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Monday, May 10, 1999
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Need for forecasting system
SHIMLA, May 9 — Rampant forest fires raging in the mid-hill areas of northern India have once again highlighted the need for developing a scientific fire weather forecasting system.

Central team sought to assess damage
SHIMLA, May 9 — Thakur Ram Lal, a former Chief Minister and a sitting Congress MLA, has demanded that a Central team should be deputed to assess the widespread loss that has been caused to the fruit,vegetable and rabi crops due to a severe drought in Himachal Pradesh.

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Vigilance panel training camp
JWALAMUKHI, May 9 — Panchayat vigilance committees have been set up according to the provisions of the Himachal Panchayati Raj Act rather than as tools of political vendetta. This was stated by Mr B.M. Nainta, Additional Director, Panchatati Raj and Rural Development Department, here on Friday.

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Governor's plea to ex-servicemen
SHIMLA, May 9 — Himachal Pradesh Governor V.S. Rama Devi today stressed the need to take up electoral awareness among the voters as a campaign by the NGOs’ and other voluntary organisations for strengthening the democratic system in the country.

Health camp for disabled
BILASPUR, May 9 — Himachal Social Welfare and Food and Supplies Minister Mansharam has said that the state government would spend Rs 79.46 crore on social welfare here in state. A sum of Rs 97 lakh would be spent on welfare of handicapped persons.

Rs 6.08 cr for 199 dispensaries
KANGRA, May 9 — A sum of Rs 6.08 crore will be spent on 199 ayurvedic dispensaries to be opened in Himachal Pradesh during the current year.

Brickkilns endanger villagers' health
HAMIRPUR, May 9 — The smoke omitted by three brickkilns set up within a 2 km radius of about a dozen villages near Nadaun sub-divisional town in the district has posed a health hazard to the residents of the villages.

HP provides 116.19 cr for health
BILASPUR, May 9 — The Himachal Government has provided Rs 116.19 crore for strengthening health infrastructure in the state during the current financial year and this amount is 109 per cent more than provided in last year's Budget.

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Forest fires

Need for forecasting system
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, May 9 — Rampant forest fires raging in the mid-hill areas of northern India have once again highlighted the need for developing a scientific fire weather forecasting system.

Unlike some Western countries where the forest fire danger index, based on temperature, humidity, wind speed and other parameters, is determined daily for taking the necessary preventive measures, not much research has been done to study the fire behaviour in the country.

While the susceptibility of forests to fires is increasing with each passing year, the Forest Department is continuing with its age-old preventive methods like creation of fire lines and controlled burning which more often than not prove to be inadequate. No effort has been made to evolve a system for fire weather forecasting which is essential for controlling and managing blazes on scientific lines.

In countries like Canada the forest fire weather index (FWI) system was introduced after several years of studies by fire researchers in as early as 1970. It has been successfully used to combat the menace of forest fires. On days when the FWI is high, people are warned against venturing into forest areas and even tourist resorts are closed to visitors. Besides, the index also helps make advance preparations for combating fires by deploying manpower and fire fighting equipment at the right place.

Besides weather parameters like temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and rain, the FWI also takes into account factors like inflammable material available on the forest floor and moisture content. The material along with moisture content is broadly classified into three categories to work out as many corresponding fuel moisture codes.

The fine fuel moisture code represents the moisture code of the fluffy loose material on the top layer forest of floor weighing up to 0.25 kg per sqm. The duff moisture code takes care of the loosely compacted decomposing organic matter weighing up to 5 kg per sqm and the drought code represents the moisture in the deep layer of compact organic matter weighing 25 kg per sqm.

The values of the codes increase with the declining moisture content.

The fire weather index is particularly useful in the unusual conditions prevailing in the region during the current summer. The prolonged dry spell has not only reduced moisture on the forest floor but also increased the quantity of inflammable material on the forest floor due to premature leaf fall, particularly of pine needles. Normally, needles start falling in the first week of April and the process continues until mid-July. However, this year drought-like conditions caused a heavy premature fall of needles in April itself. Besides, the summer set in earlier than usual and the mercury crossed the 36C mark, the ignition point for pine needles, in the first week of April itself.

These two factors are mainly responsible for the extremely high number of forest fires during April. In the absence of any fire weather forecasting system, the authorities were caught napping. Conditions conducive to the outbreak of fire do not develop overnight. It takes days depending on weather parameters over a period of time.

