Sunday, June 17, 2007


GANGTOK, June 15: The local people of Sirwani block, Singtam, East Sikkim, have objected to a notice issued by the Land revenue and Disaster Management Department for land acquisition for a new hydro-electric power project in the area.

In a letter addressed to the Secretary, Land Revenue Department, the District Collector East, and the Vice-President of M/s Lanco Energy Pvt. Ltd, the residents of Sirwani block has declined to part with their land to be acquired for the Teesta Stage-VI, Hydro Project on river Teesta to be executed by Lanco Energy Pvt. Ltd, unless the land is assessed for its proper value as per current market rates.

In a reply to the notice No. 16/831/LR&DMD (S) dated 23/5/07, the land owners have voiced their objections and reservations over the land acquisition for the Project. The seven land owners are PR Subba, Man Bahadur Poudyal, Jit Bahadur Tamang, Smt. Tulsi Maya Chettri, Gopal Sharma, IB Thapa and Dorjee Wongyal, who own 1.4320 hectares needed for the Project. The land in question falls in the Sirwani and Khamdong blocks.

“In 1999-2000, State Government had acquired the land in Balutar near Singtam, East Sikkim to initiate the ‘Stage-V Project’ on river Teesta which is about to completed. During the construction period of this project, the people of the area, including us, has had bitter experience, especially during the excavation for the tunnels. The area around Balutar bore the brunt of the massive construction work, casung wide-spread damage to both moveable and immovable properties,” the letter reads.

Further, they point out that during the construction work, the use of explosives around the dam site at Dikchu and Power House area at Balutar has resulted in cracks in most of houses in this populated residential area. The repeated use of explosives and the resultant vibrations, explosions and transport of huge construction equipments have severally danged the roads and houses in the area. “Numerous cracks and fissures have developed in the cultivable land in the area and also in the houses of the people,” the complainants have said in the letter.

However, the complainants have stressed on the fact that they are “not against the Government’s proposal to set up a big Project in the area, but are against the system adopted by the Government for acquiring the land in a piecemeal system.”

According to the letter, the acquisition letter makes it clear that if the land owners give their consent for the acquisition for a certain portion of land only, then the remaining un-acquired land shall remain and became the “victim” of said project without any yield from it. “After the proposed project at Sirwani block comes up, the people like us shall not be in a position to cultivate or utilize the land,” the letter reads.

The land owners have also objected to the market value of the land as quoted in the notice. “The market value of the land as mentioned in the notice dated 18.1.07 vide Memo No. 36/185/G/DCE is not feasible and negotiable,” the land owners have said, as the concerned Department while assessing the value of land “did not consider other aspects mandatory under the provision of section 23 of land Acquisition Act, 1894.”

“The low value of acquired land in a case like will not give justice to the people of the area. All land in the surrounding areas will be useless for anything after the initiation of the said project work. The concerned authority, while assessing the value of land has not considered the loss that will be incurred by the land owners,” they have said.

“After witnessing the affects of the illegal and unscientific construction work of the tunnel by NHPC for Teesta Stage V, we have no keen interest to create same problems by giving our land through the process of acquisition to any company.”

The land owners have asked the concerned Department and Lanco Energy Pvt. Ltd. to “kindly refrain from acquiring the land through a piecemeal system and further take proper initiatives to acquire all the lands after proper assessment of the value of land as per the market rate under Section 23 of Land Acquisition Act, 1894.”