Criticise the current resource intensive, anti-people model of development centred around Hydropower, Cement industry and real estate
Resolve to resist projects and Policies that grab land and privatize community resources
Bilaspur, 10 April 2009 : A day after the Himalaya Bachao Rally, representatives of movements of project affected communities from across the state, deliberated on the current model of neo-liberal development and its impacts on the people of the state. This development policy which is now being centred around developing hydropower, cement industry and real estate projects is at an enormous cost to local natural resource based communities, their economy and ecology. Even thriving agricultural economies like that of Gagret in Una district are viewed as dispensable for projects like SEZs which will generate little local employment and displace more than 14 villages. “It is shameful that the government –
bureaucracy, politicians and companies are all serving each other’s interest and displacing people of their lands” said Narinder Parmar of the Matru Bhoomi Sangarsh Samiti, Gagret. He said that the people of Gagret had resolved that they will not part with an inch of their lands for such vulgar projects that are meant for serving real estate interests of the neo rich in India.
“The scale and attitude with which hydropower projects are being implemented have left little scope and time for reviewing their impacts on local people, local economy and ecology and possible alternatives” said R. S Negi, from Him Lok Jagriti Manch. The entire Sutlej Basin in Kinnaur is full of tunnels running within the mountains and the impact will be irreversible, he added. Those displaced by Bhakhra, Kol, Pandoh and Pong dams shared the callousness and apathy of the government and administration in carrying out the rehabilitation and compensation plans for these projects. “The State level Rehabilitation Committee on the Kol Dam has not had any meetings in the past four years despite our repeated demand pointing out the need to do justice to the displaced people” said Prakash Kumar of the Kol Bandh Visthapit Sangarsh Samiti.
The representatives of the various displaced communities repeatedly warned the affected persons from the proposed Renuka Dam project that they must not part with their lands as there is no previous experience or example of just rehabilitation. The imposition of the urgency clause section 17/4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 by the Himachal Government for the purpose of acquiring land for the dam itself is an indication that the government cares two hoots about the consent and concerns of the people. In the context of the Renuka Dam, Sreedhar, from Mountain Environics Trust, added “Half of Delhi’s water problems are because of seepage from the pipes and loss of 50% of the water due to poor water management. There are other solutions to dealing with Delhi’s water requirements which should be explored instead of forcefully displacing 37 villages in Sirmaur”.
The discussion and presentations by various project affected repeatedly highlighted that there was a deliberate effort from the side of the government to conceal information about the projects. “While one hand the government plans a public hearing for a project, on the other it refuses to part with the Project related information. On what basis are people expected to make a decision about the project when the facts and intentions of the project are not being shared” said Pushpal Thakur of the Jan Hit Sangarsh Samiti in the context of the controversial Ski Village Project proposed for Manali.
The other development that has angered the people of Nalagarh has been the Masterplan proposed for the Baddi- Barotiwala-Nalagarh-Development Area. “Whether you call it SEZ or Ski Village or Masterplan under Town Country Planning – there is one single objective of grabbing land and transferring it for real estate purposes to private companies. It is shocking that while the Masterplan talks about areas for shopping malls and industries but has no mention of the farmers who inhabit the land”, said Dukhiya Singh of Him Parivesh.
That the existing laws that protect the interest of the Himachalis are being completely violated in the process of this transfer of resources was discussed extensively. “How can the government use the colonial Land Acquisition Act for transferring lands to the corporates and also grant them blatant exemptions under section 118 of the Himachal Land Reforms Act – a legislation that has played an important role in protecting the land rights of the local people” added Kulbhushan Upmanyu.
There was also a discussion on the ill-effects of the web of transmission lines coming up in the state due to the various power projects. Impacts of the mining and cement industry were discussed as people from Sundernagar, Al Sindi (Karsog), Bilaspur and Solan strongly criticized the establishment of this destructive industry in a mountain state like Himachal. Discussions also touched on strengthening the existing rural and smaller subsistence economies instead of falling for the trap of larger projects which generate few jobs, provide no alternatives for the displaced communities and concentrate wealth in the hands of a handful of people.