The Himachal Pradesh Government had submitted a Rs 15 crore long-term plan to the Centre for the control and prevention of fires but it has no research component. One hopes that after this season's devastating fires, it will make fire research a part of the plan and dry to develop a fire weather forecasting system.
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Drought in HP

Central team sought to assess damage
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, May 9 — Thakur Ram Lal, a former Chief Minister and a sitting Congress MLA, has demanded that a Central team should be deputed to assess the widespread loss that has been caused to the fruit,vegetable and rabi crops due to a severe drought in Himachal Pradesh.

In a five-page letter to the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, he has suggested various measures for minimising the sufferings of the farmers who have suffered a loss due to the unprecedented drought.

He has demanded a package of relief measures for the growers who have been hit by the drought.

He has pointed out that the apple crop has failed on an unprecedented scale of about 80 to 90 per cent. Flowering of the apple plants has been badly hit due to the drought. Orchards in the lower hills are the worst affected.

Thakur Ram Lal has demanded that recovery of loans by the government and banks and land revenue should be suspended. Penal interest on taccavi loans should be waived.

Fifty per cent subsidy should be given to fruit and vegetable growers for the construction of water storage tanks and drip irrigation. The subsidy on insecticides and pesticides should be increased to 50 per cent from the existing 33 per cent. The fruit growers should be given a subsidy on fertilisers on the analogy of subsidy on agriculture inputs.

He has said crop insurance should be extended to fruit growers as horticulture has become a gamble because of the frequent failure of crop.

Thakur Ram Lal, who is deeply involved with horticulture and has from time to time been making suggestions to the government for making fruit production viable, has demanded that the Centre should forthwith increase the allocation under the National Natural Calamity Relief Scheme to Rs 50 crore from the existing Rs 25 crore which was meagre because of inflation. The fruit growers should also be brought under the scheme.

He has said a system should be evolved to record the damage to fruit and vegetable crops which should be reflected in the land records.

There has been a gradual decline in the production of fruit. A bumper crop of apple was expected last year, but the crop remained undersized because of the vagaries of the weather. The growers did not get remunerative price in the market. They could sustain only because of procurement of 78,000 tonnes of apple by the government under the market intervention scheme.

Thakur Ram Lal has pointed out that the vegetable production has also failed because of lack of water. Many water sources have dried because of little snow this time.

He has said freight for bringing fodder from outside the state should be subsidised and the tempo of development should be intensified so as to provide subsistence to the village folk.
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Rs 15-cr crop loss due to drought
From Our Correspondent

SOLAN, May 9 — The current drought has damaged Rs 15 crore worth of crops in the district.

The Additional District Magistrate, Mr Subhash Kalsotra, told mediapersons here on Friday that the six-month-long dry spell had taken a toll of agricultural crops, including off-season vegetables amounting to an estimated Rs 12.5 crore. The loss to horticulture crops like plum, apricot and peaches and been assessed at Rs 1.14 crore. Mature, fruit-bearing trees and nurseries suffered a damage of Rs 1.02 crore.

Mr Kalsotra said the district administration had identified 77 points where the drinking water had become acutely scarce. A scheme for installing had pumps at all these sites had been forwarded to the government. It would cost Rs 97 lakh. However, as a short-term measure the government had allocated Rs 20 lakh for provision drinking water through tankers.

The ADM said the problem of supply of fodder for the district's cattle population, numbering 3,23,000 would be solved by bringing fodder from outside the state and supplying the same to the farmers at convenient roadheads.
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Vigilance panel training camp
From Our Correspondent

JWALAMUKHI, May 9 — Panchayat vigilance committees have been set up according to the provisions of the Himachal Panchayati Raj Act rather than as tools of political vendetta. This was stated by Mr B.M. Nainta, Additional Director, Panchatati Raj and Rural Development Department, here on Friday.

Inaugurating a training programme organised jointly by the Society for Environmental and Rural Awakening, (ERA) and the BDO, Dehra, Mr Nainta, appealed to the trainees to keep effective checks on development works undertaken by gram panchayats. He however, cautioned them to avoid unnecessary conflicts with panchayats and refrain from throwing spanner in the functioning of local bodies. He claimed that Himachal is one of the few states to implement the provisions of vigilance panels as enshrined in the Section 7 (4) of the Himachal Panchayati Raj Act.

