|Thursday, February 10, 2000,
Ban on felling not total: CM
Mandi reels under power crisis
HP Budget on March 9
Backward status for Chuhar valley
INTUC objects to panel report
A shell of problem?
Ban on felling not total: CM
SHIMLA, Feb 9 While the move of Dhumal government to lift the moratorium on green fellings has drawn flak from various quarters, records reveal that it was only a reiteration of the decision taken by the previous Congress government in February 1997.
Enquiries also revealed that there was no blanket ban on green fellings until 1994 and standing trees were axed on a large scale even in forests not prescribed for felling in the working plan. The moratorium imposed in 1983 only restricted the green fellings. The divisional forest officers were only required to seek prior permission of the chief conservator for it as clear from the circular issued on March 11, 1987.
The scale at which green trees were felled can be easily gauged from the fact that about three lakh fir, spruce, chil and kail trees, with a standing volume of over 7 lakh cubic metres, were axed from 1984-85 to 1989-90. To meet the requirement of timber for fruit packing cases. Trees were felled even in those forests, including protection circles, not prescribed under the working plan, such fellings took place mostly in Shimla and Kulu districts.
In 1989 alone 70,550 cubic metres of standing volume of trees were marked for felling in Theog, Jubbal and Chopal forest divisions.
In fact, it was the BJP government that came to power in March 1990, which banned felling of green trees for conversion into "geltus" (billets used for making fruit packing cases). The Governor-in-Council lifted the ban in July 1993 during the President's rule. The Congress government assumed office before felling could actually take place. It reversed the decision and imposed a complete ban on green fellings in March 1994.
However, as the financial crisis in the state worsened, the same government decided to allow green fellings to fulfil silvicultural requirements for the proper growth of forests. The decision to lift the ban was taken on February 11, 1997, simultaneously, it floated non-SLR bonds through the state Forest Corporation to raise about Rs 460 crore from the market. Obviously, the income for repaying the loan and interest would have come from the extraction of timber.
The Forest Department could not carry out the fellings in view of the Supreme Court order that green trees could be axed only in accordance with the forest working plans only approved by the Centre. At that time working plans had been prepared only for four out of the total 38 forest divisions. Thus it was not possible to fell green trees. During the past three years the department has prepared working plans for 18 divisions and now it plans to carry out fellings in these.
Mr P.K. Dhumal, Chief Minister, has asserted that silvicultural removals, which were an essential part of scientific management of forests, would not reduce the green cover. The loss of standing volume of trees due to salvage marking and allotment of trees under timber distribution rules to right holders would be taken into account while carrying out removals prescribed in the working plan.
Reacting sharply to the Congress criticism he said the party had no locus standi to cry foul on this account as he was implementing only the decision taken by its government why the Congress leaders, who were adopting "holier-than thou" attitude and expressing undue concern over its impact on environment. Did not oppose the decision then, he asked?
Regarding the apprehensions that green fellings would encourage illicit felling, he said forest mafia reigned supreme during the Congress rule and his government would not allow its re-emergence in the state. Neither the discredited Congress nor the "mafia" wood be allowed to stage a comeback.
Mandi reels under power crisis
MANDI: Ironically, the country's largest power-producing district is reeling under "power shortage" and "low voltage". It is the lowest in winter when it is needed the most and it is the highest in summer to the extent that bulbs burst and electrical gadgets and devices get damaged.
Not many people know that 1365 MW hydel power is produced in Mandi district. The Dehar power house in the district is the largest hydel project in Asia with an installed capacity of 990 MW. The Shanan and Bassi power houses produce 375 MW.
Despite all this, the power supply both in rural and urban areas is erratic allegedly due to the step-motherly attitude to the government and the HPSEB. The HPSEB has intriguingly failed to provide 132 KVA sub-station in the second largest town of the state for the past 50 years.
When this matter was taken up in these columns in February, 1997, that the 66/33 KV Bijni power station, which feeds Mandi and adjoining areas, could collapse any time, the HPSEB woke up to initiate a move to upgrade the power station to 132 KVA. It was claimed at that time that the sub-station would be upgraded within a year's time to 132 KVA. Three years have since passed, but the sub-station is no where near completion.
People wonder that while adjoining Hamirpur, Kangra, Barmana and Bajaura have already been provided 132 KVA stations, why Mandi was continuously being neglected. Mandi is the gateway to the Kulu valley and a large number of tourists stay here. Low voltage and power breakdowns get on the nerves of honeymoon couples visiting these valleys.
It is interesting to note that the present power sub-station at Bijni had been set up by the Bhakra Beas Management Board in 1963 when the Beas Sutlej Link Project was in progress. The Bijni power station has failed to bear the additional load which swelled in the wake of rural electrification and coming up of small-scale and cottage industries. It did not collapse because the load of the BSL project kept on decreasing as the completion of the project drew nearer. Presently, this sub-station is unable to cope with the existing load.
It is alleged that the delay in the completion of the 132 KVA sub-station over the past three years is due to the fact that funds are not being provided for its execution. Consumers here are unhappy over the step-motherly treatment meted out to them by the government.
