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Archive for April, 2009

Dear Friends,

Smitu Kothari touched the lives of many people across the globe. His was one of the most articulate, progressive and consistent voices in the struggle for a just and equitable world. His warmth, wisdom and compassion moved and inspired all who knew him.

His sudden and untimely departure from our midst on 23rd March 2009 has left an enormous void. But his vision, perspectives and people-centered politics will live on and continue to inspire the work of individuals,
groups and social movements around the world.

While we deeply mourn the loss of our dear friend and comrade, we also celebrate the remarkable person that Smitu was.

Please join us for an evening of conversations, music and poetry to celebrate Smitu’s life

on Saturday 2nd May 2009, 3 – 7 PM, at World Wildlife Fund Auditorium, Maxmueller Marg (Lodi Estate), New Delhi

Smitu’s family and friends

Note:
Please send your confirmation at:
neeemresistance@gmail.com
or contact:
P T George 91-9868102565 / Vasundhara Jairath 91-9953034105/

Also please visit: http://www.celebrating-smitu.org

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Chunav Par Nazar

Chunav par Nazar’


reaches the capital today

For Immediate Release

Every citizen and people’s organization has

a vital role to play

People’s movements and political parties on

one ‘Lok Manch’


Your opinion first – Our Vote next

Travelling through Mumbai, Ghaziabad, Himachal Pradesh, Ranchi, Chindwada and raising people’s issues at all these places, the Chunav par Nazar Yatra team has reached Delhi today, to highlight the concerns of the lakhs of urban poor, unorganized working classes and basti dwellers as also the farmers and landless living on the periphery of Delhi, who are battling with their life in their struggle to save their lands and livelihoods from an infrastructure-hungry state and real estate hungry ‘corporate’.

Thousands of farmers, landless dalits, urban basti dwellers, domestic workers, unorganized workers and other contract laboures, hawkers, residents of unauthorized colonies, pavement dwellers, pedestrians, rickshaw pullers and cyclists on unsafe roads will assemble at the Lok Manch today afternoon, which shall take place at the Dharna Sthal of the Khanzawala Bhoomi Bachao Andolan, a 1700 old village, where farmers have been resisting all attempts by land sharks to grab their fertile agricultural lands.

Together, they shall join the the struggling villagers of Khanzawala, as also those of the 900 year old Tekri Kala, Karala and Tekri Khurd villages and question the political parties and candidates on what Lok Sabha Elections 2009 means for their lives and livelihoods and challenge their hollow unkept promises made in 2004 and the arbitrary land acquisition of DDA and DSIDC.

The Campaign in Delhi is a joint initiative of many people’s groups including the National Alliance of People’s Movements, Jan Sangharsh Vahini, National Kissan Mazdoor Federation, Delhi Solidarity Group, Bandhua Mukti Morcha, National Workers Federation, National Domestic Workers Federation, Urban Women Worker’s Organization, Jan Sanghash Sanyukt Morcha and other groups.

Many prominent activists, intellectuals and academics are to join the Lok Manch, including Shri Sharad Chadra Behar, Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh, Dr. Meher Engineer, President, Indian Social Science Academy, Prof. Amit Bhaduri, Economist, JNU and supporter of people’s movements, Arvind Kejriwal, Right to Information Activist and Magsaysay Award recipient, Medha Patkar, National Convenor, NAPM, Prof. Ajit Jha, Professor, Delhi University, Prof Arun Kumar, Political Economist, Shri Suhas Borker, Veteran Media person and Working Group on Alternative Strategies, Rajendra Ravi, NAPM (Delhi) etc. In different cities the campaign was also joined by Shri K. Jagannatha Rao, Former Advisor, Election Commission of India, Shri Trilochan Sastry, Association for Democratic Reforms and Dean, IIM, Bangalore, Justice (Retd.) Suresh, Mumbai High Court, Prof. Ram Dayal Munda, Former Vice Chancellor, Ranchi University, Dayamani Barla (INSAF), Dr. Sunilam, Kissan Sangharsh Samiti, Sanjay Basu Mallick, Jangal Bachao Abhiyan, Ms. Abha Singh, IAS and many others

Smt. Krishna Teerath from the Congress Party, Smt. Meera Kavariya from the BJP and Shri Rakesh Hans from the BSP have agreed to join the Manch and present their party’s position on people’s issues today.