Addressing the trainees, Dr Arun Chander Director, ERA, emphasised the "down top" nature of Panchayati Raj institutions. He said planning and execution of developmental works should be undertaken at the village level only. He enunciated the role and importance of voluntary organisations in the training and education of people in order to prepare them for the smooth running of these newly established institutions.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kashmir, Singh Rana, former MLA refuted the allegations that the committees were meant to accommodate BJP workers in the gram panchayats. He reminded that elections to the local bodies were held on private symbols. He called for a social audit of panchayat works by these panels. He further stressed the need for regular meetings of gram sabha to obtain the prior approval for the works undertaken by the panchayats.
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Governor's plea to ex-servicemen

SHIMLA, May 9 (UNI) — Himachal Pradesh Governor V.S. Rama Devi today stressed the need to take up electoral awareness among the voters as a campaign by the NGOs’ and other voluntary organisations for strengthening the democratic system in the country.

She said the ex-servicemen league could play an important role in this regard and exhorted them to come forward for creating awareness amongst the masses in this respect. She also emphasised the need to spread qualitative education.

The Governor was addressing a congregation of ex-servicemen at the Sainik Rest House complex at Dharamsala on the occasion of 22nd annual general meeting of Himachal Pradesh Indian Ex-Services League.

Referring to the demands of the ex-servicemen league, the Governor assured that their demands would be looked into sympathetically by the government.

The Governor gave away cash award to war widows on the occasion.

Earlier, Mrs Rama Devi paid homage to the martyrs at war memorial. She also announced a grant of Rs 20,000 from her discretionary fund to the league.
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Health camp for disabled
From Our Correspondent

BILASPUR, May 9 — Himachal Social Welfare and Food and Supplies Minister Mansharam has said that the state government would spend Rs 79.46 crore on social welfare here in state. A sum of Rs 97 lakh would be spent on welfare of handicapped persons.

Inaugurating a health examination camp for handicapped persons organised by a social welfare organisation "Chetna" here last evening, he said the Government of India had formed the National Handicapped Persons Finance Development Corporation which was providing loans from Rs 2.50 lakh to Rs 20 lakh for helping them to become financially independent.

Dr Malika Nadda, General Secretary, Chetna, said that specialists from Delhi, Dehradoon and Shimla examined 600 handicapped persons during the camp.

The minister presented clippers, wheel chairs, tricycles, hearing aids and artificial limbs to several disabled persons and Rs 5,000 to a handicapped couple and financial aid to 14 other handicapped persons.
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Rs 6.08 cr for 199 dispensaries
From Our Correspondent

KANGRA, May 9 — A sum of Rs 6.08 crore will be spent on 199 ayurvedic dispensaries to be opened in Himachal Pradesh during the current year.

This was disclosed by the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture Minister, Mr Vidya Sagar, yesterday while inaugurating an ayurvedic dispensary at Kotkowala on the outskirts of the town.

He said the dispensaries would provide better health care to people at their doorsteps. Four departments would soon start functioning at Tanda Medical College and an OPD had already started working there, he added.

The minister said a vegetable centre would be opened here soon. It would cost Rs 9.50 lakh. The government was providing a subsidy to the tune of Rs 54,000 on the water tank projects and Rs 2,500 on the bio-gas projects. Farmers belonging to the OBC and SC were being provided with 50 per cent subsidy on the agriculture inputs and equipment. Fifty vegetable production centres would be opened in the state during the current financial year, he added.
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Brickkilns endanger villagers' health

HAMIRPUR, May 9 (UNI) — The smoke omitted by three brickkilns set up within a 2 km radius of about a dozen villages near Nadaun sub-divisional town in the district has posed a health hazard to the residents of the villages.

The smoke from the kilns, set up at Chowi, Phera and nearby Kotharli villages, is also playing a havoc with flora and fauna in the area.

Repeated verbal and written requests to authorities concerned by the affected people have fallen on deaf ears.

These kilns, two of which are owned by one person, are close to thickly populated villages like Pakhrol, Gauna, Karaur, Sera, Bhaloon, Chowki, Jadauth and Malankand and some educational institutions.

The pollution has caused breathing problems among people, particularly small children, according Mr Balak Ram Sharma, a resident of Pakhrol village.
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HP provides 116.19 cr for health
From Our Correspondent

BILASPUR, May 9 — The Himachal Government has provided Rs 116.19 crore for strengthening health infrastructure in the state during the current financial year and this amount is 109 per cent more than provided in last year's Budget.

Inaugurating a community health centre at Harlog, 35 km, from here on Friday, Health and Family Welfare Minister Jagatprakash Nadda said that the government would soon set up a state health services corporation. As many as 65 health institutions would be provided with buildings with an allocation of Rs 10 lakh for each to provide better health facilities to nearest village areas, he added.
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