Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hunger strike by ACT protesting Dzongu Hydel Projects at Dzongu enters 19 days, Panchyat and local people favours the projects

Hunger strike by ACT protesting Dzongu Hydel Projects at Dzongu enters 19 days, Panchyat and local people favours the projects

Gangtok: The indefinite hunger strike by Affected Citizen of Teesta(ACT) enters 19days on July 9. Meanwhile local people and panchayat in a large number called a press conference here and supported the project stating that the project would bring more revenue in the State and development of Dzongdu area as well. The local Panchayat secretary Namdup refuted the allegation of ACT that the local people had given their land without their consent.

Earlier, six more persons had joined in the hunger strike on July 3. The person who joined in the satrygraha are Phumit Lepcha, Pintso Lepcha and Zangpo Lepcha from Dzongu constituency and Khem Lal Gautam(60), Sachabir Limboo(61) and Ratna Bahadur Gautam(50) from Raley and Somdong from Rakdong Tintek constituency. Meanwhile, in a press statement issued by IPR Department, Government of Sikkim clarified that none of the projects components fall within the Khanchedzonga National park and its bio-sphere reserve. The press statement has further stated that all the steps have been taken and pros and cons have been probed in order to protect the ecology before taking the project and therefore there is no room for any apprehension. The development of ecology would be taken by Forest Department at the cost of developer, the press statement adds.

On the other hand, the members of ACT are now optimistic that the talks between the representative and State Government will conclude fruitfully. Meanwhile, the area MLA has appealed to ACT not to politicize the issue. The second round talks were held on June 29 and there are rays of hope for the getting the breakthrough, although it is yet inconclusive. Meanwhile, MLA of Dzongu constituency Shri Sonam Gyatso Lepcha stated that the local people of Dzongu constituency have endorsed the project and questioned the credentials of ACT. He has stated that the State Govenrment has completed all the necessary formalities according to law before going for the project.

Earlier, The opposition leader and Sikkim Pradesh Congress(I) President Shri N.B. Bhandari and others met the persons of ACT who are in hunger strike and assured to take up their matter with the high command in New Delhi. It may be mentioned that the first round talks between State Government and the aggrieved party of ACT could not be conclusive on May 25. The acting chief minister Shri D.D.Bhutia had urged the ACT to lift the hunger strike since Chief Minister is away from home, however, the ACT did not agree to his call. A meeting between State Government and the representative of ACT led by Shri Athup Lepcha and others was held at Secretariat but it is learnt that the meeting was not conclusive. Acting Chief Minister Shri D.D. Bhutia and Chief Secretary, Shri N.D. Chingapa and other representative from state government stated to have explained the facts of the projects and urged to withhold the hunger strike and maintain peace and tranquility in the State, but it is understood that the representative of ACT has not been satisfied and they have requested 11 documents to furnish by the State Government for further talks and decided to continue their agitation. The next round of talks slated for June 29.

Meanwhile, Government of Sikkim in a press statement has said that all necessary action with regards to the hydro electric projects was taken as per the procedure established by law and only after mandatory clearances from the Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of India. The press release further states, "The State Government would also like to place on record that the MLAs and Panchayat are public representatives elected through free and fair elections held by the Election Commission of India in the case of MLAs and the State Election Commission in respect of Panchayat members. It is stated that the hydro electric projects are in public interest and shall provide opportunities of gainful employment to the un-employed youth of the State.

Earlier, the Citizen forum and other groups had visited BL house where there youths are on hunger strike since June 20. The political Secretary to Chief Minister, Shri K.T. Gyaltsen had too visited them but the talks could not be held since most of the officers of Government Department were away from the State.

While the State Government is taking major initiative to generate hydel power and become self-reliant, there are some group and organization of the people, who think the development must not be at the cost of the people's right. It may be mentioned here that Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), an organization started the hunger strike at BL House, Gangtok since June 20. On behalf of ACT, Dawa Tsering Lepcha(35 years), and Tenzing Lepcha, (25 years) had stated that they will go for indefinite hunger strike while Tsering Ongmu Lepcha will seat for the strike on the turn. President, Athup Lepcha, ACT while speaking to media person said that the proposed hydel project to be implemented in Dzonghu adversely affect the very existence of the Lepcha primitive tribe. Despite their repeated requests, they said that their grievance has not been sorted out and ultimately, they decided to go on hunger strike.

Meanwhile two Lepcha youth from Kalimpong payong Lepcha, 26 years and Ahyon Lepcha, 25 joined in the hunger strike from July 6.