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Govt rejects Cong demand on timber rights

Opposition slams state over monkey menace

Written by Express News Service | Shimla | Published: March 22, 2012 3:21 am

Opposition slams state over monkey menace

The BJP government on Wednesday came under sharp attack from the Opposition in the Himachal Assembly on two burning issues — non-availability of timber to forest ‘rights-holders’ and the growing problem of the wild animals,particularly monkeys damaging crops at fields in the vicinity of forests.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal,who intervened during question hour after the House witnessed frayed tempers,however,rejected the Congress demand for a review of the Timber Distribution (TD) rights policy,or allowing timber at concessional rates to non-rights holders in urban areas.

“ The TD policy,formulated by the BJP government in 2010 after broad-based consultation with the local stake-holders has approval of the Himachal Pradesh High Court — which had earlier imposed a total ban on felling of green trees under concessional rates of Rs 5 for a full-grown tree. Timber is now given to the rights holders from the depots as per their requirements and norms”,he said while turning down the plea of Congress MLA Harvardhan Chauhan for a fresh review and rationalisation of the policy.

Dhumal also disagreed with the suggestion of PCC chief Kaul Singh Thakur,to liberalise the policy and distribute timber at concessional rates to people in urban towns like Mandi and Chamba — where erstwhile rulers had such discretions. “It’s a democratic era,we don’t want to go back to feudalism. People in the urban areas can buy timber at market rates”,Dhumal said.

Earlier ,the Congress members accused the government of creating serious problems for the rights-holders when acquiring timber for personal use,including repair of houses and cremations. There is no timber available at the depots,and procedure for allotment is very cumbersome,they alleged. Kaul Singh Thakur particularly raised the cause of those who lose their property to fires and whom,according to Thakur,are not being given timber to reconstruct their houses.

Forest Minister Khimi Ram on the other hand gave credit to the BJP government for getting the high court ban on TD lifted and for framing a new policy to stop the misuse of the timber,which was being given at nominal costs from the forests. He urged Congress members to bring to his notice,specific cases of non-availability of timber. He said those whose propertys are lost to fires,will be provided timber within a month on a priority basis.

On the monkey issue,the minister said the government had given powers to forest officials for the issuance of licences to kill the monkeys but after the high court banned the killings,and urged the government to adopt safer ways like use of air guns and pistols,the government hasn’t exercised the powers. It,however,has sterilised around 50,310 monkeys at different centres,the minister said.

The government also informed the Assembly that 2,789 cases of wild animal attacks on humans and domestic animals have been reported between January 1,2009 to January 31,2012. A compensation of Rs 1.45 crore has been paid to the victims,the state claimed.

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