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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
H I M A C H A L   P R A D E S H

Govt to take up forest land case with Centre
Shimla, June 30
The Himachal Government will take up with the Centre the case for taking out certain categories of land from the purview of the Forest Conservation Act afresh, which in its view had been wrongly classified as forest land.

HPU VC seeks more funds
Shimla, June 30
Vice-Chancellor Prof L.R. Verma said today Himachal Pradesh University (HPU), should also be given grants on the pattern of other neighbouring hill state universities as the state too had similar topography and socio-economic conditions.

MCI finds medical college lacking in infrastructure
Dharamsala, June 30
Future of Dr Rajindra Prasad Medical College and Hospital continues to hang in the balance as a team of the Medical Council of India (MCI), which had inspected it in April, pointed out host of flaws in the functioning of the college.

111 gazetted officers booked, House told
Shimla, June 30
As many as 261 officials, including 111 gazetted officers, have been booked by the Vigilance Department for various offences. During question hour Mr Singhi Ram said 148 cases had been registered till May 31, 2004 in which 10 panchayat functionaries and 45 private individuals were involved.



YOUR TOWN
Hamirpur
Dharamsala
Mandi
Shimla


EARLIER STORIES

  Condition of leopard attack victims stable
Hamirpur, June 30
Overall condition of Deputy Ranger Balbir Singh and Ms Sarita Devi, who were injured on Tuesday in separate attacks by a leopard at Badhar village of the district, was said to be stable. They are getting treatment at the district hospital here. According to Mr Sudhir Shiwal, Assistant Conservator of forests, the Deputy Ranger had gone to the village with a cage to arrest the leopard. 
Ms Sarita Devi and Deputy Ranger Balbir Singh under treatment at the Hamirpur district hospital after they were injured by a leopard on Tuesday.
Ms Sarita Devi and Deputy Ranger Balbir Singh under treatment at the Hamirpur district hospital after they were injured by a leopard on Tuesday. — Photo by Chander Shekhar Sharma

Lack of funds hits afforestation programme
Shimla, June 30
The declining budgetary support to the forestry sector in the ecologically fragile hill state over the past five years has severely affected the afforestation programme. While there was an urgent need for raising new plantations to restore the degraded areas, the Forest Department has been forced to scale down its afforestation programme for want of adequate funds.

BJP blasts govt on employment issue
Hamirpur, June 30
The Himachal BJP joint media in charge, Rajendra Rana yesterday blasted the state government on the issue of giving employment to unemployed youth. The government, he said, was adopting double standards regarding the jobs.

Mining: HC order gives govt sleepless nights
Mandi, June 30
The state government is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea while it is under intense pressure from the demands to supply sand and bajris for use in industries, it has to meet a high court order which has set August 18 as a deadline for the BC Negi Committee to submit its report on the mining activity and assess its impact across the state.

CPI pays tributes to Kameshwar Pandit
Kumarhatti, June 30
The Solan district unit of the CPI paid tributes to Kameshwar Pandit on his third death anniversary at Dharampur yesterday. Kameshwar Pandit was a founder of the Communist movement in Himachal Pradesh.

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Govt to take up forest land case with Centre
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 30
The Himachal Government will take up with the Centre the case for taking out certain categories of land from the purview of the Forest Conservation Act afresh, which in its view had been wrongly classified as forest land.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, told mediapersons that the notification issued in 1952 vide, which certain areas were declared as forest, was infructuous as it neither appeared in the government gazette nor were implemented. Further, there were certain pre-conditions for the implementation of the notification like carrying out settlement to demarcate the forest areas, which were never fulfilled. As such no category of land could be considered as forest land on its basis.

There were other factors too. The notification pertained only to the old Himachal areas as the hill areas of Punjab were merged into the state only in 1966. As such it was applicable to only a part of the state.

He said if need arose the government would approach the Supreme Court and seek redressal. As things stand today the entire government land had been virtually classified as forest. There was no other government land left as a result the state was facing difficulties in implementing development projects.

