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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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HP By-Polls 2021: Silence Period Extended to Three Days

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hp by polls 2021 silence period

Shimla-The campaigning period during Himachal Pradesh by-elections has been fixed from 10 am to 7 pm every day. The silence period has been extended from two days to three days before the closing date of voting, which will start after 6 pm on 27th October 2021.

During the no active campaigning by the candidates or political parties is allowed, and television or any digital media cannot carry any election-related matter.

This information was released by Chief Electoral Officer, Himachal Pradesh, C. Paulrasu. He said that the Election Commission of India has limited the period of campaigning during by-election 2021 in view of the guidelines issued for the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He has urged all the candidates and political parties participating in the by-elections of Mandi Parliamentary Constituency and Fatehpur, Jubbal-Kotkhai and Arki Assembly Constituencies to comply with these guidelines related to the election campaign.

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Nauni Varsity Scholar Naincy Bags Scholarship to Pursue PhD in France

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Solan: Naincy Sagar, an alumna of Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni has bagged a fellowship for pursuing PhD from France. Nancy has reached France and will be pursuing PhD in Forest Genetics from the University of Orléans under INRAE fellowship. INRAE is France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Naincy has completed her BSc Forestry from College of Horticulture and Forestry (COH&F), Neri in 2018 and MSc Forest Biology and Tree Improvement and Genetic Resources from UAS, Dharwad, under ICAR’s National Talent Scheme. Before leaving for France last week, Naincy was working as a Junior Research Fellow in a research project at COH&F, Neri.

She had applied for a PhD with a scholarship in Forest Genetics which was advertised by INRAE. Naincy was successful in the interview and was awarded a fellowship for three years for pursuing PhD at the University of Orléans. During the course of the PhD, she will receive a total scholarship of around Rs 70 lakh along with medical reimbursement. Naincy will be working on forest tree larch species in the Project titled ‘Vigour at what cost? ‘Trade-off’ of hybrid vigour in Larch-Phenological, morphological and physiological determinants of hybrid superiority in Larix X eurolepis’ with a team of 20 scientists of Joint Integrated Biology Research Unit having expertise in genetics, genomics and physiology for the enhancement of tree and forest diversity

Dr. Parvinder Kaushal, Vice-Chancellor of the university spoke to Naincy via web conferencing and congratulated her. Dr. Kaushal, who has also done his doctorate from France, shared some tips and suggestions. He asked Naincy to explore this opportunity to learn about new cultures along with doing research that could help to enhance and conserve forest wealth in the future.

Naincy expressed gratitude towards her father Satya Prakash Sagar (Retd. SDO BSNL) and mother Monika Sagar, who is working as SDO in BSNL for their continuous support for higher studies. She also thanked Vice-Chancellor Dr. Parvinder Kaushal, Dean Dr. Kamal Sharma and Dr. Dushyant Sharma, Project Investigator and all the university staff for their support and guidance. The university administration, Dean of COH&F Neri congratulated Naincy and wished her success.  

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Bad Weather Warning for Himachal, Tourists and Locals Advised Not to Venture into Higher Hills

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Shimla– The Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department, Shimla, has predicted heavy to very heavy rains for middle and lower hills on October 17th and 18th. The Met has also issued orange and yellow alerts for various districts.

Meanwhile, heavy snowfall has been predicted in higher hills and advisory has been issued for both locals and tourists to avoid travelling to higher hills.

While a yellow alert with a prediction of thunderstorms and lightning at isolated places has been issued for Una and Hamirpur district on October 17, an orange alert with a prediction of heavy rainfall, thunderstorm, lightning and hailstorm at isolated places has been issued for Bilaspur, Chamba, Kangra, Kullu, Mandi, Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, and Kinnaur.

For October 18, a yellow alert has been issued for Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Chamba, and Kullu districts and an orange alert for the remaining districts.

The Deputy Commissioner, Lahaul-Spiti, warned that in view of the Met Department’s forecast for the next two days, locals and tourists should avoid Manali-Leh National Highway (NH-03) and refrain from venturing into higher hills.

In case, travel is unavoidable due to some compelling circumstances, such candidates have been asked to confirm weather and road conditions on given telephone numbers, which are 9459661355, 01900-202509, 510, 517 and 1077.

The DC also informed that in case of any emergency, people should contact the District Disaster Management Cell, Lahaul-Spiti, on 01900 202509, 510, 517, and Tall Free -1077.

The weather is predicted to be dry on October 19 and 20. 

Feature Photo: Photo by Rodrigo Souza from Pexels

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