Builders eat into fruit belt
Jotirmay Thapliyal
Tribune News Service

Trees felled in Tehri for building the bungalow of the district forest officer
Trees felled in Tehri for building the bungalow of the district forest officer

Dehradun, January 22
The forest wealth of Uttarkahand is being systematically denuded due to large-scale illegal felling. Areas known for dense green trees today wear a patchy look of barren earth. The gravest challenge to the green Uttarakhand comes from the growing influence of the land mafia and their nexus with the civil administration and forest officials.

As if the Gajana forest felling incident of Tehri in November last followed by uprooting of trees in the Chamba fruit belt were not enough, comes the news of another green area, fruit trees alongside the Mussoorie-Yamunotri highway, facing the builder’s axe. This felling and uprooting of trees allegedly for carving out plots has come as a rude shock for the state.

The forest-predominant Uttarakhand faces the gravest of challenges in the form of its fast-eroding greenery under the growing influence of the land mafia, civil administration and forest officials nexus.

The biggest threat comes to the Chamba-Mussoorie fruit belt that has seen large-scale felling of trees for facilitating constructions in recent times. This fruit belt has been the region’s pride as it was envisaged way back in the late seventies on the pattern of Himachal orchards. The then forest authorities had given the land on lease to the horticulture department that subsequently gave it to the district administration to be provided on lease to farmers.

But with changing times, the very purpose of this fruit belt, that once had a vast expanse of oak trees, has been defeated. Today, this fruit belt is a witness to unlawful constructions by the high and mighty. Dhanolti MLA Kazan Das admitted that large-scale unlawful constructions were eating into the fruit belt.

“I am much concerned at these constructions in the fruit belt and have raised this issue in the assembly,” he said. He said he had been receiving complaints on unlawful structures and had taken up the issue with the administration.

After much hue and cry by the locals, the district recently ordered a probe in the matter. “There are over 411 mini fruit belts in the region and we have already ordered for a probe into alleged cases of felling of trees in these belts,” Saujanya, District Magistrate, Tehri, said.

Only a month back, the Gajana tree felling had come as a shocker. The incident that involved felling of 1,116 pine trees shook the Chief Minister and the government suspended senior officers in the case.

These trees were axed on the outskirts of the New Tehri township by a private developer in connivance with forest officials. HK Singh, District Forest Officer, Tehri, Rajinder Singh Khaira, Sub-Divisional Officer, and Brijesh Srivastava, ranger, were among those suspended.

HK Singh has been attached to the Forest Training Institute, Haldwani. Earlier, a deputy ranger and a forest guard, were also suspended.

More than a 1,000 green pine trees were felled by Virender Singh, alias Pappu Sajwan, a private developer, to built a housing colony in Gajana near New Tehri. Senior forest officials and their kin had taken land in the proposed colony.

But the probe now seems to be progressing at a snail’s pace. Uttarakhand Chief Wild Life Warden S Chandola who had been entrusted with the task of initial probe, has already submitted its preliminary report. But after submitting preliminary report, the forest officials are yet to come up with the final probe and fix responsibility.The involvement of kin of some top Uttarakhand forest officials has made the task much difficult.

The forest officials accuse the civil administration of having done little in the matter. The forest officials have expressed resentment over the “one-sided” portrayal of the Gajana incident. Shortly after the Gajana incident, Principal Chief Conservator RBS Rawat had asked the revenue officials to act on the matter without delay and “punish the guilty.”

“A total 1,116 pine trees were felled in Gajana. Out of these 95 were on the reserve forest land; the rest were on private and revenue land. The forest department alone took the matter seriously and suspended its officials, including a DFO-level officer,” a senior forest official pointed out.

Uttarakhand in the recent years has been helpless in protecting its rich tree cover. Starting from Dehradun, trees have been felled by those in land business in order to make a quick buck.

The felling of hundreds of trees for construction of apartments in Luxmi and Curzon road areas of Dalanwala are fresh in public memory.

The developers, taking advantage of loopholes in the system, have been resorting to large-scale felling.

Kayan Singh Rawat, who has been at the forefront in efforts to save the green environs of Dehradun, calls for more determination and will on the part of enforcment agencies to curb the unlawful felling of trees.

Uttarakhand that once an example to the world in tree protection through the famous Chipko Movement today is on crossroads with the land mafia forest officials nexus getting stronger, and stronger.



Time check
Times are changing with more and more Doon residents opting for watch brands to flaunt style 
Divya Semwal
Tribune news service

Dehradun, January 22
Jewellery watches are in. Gone are the days when these were worn for keeping a track on time; today in the new world order watches are becoming more of a style statement and people in the Doon valley too are flaunting their brand watches.

Earlier, would purchase the regular leather-strap watch or the digital ones. Today they have many options to choose from.

Along with Indian brands like Titan, Timex, Maxima and Fastrack, also come high-end brands like Citizen, Xyliss and Tommy Hilfiger.

There are watches for occasions."We have Titan, Sonata, Timex, Maxima, Lamex and Fastrack. The latter are popular with youngsters for their trendy look and attractive colours. Titan Octane, which starts from Rs 4,000 is doing good business amongst people who prefer a sporty look with multi- functions,” said Kamal Behl, owner of a watch store.

