Shell shocked Himachal apple farmers face courts, foresters ire – orchards on encroached lands felled

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Shimla: Cutting down fruit laden apple trees just before harvest time as the law catches up decades after expansionist apple growers allegedly encroached upon forest lands is giving many farmers in the hills of Himachal Pradesh sleepless nights these days, even as it sharply divides the community with some calling it equivalent to manslaughter and other coming out in support of the judiciary initiated action.

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Posted by Trilochan Thakur on Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

Monitored by the state high court, forest wardens have put together task teams that have cleared some forest lands in Karsog belt of Mandi and in Jubbal and Rohru areas of Shimla district.

Yesterday in Bulan and Khasdhar ranges of Telgha village in Rohru about 460 fruit laden apple trees were felled. Revenue officials first demarcated the land to identify the encroached forest lands before the foresters got to work. The land cleared of apple plantation was about 3 acres (15 bighas).

A supporter of the government action
A supporter of the government action

Rohru forest division officer Chamanlal to the media confirmed, “460 apple trees were cut in Bulan and Khasdhar ranges and about 15 bighas of forest land has been cleared of encroachments”

Two day earlier another team cut down 150 trees in Madhol village of Jubbal, some of them with electrical saws, after the orchard was identified by accompanying revenue officials to be on encroached forest lands.

The process was started from an orchard in Karsog belt where about 2 acres of orchard was cut down and cedar and oak saplings planted in place, about three weeks ago.

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A Damocles sword hangs over many orchard owners, whose plantations in the past two to three decades have allegedly come on forest encroached lands.

Houses that have come up orchards grown on forest lands are threatened with disconnection of water and electricity supply lines.

The active high court has taken foresters and bureaucrats to task for not implementing the law of the land. A status report about the action taken is being placed before the court on a regular basis.

Chief parliamentary secretary Rohit Thakur, who represents the Jubbal-Kothkai assembly constituency said, “cases of small and marginal apple farmers who are facing the axe would be placed before chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

Pictures of the cut trees are drawing sharp reactions and being shared extensively on Facebook and other social media platforms.

‘Stop Apple Murder’ is how Lokender Jhouta reacts to a shared picture of cut down trees.

Facebook grab of a picture being widely shared
Facebook grab of a picture being widely shared

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

8 Comments

  • Going by the reported story, it makes no sense cutting down the fruit-laden trees. In fact, the encroachers should have been penalized. However, it’s not to suggest any kind of incongruity in the order issued by the honorable high court.

    1. The offenders could have been asked to deposit the share from the sale proceeds of apples, grown on the encroached land, with the government.

    2. Later, the apple trees in the encroached land could have been taken over by the administration.

    If government complains that it’s stranded in front of the judiciary, then why it isn’t such dynamic and steadfast in abiding by the other orders issued from the side of honorable courts which directly affect its executive decisions.

    In addition, local administration is duty-bound to see upon and take action at any such encroachment taking place in the area of jurisdiction, in real-time, as per law of the land. Waking up from a deep slumber, after judiciary spanks its posterior, even entitles it to share the burden of punishment.

  • Out of four pools of land in the state farmer always got readily allotted check of lands with out any hitch as it has been government policy of Grow More. Most of farmers used to do Opium cultivation after Independence. It was Dr, Y.S. Parmar who promoted them to plant apple in their land holdings which was latter allowed to take over it from all pool basically belong to them. Dual nature of ownership exits in state of HP which comes into existence with mergers of 34 princely estates.
    The chieftain of each state allowed to hand over as much as land to farmers as they like but it was subject to hefty revenues. This systems prevailed till eighties when so called environment lovers came forth. All forest on which so-called encroachments exists were cleared by commercial Mafia however court and non apple grower blaming apple growers for the green felling.

    Now the question arise of tittles for which state government has to implement the land reforms but it failed 2002 affidavit move by BJP was part of it but it failed. There was time when 2006 when forest rights act was came into existence. Those who are against the government move or for it should read Prof. Rajinder Singh who had written and explored the issue of land holdings threadbare.

