The country’s most vocal environment activist said this here today. Ms. Patkar was on a day’s visit to the State.
Ms Patkar, who was supposed to join the Lepcha marchers during their three-day pilgrimage to Dzongu in North Sikkim, expressed “shock and sadness” over the State Government’s alleged role in threatening and stopping the pilgrims from proceeding towards Dzongu.
The marchers were forced to turn back from Phidang near Dikchu today morning when Section 144 was clamped in North Sikkim thus barring them to continue the march to their “holy” land.
The NBA leader visited the BL House here today evening after a brief stopover at Rangpo where she met the marchers from Kalimpong.
Stepping out from the car, Ms Patkar immediately went to the two Satyagrahis on a hunger strike seated outside the BL House and offered her solidarity to the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), who is spearheading the Satyagraha.
She also met protestors carrying out their indefinite hunger strike against the implementation of hydel projects in Dzongu from the Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital here.
While addressing the press conference here at BL House, the NBA leader, also a leader of the People’s Movement said that those belonging to the ruling party are always on one side and people’s movements like this in all the states across the country have to play the role of the opposition party.
Touched by the plight of the Lepchas over their fight to protect their rich land-“rich in terms of natural resources and as the source of inspiration and livelihood to their own generation,” the NBA leader pointed out that the Chamling Government has failed to make even a single gesture of initiating a dialogue with those on the hunger strike even as the indefinite hunger strike attained the 35th day.
“We are ready to hear what the Chief Minister has to say but unfortunately he is not saying anything,” she added.
“Why cannot a frank and free dialogue happen, which is acceptable to both parties? It is shameful that no dialogue has been initiated by the State Government with the Satyagrahis”, she said.
Taking up Sikkim’s issue for the first time, Ms Patkar said that the State being under high seismic risk and hydel projects planned along buffer zones, the Sikkim Government is not serious about its own environmental laws or least bothered about the people’s rights and the land laws supposed to be protected under Article 371 F of the Indian Constitution.
“Every community must have the right to concede or not to concede to any project and this is what the Indian constitution has granted,” she informed, adding that “Article 243 of the Indian Constitution says that the first right to plan development should lie with the smallest of the communities, the grams sabhas and the ward sabhas in rural and urban areas respectively.”
The NBA leader also said that to have so many projects in Dzongu with just a population of around 6,000 is nothing but a perfect example of colonization. According to her, such a policy to extract and exploit resources of one land in a hurry and haste needs to be questioned.
Further stating that the people living on agriculture, horticulture, cardamom cultivation can be easily lured through dole outs, she said that the State Government should have played the role of protector rather than being agents in favour of the corporate.
She also felt the need of protecting Sikkim’s nature, culture and religion even amidst the plans and policies of the so called development. “This beautiful State of Sikkim is not just a tourist centre; it is a place of cultural centre which the State is flooded with, she said.
“No one is against development per se but development is a chain that is desirable and acceptable to those people who are to be directly affected, she added.
Commenting on the outside agencies encroaching upon the land of the Lepchas in Dzongu, Ms Patkar said it reflects social, cultural, economic and political issues for which she demanded for immediate review of Teesta State III and stop Panang project. “This is the most reasonable democratic demand which the Chamling government should accept,” she added.
Ms Patkar further said that the response made by the State government during the 63rd day of the indefinite hunger strike was a fraud and betrayed the Lepchas.
Alleging that the Chief Minister formed a review committee with almost all official members and only one non official member, the NBA leader termed it as an undemocratic way of the Sikkim Democratic Front Government to respond to the protestors.
She also informed of raising the issue of the Land Acquisition Act Bill, which is lying before the standing committee.
Ms Patkar also invited members of ACT and other environmental organizations to join in a dharna in New Delhi from April 28 to 30. During the dharna, all the organizations will jointly take up the issue of development, displacement and disparities as a result of mega hydel projects in the country, she informed.
Not only did she handed over CDs on how dams should be planned to the ACT protestors, Ms Patkar also suggested the Government to go for mini hydel projects, which is not only cost effective but people-friendly.
The NBA leader told the Satyagrahis to feed those hunger strikers whose health was deteriorating.
source: Sikkim Express