Public Hearings on Tehri Dam Rehabilitation issue
18-19 and 25-26 Feb. 2004
The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) has appointed a Citizen’s Commission to examine the veracity of the government’s claims, primarily by holding a series of public hearings (jan sunwais) in the Tehri region. These pubic hearings were organised in the submergence zone and at various resettlement sites.
Members of the citizen’s commission are Shri Prabhash Joshi (eminent journalist and former editor of JanSatta), Dr. NC Saxena (retired from the IAS. Formerly secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Rural Development and Planning Commission), Shri Harsh Mander (Formerly of the IAS and Executive Director, Action Aid India), and Shri Sandeep Pandey (Winner of the Magsaysay Award).
The commission conducted on the spot investigations in affected areas and resettlement sites. On February 18en Shri Sandeep Pandey visited the nearly 20 years old resettlement site at ‘Pathriwala’ and recently set up site ‘Pashulok’. He also toured the Old Tehri Town on the same day. During the public hearing at village Badkot and Ghonti people from surrounding villages narrated their problems.
In the second phase of public hearings Shri Harsh Mander went round the Bhagirathi Valley on February 25th. Public hearings were held at Mali Dewal, Chham and Uppu villages. During his trip Shri Harsh Mander assessed the situation in Bhaldiyana. In New Tehri, the Commission on February 26th conducted a public hearing. Over 400 oustees participated in the public hearing in Bouradi Community Centre, which lasted for about 4 hours.
The Commission received and heard more then 250 petitions. The event was covered well by the local media.
Major Highlights of Public Hearings
February 18th: Trip to resettlement sites and old Tehri Town
– 18th February Morning: Resettlement Sites –
The Commission learnt that people had not even been allotted land rights in Pathriwala resettlement site during last 20 years. Schools, health and irrigation had not been adequately provided. In Pathri their was no recognised school up to 8th standard although a school imparting education from 6th to 10th standard had been set up. The solitary Ayurvedic Dispensary by way of health facility was also temporary. In Pashulok resettlement site, land for road and drains was being taken from the plots of landed allotted for resettlement and agriculture. Oustees themselves have to bear the cost of amenities like water, electricity and irrigation. People were remarked that what was being given with one hand was being taken away by the other. People complained that they were left with no money to build houses.
– 18th February Evening: Visit to Old Tehri Town –
Shri Girish Ghildiyal and other members informed that around 30 landowners in the Old Tehri Town have not as yet accepted the financial assistance for house construction and they did not dismantle their so far. Some 74 people whose cases, still pending, are all staying in the Old Tehri Town.
February 19th : Tour to Bhilangana Valley
Shri Sandeep Pandey toured the valley and held public hearings in the Ghonti and Badkot Villages. He also spoke to the women sitting on Dharna (sit-in) in Gadolia village. The complained that their houses have been damaged and wanted compensation for their dried water tank and other sources of drinking water. They were also annoyed about lack of transparency in the entire process. Fodder, they told, is no longer fit for consumption by cattle because of excessive dust. Compensation has not been given for the land acquired by the PWD. “Affected Women’s Struggle Committee” Gadolia’s Chairperson Smt. Rama Devi informed that the District Collector had not kept his word given to the women on January 7th which is why they were now on Dharna.
People from different villages present at the Ghonti public hearings gave testimonies on situations in their respective villages. Residents of Ghonti told that in Pathriwala people had thus far been given only land. Irrigation canal, school, hospital, electricity and water were still not available. Around 30 percent of land and houses in the village have allowed remaining whereas all other are being moved out.
According to the people everyone in the village should be included in the definition of oustee. Ghonti Bazaar should be resettled in the same manner as Tehri bazaar. The bridge in that village should be changed into light vehicle bridge so that it remains connected to Ghansali and Pratap nagar. The bazaar along with all government and semi government offices should be relocated at a higher enervation chairman, Ghonti trader’s association alleged that so far no attention has been given to this bazaar even though it is the only main bazaar 29 kms far from Tehri. The residents of villages Pipola complained that despite being located at a height of 650 meters the village has been excluded from the list of affected villages. This village in located between Ghonti and Chakur Sera and all the land except houses will be submerged. The house would, however, be destroyed because of erosion consequent upon submergence of agricultural lands. The people therefore wanted Pipola to be resurveyed and declared fully submerged village.
Sahib Singh Kumai, senior deputy chief, zonal Panchayat, Jakhnidhar, alleged that affected people from villages Sarphool, Ghonti, Pipola, Gojiana, Padagali, Nanua and Ghonti bazaar are not being paid enough attention by Tehri dam administration various other people voiced their grievances. Nathiram Kanswal was afraid that history of Bhakra dam oustees would be repeated in Tehri. Kripal Singh Chohan from Dumandhar Panchayat lamented that they had become strangers on their own land. Ram Swaroop Nantiyal from Pilkhi also expressed his views.