In addition to electoral reforms proposed by us (see below) decentralization is very much necessary for a real democracy. Decisions of Basti Sabhas consisting of 3000 families in each city and those of the Gram Sabhas must be the basis of any democratic decision – making process. We, the people’s organizations, who have profound faith in the Lok Satta (people’s power) above the Lok Sabha have proposed a Jan Bhagidari Bill on which we invite political parties to give their comments and responses (draft available for comment).

As people’s movements, using the twin methods of Sanghash (struggle) and Nirman (reconstruction), we are working on the issues of development in the context of destructive displacement towards for equity and justice self-reliance and sustainability and this pre-election monitoring campaign is a part of this process. The Campaign is in Delhi today to shake the conscience of the power holders and power aspirants about their real commitment to people’s everyday issues and the tall claims in their manifestos. The thousands of development-affected people are determined in their voice; Sawaal lekar aaye hai’ – Jawaab lekar jaayenge’.

The campaign will travel to Indore from here on the 17th and to Nandurbar (Maharashtra) on the 19th where thousands of adivasis in the Narmada valley shall question parties on various issues including displacement, right to work, health and food etc.

Nirmala Behen  (Farmer’s leader),

Jibin (Delhi Solidarity Group),

Aneeta Kapoor (Urban Women Worker’s Organization),

Bhupendra Rawat (Jan Sangharsh Vahini-NAPM),

Nanhu Prasad Gupta (Jan Sangharsh Sanyukt Morcha)

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Dear Friends,

Jan Sangarsh Vahini has been fighting against land acquisition since September 2008 in Kanjhawla, Karala, Tikri khurd, Tikri Kalan, Pooth Khurd and other villages of North-West District of Delhi. In view of Lok sabha elections in Delhi, a programme, Chunav Pe Nazar, is planned on 15th April 2009 at the dharna site of Bhoomi Bachao Andolan in Kanjhawala village. In this programme, a large number of people will be participating, such as farmers perturbed with the land acquisition, landless people of unauthorized colonies and slums, workers disturbed with the contract system in factories, workers engaged in unorganized sector, pedestrians and cyclists using the unsafe roads of the capital, persons getting their livelihood from pavements and weekly bazaars in the town.

On this occasion eminent activist Medha Patkar, Shri S C Behar (Former Chief Secretary, MP), Magsasay Awardee Arvind Kejriwal, Social Scientist Mehar Engineer (President Indian Social Science), Economist Prof. Arun Kumar, Prof Amit Bhaduri, Prof Ajit Jha, Delhi University, Shri Rajendra Ravi, (National Convenor, NAPM) and many other activists with their social concern will be participating.

The candidates of different political parties will also be present in the progrmme. They are: Smt. Krishna Teerath (Congress), Smt. Meera Kanwaria (BJP) and Shri Rakesh Hans (BSP).

Programme: Chunav Pe Nazar

Venue: dharna site of Bhoomi Bachao Andolan, Near Kanjhawala Village Chowk.

Date & Time: April 15, 2009 Time: 11 am

Thanks,

Indra Chand Rajwar

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Bilaspur, 11 April 2009 : After two days of intense discussions and deliberations on issues thrown up by the people’s movements resisting and struggling with impacts of the projects promoted under the current economic policies of the government – the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan evolved a detailed charter of demands for political parties and the government. The charter had specific demands for each of the project affected groups as well as a list of common demands to protect the interests of displaced, affected communities and the Himalayan Environment.

Some of the demands included a complete scrapping of forced land acquisition for projects; a moratorium on cement and limestone mining industry; scrapping of real estate projects like SEZs and Ski Village and immediate actions towards just rehabilitation of displaced groups; and strengthening of protective legislations like the Land reforms Act  and the provision under section 118. The Himalaya Niti Abhiyan convenor Guman Singh stated that we are not just resisting and saying “no” to the present policies but also proposing an alternative vision for development in Himachal – A vision that is based on strengthening natural resource based livelihoods and those that promote small, labour intensive and ecologically sustainable options.

The charter of demands was presented to the political party representatives from the BSP, CPM, CPI and Congress. Members of the ruling party, BJP were conspicuous by their absence. While the political party members were asked to make specific statements and comments on the people’s charter – none of the members – except for Comrade Deshraj, State Secretary CPI, touched upon the issue of the need for people centred development. “The CPI manifesto of 2007 clearly makes a statement on displacement, large dams and cement plants”. He also said that he extended his full support to the demands of the people’s movements. District Secretary of CPM, Lakhan Pal claimed that the CPM had been part of many important struggles. However, he did not make any specific commitments to any of the demands.

