Clean drive in Himachal

THE Himachal Pradesh (HP) State Law Commissioni established in 1994, has finally habdid over the draft Himachal Pradesh Forest Act, 1995, amendments to the Lokayukta Act, 1983, and the Utilisation of Lands Act, 1972, to the HP government.

The draft Forest Act, repealing the Indian Forest Act, 1927, has been embodied with a view to conserve existing forest wealth and the eco-system of HP to meet bonalide requirements of the local people, said a commission official.

Sweeping changes are being brought about in the act: provisions have been made for preventing misuse of timber distribution rights and to enable eviction from encroached land; punishments relating to. forest fires, illicit felling and timber sale has been made more deterrent and offences cognizable.

The act has also proposed forest development tax to be levied on timber. The funds raised shall be used for forest development activities aimed at generating, additional funds to bolster afforestation programme.

The proposed sub-section three of section 35. makes it mandatory on the state's part to constitute equal are as* as protected forest in case of denotification of a protected forest.

A new chapter deals witlMhe control of trade possession and forest produce transit. The other highlights are granting of licences to sawmill owners and manufacturing units.

The Cattle Tresspass Act, 1871, has been made control damage to forests by cattle. Two new sections provides for discharging responsiblitites by forest and village level officials and panchayat functionaries to protect forests from fires and theft.

Another new chapter provides for 'vesting of the water courses, springs in the landsheld by private persons or otherwise' while empowering the government to regulate their use. Changes in the Utilisation of Lands Act have been made to render the existing provisions more comprehensive and harmonious regarding leasing out of fallow lands.

New amendments in the Lokayukta Act has empowered the Jokayukta (a body to overview public works) to take cognizance of complaints even suo moto not only to enquire into allegations, but also into grievances made against any public servant.

The proposed modifications in the act also introduces a new provision authorising the lokayukta to accept a complaint written by any one in police custody, jail or asylum, and makes it obligatory for the concerned officer incharge to send such letters to the lokayukta wiliout delay.

Himachal Pradesh has also introduced a bill in the legislative assembly in October 1995 for controlling the snow- balling menace of non-biodegradable garbage - its collection and disposal. The Himachal Pradesh Non- Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Bin, 1995 - the first of its kind - has been introduced to prevent throwing or depositmig non-biodegradable garbage in public drains, roads and places.

The act, apart from defining terms like biodegradable and non-biodegradable, enlists items under either categories. Accordingly, non-biodegradable garbage includes Polythene, nylon and plastic goods like Pvcs (poly vinyl cWo ride). The act stipulates the local authority or any authorised officer to provide receptacles and places for depositing garbage.

-'The act also provides for studies, research and support programmes for determining the types and c9mposition of wastes and amount of recyclable materials, and enables the state to impose requirements on manufacturers, distributors and others who produce or handle such commodities.