21HP01A.qxd 8/20/2013 6:47 PM Page 1 c Shimla 23.8° 16.3° m b y VIGNETTES HIMACHAL DIARY 3 Hamirpur — town of shining stars and a black dot Banking branches to service requirements of rural customers 4 The Tribune Himachal Plus Shimla Wednesday August 21 2013 www.tribuneindia.com Group of women scripts success story Crime rate in Palampur increases, residents lose faith in police Plants 80,000 saplings in 90 hectares AMBIKA SHARMA TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE PAONTA SAHIB, AUGUST 20 A group of 34 women of Amboya and Saalwala have scripted a success story by greening their environs by planting 80,000 saplings in 90 hectares. They drew inspiration from a group of 10 women who about 15 years ago had taken up a challenging task of greening a stretch of about 65 hectares of barren land in the Amboya panchayat by constituting a Woman Environment and Forest Protection Committee. They planted about 50,000 saplings on this unused and barren stretch and set an example of hard work and determination. Besides enhancing the green cover appreciably, this acted as a motivation to the many other women of the Saalwala panchayat in the Paonta Sahib sub-division who constituted a Naagraj Women Forest Samiti and planted 27,000 saplings on about 25 hectares. It further encouraged more women groups to come forward and emulate their success. Taking a step forward, the women also ensured that the saplings once planted were safeguarded. Explaining the challenges faced for ensuring cent per cent success rate of the plantations, Kamla Devi, pradhan, Amboya Panchayat Samiti, said: “The women not only had to face police cases but also allegations of thefts were levelled against them for trying to achieve The building of Palampur police station, which was constructed in 1919, is on the verge of collapse. Photo: Ravinder Sood OUR CORRESPONDENT PALAMPUR, AUGUST 20 Palampur and its surrounding areas have witnessed an increase in the crime rate in the past few months. Over 60 cases of theft were reported from Palampur, Baijnath, Bhawarna and Lambagaon police stations. But, in most of the cases, the police failed to trace the culprits. A few months ago, jewellery and valuables worth Rs four lakh were stolen from a house at Rajpur. Likewise, valuables worth Rs three lakhs were stolen from a village near Thrual. But till today, the police has failed to arrest the culprits. In lower areas of Palampur, things have moved from bad to worse. The residents here have stopped venturing out of their houses after sunset as thieves could strike them any moment. Panchrukhi, Thural, Daroh, Alampur, Bhawarna and Dheera areas are worst affected where numerous thefts have taken place in the past six months'. In many villages, local residents have lost faith in police and they have set up barriers on the roads to check the vehicles moving in later hours. The villagers are personally guarding their property. A senior police officer admitted that police has little presence in the rural areas. He stated that in the absence of night patrolling, cases of thefts have gone up. Besides, there is no checking of vehicle at night by the police. Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that most of the police stations in the region are in bad shape. The buildings of the police stations have already lived their life and needed immediate replacement. These police stations also have inadequate police force, causing delay in attending the public complaints. Child marriages still prevalent in Himachal, admits govt SHIMLA, AUGUST 20 Himachal Pradesh has failed to root out the social problem of child marriage, with 15 reported from five panchayats alone in Sirmaur, one of state's backward districts, from December 2007 to November 2011, the government has admitted. In an affidavit dated June 18, 2013, in the Himachal Pradesh High Court, the state government admitted that 15 child marriages were solemnised in the Khud Drabil and Jarag panchayats in Sangrah block and the Chandni, Kathwar and Kodga panchayats in Paonta Sahib block. It also said four infant deaths, three child deaths and four dropout cases were reported in these panchayats during this period. There was, however, no case of child labour. Taking suo motu cogni- sance of an NGO survey, a division bench consisting of Chief Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldip Singh had asked the Deputy Commissioner of Sirmaur on April 9 to file a status report on child marriages, infant and child deaths, child labour and school dropouts. The court's direction came after treating a baseline survey conducted by NGO People's Action for People in Need as a public suit. The government affidavit says the five panchayats covered by the NGO in its survey have a population of 7,942 according to the December 2011 records. "Peculiar practices with regard to institution of marriage exist in Sangrah and Shillai areas of Sirmaur. However, with the passage of time, there is a declining trend but it is not fully extinct," the affidavit said. Customary provisions, including polyandry and polygamy, are still widely prevalent in the community as a whole in the areas across the Giri river, adjoining Uttarakhand, it said. The customary practice of "Har chali gayi" or "girl went to her in-law's house" is quite prevalent there. Under this practice, during fairs and festivals, commonly in January, relatives and near and dear ones visit each other's houses and stay as guests. It so happens that when a girl visits a house and a boy in that family becomes her choice, both of them share their liking and start residing together irrespective of their age. Sometimes the girl delivers a child with the acquiescence of the parents and the community. The marriages are later solemnised and registered with the local authorities when the couple becomes major, the affidavit says. It says seven out of 15 child marriages in the surveyed panchayats were performed by following the "Har chali gayi" practice. NGO director Kuldeep Verma said the government conducted the survey only in those panchayats where its study was focused. "All these five panchayats are connected with roads. There are numerous panchayats in Sirmaur that are not accessible and where the customary provisions are more prevalent. We need to draw up action plans to crack down on child marriages," Verma said. Besides Sirmaur, he said, the tradition of child marriage is also prevalent in other districts like Kupvi in Shimla, Tissa in Chamba and Chhota and Bara Bangal in Kangra. "It's hard to know the exact number of child c m marriages as many go unregistered." The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, in its latest report, said 14 per cent of girls in Himachal Pradesh get married before they turn 18. The high court while disposing of the NGO's petition observed on July 23: "Since the issue is of great public importance and the department is committed to take measures to eradicate the social backwardness and social evil practices, as is assured in the reply-affidavit, we dispose of this petition." The bench however gave liberty to the petitioner to take recourse to appropriate remedies, including a fresh suit, to bring to the court's notice the continuation of such medieval practices. Child marriages still prevalent in Himachal, admits government. — IANS y b Members of the Mahila Paryavaran Avam Van Suraksha Samiti, Amboya. These women from Amboya and Saalwala panchayats drew inspiration from a group of 10 women who about 15 years ago had taken up a challenging task of greening a stretch of about 65 hectares of barren land in the Amboya panchayat by constituting a Woman Environment and Forest Protection Committee. They planted about 50,000 saplings on this unused and barren stretch and set an example of hard work and determination. this motive.” This did not deter the women who were keen to make this endeavour a success despite all odds and they toiled day and night to ensure that the plants were safe. They faced challenges from those indulging in illegal felling and even caught them red-handed and also managed to collect a large number of articles used in cutting trees like ropes, sickles and axes from them. Their collective efforts bore results and they managed to bring greenery over a stretch of 65 hectares. Sumitra Devi, secretary of the samiti while recounting their success story, said various plants, including medicinal herbs, fruits, bamboo and other commercially useful varieties, had been planted on the land and their success rate was quite high. Pradhan of Naagraj Mahila Samiti Sunita Devi and Secretary Parmeeta Devi said a large number of people were exploiting forests for their needs nowadays, but a few had taken up the task of conserving this natural wealth as its indiscriminate exploitation was leading to natural calamities. Kinkri Devi, an environmentalist who had fought a long battle to save and conserve the environment in Sirmaur, continues to inspire them. With little support from their families, these women have set an example in society urging more women to come forward and contribute to this cause. There was an urgent need to support such endeavours and the government should step forward and provide some monetary help to them who have little means to enhance their livelihood. The Forest Department too should involve women in such projects as their present endeavours have little participation of women.
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