Fourteen organisations and individuals in Himachal Pradesh Tuesday jointly demanded the withdrawal of an eligibility condition, which bars anyone who has encroached on government land from contesting the upcoming panchayat elections in the state.
The groups have alleged that people from several marginalised communities in the state have been unjustly declared encroachers of forest or government land due to incomplete implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and various other state and central laws.
Three-phase elections to most of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) in state are scheduled to be held next month. Under section 122 of the Himachal Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act, a person is disqualified for being an office-bearer of a panchayat if he/she or anyone of his/her family member(s) has encroached upon government land.
In a letter to the state government and the press, the organisations have said that the Forest Rights Act provides for legal ownership of forest lands occupied before December 2005, but it is yet to be effectively implemented in Himachal. They have called the disqualification rule an “an attack on the rights of underprivileged communities, small farmers and women”.
The signatories to the letter include Ekal Naari Shakti Sangathan, Himachal; Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba unit; Himalaya Bachao Samiti, Chamba; Himdhara Environment Collective, Palampur; Himlok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur; Janjatiya Mahila Kalyan Samiti, Kinnaur; Nekram Sharma, a social worker from Mandi; Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh; Save Lahaul Spiti, Lahaul; Shyam Singh Chauhan, District Council Member, Mandi; Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Sirmaur; Spiti Civil Society, Spiti; Sutra, Solan; and Anita, a District Council Member from Kangra.
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