Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) later submitted bail applications for the three of its underage members in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate here at Gangtok which was granted with certain conditions.
Meanwhile, ACT has also finally decided to seek bail for its 40 arrested members under judicial custody presently lodged in Rongyek Jail. Senior advocate of the Sikkim High Court, Shri KT Bhutia will appeal on behalf of Act. The Bail application was filed in the court of the Hon’ble Session Judge on 28th feb 2009 and is scheduled for hearing on the 7th of March 2009.
Dawa Lepcha, Tenzing Lepcha who sat on 2 indefinte hunger strikes in the past for 63 days earlier and 96 days are also part of the 40 members of ACT currently under judicial custody.
ACT also said that a meeting of the Delhi solidarity group for the ACT and the Central Planning commission was held on the 27th of Feb2009,at Yojana Bhavan, New Delhi. The Planning commission was represented by Dr Kirit S.Parikh, Ms Shayeeda Hameed, Mr Surya P Seti and Mr SM Brohmo Choudary(director SP-NE). In the meeting it was conveyed to the Group that the Planning commission has taken serious note of the concerns of environmental degradation due to Hydel Projects in North Sikkim with the State Government during the annual plan meeting. The Secretary Planning commission had stressed for the need of a legally sound arrangement. An Interministrial Group involving planning commission, Law, Power and Environment and Forest is to be formed to look in to the issues and suggest how best the state should go about ahead in the matter.
The Planning commission is in the process of forming the interministrial group and writing to various related department particularly the Central Electricity Authority and the MOEF. The ACT and the solidarity group will call on the Planning commission very soon to pursue the above matter.
ACT earlier also took up the issue of ‘arbitrary arrests’ of its members with UNO under UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people. The body has also approached national and international level support groups to file direct complaints.
“Further, Human Right Group has been requested to help the organization to fight against the continuous subjugation of the Indigenous Tribes in Sikkim”, stated ACT in a press release.
ACT also stood by its stand that the Panan power project developers were engaging in illegal activities at Dzongu. It said that Sikkim Power Development Corporation (SPDC) had initiated the land acquisition in Dzongu on behalf of Himagiri company for the Panan power project as per a government notification dated 1-6-2007.
“However, according to another notification dated 24-6-2008, the above notification had lapsed on 1-6-2008 and as such the proper process of land acquisition has not been completed by the District Collector and so the physical occupation of landed property in Dzongu by Himagri Hydro Energy Pvt ltd is violating the law under section 447 of IPC and also violating the provisions of the notification No-3069 dated 24-3-1958 and 665/PS dated 27-9-1954”, said ACT.
“However, after the first meeting, the State government never bothered to call for talks nor reported to the organization about the decision of the Govt on the discussion held in that meeting. ACT therefore believes that the government of Sikkim is not interested in the welfare of people nor upholds the democratic values of the country. This is neglecting the voices of the indigenous aborigines of the State, ” says ACT
ACT also filed an FIR in Mangan police station in this regard to take action against the general manager of the Himagiri Hydro Energy Ltd and other companies working in Dzongu ‘for the violation of the above old laws’.
Meanwhile, Sikkim National Peoples Party headed by Biraj Adhikari and Diley Namgyal Kazi and three members of All Sikkim Educated Self Employed and Unemployed Association (ASESEUA) TB Rai, Navin Kiran and Hem Kumar Pradhan
sat on a 12 hour hunger strike here at BL House premises to highlight its demands and to express its support to ACT who has already crossed 600 days of relay hunger strike against the proposed mega power projects in Dzongu and for ‘protection of Article 371 F’ and ‘immediate release of arrested ACT activists’.
Justifying the direct action of ACT and comparing it to the justification given by Mr. B. S Das, the then Administrator of Sikkim in 1973, BS Das had shielded the pro-democracy forces from police action who did not take police action against the large scale looting of police stations in 1973 by pro-democracy forces with the following words – ‘Even the law makes a distinction between legitimate illegal action and illegitimate illegal action where political issues are involved. You should not go by the book when moral issues are involved as the book has no answer to them’. , said Mr. Adikhari.
Now after 36 years since Mr. Das had first used the ‘legitimate illegal action’ rationalization, the SNPP president said that the actions taken by ACT cannot be considered illegal as there is a precedent in Sikkim of such incidents which were justified as political issues and considered legal.
“Accordingly, the party feels that the actions of ACT was a ‘legitimate illegal action’ and demands immediate and unconditional release of the arrested youths because if the logic could be justified for the sake of association of Union of India, then the same logic should be applied to the defenders of the provisions of the same association and the high ideals and foresight of our elders, as enshrined in the Constitution of India”, said Mr. Adikhari in a press meet today.
He also added that “ The people have to realize that Dzongu is the most protected area in Sikkim and if such stringent provisions are violated with such impunity then there is no stopping these exploitative forces in future and if Dzongu looses, then Sikkim would have lost its soul.”
Also speaking to reporters, the party treasurer Diley Namgyal Kazi asserted that nothing beneficial will come for Sikkim and Sikkimese people from the slew of ‘unplanned mega power projects’ in the State. Expressing his objections to the manner in which the mega power projects are being implemented in Sikkim, Mr. Kazi said the MoUs signed between the Sikkim government and power developers ‘is not benefiting’ the Sikkimese people. “We are against the mega power projects. What are the Sikkimese people getting from these projects? I remember the announcement that Sikkim will be lighted like a Christmas tree when Legship power project was done. What happened to this?”, said Mr. Kazi. The projects, especially those planned for Dzongu, have violated Revenue Order No. 1 and Article 371 F, he added.