Regarding the new law limiting the size of the ministries he said it was in the larger interests of the democracy, as it would help check horsetrading. However, he felt that it should not have been implemented retrospectively as downsizing of the ministry was an unpleasant task and posed various kinds of problems. He said left to himself he would not have dropped any minister as he was totally satisfied with the performance of his team but downsizing now was a constitutional requirement.

He said the matter would be decided in consultations with the high command. 

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HPU VC seeks more funds
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 30
Vice-Chancellor Prof L.R. Verma said today Himachal Pradesh University (HPU), should also be given grants on the pattern of other neighbouring hill state universities as the state too had similar topography and socio-economic conditions.

Speaking at a function, he said “We shall soon approach the Human Resource Development Ministry and the University Grants Commission for additional grants to the university for strengthening infrastructures like playground, girls’ hostel and a gymnasium,” he stated.

Prof Verma, informed that a Rs 15 crore plan was drawn up to construct more administrative buildings and class rooms for future requirements.

“The biggest challenge that we face is to provide quality education, board and lodging to students from the far-flung areas of the state,” he stressed.

Prof Verma exhorted the university community, especially the students, to play a more pro-active in making the university one of the best educational institutions in the country. “I have always adopted participatory approach in resolving university matters, and it has always worked in the right direction,” he said.

Appreciating the outgoing Students Central Association (SCA), the VC favoured settling the issues through consultations for the development of the university.

Prof Verma, gave away prizes to the students who had the in academic, sports and co-curricular activities.

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MCI finds medical college lacking in infrastructure
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, June 30
Future of Dr Rajindra Prasad Medical College and Hospital continues to hang in the balance as a team of the Medical Council of India (MCI), which had inspected it in April, pointed out host of flaws in the functioning of the college.

According to sources, primary objection is the lack of a 500-bed hospital, which causes congestion. The MCI also wanted more covered area for Out-Patient Department (OPD).

The report has also sought the appointment of a professor, with postgraduate degree, as the medical superintendent of the hospital. Till recently, an MBBS doctor had been holding the post. Other objections mentioned in the report include lack of the Internet facility in the library of the medical college.

The report, reportedly communicated to the hospital authorities last week, has become a subject of discussion with the faculty members and doctors of the college and hospital. This is third adverse report given by the MCI over a period of two years. Last year, the council conducted two inspections in July and September.

Mr P.C. Kapoor, Health Secretary, Himachal Pradesh, said that most of the shortcomings mentioned in the report would be removed once the hospital came up. “We have sanctioned Rs 35 crore for the project, which is being completed at a fast pace. The Government of India has already given us permission to complete the hospital by December 2005,” he said.

Problems like congestion and more space for OPD would automatically be solved once the 500-bed hospital is made available. As for the medical superintendent, he has been transferred and the present doctor had post-graduate degree, as specified, he said.

Mr Kapoor added that unlike the case with previous reports, the medical college and hospital now fulfilled all major requirements regarding faculty, classrooms and other infrastructure needed for smooth functioning of the institute. “What remains is only improvements which would be made over a period of time,” he said.

After removing some of the objections like lack of Internet in the library, the Health Department has now sent a reply to the council, which also explains the status of the upcoming hospital. A team has also been deputed to follow up the case with the council.

Meanwhile, a doctor at the college confided that the repeated adverse reports by the MCI had put a question mark on the future of students of the college. “The recognition for batches has been coming in parts and both students and faculty members are waiting for a final clearance from the council,” he said on condition of anonymity.

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111 gazetted officers booked, House told
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 30
As many as 261 officials, including 111 gazetted officers, have been booked by the Vigilance Department for various offences.

During question hour Mr Singhi Ram said 148 cases had been registered till May 31, 2004 in which 10 panchayat functionaries and 45 private individuals were involved. He also informed that no political leader, MP or minister had been booked so far. Sanction to prosecute was awaited in 14 cases in which investigations had been completed.

