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Withdraw Criteria of No ‘Illegal Land Occupations’ for Contesting Himachal’s Panchayat Elections: Activists Write to Govt

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HP Panchayati Raj Elections 2020

Shimla-About 14 organisations in Himachal Pradesh have written to the state government demanding the withdrawal of the criteria of ‘no illegal land occupations’ (by self or family members) for the Panchayat elections candidature.  The groups have also demanded that the  Forest Rights Act, 2006 which recognize the rightful occupations on government ‘forest’ land be implemented in the state at the earliest.

In the last few years, the nomination rules for panchayat elections have invalidated the candidature of ‘illegal occupants of government land’.  

Anita, a Zila Parishad Member from Kangra says,

“The Panchayati Raj system is an important step towards decentralization and ensuring public participation in a democratic system. However, the government needs to reconsider this rule regarding the validity of a candidate’s nomination to ensure that marginalised communities in rural areas can actively participate in this process”.

Sukhdev Vishwapremi of People’s Campaign for Socio-Economic Equality says,

“In a state where 90% of the population resides in rural areas and is dependent on agriculture, only 11% of the land being private while the rest being recorded as government land is the primary reason that gives rise to the system of illegal occupation. Incomplete implementation of various state and central laws and several conflicting court orders are responsible for revenue records showing ‘encroachments. To consider the land in use of the people as illegal possession and to put the responsibility of these occupations completely on the people is absolutely unjust,” .

Kulbhushan Upmanyu of Himalaya Bachao Samiti says,

“The average private land area in Himachal is already less than 1 hectare – Himachal has 87.95% small and marginal farmers. Additionally, 25% of the population belongs to scheduled communities, most of which are marginal farmers. The ‘List of Illegal occupations on Forest Land’, submitted by the Himachal government to the High court also reflects the same, that 88.5% of the cases are of less than 10 bighas and only 11.5% of the cases are of possession of more than 10 bighas”.

Jiya Lal Negi of the Zila Forest Rights Committee, Kinnaur says,

“The state government has shown no will to implement the Forest Rights Act passed by the parliament in 2006, which gives legal ownership to forest lands occupied before 13 December 2005. Action is yet to be taken on the hundreds of forest rights claims pending before the subdivision and district administration.”

Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara Collective says,

“Section 4(1) of the Forest Rights Act specifies that until the process of recognizing and vesting people’s forest rights under the Act is complete, declaring the use of such land as illegal possession is a violation of Section 4 (1) of the Forest Rights Act”.

This rule for Panchayat elections is thus, both: an attack on the rights of underprivileged communities, small farmers and women; and a violation of the Forest Rights Act.

What is surprising is that in September 2020, the government itself set up a high powered committee in view of pending issues of land disputes. This committee, in addition to giving suggestions on issues related partition, mutation, demarcation and entry in land-reform laws, has to also look at the obstacles in the implementation of FRA.

People’s organisations in Himachal Pradesh have released a statement listing 4 demands from the government, which include removal of the criteria of ‘illegal possession’ as a basis to invalidate a candidate’s nomination, and implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, in the state at the earliest.

Signatory organizations/activists who have written to the state government included Anita, District Council Member, Kangra, Ekal Naari Shakti Sangathan, Himachal, Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba Unit, Himalaya Bachao Samiti, Chamba, Himdhara Environment Collective, Palampur, Himlok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur, Janjatiya Mahila Kalyan Samiti, Kinnaur, Nekram Sharma, Social worker – Mandi, Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh, Save Lahaul Spiti, Lahaul, Shyam Singh Chauhan, District Council Member – Mandi, Sirmaur Van, Adhikar Manch, Sirmaur, Spiti Civil Society, Spiti.

Feature Photo: unsplash@element5digital

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Himachal Reports Rise in Covid Deaths, No Vaccine for 18-44 Age Group Till July 22

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Shimla-Himachal Pradesh has reported a rise in daily casualties during the last three days. While 437 new cases were detected, 10 persons succumbed to the infection. in the last three days. According to the HP Health Department, state’s positivity rate for the last week – from July 5-July 11- was 1.0. Compared to a total of eight deaths in the entire week, Himachal has reported 10 deaths in the last three days of the ongoing week.

