Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hydel project row continues

image Gangtok, July 8: Representatives of the Sikkim government, led by local MLA Sonam Gyatso Lepcha, held a public hearing in Dzongu today to win the support of landowners for the mega hydroelectric projects coming up in the Lepcha reserve.

Around 200 people gathered at Namprikdang in North Sikkim, many of them arriving in vehicles sporting the flag of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF). The legislator has been defending the hydel power projects in the area even as protests against the plants gain momentum in Sikkim.

Even today, many landowners from Dzongu stayed away from the SDF show of strength at Namprikdang and were instead seen at B.L. House in Gangtok, where the indefinite hunger strike begun by Affected Citizens of Teesta entered its 18th day. ACT wants the state government to scrap all the projects coming up in Dzongu and review the ones planned for other parts of the state.

Two meetings between members of the organisation and the government have ended in a stalemate.

One of the protesters, 20-year-old Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha, had to be admitted to Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital this morning after his blood pressure dropped. Tenzing, along with ACT general secretary Dawa Lepcha, had been admitted to the hospital once before but both had refused food even there.

Another member of ACT, Chimi Lepcha, is still in hospital.

Some 12 others are also on fast. Many landowners have also been participating in a relay hunger strike, which is also being held at B.L. House.

Yesterday, the members of ACT wrote to chief secretary N.D. Chingapa to say they were willing to end the indefinite hunger strike if the state government agreed in writing to certain conditions.

The organisation is being supported by Concerned Lepchas of North Sikkim and the Sangha (the monks’ body) of Dzongu. Lepchas of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong have also decided to form a joint action committee to back the cause.

ACT already has many opposition parties and certain organisations within the state on its side.