Sunday 16 November 2008
GANGTOK, November 2: After completing a marathon 500 days of relay hunger strike against the mega hydel power projects in North Sikkim, Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) who is spearheading the protests is soon expected to change their strategy of protests so that it gets more momentum.
The upcoming policy shift in the protests was revealed by ACT general secretary Dawa T Lepcha on October 30 with ACT observing 500 days of relay hunger strike at BL House at Sonam Gyatso Marg here.
The BL House has been the venue of the relay hunger strike since June 20 last year which was started by ACT against the North Sikkim power projects.
Speaking to media, Mr. Lepcha said that ACT is thinking of devising a new strategy of protest against the mega hydroelectric projects but did not elaborate what the new strategy was. “Our members will be meeting soon and we will decide on the new plans which we will inform”, he said.
Mr. Lepcha had lead two indefinite hunger strikes for 67 and 106 days. “Nothing is finalized yet but we do have some plans and we let media know at a suitable time”, he said.
ACT observed the 500th day of its relay hunger strike with a solemn puja ceremony to invoke the gods and seek their blessings at the first floor of the BL House which also houses an alter where monks from the Sangha of Dzongu (SoD), a part of the protests, holds puja ceremonies.
ACT had started the relay hunger strike at BL house from 20 June.
Mr. Lepcha also claimed of gross violations being perpetuated by power developers at Dzongu in North Sikkim while implementing the project. “Though a direction by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (dated 25/09/08) was issued to the General Manager of M/s Himagiri Hydro Energy Pvt Ltd that no labourers should be allowed to stay back in Dzongu after work hours, the direction is not being followed”, he said.
ACT had already submitted its claims before the North district administration who had directed the company to follow the Central guidelines. “However at present in spite of such directions, there are eight rock test drilling teams residing in Nom/Panang and thirty five members residing at Lingzya dam site”, said Mr. Lepcha. He also claimed labour sheds have been built at the site in violation of the condition that no labour or staff colony will be allowed inside Dzongu by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
“This clearly shows that the company will not follow any conditions or directions issued by any authority and that the authorities in the state do not have the will to enforce the conditions. The mother company of Himagiri, the Nagarjuna Construction Company was booked for violation of conditions in Himachal Pradesh and was warned of being black listed. Who will enforce the conditions in our state?”, questioned the ACT general secretary.
Regarding the proposed Teesta IV project in Dzongu, Mr. Lepcha said: “It is strange that though the very genesis for starting of project, the Detail Project Report has been rejected by the Central Electric Authority, the Land Revenue Department and the Forest Department are employing dubious tactics to make the innocent people hand over their land to the company, NHPC, even before the DPR (which will decide whether the project will happen or not) is done”. Though there are many clearances to be obtained and procedures to be followed until land can be taken, the concerned department are trying to make people part with their land, he added.
“Why they are so much interested in being agents of the companies?”, Mr. Lepcha questioned.
Speaking on the decision of the state government to hand over the scrapped power projects to the original power developers, Mr. Lepcha said that the State government and the department should take a firm decision and not ‘wither’ from its decisions.
On the other hand, though ACT’s relay hunger strike has completed the 500 days milestone, its recent programmes have been sluggish with no major activities apart from the relay strike continuing at the BL House.
In September, a four member ACT delegation were in New Delhi to call upon officials from various concerned Ministries, Commissions and independent experts, agencies and organizations to apprise them of the protest.
It is informed that the delegation met officials at the Ministry of Environment and Forest,
Forest Advisory Board, Central Electric Authority, Ministry of Power and Energy, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Planning Commission, Commission for
Tribal affairs, Commission for Minorities, Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment which ACT has claimed was ‘highly fruitful’ and ‘the results of the visit would soon be known’. They submitted rejoinders, memorandums apart from presenting power point presentations of the hydel issue and the protest in Sikkim with focus on examples of loss and problems being faced by the commissioned and the on-going projects in the state.
source: Sikkim Express
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