Kinnaur Manch Petitions Himachal Governor To Overturn Cabinet Decision Usurping Tribal Lands

[lang_en]Shimla: Himalayan Lok Jagriti Manch (HLJM) of Kinnaur today petitioned Governor Prabha Rau seeking her intervention in overturning a cabinet decision that had permitted take over of forest lands and have been handed over to a private company executing a hydropower project in Kinnaur.

Terming the cabinet decision as ‘illegal’ RS Negi, a retired bureaucrat and convener HLJM said, “the government was failing the tribal people by usurping laws protecting their lands and passing them onto private companies executing hydropower project.”

Speaking to the media after submitting the petition to the governor, RS Negi said, ‘the state government in blatant violation of protection granted by constitutional scheduled areas Act had by a cabinet decision handed over 1650 bighas of forest lands to Jai Prakash Group of Companies that it executing the 1000 MW Karcham-Wangtoo project on Satluj river in Kinnaur.”

The constitution has made a provision under V Schedule in which the Governor can directly intervene and by notification overturn Acts of Parliament or the state legislature, he said.

Negi quoted the V schedule provision, “Acts of Parliament or of the appropriate legislature apply to the scheduled areas of their force, but the Governor has the power to exclude their operation by a notification.”

While urging the governor to exercise the constitutional powers for protection of Kinnaur tribal lands, Negi said that tribal customary laws and legal rights were facing grave threats from executers of hydropower projects and the state government without taking the local community into confidence was in an unholy alliance with the project promoters.

Multiple power projects planned in the 150 kilometer stretch of Satluj in Kinnaur after it enters India at Shipki La was a threat to fragile environment and people feared being denied their livelihood means, he said.

“We have even petitioned the High Court about our plight but have not got any relief so far,” said Negi.

Anand Sharma, of Human Rights Law Network who was also present said that Panchayait Raj law applicable to Scheduled Tribal areas made it mandatory to obtain permission from their respective gram sabhas where any infringement over their lands, or rights was needed for executing a project. “In the case of Kinnaur tribals, this protection provided was being openly violated,” said Sharma.[/lang_en]

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  1. says: Avnish Katoch

    Problem is all these issues just die after few noises. They are suppressed by politicians by either buying people or by intimidation.

    How do we unite all and work together. I don’t think even HP government can do much on this as pressure is always from central government to dam more and more rivers in HP so as to repay the debt and to explore more money generation avenues.

    Its irony that HP is paying the price in terms of deteriorating environment and would pay heavily in coming years because of hydro power lobby and due to the power needs of India.

    Whereas how much our state is compensated for such a turmoil, that needs to be assessed and also cost analysis needs to be done. As for compensation there is huge balance from our neighboring states which I doubt they would ever pay. Or the promises they made for various dam outsees, in fact pong dam outsees are still struggling and were given barren land by Rajasthan government.
    So why is that Himachal pay the price? But unfortunately for the government so as to satisfy their electorate and get more money from central government for development and to repay the debt there are very few doors to knock at.

    The another innovative idea for the present government is to try to contact the investors across the world in tourism and environment friendly sectors on their own. But its always tough, hard and requires a lot of work and follow up which HP government machinery is not capable of. Irony is that they don’t even want outside help.

    Home stay is launched without any ground infrastructure and government officers are making press statements like they have all the facilities on ground. Or they have done the survey which tourist is coming and what he or she needs.

  2. says: NITYIN

    Would like to comment on the above about contacting investors across the world in tourism sector. The BJP while opposing the ski village project when in opposition has created a negative image for itself and no big investor would venture into Himachal till the time the actual outcome of this project becomes known. Had this project gone through, for sure allied tourism services in Kullu valley would also have got a boost. For one, we would have Boeings landing in Kullu and if not for the govt, the Ford would have brought in investment for this venture,

    A great opportunity lost to some petty and useless politics.

  3. says: S Negi

    I have high respect for private enterprises because government alone can not fix all problems and address all aspects of development. The private sector has a major role in the progress and development of our dear nation India. But I am afraid that today Kinnaur, and for that matter, Himachal is being sold, raped and prostituted by short sighted decisions like this. What amazes me is the fact that Indian constitution is being violated, laws are not followed, judiciary is not helpful, local laws and customary laws are not respected, Panchayati Raj laws are being violated, these so called development activities are causing havoc to the fragile environment, local economy and social life of the beutiful people of this district and no one is doing anything! I do not have words to describe it. It is shameful!. If this is development, probably no one, at least, I do not want it.

    Having said that it is important to know that beurocrats and politicians are servants to the society and they are normal people like you and me and do make mistakes like us. The private sector does not know the issues most of the time. And we as citizens of India need to wake them up and make them realize the mistake being committed by them by non-violent protets, non-cooperation and petitions. If we do not do that, it will be assumed that everything is all right. I am extremely proud of the “Himalayan Lok Jagriti Manch of Kinnaur” NGO for taking up the issue, petitioning the High Court and the Governor. I encourage every Himachali to be cautious of what is development and what is not. My support is with you all.

    The late Shri Thakur Sen Negi,bureaucrat(IAS)-turned-politician, who served the state as the development commissioner, chief secretary and adviser to the government, took great and bold steps in protecting the needs, livelihood and rights of the people of Himachal Pradesh particularly KInnaur and his conciousness, today, might be sad to see Kinnaur being recklessly used for the benefit of private enterprises by such short-sighted, selfish and greedy decisions.

    But it is not too late to revisit these decisions and correct the mistakes as time will eventually run out.

    I, and I am sure, every Himachali will welcome any private sector company to Himachal but as long as it is a fair game,laws are followed and local issues and environmental issues are addressed in toto before starting any project. And I have faith in the people of Himachal Pradesh and India whether they are in Government or private citizens to get the things right.

    Finally, I hope that these issues, specially related to Hangrang Valley in Kinnaur, do not show up at the door of other international bodies including World Bank, ADB, INternational Environmental Entities, International Human Rights Organizations, International Minorities Organiztions and the World Court because they eventually will tarnish our image as a nation and we can not afford this now.

    Best of Luck,
    Sujan Negi

  4. says: Savitri

    Since past few years when ever I have been visiting my native place in kinnaur every time i found Satluj to be diverted from its course . Infact now even i dont even remeber the original course . The pictures that i see on my way are really disturbing and that makes me write this today.
    No doubt everypart of country should participae fully in the development of nation but I think that all this should be done in a controlled manner so as to preserve the flora fauna as well as the interests of the residents of the area.
    In the case of kinnaur i strongly feel everything else is being neglected in the name of development and power sufficiency.
    The changing climate of kinnaur is an example good enough to demonstrate the reckless attitude that has been shown towards the environment in kinnaur.
    I really dont know what kind of measures are taken in order to check the damage that these dams ,ubnderground tunnels cause on the environment. Its high time now that the people take into consideration the long time impacts on environment instead of the short sightedness in the name of development

    savitri negi

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