Himachal govt urges governor to allow farming in districts bordering China - Hindustan Times
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Himachal govt urges governor to allow farming in districts bordering China

Dec 06, 2023 04:21 PM IST

To counter China’s bid to develop its border areas, the Himachal Pradesh government has sought permission from the governor under the Forest Conversation Act (FCA) for starting agricultural activities in Kalpa and Pooh sub divisions.

With China populating the barren region along the cold desert bordering India, the Himachal Pradesh government has sought permission from governor Shiv Pratap Shukla under the Forest Conversation Act (FCA) for starting agricultural activities along the international border.

Chitkul village in the Spiti valley of Lahaul and Spiti district, bordering China. The Himachal Pradesh government is keen to start agrarian activities in the border districts to counter China’s move of populating areas on its side. (HT file photo)
Chitkul village in the Spiti valley of Lahaul and Spiti district, bordering China. The Himachal Pradesh government is keen to start agrarian activities in the border districts to counter China’s move of populating areas on its side. (HT file photo)

The state government has sought permission from the governor to allow 20,000 farmers to cultivate barren land. The government plans to provide at least five acres of barren land to farmers in Kalpa and Pooh sub divisions in Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts that share their border with China.

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“The state cabinet recently approved relaxing the FCA for agrarian activities and sent the request to the governor for his consent,” said state horticulture and tribal development minister Jagat Singh Negi, who represents Kinnaur in the assembly. Article 5 of the Constitution enables relaxing FCA regulation in the tribal areas to boost employment, particularly through horticulture, and generate income from land.

Negi met the governor along with the legislators of Pangi, Bharmour and Lahaul and Spiti besides members of the Tribal Advisory Council for a positive outcome.

Though the border with China has remained peaceful so far, particularly during the Chinese aggression in 1962, the minister said: “There are a lot of things happening on the other side. We need to be alert.”

To counter China’s dual village programme, the government plans to develop 76 of the 210 villages in Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts under the vibrant village programme. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sanctioned 4,800 crore in the Union budget for the programme, started on February 17, 2023. Of the outlay, 2,500 crore will be spent on the creation of road infrastructure in the border areas.

China is building “double-use” border villages that can house troops and the local population. Indian intelligence agencies say 628 such dual-use villages have come up along the 3,448-km Line of Actual Control since 2017 in the border states of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The literacy rate of this border block is 84.64%. There are a total of 2583 households in the Spiti border block. Under the vibrant village programme, the government will strengthen health facilities in the tribal regions. Due to the harsh terrain and weather, few doctors are reluctant to practise in the region. The government is making provisions for mobile dispensaries in the remote villages besides improving the communication system.

After the state government expressed concern about local youngsters migrating from the border villages, director general of police Sanjay Kundu sent a team of five police commandants of different battalions to the forward areas amid escalating tension following the Galwan Valley faceoff in 2020. The police cited lack of facilities in the border areas as the main reason for the migration of youngsters. The lack of economic activities in the border areas due to lack of opportunities aggravated the problem.

Negi said infrastructure requirements, such as road, electricity and telecommunication systems, need a relook in the tribal regions.

The Himachal Pradesh government has been demanding more funds for developing transport and road facilities in the region. It has proposed the Centre connect the border areas of Uttarakhand and the state for the construction of a road between Brua in Kinnaur and Harshil in Uttarakhand via the 17,000-ft Lam Khaga Pass.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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