From metallic silver and gold watches, the market has watches for different occasions.Titan, the most selling band in the city, offers a large variety with exquisite designs. “Latest in the market is our Army range, which has a rugged look and is apt for outdoor workout.

“Titan edge, the world’s slimmest watch, has a large variety for men and is priced between Rs 5,500 and Rs10,000. It is doing good business for its sleekness and style quotient.

Another exquisite range of Titan is Raga, especially made for women for “special moments in life.” The latest in the market is the Diva range, with intricate glowing dials.Not only Diva but Raga also has silver metallic watches for office wear.

“Raga is preferred for marriage or anniversary occasions, but some women wear it with matching outfits,” said Padma Raturi, another watch shop owner.

Where youngsters prefer branded Fastrack watches for its bold style statement, there are quality brands like Sonata and Maxima in reasonable rates for the middle class. Priced between Rs 400 and Rs 1,200 one can pick up a watch that comes with warranty.

Sonata has also launched fibre watches for kids. Interestingly, the market offers high-end brands for people who believe in brands. Titans Xyliss, the Swiss watch, is for those who want something elegant and is priced at for Rs 9,000 to Rs 40,000. “People in the city are not too aware of foreign brands, but people want to experiment and Titan pure gold watches titled Nebula are doing good business here,” said Pad



Town goes to the dogs
Anmol Jain
Tribune news service

Stray dogs in Dehradun.
Stray dogs in Dehradun. A Tribune photograph 

Mussoorie, January, 22
The increasing population of stray dogs has become a menace for local residents. Packs of stray dogs create a nuisance for the people, especially early morning and late in the night. Although the municipal authorities have initiated steps to take relocate the dogs, locals feel that more needs to be done.

Stray dogs are seen loitering around the famous Mall Road. Morning walkers are the worst-affected. “With so many stray canines, we feel threatened,” says Ram Prasad.

“I have started carrying a stick to ward them off, but they are so many that I feel intimidated,”says Sunil.

A number of people have given up on morning walk and venturing out alone. “We now go in groups of two or three for the morning walks,” Ram Prasad said.

Nitish Mohan Aggarwal says the children are especially vulnerable to being bitten by the dogs. “We are glad that the schools are closed for the winter vacation and children remain mostly indoors,” he added.

The residents also face the problem of sanitation with dog excreta strewn on roads. “The dogs have made roads extremely dirty,” complains Feroz Ali, a hotelier.

Although, recently the Nagar Palika initiated a drive to catch stray dogs and shift them to a animal care centre in Dehradun, the locals remain skeptical. It is believed that these efforts are a mere eyewash and are unlikely to prove sustainable in the long run. The authorities had initiated a similar drive to capture monkeys and relocate them outside the town. The drive was a flop. 



Residents want rly track fenced
Akash Ghai
Tribune News Service

Roorkee, January 22
Every year, around 10 persons are run over by trains that run on the two tracks that pass near Mohanpura village, around 2 km from here.

A 1.5-km-long stretch of unfenced railway tracks passes just a few metres away from many houses of the locality. According to residents, many animals, including their livestock, have also died after being run over by trains.

The unmetalled path, which connects the village to the main road leading to Roorkee, has no gate at the level crossing thus posing a great danger to the hundreds of people who cross the tracks daily to reach Roorkee.

The situation gets worse during fog. Many people, including small children, rickshaw pullers and motorists, are regularly seen using the passage unmindful of the danger.

Maheshwari Prasad, who runs a small shop near the tracks, said that many electric trains pass from here daily. "It is very difficult to assess their speed. As people cross from all over the tracks, the danger of accidents is very large.”

Ravinder Pal, a resident, said, “The demand for erecting a fence on both sides of the tracks has been raised several times by the residents but in vain. We want that a small bridge should be constructed over the tracks."

MLA Hari Dass said that he has approached the railways authorities on the issue. "Definitely, there is a need for a fence,” he said. The railways authorities could not be contacted.



Health card scheme likely by March-end
Neena Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, January 22
The state government’s cashless health smart-card scheme for government employees has run into procedural bottlenecks resulting in its delayed launch.

Set into motion in July 2008, the ATM-like scheme is expected to greatly aid in the medical billing of the serving and retired government employees during their health- related visits to hospitals. However, due to the enormous delay in the issuance of tenders to the selected companies, the scheme may be launched by the end of March.

“It is an ATM-type cashless scheme for serving and retired government servants who earlier used to submit medical bills for reimbursement,” said Dr Sudhanshu Bahuguna additional director, Directorate of Medical, Health and Family Welfare. “They can now use the card at the empanelled hospitals in the state while undergoing treatment,” Bahuguna added.

The scheme consists of a guide book that includes the list of empanelled hospitals inside and outside Uttarkhand and a disease-wise package being offered to the employee and his family members. The Khanduri government is keen to roll out the scheme as soon as possible with an eye on the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. The idea was mooted by the previous Congress government.

In response to the advertisement for selecting agencies that was taken out by the DG Health in May 2008, nine firms applied. Among these, four agencies were shortlisted.

The agency that would be entrusted with the task of providing smart health cards will bear the cost of the smart card. The agency will be required to open its office in each district of Uttarakhand. “The application software and smart-card technology, preparation and issuance of smart cards will be done by the agency at its own expense,” said Dr Bahuguna.



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