Mr G.S. Bali, Himachal Transport Minister, said in 2003-04, 266 bus accidents took place in the state in which 1,532 persons were killed. There were 374 bus mishaps in 2000-01, 444 in 2001-02 and 345 in 2003-04.

Mr B.B. Butail, Himachal Revenue Minister, informed Mr Jai Ram that drought and hailstorm damaged crops worth Rs 564 crore from March 2003 to May 2004. The loss by drought had been assessed at Rs 217 crore and by hailstorm at Rs 347 crore.

Major Vijai Mankotia told Mr Rakesh Verma that 50-seater aircraft would start landing at the Shimla airport soon. He said the airstrip had been extended from 3800 feet to 4100 feet under the extension project. The proposal was to increase the length to 4500 feet but it was not possible. He said, so far, only 18-seater aircraft could land in Bhuntar (Kulu), Gaggal (Kangra) and Jubbar Hatti (Shimla). The plan was to extend all three to facilitate landing of 50-seater aircraft.

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Condition of leopard attack victims stable
Our Correspondent

Hamirpur, June 30
Overall condition of Deputy Ranger Balbir Singh and Ms Sarita Devi, who were injured on Tuesday in separate attacks by a leopard at Badhar village of the district, was said to be stable. They are getting treatment at the district hospital here.

According to Mr Sudhir Shiwal, Assistant Conservator of forests, the Deputy Ranger had gone to the village with a cage to arrest the leopard. The leopard attacked injured the forest officer badly.

He said that the department was seized of the leopard menace and provide protection to the villagers.

Mr Sarita Devi, demanded more cash relief as the cost of medicines was too high. The forest Department gave her Rs 1,800 as immediate relief.

Talking to The Tribune from the hospital, she said that the state government should meet out entire expense of those injured by leopards or other wild animals.

People of the Tal gram panchayat area of the district are scared following repeated attacks of prowlers in the area. They have demanded from the state government in general and the Forest Department in particular to save them from the wrath of the prowler.

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Lack of funds hits afforestation programme
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 30
The declining budgetary support to the forestry sector in the ecologically fragile hill state over the past five years has severely affected the afforestation programme.

While there was an urgent need for raising new plantations to restore the degraded areas, the Forest Department has been forced to scale down its afforestation programme for want of adequate funds. Consequently, the area being brought under the new plantations is decreasing every year. In 1998-99 new plantations were raised over 31,300 hectares whereas last year only 15,000 hectare was brought under forests. The target has been further reduced to 14,000 hectare for the current year.

The forestry sector has been the worst affected because of the financial reasons. In fact, hardly any funds are being provided for raising new plantations and the afforestation programme is being sustained largely through externally aided projects. While the expenditure on raising new plantations is rising due to increase in wages and cost of material, the allocation of funds has been declining progressively.

The outlay for 2003-04 came down to Rs 51 crore from Rs 80.35 crore in the preceding year. It has further declined to Rs 48 crore this year. Out of this externally aided projects account for Rs 35 crore.

The dependence of the department on externally aided projects is leading to lopsided growth of the forestry sector. The afforestation activities have been concentrated in the areas covered under the Kandi, DIFID and Changer projects and the rest of the state is being neglected. As per the national forest policy at least 66 per cent of the total geographical area in hill states like Himachal Pradesh has to be under forests. However, the green cover actually extends to over only 26 per cent of the area.

Thus, more funds are needed to spread the tree cover over the denuded hills. But exactly the opposite was happening. The allocation for the forestry sector had been declining progressively. The outlay was as high as 9.44 per cent in the seventh plan. It came down to 6.47 per cent in the eighth plan and 5.12 per cent in the ninth plan. The economic value of the state’s forest reserves has been estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore but the fund-starved government is not in a position to spare requisite fund for the sector.