    The issue should be debated in the public diaspora and green felling of any kind would promote farmers to opt for illegal way to earn their livelihoods as the have been doing many decade beck

  • The High Court’s order, and the action now being taken by the govt., are what Oliver Cromwell called a ” cruel necessity” when he beheaded an English king. The suggestion by some readers that the govt . should have waited for the apple crop to be harvested is misplaced: such draconian measures have to be instantaneous, like a surgical procedure-any delay would stall the process again. The entire blame for this lies with successive governments of all political hues which have either actively encouraged the encroachments over decades or have turned a blind eye to them. In fact it was the last Congress govt. which led the farmers into this trap. It had formulated a policy to regularise all such encroachments on forest land, and had asked the encroachers in 2006 to submit affidavits with details of the land occupied illegally so that they could be given title of these lands. The then govt. completely and wilfully ignored the orders of the Supreme Court prohibiting any such activity on forest lands. More than two lakh affidavits were submitted before the govt. changed. The subsequent BJP govt. neither implemented this policy nor took action against the encroachers. The farmers were now squarely caught in the trap- they were self- confessed encorachers, and this made it easier for the Court to pass the present orders.
    The challenge before the forest department now is to ensure that the ” freed” lands are not reoccupied by the evictees. Have no doubt that the government and ALL political parties will try their best to ensure this happens! The department should therefore immediately record the GPS coordinates of these plots ( for future reference and monitoring), fence them off and plant forest-species on these lands to reclaim them physically.
    Coming on the heels of the NGT’s commendable order on the Rohtang pass, maybe our politicians and bureaucracy will pause for some much needed reflection!

    • Just a minor correction here, I think it was Dr Rajhan Sushant and his misplaced policy of regularizing encroachments in 2006, which has led the farmers into the trap today.

      The intention was to make more land available for an overgrown population in a state with sparse cultivable land but it became a free for all – for everybody wanted to have his or her pie in the government initiated bonanza.

      When I asked a friend lawyer (now a Chief Justice of a High Court) why they were not moving the court to restrain the government from legalizing an illegal action, he simply responded – what’s the hurry?

      His reason was, “What better way to have law breaking encroachers to confess on legal documents (by submitting affidavits) the perversity of their action. When the window for filing applications seeking legalization of encroachments closes, we will move the courts after that as all the data would have come in by then.”

      The governments and courts action today is only a fallout of that litigation. Good luck to the guys on the receiving end.

  • Wah re sarkari tantr ke logo…. Galti insaano ki aur saza pedo ko? Jo hua so hua past mein… apple is native tree why cut it? Just demark the land and put the apple tree on forest land. Log bhi free mein kha lete apple….

  • Deputation urges CM to look into encroachment issue

    To reconsider the move of the government pertaining to removal of encroachments and felling of apple trees in orchards and other fruit trees raised illegally on forest land, a deputation comprising Horticulture Minister, Smt. Vidya Stokes, Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, Shri Nand Lal and Shri Rohit Thakur, MLA Shri Mohan Lal Bragta, Chairman HP State Marketing Board, Shri Subhash Manglate called on Chief Minister Shri Virbhadra Singh here today and urged him to file a review petition in the High Court in the matter and initiate steps for stopping the drive of removing encroachments wherein many small and marginal farmers were being affected.

    In a joint memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister, they urged that the officers may be asked to stop the move of withdrawing water and electricity connections and to find out a suitable alternative so that the small farmers and horticulturalists may not suffer. They stated that the move was against the small and marginal farmers and there was a need to protect their interests.

  • When we people in india will stop supporting illegal things . Why govt. is wrong thing in this ?
    Don’t you know when you aquiring govt. land ? Don’t you know how much afforestation you have done by cutting much precious deodar tress and planting apple trees.
    How much forest land we have lost because of this and what impact this has caused to the climatic changes in uppar himachal. Are you trying to argue that apple trees are more nature friendly than deodar tress or so called our forests.
    I have seen how much forests we have lost in himachal because of these encroachments.
    Okay who owns these encroachment lands ? these farmers have become rich from their orcahrds but what about the farmers who cultivate rice, wheat etc in himachal ..aren’t tey affected because climatic conditions are changed because of this since we lost forests.

    the point is we should not try to support things which are illegal . but if we do so we take wrong menaing of our democratic rights.

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