Speaking to media, All Sikkim Educated Self Employed and Unemployed Association (ASESEUA) said that Article 371 F must be protected at any costs. They also said that there should an immediate release of the jailed ACT activists.
“The unlimited power projects coming to Sikkim will make Sikkim people landless. Hydel power is good but the projects should be of limited number. The present unlimited project companies will not serve any good to Sikkim as there is no such capacity in the rivers of Sikkim”, said Mr. Rai.
They further said that the power projects in Dzongu, North Sikkim will encourage influx and put the Lepchas of Dzongu under threat. The government says employment will be generated with this power projects but has there been such employment in the NHPC Teesta Stage V project, said Mr. Rai. Similar future awaits the Lepchas of Dzongu, he added. They also made it clear that ASESEUA members do not belong to any political party. We are opposing the bad polices of the State government but we don’t belong to any political party, he said.
Meanwhile ACT also demanded the North district administration to take actions against the project developer Himagiri Hydro Energy Pvt. Ltd on ‘Article 371 K violation’ grounds.
In a memorandum submitted to DC (North) on February 16, ACT president Athup Lepcha has demanded the administration to impound the non-indigenous permits issued to the company agent Shekhar Gupta and others to enter Dzongu in order to maintain law and order situation in Dzongu.
Reminding the DC about the provisions of notifications no. 3069/O.S dated 24.3.1958 and 665/P.S. dated 27.9.1954 read with Articles 371 F (k) and 19 (5) of the Constitution of India, the ACT has also demanded the ‘no non-indigenous permits to enter Dzongu be issued to the agents/ workers/ labourers of the company unless and until M/s Himagiri Hydro Energy Pvt. Ltd owns or possesses private lands acquired or purchased from the indigenous people of Dzongu’.
Without owning or possessing lands in Dzongu the companies or their agents cannot carry on any business or occupation in Dzongu without non-indigenous permit obtained from the authorities, ACT said.
Mr. Gupta and all other non indigenous persons engaged by him to work in Lingzya, Dzongu must be ordered to remove themselves out of Dzongu unless and until the private land are acquired according to the Land Acquisition Act 1894 and leased out to M/s Himagiri Hydro Energy Pvt. Ltd, ACT further demanded.
ACT reminded the DC (North) that it was Mr. Gupta who in his FIR against ACT members had mentioned that the State government has allotted the Panan project to Himagiri company. But he should know the fact that State government has not allotted any land to his company so far and no private lands have been acquired by his company so far, ACT said.
“The ACT does not want the peace, social harmony and security of Dzongu to be disturbed by the illegal entry and presence of non indigenous people in the region”, Mr. Lepcha said. He further informed that ACT has appealed against environmental clearance given to Himagiri company by Ministry of Environment and Forests and the appeal is still pending with the Central Empowered Committee in New Delhi.
Regarding the FIR of Mr. Gupta over the explosives dumped into the river by ACT members, the body president said that the complainant knew very well that the ACT members have been agitating and protesting against Himagiri company.
“In such situation and circumstances he should not be handling such dangerous materials negligently or carelessly. He himself must take the responsibility”, said Mr. Lepcha. The ACT does not want any company to setup stocks or stores of explosives and detonators in Dzongu, he added.
The ACT president also demanded the DC (North) to direct Mr. Gupta to ‘produce the full account of the explosives and detonators received from his suppliers, the explosives and detonators that have been used at the worksite and the remainder in the stores and thrown into the river, otherwise the ACT has the right to suspect that Mr. Gupta and the companies mentioned in the FIR must be having links with the terrorist or the terrorist organizations in the country or abroad’.
“The environment clearance has a special and specific prohibitive condition that the labour and staff colonies should not be set up within the Dzongu region by M/s Himagiri Hydro Energy Pvt. Ltd. No private lands should be acquired for the colonies by the state government within the Dzongu region”, said ACT president.
The signatories also requested the leaders to positively respond to the peaceful struggle of the Lepcha community in Sikkim in right earnest. A copy of the letter was also sent to Governor of Sikkim, Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary.
ACT chief coordinator Tseten Lepcha also mentioned that the meeting held the office of the intercultural resources in New Delhi sometime back discussed to take up the tribe’s fight at an international forum like the United Nations Organisations.
The meeting attended by about 15 environmentalist and environment activists to express solidarity with the movement of ACT and to protest the continuous detention of its members by the Government of Sikkim also decided to send a joint petition to the UNO.
Besides, the meeting decided to drum up a follow up meeting with the Planning Commission of India as well as to meet MOEF officials on the issue of changes brought about in illegally in the scoping of Teesta IV and Panam HE projects. It was also decided to take up an immediate study on the viability of Panam HEP, Teesta III and Teesta IV projects based on the minimum flow required to generate power.
The above pictures are a series of pictures shot along National Highway 31 A beyond Rangpo linking Sikkim to the rest of the country. While the State government keeps complaining to the Central Govt about frequent strikes by political forces on the other side and obstructing normal life, a power project Teesta Vl is steadily being built exactly showing the bankruptcy of ideas, solutions and planning among policy makers on the question of infrastructural projects in Sikkim. Infrastructure here means infrastucture for the rest of the country first and then us!!
LANCO Energy Pvt Ltd (LEPL) has secured the 500 MW Teesta VI Hydropower Project for development across the Teesta River in Sikkim on a Build, Own,Operate, Transfer basis in the joint sector for a period of 35 years. The project is expected to generate 2441 million units per annum to be sold to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) through a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement. Several statutory clearances required from the State and Central Agencies have been obtained and civil construction work has begun.)