One of the reasons is that it is being deprived of the much-needed forest revenue because of the ban on fellings of green trees. The state had been urging the centre to compensate the loss for the moratorium of green trees. However, its repeated pleas have so far failed evoke any response from the centre.

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BJP blasts govt on employment issue
Our Correspondent

Hamirpur, June 30
The Himachal BJP joint media in charge, Rajendra Rana yesterday blasted the state government on the issue of giving employment to unemployed youth. The government, he said, was adopting double standards regarding the jobs.

In a statement here, he said while on the one hand, it had signed an MoU on fiscal reforms with the Central Government for the reduction of jobs every year, on the other hand it was telling the people that it would provide jobs to the unemployed youth. Mr Rana, asked the state government to clarify how many jobs it was going to give through the HP Public Service Commission and the HP State Subordinate Services Board so that people of the state could know the truth.

The BJP leader said a recent decision of the government to restore all powers to the board for recruitment to Class III categories proved that it had taken a U turn on this issue.

The government had earlier withdrawn the powers on one pretext or another. Mr Rana claimed that the recruitments by the board during the BJP regime were on merit and there was nothing wrong in the process.

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Mining: HC order gives govt sleepless nights
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Mandi, June 30
The state government is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea while it is under intense pressure from the demands to supply sand and bajris for use in industries, it has to meet a high court order which has set August 18 as a deadline for the BC Negi Committee to submit its report on the mining activity and assess its impact across the state.

Top officials in the Industries Department revealed that the state government will have to pay conversion charges of more than Rs 5 lakh per hectare for every lease it secures for the mining activity to the Centre as the wastelands have been covered under the Forest Conservation Act. “This makes the auction highly costly and time-consuming as the government has empty coffers.”

What is giving the state government sleepless nights is the fact that if the state does not get the waiver from the Forest Conservation Act, then mining would become a losing proposition in the state.

On the other, locals living in the peripheries of the mining sites also complained that the “illegal mining” also created pollution in the nearby villages. “The top layer of the land is first removed by the JVC machine. The farmers earn fast money without losing his land, but valley is facing problems of silt and flash flood,” said the farmers.

What has caused concern to the high court was the fact that the mining contractors and middlemen took advantage of mindless mining activity in the state going on for years. It lured farmers to offer their cultivable lands for mining for a song especially in the fertile Balh valley in Mandi district. Following this the state government banned ‘illegal mining’ in the state since February last, informed the officials.

Though the state government has asked the Centre Government to give a one-time waiver over the Forest Conservation Act,1980 that has created an unprecedented situation in the state, but the Department of Industries is under intense pressure from the demand of the contractors to ensure the compliance of the high court order.

The Dhani Ram Committee is expected to submit its report next month, but the state government is hoping that the Central Government would announce the much-needed waiver soon, delegating NOC power to the state government to give clearance for roads, buildings, projects and the mining activity without delay. “The deputy commissioners are daily updating the government on the matter to bail the state out of the deadlock,” says an official.

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CPI pays tributes to Kameshwar Pandit
Our Correspondent

Kumarhatti, June 30
The Solan district unit of the CPI paid tributes to Kameshwar Pandit on his third death anniversary at Dharampur yesterday.

Kameshwar Pandit was a founder of the Communist movement in Himachal Pradesh. He remained the secretary of the state council of the CPI from 1953 till his death in 2001.

Mr Jagdish Bhardwaj, assistant secretary of the state CPI and Mr Gurdev Singh, secretary of the Solan unit of the CPI also paid their homage.

Mr Bhardwaj said he strengthened the party base in the state. He described him as an extraordinary leader who did relentless efforts for the upliftment of the poor and backward class. Comrade Pandit got associated with the Communist movement during his student life in 1942.

He had also played an important role in the Vishal Himachal movement. Besides authoring various books he published various daily and weekly newspapers.

“Himachal Darpan”, a weekly paper started by him is still going strong. Comrade Pandit had turned down an offer of governorship offered to him during the regime of the H.D. Deve Gowda- led coalition government at the Centre.

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