SUPREME COURT TAKES A SERIOUS VIEW ON TEHRI OUSTEES
The long pending Tehri HEP case was again heard in Supreme Court by Justice H.L. Ghokhle, Justice Kurian Joseph bench.
It must be remembered that on 29th July 2005, all the divergent tunnels were closed and tehri dam reservoir started filling to its capacity but till now rehabilitation had not been completed. Environmental conditions were not kept in mind while constructing the dam infrastructure. Bridges that used to connect villages on two sides of the river have not yet been constructed which have increased distances to a large extent resulting in extreme problems of commutation for villagers. Corruption on rehabilitation issues have grown higher and higher with time. Grievance redressal mechanism has not been allowed to function properly due to various technical reasons.
Till now, land rights not been given to old oustees who were rehabilitated due to Tehri HEP and situation of the provision of civic amenities is also in bad conditions
N.D. Juyal and Shekhar Singh challenged the Nainital High Court verdict dated 29th July 2005 which had allowed Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) to close the tunnel to fill the reservoir. Battle is going on in the Supreme Court and it has proved that rehabilitation of this project has not yet been completed. So the order of 29th July 2005 High Court was proven wrong.
Supreme Court looked in to the matter with deep concern and did not allow THDC to fill the reservoir fully. Even state government did not give clearance to THDC to fill the reservoir. The new problem that has arose is the issue of 80 villages in the vicinity of Tehri dam which are now on the risk of subversion and landslides. Life of these villagers have become miserable and they deserve rehabilitation because their villages are not anymore in the condition to live. For them THDC and government has planned to come up with a new collateral policy. The tussle between the THDC and state government is going on because State Government wants to rehabilitate new oustees in Haridwar and Dehradun district. On the other hand THDC is putting pressure to rehabilitate around the reservoir itself.
The petitioner, represented by Advocate Sanjay Parikh pleaded that there is no need of any collateral policy because these people are also affected due to the same Tehri dam so these oustees should get rehabilitation under the same policy as for the earlier ones. And they should be rehabilitated in Haridwar, Dehradun area with full civic amenities, land rights and cultivable land which were promised to the old oustees as their rights but were never fulfilled. Advocate Sanjay Parikh pleaded that this is our main focus and we’ve filed other issues like bridges, command area plan, catchment area treatment plan etc. that should be heard by the court. The point that this area is environmentally fragile also needs to be understood. This shall allow formulation of better rehabilitation policies for the people. Justice Ghokhle very humanely, said that our first motto is to give land to the people who were displaced.
He further gave reference of the Supreme Court order dated 1 Sept 2003, “It is made clear that the condition of pari-passu implementation of conditions prior to the commissioning of the project shall be closely monitored under the existing mechanism set up by MoEF and the project authorities will ensure that prior to closing of diversion tunnels T1/T2 for impoundment of the reservoir, evacuation, resettlement and rehabilitation are completed in all respects.” Which was not done. In Narmada and other cases, dam got constructed but rehabilitation promises and schemes were never implemented. There were many cases regarding that in SC which puts burden on the court too apart from all the miseries that the people have to face at the cost of pseudo development of our country. Advocate Parikh said that question is not only below 830 mts (the height of the reservoir from the sea level) but also about villages around the reservoir which are sinking as they are also directly affected.
Senior council Mr. Gonsalves supporte the arguments. Ms. Rachana Shrivastava, learned counsel appearing for the State of Uttarakhand submits that the State is of the view that the affected families should be rehabilitated downstream because the upper-region is fragile. According to the State Government the number of such families is 414. The State Government has identified the land in Khanpur area of District Haridwar and it is also proposing to find out appropriate land in District Dehradun.
Mr. Raval, learned senior counsel appearing for the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation on the other hand submits that rehabilitation should be upstream and not downstream. Ms. Shrivastava submits that a proposal has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forest and it is awaiting clearance from them. Mr. H.P. Rawal also said that we should also be allowed to file our issues to Ministry of Environment and Forest Ministry otherwise the issue will not be dealt with effectively.
The Supreme Court expects the Central Government to take a decision thereon as expeditiously as possible and if possible, report further development to this Court by the next date of hearing that is scheduled to be on 4th March, 2014.
So tussle is going on and oustees are waiting for mere rehabilitation, at the very least. NO DAM SUPPORTERS ARE SAYING ANY THING ON THIS ISSUE AS THEY ARE BUSY LOBBYING FOR NEW DAMS PROJECTS.
Vimalbhai and Puran Singh Rana