Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jeopardizing Environment,

People’s Culture, Religion
And Food Security In Sikkim

By Tara Dhakal

19 December, 2007

Can one’s religion and culture be bidded? Can Dzongu (a pilgrimage for Lepcha indigenous tribes) be bidded to private businessmen for hydropower? It is like bidding Mecca (Muslim pilgrimage), Badrinath/Jagannath (Hindu pilgrimage), and Vatican (Christian) for private businessmen/industries.

Our constitution guarantees us the fundamental right of “Freedom of Religion” and building a hydropower in Dzongu is to deny Lepcha’s their fundamental rights. If hydropower corporate agenda, privatizations or capitalists ideas is valued more than our constitutional guarantee then why do we need such constitution or are even asked to abide by it? If development is for the rich and the powerful and based on greed or unethical means then we renounce development.

It is so simple for our policy makers (both State and Central government) to convince us by telling that they are bringing us development through hydro power. The default option rationale that is provided to us as follows; it will help to generate local employment, generate revenue for the state, continuous supply of electricity in our households etc. etc. In other words, it is a greed based development that they are preaching and imposing on us that goes against our mandate. For us development is humanitarian that values our natures, culture, religion and beliefs that provides peace and security not only for us but for our future generations. Preserving the sanctity of Dzongu and Sikkim is true development and security that our “people’s mandate” preach.

Our food security is being severely threatened when fertile lands the “byasi” (near to the river banks) has been allotted as economic zones for industries for private businessmen from outside Sikkim. “ Byasi” is the most fertile lands that Sikkim has and converting that into industries is like making us worse than a beggar that we always rely on outsiders to buy our food and satisfy our hunger. Already people of Sikkim are suffering from dependency syndrome brought about by the welfare policies of the government and our political leaders. The kind of industrial development that is being pushed in Sikkim through Byasi reconversion to industrial zones is like sowing the seed of privatization disaster that now everything is being put up for sale. The profit of “so called” industrial development will go into the hands of few (private corporations) and we the people of Sikkim will be forced to bear the negative consequences of environmental degradation and disaster, influx of outsiders, crimes and theft and food insecurity brought as a dowry by these development pimps (corporations/privatizations).

Policy makers are blinded now in magic chairs (that we gave) by not following people’s mandate but to make money (from commissions that they receive from these corporations/private businesses) and no sooner they will become common man/woman like as we are now ( the powerless) it will be too late. The situation can be much worse than anticipated now.

Our mandate of electing our policy makers was based on the premise that our development will be based on humanitarian values that do not violate our fundamental rights, our right to livelihood and security, our right over our resources, our human rights or which respects our cultural heritage. Development for us is about our food, water, environmental, political, cultural security and most important a security judged from a humanitarian perspective.

To conclude, this is to remind our policy makers (both central and state governments) people’s mandate which they seem to have forgotten while enjoying in their hot chairs that mandates them to make decisions in people’s interests and not corporate interests. They should protect our security that lies in our cultural heritage, natural resources, linking closely with nature and culture which is valued by us as true development, a concept that is based on sustainability with our mother earth.

Note: To know more about the struggle of Dzongu and indigenous Lepcha's please visit

Tara Dhakal is a social worker, activist and researcher from Sikkim, India dedicated to bring out issues from excluded state of India, Sikkim in an effort to mainstream our struggle.