The State’s Covid death tally has now reached 3486. The number of active cases was 1150 on Thursday. The daily sampling remains between ten 10,000 to 15,000.

The state government has further discontinued vaccination for the 18-44 age group till 22 July. However, vaccination of other groups will continue. 

Himachal’s tourist spots continue to receive a large number of visitors daily. During the last month, after the HP government lifted all restrictions on inter-state movement, tourists had been over-crowding popular tourist destinations, especially Dharamshala, Shimla, and Manali, to such an extent that the Union Health Ministry, as well as, the Prime Minister had to warn states over the violation of guidelines regarding the “Covid-Appropriate Behavior”.

As both locals and tourists were observed to have become carefree and caring a little about social distancing or creating large gatherings, the state government on July 14 issued a fresh advisory to follow the “Covid-19 Appropriate Behavior” (CAB) to mitigate the third wave.

However, a widespread lack of awareness has been reported, due to which the public is not taking the warnings of the third wave and CAB guidelines seriously.  

In several instances, the state government found itself helpless in preventing large gatherings and violation of CAB guidelines. Over-crowded buses and carriage vehicles, for instance, is a common scene against the permitted capacity of 50%. The health experts had been insisting that successful implementation of SOPs at the mass level is not possible without the co-operation of the people. However, the current methods of the state government for creating awareness has failed to appeal to the majority of the people, which is making compliance of guidelines next to impossible. 

 

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HPBOSE Class 12 Result Out, Student Scores 100%, But Final Merit List Will Have to Wait

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hpbose class 12 results 2021

Shimla-Class 12 results of the Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education, Dharamshala, for the session 2020-21 were announced on July 14, 2021. The result was assessed to be 92.77% this year, comparatively higher than the previous year.

Pushpender, a student of Ambition Classes Senior Secondary School, Mohal, Kullu district- scored 100% marks (500/500). 31 candidates scored 99%.

Due to the prevailing pandemic situation, the HPBOSE couldn’t conduct this year’s annual exams for class 12 except for the English subject. The Board had decided to promote the students for which it evolved  “Objective Criteria” to assess the students based on Continuous Comprehensive Assessment (CCA) and Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE).

A total of 100799 students had appeared in the class, of which 76996 were from government schools and 14352 from private schools. 93438 students passed.

As many as 3679 students secured marks between 90-100%– again higher than the previous session.

The HPBOSE said the Result Tabulation Policy has benefited a large number of class 12 candidates.

Further, the Board said if a candidate is not satisfied with the awards or marks granted based on the “Objective Criteria”, he/she will be given an opportunity, probably in August or September to improve the score. The merit list will be prepared only after the conclusion and compilation of results after these exams.

Students can inquire about their results at 01892-242139 (Mandi, Lahaul-Spiti), 242140 (Kangra), 242141 (Shimla, Kinnaur, Hamirpur), 242142 (Chamba, Bilaspur, Kullu), 242150 (Una, Solan, Sirmaur). Students can also check their results at the official HPBOSE website.

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Monsoon Fury in Himachal Kills Over 10, Leaves Several Homeless, Causes Extensive Damages to Properties

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monsoon losses in Himachal pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh witnessed an episode of furious monsoon on 12th and 13th July that caused the loss of as many as 12 lives and extensive damages to personal and public property. Hundreds of roads were blocked due to landslides or swept away by rivers/rivulets in spate following a heavy downpour. Some areas also faced blackouts as hundreds of transformers and power lines were destroyed.

Kangra district, however, was worst hit with a flash flood ramming parts of Dharamshala town including Mclodganj. Videos on social media showed how gushing waters swept away vehicles and buildings like pieces of paper. At calamity unleashed its fury at a time when the town was overcrowded with tourists. Several of them lost their vehicles completely. Post the flash flood, people were seen wailing over their losses and trying to collect whatever was left.

