The Himachal secretariat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) has demanded the government should first file an affidavit in the courts before "arbitrarily" felling apple trees in forest areas of the state. Sanjay Chauhan, a member if the secretariat, said Sunday the party "strongly opposed" cutting of apple trees and would support the statewide campaign planned by the Himachal Kisan Sabha and the Apple Growers Association against the state government.
The CPM has blamed both the BJP and the Congress party for encroachments on forest land that it said had "led to present situation that is bound to have long term implications". "Cutting these trees isn't just illogical but also impacts the environment and hence needs to be stopped immediately," he added.
Calling for the launch of a "Chipko movement", Chauhan said: "The CPM has urged the public to ensure their trees are not cut and are protected from inept state government officials. The Congress party led government is using the Himachal Pradesh High Court order as a pretext to willfully evict horticulturists from lands where they have been cultivating crops for years."
Tikender Singh Panwar, another member of the CPM secretariat, said 66% of land in the state was forested with only one-tenth being used for agriculture. "The state government's decision to axe tree and evict farmers isn't justifiable at all. Even if it can be believed the government is serious about getting rid of encroachments on forest land there are various other alternatives. These include fencing of forested areas and leasing out land to farmers as has been done in the case of entrepreneurs.
The same government was benevolent enough to change land use norms and lease out land to the Jaypee group for cement and hydropower plants. The government has leased out hundreds of hectares of land to private entities in the name of ecotourism. When it can promote ecotourism in the state, then why not horticulture?" he questioned.
Calling various government campaigns on plantation of fruit bearing trees in forests undertaken "hypocritical," Panwar said: "The government seems to have forgotten that apple trees too bear fruit."