with the industry.

“Online training for the Hospitality sector would also be held in wake of COVID-19. About 10,000 candidates would be provided one-day training on hygiene and sanitation procedures. Three weeks training on basic essential of a tourist guide communication skill etc. would be provided to about four hundred candidates,”

said Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in a review meeting with Tourism Industry officials on 8th July. It’s surprising that the Government did not find the time to either have this ‘1 day training’ program ready or train the staff of hotels and restaurants before throwing open state borders for tourists. The government gave no time to the hotel industry to understand, prepare and implement directions given in the issued SOPs.

Major Hotel Associations have already decided to keep hotels closed at least till September and  Village Pradhans have also refused to allow tourists into their jurisdiction. The Chief Minister said that the State Government is following the lead of states such as Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala etc. where the Governments have decided to open the State for tourists.

To enter Himachal Pradesh, tourists have to meet three conditions, a valid booking for at least five days, a COVID-19 test report from an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) certified laboratory not older than 72 hours and their vehicle should have a sanitisation certificate.

About 600 tourists have already entered Kangra district. Police arrested a couple in Kangra district who managed to enter the State by furnishing a fake COVID-19 negative report.

“A case was registered at Damtal police station against a couple who entered HP from Bhadroya barrier based on fake COVID Negative test report. Legal action is being initiated against them for cheating, fraud & forgery. They are currently lodged in an institutional quarantine facility at Parour,”

SP, Kangra, Vimukt Ranjan, said confirming the report. In another case in Kullu, five tourists, who managed to enter the State and reach Bajaura barrier in Kullu, were detained for not carrying required documents. A total of 12 tourists have been allowed in to Kullu district after they met the three conditions needed for tourists.

According to Kullu district police, about 70 tourists from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh etc. were sent back for not fulfilling conditions prescribed by the State Government. Tourists who should be sent back for a lack of required documents and fulfilling conditions given in the SOPs issued by the State Government are able to cross barriers at borders, like Parwanoo and Swarghat.

Police manning barricades are also frontline staff who are at risk.

We have provided police who are manning the barricades with N95 masks, raincoats that will serve a double purpose for rain and COVID protection and long gloves, policemen over the age of 50 years and those with existing conditions are not deployed at barricades,

said DSP, Kullu, Priyank Gupta.

While the majority of the hospitality industry players, (which is worst hit by the loss of business), is against opening the State for tourism, there are some, especially those who have leased hotels and taken loans who want to open for tourism. However, until the state government takes steps to add healthcare facilities and make more dedicated COVID hospital wards especially in rural areas, large scale tourism could endanger locals.

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