Till yesterday, Shahpur had recorded 264 mm of rain, Dharamsala 230 mm, and Palampur 210 mm.

Bhagasu Naag- a small waterfall that flows down as a narrow stream at a gentle pace-showed a vagary on July 12 and turned into a violent giant following heavy downpours in the upper catchment area of Dhauladhar ranges. The suspected cause is believed to be a cloudburst, however, no authority has confirmed it. The incident also highlighted encroachment and unplanned and illegal construction in the town area. The stream flowing down the Bhagasu waterfall is narrowing down due to encroachments. Over-construction, including illegal ones, have either covered the drainage spaces with concrete or shrunk them in size. This was one reason the flash flood took such a furious form and led to huge damages. Being a popular tourist hill station caused the commercialization of natural resources beyond their capacities in Dharamshala. Both local administration and people are equally indulged in this disaster.

Further, there were other areas where gushing water of rivulets swept through settlements, carrying away concrete bridges and inundating houses. In the area surrounding Gaggal airport, construction on encroached land also led to more damage. In nutshell, poor planning precedes the construction activity and paves the way for disasters, which could cause loss of both lives and property. Needless to say that corruption and callousness in administration made this possible.

Punjabi Singer, Manmeet Singh, was also killed after he was swept away by gushing waters of a Nullah near Kareri lake where he had gone trekking with his brother and friends on Monday. His body was recovered on Tuesday.

The biggest jolt to Kangra came from Boh Valley in Shahpur constituency of Kangra district where a landslide, triggered by a possible cloudburst, washed away about seven to ten houses completely and buried over a dozen of people, and washed away the main link road to the valley. While six persons were rescued safely, the bodies of five others had been recovered at the time of the filing of this report. More people are missing and teams of the National Disaster Response Force along with local police and villagers were carrying out the rescue work. The landslide hit the village at about 10:30 am on Monday, but the NDRF and other rescue support reached the spot by evening – a delay of several hours. Washed away or blocked roads were cited to be the reason. On the first night, villagers carried out rescue work themselves and managed to get at least four people out alive. Some villagers questioned as to why the rescue teams were not airlifted through a chopper if the roads were blocked. 

Himachal Watcher continuously tried to contact the Deputy Commissioner, Kangra, Nipun Jindal, to obtain more facts but did not receive a response.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on June 13 carried out an aerial survey and also visited the site of the landslide and spoke to the affected families.

“Every possible assistance would be provided to the affected families and their proper rehabilitation would also be ensured. Rupees four lakh each would be provided to the families of the deceased and financial help would be given to the people whose houses have been damaged in this natural calamity for construction of houses,” Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister said that a team of NDRF was coordinating the district administration in rescue and relief works and all-out efforts were being made to trace the missing persons.

MP Kishan Kapoor also visited the spot and took stock of the situation.

Further, the NDRF and district administration had to rescue several persons stranded on an island in the Giri river in the Paonta Sahib sub-division of the Sirmaur district on Monday.

Regions of the Kullu district were also hit by landslides and blockages of roads at a time when the tourist influx was very high. Some areas also reported blackouts.  The body of an MBBS student, who was on a trekking tour with her friends, was recovered from Hamta Pass. Astha Katoch, 23, had fallen into a Nullah. while trekking. The Adventure Tours Operators Association of Manali pointed out that the area is falling victim to mass trekking and a lot of agencies offering trekking tours were flouting rules by bringing more trekkers on tourism than permitted. It’s putting both the safety of trekkers and the environment at risk, the Association said.

Following the disasters in Kangra and Hamta Pass, the district administration of Kullu has prohibited adventure activities till September 15 and issued an alert for adverse weather during the next three days.

Advisories were also issued for tourists and locals to not venture to places vulnerable to natural disasters like floods and landslides and near water bodies.

Other affected districts were Shimla, Chamba, Mandi, and Lahaul-Spiti where roads were blocked and electricity supply was affected due to damages to transformers.

The HP Meteorological Department has issued a yellow alert with a prediction of widespread rains from July 14th to 17th  for the plains and middle hills.

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