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Endangering the Land of Indigenous People

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  16 March 2015 12:00 AM GMT

By Kishor Kumar Kalita

T he present debate of construction of dam in the North East region of the country has been centering on many crucial issues and at the same time it has shown indifference towards some vulnerable issues that are associated with the identity and culture of the indigenous people of this part of the country, which may take major dimensions much later. Such an issue is the loss of land for construction of dam as well as for power transmission. If all these entire proposed projects are constructed and eventually completed within the stipulated timeframe, then the state of Assam would be more vulnerable as the people of the state have to sacrifice innumerable amount of agricultural land for facilitating power transmission. Moreover for these acquired land the authority will not compensate any single penny under the privilege of The Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and Indian Electricity Act, 2003.Both these acts provide that the concerned authority can acquire land according to their need without paying any compensation and it would pay minimal amount in case of any damage to the crop, trees and houses. Such minimal compensation is determined as per the compensatory amount fixed by the district or revenue administration of a particular locality.

Many believed just before the last parliamentary election that the Bharatia Jata Party would seriously consider the enduring apprehension of devastation of entire Brahmaputra civilization as a consequence of construction of dam in Aruchal Pradesh and would redress the issue with possible altertives. Instead of that, the saffron party after the landslide victory in that election has been continuously playing a paradoxical and dubious role not only in dam but also in the other issues that concerns the identity of the local people of this state. Such a major flip-flop of policy and execution was quite visible on the election speeches of the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate .On 22 February 2014, Modi addressed a public rally at Pachighat in Aruchal Pradesh and denounced the model of construction of big dam.Favouring the construction of smaller dams in the state, rendra Modi said-“I know citizens of Aruchal Pradesh are against large power projects. I respect your sentiment in this respect. But protecting the environment using environmental technology, the hydropower can also be harnessed using smaller projects” (source: addressing-vijaysankalp-abhiyan-rally-at-general-ground-pasighat). A few days latter Modi addressed another rally at Madhya Pradesh where he fervently tried to assert the North-East region as the probable power hub for the entire tion.

After the historical and unprecedented election victory of the Bharatia Jata Party in the last parliamentary election, the central government under the headman ship of rendra Modi now tries their best to module a corporate friendly policy in every sphere of governce. This endeavor seems to be very hasty in case of construction of mega dams in Aruchal Pradesh. To accelerate the process, the Central Government doing their best to remove all kind of socio-political hindrance by making or imposing systematic division in the discourse of anti-dam movement. The Government was credited with a little bit of success in that manipulation as on 11th December last year the activist and agitated organization of Assam clearly took a different position regarding the restarting of construction of Lower Suansiri Dam .Where the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samittee(KMSS) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad(AJYCP) vehemently opposed any kind of Mega dam construction in Aruchal Pradesh and demanded a detail and comprehensive cumulative impact assessment of all the proposed dams in that particular state, a number of organizations expressed a lenient view towards the government firm position of construction of dams at any cost. Now the Central Government seems to be more keen to create visible differentiation within the anti dam activist with a clear motive to gear up the construction process.

Let us now consider the vulnerability of the land issue that eventually be affected by any kind of development projects. On last 26th June of 2014, a Guwahati based voluntary organization SEDER (Society for Socio-Economic Development in the Region) filed one application before the NHPC (tiol Hydro Power Corporation) office under the RTI Act to know about the proposed land acquisition in the effected Brahmaputra Valley for power transmission from Suansiri to rest of India. Another crucial issue it sought through that application was about the estimated compensation to pay in case of land acquisition by the Power Grid Corporation. Instead of NHPC, the reply of this application was given by the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited. Addressing the first quarry, the power grid authority has furnished that two numbers double circuit transmission lines strung with twin lapwing conductors at 400 KV voltage level will transmit the 2000MW power to the sub station at Biswath Chariali from where it would be pumped out to the heartland of the country. The first line under this ambitious transmission project will cover around 167.42 Kilometer and it will have approximately 444 numbers of towers. Similarly the length of the second line will be 184.13 kilometer with 465 numbers of towers. Replying the second question of the said application, the grid authority succinctly negated any procedural requirements to acquire land under the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and Indian Electricity Act, 2003. According to the grid, both these acts provide discretiory power to the concerned authority to construct power lines as their requirements and for such construction no land acquisition is needed. Therefore the question of compensation for land acquisition does not arise at all. (Source: RTI reply received by the SEDER Ref. No: NESH/PESM/1117/107).

Therefore, the most pertinent question that arises in the context of construction of dam in the entire North-East is the apprehension of loosing land by the indigenous people of this region. One can easily presume that if for the transmission of 2000MW from the construction site to nearest sub station takes around 905 mega towers, how much land it will be needed throughout the state to transmit more than 80000 MW, that are proposed to generate in Aruchal Pradesh. Moreover, for this entire sacrifice the people of this state will not get any monetary compensation and they will not have any stake in the power hub. The power generating organizations of the central government now trying to install sub stations and other relevant establishments in the tribal belt and block areas particularly in areas like in Sadiya.The unseemly haste is carried out to easily avoid the compensatory circumstances as most of the people of such locality are holding land without any entitlement. If the state government of Assam does not give any attention to these issues then it will gives its way to the power lobby to plunder the land and resources of the state at their whims.

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