New Delhi, April 10 2016 | ‘Tehri 2015 – The Ten Years of Injustice’ documentary movie made by Vimal bhai, has been released by Justice Rajinder Sachhar yesterday at Constitution Club of India. The movie is a testimony to the human and ecological crisis that emerged in the Himalayan region after the construction of dams such as Tehri which have ruined the lives and livelihoods of local communities and caused irreparable damage to the ecology, environment and cultural values which were there for centuries. It also speaks of a long history of illegal and forced land acquisitions, violations of environmental safety norms and unfair rehabilitation of displaced families that are still seeking justice even after 10 years of its commissioning.
Shambhunath Shukla, senior journalist and former editor with Amar Ujala Hindi Daily released the book ‘Why Dams?’ written by Vimal bhai and published by National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). It documents years of work done in dam affected regions of Uttarakhand and discusses the environmental degradation, displacement and loss of livelihoods of the people in Uttarakhand owing to building of large dams. Complementary to the documentary released, this book reflects on the worsening state of ecology, environment and people in Uttarakhand.
“Who really benefits from the dams?” asked Shambhunath Shukla while claiming that rehabilitation of Tehri dam inhabitants have been done in a very thoughtless manner. The people have been relocated to an area which only worsened their lives and brought environmental devastation.
“Till now the problems arising in the Uttarakhand and Ganga Valley due of a large number of small and big dams has been overlooked for the unjust greed of electricity, we have to save ecology and people’s rights over on natural resources of Himalaya” said Vimal bhai, while criticizing the Namami Ganga initiative which talks only about the pollution and cleaning the River Ganga but always run away from taking up the issues of dams on Ganga. We will not leave the fight till rivers and its people get their rights.
Adv. Sanjay Parikh, fighting cases for people on Tehri Dam since 1992, was felicitated by people’s movements. He has been continuing his endless struggle and extending support, which has benefited people of Uttarakhand and also provided strength to other people’s movements nationwide.
Justice Rajinder Sachhar ji along with Ms. Medha Patkar, Puran Singh Rana, senior activist of Matu Jansangthan and others honored him with the preamble of constitution and a shawl. Justice Rajinder Sachhar ji appreciated the Sanjay Parikh’s work and fight for human rights case since 1986 and evaluated his contribution worthy for a people’s award equivalent to a Bharat Ratna.
Sanjay Parikh, with his long 24 years’ experience in case of Tehri, shared that the judiciary has failed to understand the real problems caused by these large dams in which the govt. and also the judiciary focused on rehabilitation issues cornering the environmental concerns. Tehri dam was environmentally not feasible and thus were in planning stage only for many years after which the Govt. went straight to just build it. Also rehabilitation has not been done which refutes the claim of benefits to people from Tehri Dam. The lack of social assessment and other devastation of cultural values because of displacement were missing in the prior assessment. The association of human and environment has been largely ignored.
He shared with the people that the villages were looking horrifying, scary; the people were frightened by displacement. The project alienated the culture and society along with their association with the forests. “It was hard to witness the devastation and face the people as an advocate; we are human beings and cannot overlook the plight of people and upcoming devastation” said Mr. Parikh. He ended his conversation with the poem ‘Man Chaahta hai’, written by Vimal bhai.
In the panel discussion on “Tehri dam and Dams of Ganga Valley”, Medha Patkar, with her long journey fighting for the justice of people displaced and against the large dams, termed it an emotional journey. “Tehri Dam is a part of series of planned violence on people’s lives, livelihoods and environment” said Medha Patkar. These atrocities are not considered anti-national whereas the people raising voices for the justice are termed anti national. Govt. is playing a very dangerous role in diverting the people’s attention and defaming the real struggles to facilitate the natural resources in the hands of industries and rich people. The development model has become the slave of industries and corporate, moving out the people from their own villages and exploiting the natural resources available for all. Govt., executives and others are rarely questioned inside the courts. There is also unwillingness to even listen to those people who are fighting for people’s issues. Thus it is clear that “We should never aspire for the legal justice but for human Justice”.
“Three things impacting judgements are principles, pragmatism and prejudice”, said Usha Ramanathan, Legal Researcher and fellow at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies observing the travesty of justice in Tehri Dam case. There is a distinction between impartiality and neutrality. The powerful will also try to term the masses into subjects for their ulterior motives.
Mr. Soumya Dutta, a noted environmentalist accused the inequality in planning and delivering the benefits as a major issues causing people to suffer their lives, livelihoods and environment. Ganga – Brahmputra river system brings a lot of silt resulting in a very fertile soil deposition which has supported the agrarian system catering to food security majority of population of India, but ignoring these facts, the rivers are getting dammed which is resulting in declining reservoir capacity too apart from its larger socio-environmental impacts.
The struggle for Dam free rivers and people’s rights will continue with greater support and strength.
Shabnam, Shefali, Sukruta
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