24,000 people displaced because of Tehri dam have not been provided with land rights, nor do they have basic amenities

tehriIn a statement distributed by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Matu Jansangthan, which is organizing displaced persons in Uttarakhand, has said that even after 35 years, civic amenities not been provided by the state authorities to the oustees of Tehri dam. Excerpts:  

After the 10 years of its commissioning, Tehri Dam oustees continue to question the authorities about why have they not been provided with basic amenities. This was reflected in a letter sent to the chief minister of Uttarakhand by Matu Jansangathan, making a plea that many of their demands should be urgently taken up.

Those who have been displaced because of the Tehri Dam have been sent to Pathri part 1, 2, 3, 4 in Haridwar region in the name of rehabilitation, which began in 1979. Around 40 villages have been set up in these areas. The oustees should have been provided basic amenities along with rehabilitation, but this is not a new demand. The Matu Sanghathan has been asking all previous state governments for the last 35 years for the same. None of them has paid any heed to its requests. Hence there is a general feeling of despondency.

The oustees have not yet got their land rights after they were displaced from their own land. Because of this they cannot avail any government facility like farmer’s ration card, subsidies etc. They cannot even apply for bank loans. They have no property to show. They do not even have documents to show at to where they live.

In past 35 years, around 24,000 displaced have been living without any health facility. Even basic health centres and child care centres have not been provided. After a lot of efforts, it was possible to have schools till 10th standard, but thereafter the children have to fend for themselves.

Only part 1 had a bank cooperative society till 2013. In September 2013, another bank, Indian Overseas Bank, was opened, again in part 1. There is no transport facility provided by the government up to the spots where the oustees live. Even today, the oustees have not been provided with post office, and hence they cannot avail any of its services, although the building is there for it to function. There is no protection wall to protect agricultural farms, as a result of which wild animals continuously harm crops and farms.

According to the policy of the Ministry of Power, Government of India, the oustees should have been provided free electricity, but even after the necessary payments for getting power, they do not have adequate supply of electricity. When Sushil Kumar Shinde was the Power Minister, he announced 100 units of free electricity to the people displaced because of Tehri HEP. Yet, thereafter there is no progress.

As for drinking water and irrigation, people have done what they could with their own means. Even though Ganga is flowing just nearby, the irrigation facility for the farms has not been provided. Notably, the Tehri dam was constructed after drowning the oustees’ villages. Things are not any better for other basic facilities, including roads, community places of worship and so on. Indeed, it is an extremely sad situation.

It is well known that electricity is regularly produced at Tehri HEP and the state government is earning regular revenues out of it. The total revenue must be more than Rs 1000 crore till date. The government should utilize the money it is getting from electricity generation at the Tehri HEP, and it should be used for the displaced people of the project.

The energy ministry’s guideline in “Guidelines for development of Hydro Electric Projects Sites” dated May 23, 2006 speaks of this in clearcut terms. It says that 12 per cent of free power should be used for developmental facilities for the displaced population. The there is an official memorandum on this dated May 17, 1989, which says that “since the Home States are increasingly finding it difficult to locate alternative land and resources for rehabilitation of the oustees in hydro-electric projects”, they need to be “suitably assisted by giving incentives, such as the (proposed) 12 per cent free power, to enable them to take care of the problems of rehabilitation in the areas affected by the hydro-electric projects.”

It adds, “Without such assistance and incentives, considerable hydel potential of the country would remain unutilized. Accordingly, the state government shall be entitled to realize 12% free power from the project for local area development and mitigation of Guidelines for development of Hydro Electric Projects Sites hardships to the project affected people in line with the Govt. of India policy”.

Also, according to the Hydro power Policy, 2008, under the chapter “Salient Features of New Hydro power Policy”, it is stated that “an additional 1 per cent free power from the project would be provided and earmarked for a Local Area Development Fund, aimed at providing a regular stream of revenue for income generation and welfare schemes, creation of additional infrastructure and common facilities etc.”

It adds, “This money should be utilized to provide amenities that have remained pending for the displaced people in Pathri Bhaag 1,2,3,4, Haridwar.”

Based on these facts, the Matu Janasangathan demands:

  • The displaced should get the land rights immediately. The rights should be as mentioned in “Sankramani Z a category K” (“संक्रमणी जैड ए श्रेणी क”). If there is an issue of forest land, the state government needs to deal it with centre and the forest department itself but the land rights to the people need to be immediately given.
  • All the displaced rural locations should be declared “revenue” villages immediately.
  • According to the guidelines of the Energy Ministry, free electricity should be provided to these villages and central government should be approached if needed for its quick application.
  • Education, health, transport, irrigation and drinking facilities should be immediately provided to these villages. For its expenses, 12 per cent free electricity from Tehri HEP in which Koteshwar Dam also comes should be utilized.
  • For all these works, associations of the displaced should only be assigned the responsibility for quality management and better surveillance.
  • Because of displacement and 35 years of unavailability of basic amenities, we’ve remained backward socially, politically, economically and educationally. Therefore, Pathri Part 1, 2, 3, 4 should be declared backward regions constitutionally.

The state and central government should together work to accomplish these work. Before making dams, there is a need to regulate the displacement, rehabilitation and environmental concerns of the old projects. This is the demand of justice.

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