|Tuesday, April 4, 2000,
on hunting to stay
hunting to stay
SHIMLA, April 3 Mr Roop Singh, the Forest Minister today ruled out any possibility of lifting the two-decade-old ban on hunting in the State.
Replying to the debate on the discussion raised by Mr Chander Kumar the need to take suitable measures to protect wildlife, he said the destruction of natural habitats had been mainly responsible for the dwindling wildlife reserves. However, the government was trying to reverse the trend by taking all possible steps.
He admitted that adequate funds were not available for maintaining the 32 wildlife sanctuaries and two national parks in the State. Still the government had been able to increase the outlay for wildlife protection from Rs 2.58 crore in 1998-99 to Rs 3.39 crore this year.
He said it was a matter of great satisfaction that against the national policy of having four per cent area under wildlife sanctuaries, the State had 12.76 per cent. The step taken by the government had started yielding results as evident from the increasing population of the endangered snow leopard. Its number had increased from a mere six in 1990 to 33 last year.
The forest minister allayed the fears of the members that the construction of Parbati project would disturb the great Himalayan National Park. He said the government had taken all aspects into consideration and tried to strike a balance between the need to protect wildlife and development.
He said the decision to shift the office of chief wildlife warden from Shimla to Hamirpur would ensure effective control as it was now located in the heart of the State. He asserted that officers who were sent for various trainings were mostly given postings which would help utilise their expertise.
Earlier, initiating the discussion Mr Chander Kumar pointed out that although over 12 per cent area was under sanctuaries, but the funds available to manage, these were too meagre. Besides lack of adequate funds, one of the main reason for the poor management of wildlife areas was the posting of unwilling and untrained officers. He said the State had also failed to exploit its vast potential for eco-tourism.
He suggested that a biosphere, comprising pin valley park and the great Himalayan National Park be created in the State.
Mr Jaikrishan Sharma underlined the need to involve society in the task of conservation of wildlife. He said traditionally religion, which had been a way of life in the country, has helped in protecting the animals. However, it did not exercise same influence on the people any more.
Ms Asha Kumari, Mr Rajeev Bindal, Mr Joginder Chand and Mr Chander Sen also participated in the discussion.
Mr Kishori Lal , the Industries Minister assured the House during question hour that the government would re-auction the river beds for extraction of boulders and sand in Sirmour district in view of the low bids. He said the auction of river beds fetched Rs 2.83 crore in 1998-99, but in 1999-2000 it came down to Rs 54.64 lakh.
He said the fall in auction price was on account of pooling by lessees. Under the existing system the river beds which fetch an increase of 20 to 50 per cent were leased out for one year and for three years in case the it was over 50 per cent. However, if the increase was less than 20 per cent quarrying permit was given for just three months.
In a written reply he
told Mr G.S. Bali that as many as 250 stone crushers had
been established in the State. Mr J.P. Ndda, the Health
Minister informed that out of the 353 food samples
analysed during 1998-99 as many as 79 were found to be
adulterated and in 1999, 66 out of 310. He said the
number of food inspectors in the State was inadequate and
efforts were on to fill the seven vacant posts.
merged villages lose rights?
SHIMLA: Farmers and residents of 36 newly merged villages of the Shimla Municipal Corporation are extremely anxious these days regarding their rights and agricultural land. Their fate is now equated to the people of 29 villages who have already been within the corporation since Independence.
Do they have any traditional rights left in their malkiats (land for which tax was paid) and adjoining forests is the question as well as confusion, which is leaving them on the tenterhooks. Will we be given timber and fuel on occasions such as religious and social ceremonies, apart from repairing and building their houses, they ask.
The plight of the villages merged in the corporation in the past is making these villagers contemplate seriously. In the old merged areas, the farmers are not allowed even to take chang (cut tree leaves and houses for fodder) from the forest.
Mrs Ganeshoo Devi, a 73-year-old widow from one of these villages, applied for TD (timber distribution) rights in the corporation about 13 years ago with full fees (receipt No 004934) for repairing her house. But it was of no use although she is in a regular correspondence with the corporation for more than a decade which is verified by the corporations Forest Officer. I had so far provided them with all kinds of land papers and gone through all formalities, but in vain, says the harassed lady. And when we are not allowed to do any cutting or lopping for household use from the forest or our malkiat, then why should we also go in for a new plantation, she asks.
Surprisingly, on the other hand, sanction to cut trees is being given to some well-connected people even in the town area of the corporation, these residents allege. Some powerful people and influential builders in the town are buying disputed plots along with trees at throwaway prices. They immediately get permission and within no time multi-storeyed structures come up.