KK Kaushal, State Secretary of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party, while spoke of his proactive role in some of the movements in the state did not take a clear party line on any of the development issues. Rajesh Dharmani, MLA, Ghumarvin of the Congress party brushed aside many of the issues of people’s struggles by referring to them as “only looking at the problem rather than a solution”. It was not surprising that he clearly skirted and overlooked the alternative development policies being sought by the people and also glorified the displacement of Bhakhra as a “sacrifice” for providing water to states like Rajasthan. The only commitment made by him was towards a “business-oriented” model of development that his party has so callously been following especially since the new economic policies were introduced by them after 1990.

“We are thoroughly disappointed with the response to the demands” said Bhagat Singh, member of the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan

The Himalaya Niti abhiyan with leaders of all the movements will have a state level meeting soon to discuss a plan of action towards charter of resolutions.

Photographs from the rally and meeting

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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.

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Project affected communities from across Himachal Pradesh come together under one banner

Medha Patkar and Sunderlal Bahugana throw their weight behind Himalaya Niti Abhiyan

Bilaspur, 9 April 2009 : More than 3000 people affected by dams, mines, urbanization and destructive development projects in the state of Himachal Pradesh came under one banner of the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and held a historical rally in the streets of Bilaspur shouting slogans of “Aaj Himalaya Jagega – Loootne wala bhagega” and “Vikas chahiye vinash nahin”. The rally which happened despite the rains playing havoc all morning and a hot afternoon sun later, culminated with a public address by social and environmental activists, Medha Patkar and Sunderlal Bahguguna as well as the leaders of the various movements.

“There is a historical significance of holding the Himalaya Bachao Rally in Bilaspur – the region which was witness to the largest and oldest displacement in the country and the State – that of the Bhakhra Dam. The displaced persons of this project are yet to be rehabilitated in a just manner and are still without titles on land” said Bhagat Singh one of the convening members if the Himalaya Bachao Rally. Nand Lal Sharma, the leader of the Bhakhra Oustees Sangarsh Samiti started his address with a quote that the Bhakhra Dam once refereed to as a “Mother state” has been reduced to a “beggar state” as a result of the Dam.

“It is shocking that the courts and government justify the displacement by other big dams citing Bhakhra as an example and quoting that it has benefited the local communities and made their lives better – where as the reality on the ground is opposite and the rest of the country does not know this” added Medha Patkar. She slammed the current development paradigm for the nexus between the state and companies that are transferring people’s resources for private interests. She emphasized that the “constitution of India recognizes that planning has to come from the villages” and this should be implemented so that people can plan their development according to their needs and their environment.

Sundar Lal Bahuguna focused on the need for Himalaya specific development model which is based on forestry, forest based agriculture and preservation of water sources – the only way that the water crisis for the entire country can be addressed. He condemned the growth of mining projects in mountain states fir the havoc that they play with the mountain ecology and people’s lives.

Chitranjan Sen, National organizing Committee member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties lent his weight to the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and promised to provide all national support ot be able to make the campaign successful.

Guman Singh, convener of the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan said that it was high time that the movements and agitations fighting in various corners of the state came together with their common demands on the issue of displacement, land grab and environment destruction.

Leaders of movements against the following projects were present at the rally and public meeting:

Bhakhra Dam Oustees, District Bilaspur, H.P. and from Hissar, Haryana

Proposed Harish Cement Plant, Sundernagar, District Mandi

Jaypee Cement Plant at Baga, District Bilaspur and Solan

Industrial Hub at Nalagarh, District Solan

Proposed Himalayan Ski Village, District Kullu

Hydroelectric projects in Kinnaur District

Proposed SEZ in Gagret in Una District

Beas Satluj Link Project, Pandoh and Sundernagar, District Mandi

Tower Lines and Power Grid project at Banala

Renuka Dam project, Sirmour

A people’s manifesto was announced at the end of the public meeting with a list of demands which will be discussed with representatives of the political parties on 11th April, 2009 as a part of a 2 day conference being held in Bilaspur.

Some of the demands in the people’s manifest include proper rehabilitation of Pong, Pandoh and Bhakra dam oustees; scrapping of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894; withdrawal of the section 17(4) Urgency Clause Notice issued for the Renuka Dam project; implementation of the Forest Rights Avt 2006; evaluation of the cumulative environmental and social impacts of hydro-power projects in Himachal and a moratorium on all such projects till such an assessment is done; scrapping of the SEZs in the state; a complete halt on mining and mine based industries in Himachal; strict implementation of Section 118 of the Himachal Land Reforms Act and; strengthening mountain specific development policies for the state.

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