Pithoragarh, July 26

Residents of Didihat, Dharchula and Munsiyari today welcomed the order of the state government to exclude 111 villages in the district from the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary notified area and distributed sweets. They said the order would remove the main hurdle in the development of these most backward villages.

The Uttarakhand government last night announced that all 111 villages, which fell in the sanctuary area, would now be considered out of the sanctuary limits. This would free these villages from the sanctuary laws and give equal land to the Forest Department in lieu of the exempted villages. “These villages, which fall under Dharchula, Munsiyari and Didihat subdivisions of Pithoragarh district, have not witnessed development since 1986 when the Askot sanctuary was notified by the Forest Department with an aim to protect musk deer, which are found at more than 11,000 feet in this part of the Himalayas,” said Chandra Singh Laspal, a resident of the Baram area of Munsiyari subdivision.
Villagers in the Madkot area of Munsiyari subdivision are happy that a large number of road proposals that have remained on paper will not materialise. The area remained as backward as it was before Independence as the sanctuary laws did not permit any construction. “With the government decision all 68 villages of Didihat subdivision will now see development,” said Raghunath Singh Chauhan, a senior advocate of Didihat subdivision.
Congress workers said the government decision was a commendable step towards the development of 111 villages that had remained backward due to the sanctuary laws. However, BJP leaders termed the step as an attempt by the government to befool villagers. The state government did not take the Central Empowered Committee into confidence before taking the decision. “If the state government is empowered to remove villages from the notified area of the sanctuary without permission from the Central Empowered Committee, why did the Congress take so many years to pass the order? It could have taken the decision earlier as it had formed the government immediately after the creation of Uttarakhand,” said Suresh Joshi, BJP spokesman. 

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