How do these people operate? The modus operandi includes mainly exploring the loopholes in the bylaws. We dont have a firm policy regarding this: it is vague, says a corporation official. As per rules we cant refuse permission to people who have plots with trees which are either dead, dying, or posing a threat to life and property of others, he says. A number of trees in Shimla town have been cut in the past taking these pleas.
It is extremely uncommon for a tree to pose a threat to life or property in Shimla ever, says Mr Narender Chauhan of the Peoples Action Group, a local NGO. Trees are made to look dead, dying or dangerous either by nailing them, putting acid on the roots or by digging ground beneath them in a totally anti-nature and inhuman endeavour, allege many locals especially commuters from Sanjauli, who notice the depleting forest cover on their way. There was a thick forest of oak, rhododendron and deodar trees just before Snowdon Hospital, but now there is a cluster of hotels, guest houses and other buildings in this area, says Mr Surinder Sharma, a lawyer from the suburbs. It is an open secret that who is doing what, he adds.
There is a double advantage to these people in this process. First, they get the sanction to get rid of the trees from their plots. Secondly, they get timber worth thousands of rupees which can be used in construction, says Mr PS Thakur, who has been affected. On the other hand, the corporation forest staff takes away tools even if we are found chopping twigs and bushes for fodder, he complains.
However, the corporation forest office denies any illegal felling in the town. The trees are identified by technical staff and a high-level tree committee is constituted for this purpose, it says.
The notification for merging 36 new villages in corporation was issued in haste, without going into technical details, confesses the corporations forest staff. It was given in the notification that the rights and concessions of villages would remain intact. But once they come under the corporation, the Indian Forest Conservation Act and all municipal Acts have to be applied on every area that has been incorporated.
Owing to the prevailing ambiguity the residents are confused regarding whom and where to apply for TD and other customary rights? Do they come under the state Forest Department, Shimla, or the DFO, Municipal Corporation? Is there any relevance left of the Indian Preservation Act, in which trees can be cut for personal use in ones own holding? What will be the status of the Himachal Pradesh Municipal (Prevention of Soil Erosion & Hillside Safety) Rules in which felling and cutting was allowed to zamindars or rightholders for building or repairing houses, making implements or burning charcoal, for burying or cremating?
demand ST status
NAHAN, April 3 A one-day annual Hati meeting, organised by the Hati Samiti, an organisation of the Hati people residing in the trans-Giri area of this district, concluded yesterday at Paonta Sahib. Mr Hari Narayan Singh, Minister of State for Town Planning, presided over the meeting.
While addressing the over 2000 Hati delegates, the Minister assured them of full support of the state government to declare the trans-Giri area as a Scheduled Tribes area. He said that the state government would pressurise the Centre to accept the genuine demands of the Hati people. He assured that the state government would consider giving 19 biswa of land at Shubh Khera, Paonta Sahib, on a 99-year lease to the Hati Samiti for the construction of a Hati Bhavan.
Mr Om Prakash Chauhan, president of the Hati Samiti Paonta Sahib, demanded that Hatis be declared a Scheduled Tribe (ST).
Mr Jeet S. Kathware, General Secretary of the Hati Samitis district unit, was among those who spoke. A colourful cultural show was presented by different Hati cultural troops.
panel report to be implemented
SHIMLA, April 3 The Himachal Government will implement the Kaul Singh committee report to check bus accidents in the State.
Stating this replying to a discussion on the issue Mr Krishan Kapoor, the Transport Minister, said that the government also proposed to make driving test more stringent and take steps to ensure that only genuine driving licences were issued. It was also considering to recruit only those as bus drivers who had undergone training in recognised driving schools.
He said effective measures had been taken to check overspeeding, negligent driving and overloading. Those found drunk at the wheel would be terminated. The corporation had also streamlined the system for purchase of spare parts.
Earlier, initiating the debate Mr Kaul Singh said that one of the main causes of accidents was the poor condition of buses many of which had completed their stipulated mileage but were still being plied by the state road transport corporation. The drivers were overworked and they did not get adequate rest. He suggested that a committee be set up to suggest ways to make the procedure for granting driving licences fool proof.
He also called for stringent steps to curb drunken driving and overloading. He pointed out that about 40 per cent of the mishaps occurred due to human failure, 15 per cent because of mechanical failure and another 15 per cent due to bad roads. Mr Rakesh Pathania drew the attention towards tendency of drivers to overtake other vehicles. He suggested that there should be difference of at least 15 minutes between two bus services.
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