While concluding Shri Sandeep Pandey said that government always seems in a hurry to uproot people. We assured that all the issues and concerns placed before the commission would be included in the reports which may it is unfortunate that government is forcing people to flee without rehabilitation is from all one the country would stand in support and solidarity. Seeped in corruption these projects are not resulting development rather destroying the country’s natural resources.
Vimal bhai cited the example of Chham village where people are not being given the eligibility list just because they had raised the issue of proper resettlement. He farther affirmed the commitment of the organisation to the resettlement of oustees.
February 25th: Trip to Bhagirathi valley
The second phase of people’s commission included a trip to the Bhagirathi valley undertaken by Shri Harsh Mander. Public hearings were organised in Mali Dewal, Chham and Uppu villages. Survey of Mali Dewal was also conducted. In these villages water and fuel wood are easily available whereas in resettlement sites these are woefully scarce. Community life is in under severe pressure in these resettlement sites. Cut off date for Tehri town in 1985 whereas for the villages it is 1976. The land also been gravely under valued. Contrary to government’s claims, legibility list for several villages has still not been made, land has also not been allotted and the survey results have been faulty in several cases: yet people have already been uprooted and forced to abandon their house.
In some cases only part of the village has been acquired and after submergence such villages would be threatened with sinking. People also face the grin prospect of endangered livelihood once they lose irrigated land.
February 26 – Public Hearing in Bouradi community centre, New Tehri led by Shri Harshï¿½ Mander and Sandeep Pandey
Mahipal Singh Negi: mentioned that a detailed geological survey of cut off area and the rim area of the dam has still not been conducted. Geological Survey of India has not been provided with magnified scale map of the rim area as stated in their second report of the rim area. The coordination committee should meet regularly and a white paper on rehabilitation should be issued.
Yaqoob Siddiqui: reports and recommendations of numerous studies and committees have never been implemented properly. Each time the policy is modified. Intense is of those engaged in Theli Phad (venders) trade have been consistently overlooked, most of whom hail from poor class.
Ramola and many others complained about the different rate for shop being charged form oustees in Bouradi (in New Tehri).
Laxman Giri: alleged that his shop in Tehri was demolished in his absence and the compensation was handed over to some one else.
Rajendra Aswal, former president of Tehri Bar Association stated that rehabilitation work was far from complete and even what has been undertaken leaves much to be decided. T-3 and T-4 were closed even before rehabilitation had been completed.
Jagdamba Raturi was aggrieved about the arbitrary behavior of rehabilitation officials. Crores have been being spent in the name of rehabilitation but it has gave down the draw because of corrupt officials. They tried to corrupt the mind of oustees.
Ragunath Singh Rana president of Bouradi Traders Association raised the miserable status of civic amenities in New Tehri Town.
Premdutt Juyal of Raika Dhar Division spoke about the problems of cut off area. He particularly lamented the non-implementation of the recommendations of the reports of Geological Department. Thousands of people’s futures in dark if Govt. will not look into the issue and take necessary steps.
Shri Harsh Mander said that while displacement was in itself a painful event, cruel attitude of officials make it even more tragic. The problems cannot be resolved without the sensitivity of the officials. Grievance cells should be prompt and effective. Transparency should be an essential characteristic. There should be a resettlement plan for rural markets. Most of oustees from weaker section are often neglected as their access is limited and the better off section must show concern. People’s organisations have to bear enhanced responsibility. There is little justification for 1976 as the cut off date for rural areas. In fact date of acquisition should be the cut off date.
Citizen Commission is engaged in looking closely of the problems of oustees in an attempt to place before the governments and people the real picture. All the problems presented by the people would be compiled in the form of a report. Oustees should not be reduced to objects of pity and forced to sacrifice. Clarifying the scope of the Citizen Commission, Shri Harsh Mander, said that it is not necessary that the Govt. would accept the recommendation. However, availability of facts would help put pressure on Govt. and submit and affidavit in Court. Govt. should organise rehabilitation camps. All the expenditure incurred should be made public. People must assert their right to information.
Shri Sandeep Pandey said that he did not meet a single person at any of the sites who seemed satisfied with rehabilitation. In a democracy the state cannot force such projects on people. In Tehri this fictively seems to be the case. Constant agitation would help build pressure and the peoples have from time to time lunched agitation. Govt. seems to be great hassle to build dams but similar alacrity is missing when it comes to rehabilitating the affected person. The weaker sections are particularly bearing the brunt of callous official policies. There is rampant loot of public money and some are sadly engaged in playing politics, especially in mega projects. This has to be slopped: This is dangerous for democracy.
Submitted by K.N.Vajpai (Prakriti group) Dehradun
‘Prakriti’ is a group of professionals and researchers in environmental concern. This group started its mission of environmental sensitization and environmental conservation in year 1997 in Himalayan mountain state, India.