* * *
Over 32,000 farmers living in 15 panchayats of the backward Chachiot valley of the district are silently suffering hardships due to the faulty administrative set-up. All these panchayats Ghat, That, Khalwahan, Khani, Mani, Devdhar, Bali Chowki, Panjain, Thachi, Bagi, Bhanwas, Sog Ghar, Khola Nala, Kalhani and Nalbagi fall in Bali Chowki sub-tehsil.
Residents of these areas complain that the pace of development there has been very slow or rather negligible. The pain and penury of the people of these valleys has not been mitigated since Independence. The faulty administrative set-up adds to their woes.
Zila Parishad member Guman Singh laments that people of this belt have to travel a long distance to reach the subdivisional headquarters at Gohar which is 200 km from Gada Gusani and 150 km from Bali Chowki. Not many can afford to reach this place.
Most of the unemployed youths have not been able to get their names registered in the subdivisional employment exchange at Gohar. Other offices are also haphazardly located in Panarsa and Kulu, another district. Mr Tarun Shridhar was the first Deputy Commissioner who had visited these panchayats after Independence after having trekked a distance of 76 km through the hilly terrain.
Dotted by green pastures, snowy peaks, dense deodar forests, waterfalls and high-altitude lakes the panoramic Chachiot valley is a dreamland. But the lack of good roads and political patronage has kept it backward so far. The existing network of roads in the valley had been laid by Thakur Karam Singh who was a powerful politician in Dr Y.S. Parmar's ministry. The valley has remained neglected over the past 33 years.
* * *
The Tarna temple of Mahakali is one of the most important temples of Mandi, which is known as the Kashi of Himachal. People go for a picnic also to the Tarna complex which is at the top of the Tarna hill. A former Deputy Commissioner, Mr Mahavir Singh, is still remembered by the people of the town for having beautified the Tarna complex.
The place is being neglected by the present administration. The road to the temple is in a bad shape. The stairs to the temple are in worse condition. It is surprising that despite the fact that Circuit House, HPSEB Rest House, Sessions House, Chief Engineer IPH Office and DIG residence are located on this road, the PWD has not cared to maintain it.
* * *
Books valuing over Rs
40,000 were gifted to the district library by Dean
Sahayak Trust founded by a retired engineer (SE), Mr Y.N.
Malhotra, recently. The trust comprising senior citizens
as its members has been engaged in social works
mitigating the pangs of the poor, old and ailing persons
for the past many years. Now it also intends to promote
book culture in the wake of electronic invasion.
HP Budget on March 9
SHIMLA, Feb 9 The Chief Minister, Mr P.K.Dhumal, will present the Budget for the next financial year in the Assembly on March 9
The Speaker, Mr Gulab Singh, said the session will begin on March 2 with the address of the Governor, Mr Vishnu Kant Shastri.
The House will observe recess from March 17 to March 26 during which the departmental committees of the Vidhan Sabha will scrutinise the demands for grants and submit their reports before passing of the Budget.
Backward status for Chuhar
PALAMPUR, Feb 9 Thakur Kaul Singh former-Speaker of the state Assembly and senior Congress leader, today called upon the state Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal to grant backward status to the Chuhar valley of Mandi district on a par with Chhota Bara Bhangal.
Addressing mediapersons here he said the government had recently granted the backward status to Chhota Bara Bhangal but ignored the Chuhar valley which was much more backward as compared to Chhota Bara Bhangal. Thakur Kaul Singh said valley was situated at a high altitude and 80 per cent of the villages were still not connected with motorable roads. He said in many villages people had not seen even a bus or a car. Few villages were about 40 km to 50 km away from the roads.
He said such decisions should not be taken political consideration but the government should understand the difficulties being faced by residents of the areas.
INTUC objects to panel
NURPUR, Feb 9 The Himachal Pradesh, Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) has taken exception to the report of the three-member committee formed by the state government for reviewing the regularisation of the services of daily wage workers.
Ms Kanta Sood, president of the state INTUC, said at a press conference here yesterday that the committee was headed by the Finance Secretary and had submitted its report to the state government recently. It had recommended the retrenchment of those daily wage workers who were engaged by various government departments after December 1, 1995.
She said it was an anti-worker committee and INTUC would oppose its recommendations of these were implemented by the state government. She said the BJP had promised to regularise the services of the daily wagers who had completed five years service, but now the Dhumal Government had started forming anti-worker committee. It had failed to release dearness allowance due since July, 1999, and medical and house rent allowance to government employees.
While commenting on the
reported statement of Mr Gopal Dass Verma, former state
Non-Gazetted Officers Federation chief, that he would
campaign for the BJP candidate in the Solan Assembly
byelection, Ms Sood said Mr Verma had no following among
A shell of problem?
SHIMLA, Feb 9 The detection of a mortar shell in the house of a former Inspector-General here has become a headache for the local police.
The shell was detected in the kitchen of the servant quarters behind the house of Mr K.S. Dhaliwal on the Forest Road three days ago.
However, the police has not yet removed the shell from there and was awaiting arrival of explosive experts of the Army, which might take a few days. Meanwhile, armed police personnel have been put on guard outside the kitchen where the shell was lying.
It is learnt that the state government has written to the Defence Ministry asking for examination of the shell by explosive experts.
Although the incident is
not of a serious nature, but this has once again exposed
the incompetence of the state police to deal with such
situation. No bomb disposal squad of its own has been
raised by the police although Kashmiri terrorists were
targeting various areas of the state.
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