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J&K High court stays cutting down distinctive 16-20 million Russian poplar trees




Representational photo of Russian poplars in Kashmir
Representational photo of Russian poplars in Kashmir | ANI

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Srinagar:The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has stayed its own 2015 order  directing the civil administration to cut down Russian Poplar trees in the newly created union territory. 

Authorities had begun cutting down the trees stating that the pollen generated from the female variety could act as a carrier of the Covid-19 virus.

The court Friday asked the J&K administration to constitute a committee of experts within four days, to ascertain the desirability of cutting down Russian poplars on war footing basis.

The court direction comes days after the J&K civil administration cited the 2015 order and directed district authorities to carry out massive felling of the female variety of the tree that number anywhere between 16-20 million across the region.

ThePrint had reported on 8 April that domain experts as well as politicians believed that the decision to cut lakhs of trees would invariably result in a massive ecological and economic disaster. The high court order mentions ThePrint story on the felling of the Russian Poplars. 

The following day, on April 9, a Valley-based advocate, Habeeb Iqbal, wrote to the chief justice seeking judicial intervention.

“It is contended by Mr Habeel Iqbal that the indiscriminate felling of the trees (reported to be in several thousands) has severe adverse economic and ecological impact, which may be irreversible,” the high court said in its order.  “We have perused these media reports. Certain very pertinent issues have been pointed out.” 

“Significantly, a grave error is pointed out which is to the effect that female poplar trees have been directed by the authorities to be felled on account of the “pollen” generated by them. This by itself is a basic mistake,” the court added. “Pollen is generated by the male of the species and not by the female tree. Therefore felling of the female of the species would not have any impact.”

Also read: J&K targets Russian poplars in Covid-19 fight, experts worry about ‘ecological disaster’

Court clarifies 3 April order

The high court had on 3 April, however, directed the Health and Medical Education secretary to examine the impact of pollen released by the trees and their ability to carry the Covid-19 virus.

Following that, the J&K administration ordered lopping/felling of the trees in both privately-owned and government land. The government first ordered that the branches of the poplars be trimmed but subsequent press releases from various district administrations stated that authorities had been asked to “axe” the trees. 

In its Friday order, the high court clarified that it had passed no direction regarding the felling of trees on 3 April.

“We make it clear that in our order dated 3rd April 2020, we had left the decision and action to be taken by the secretary, Health and Medical Education and had passed no direction regarding felling of the trees,” the court said.

“We were informed on 3rd April, 2020, by Mr. Shafqat Nazir, advocate, that there were previous court orders of 2015 with regard to felling of poplars. If this is the position, we today direct that any prior order directing felling of the poplar trees would be kept in abeyance till the above proceedings of the Committee and consideration directed today are completed, placed before us and further orders passed by us,” the order further stated.

Also read: The male, female and pollen behind J&K order to chop ‘Covid-19’ trees


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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