Gram Sabha’s forced to pass illegal Resolution in favour of Renuka Dam

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Shri Renuka Ji:  Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPCCL) has initiated a campaign for seeking NOC and passing resolution from Gram Sabhas for transferring forest rights to HPCCL, in the month of August 2012 within the 25 Gram Sabhas of Renuka Dam Submergence/proposed acquired area with the support of local administration. The agenda was fixed for the 2 October 2012 Garm Sabha meetings which takes place throughout state on this day. Local Administration and HPCCL tried to pass a resolution for transferring of forest rights of the forest dweller communities in favour of HPCCL for the construction on of disputed Renuka Dam Project and seeking NOC for the same, said (HNA) Himalaya Niti Abhiyan in a news release.

A letter was issued to the all 25 Gram Panchayats by HPCCL, Dadahu, Office on 8th Aug. 2012 in which five agenda items were written which  includes the issuing of NOC for Renuka Dam and transfer of forest rights under Forest Rights Act -2006 in favour of HPCCL  to be passed by Gram Sabha in its meetings, going to be held on 2nd  October 2012. A typed resolution draft was also issued by HPCCL along with this letter in which it has been written that tribal and other dweller dose not reside in forest land and our forest rights are completely established, so we have no objection to handover forest land for Renuka Dam construction.  The fixing of gram sabha agenda by HPCCL on its letter head and the text of the resolution is illegal and will be false too, because tribal and forest dwellers are primarily dependent on forest land for their livelihood needs here, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan said.

According to press release, copy of order issued by Deputy Commissioner Sirmaur signed by Ms. M. Mohanty on dated 12-3-2012 certified that complete process for diversion of Forest Land and settlement of rights under Forest Right Act -2006 has been carried out for the entire forest area of 775 Hector which falls under Renuka Dam Project and certified that no such facilities managed by the Govt. required for diversion of forest land u/s 3(2) of Forest Right Act-2006 exist over the forest land proposed for diversion.

Forest diversion for Dams does not come under the provision of 3(2) of the FRA. Under this section the provision of Forest diversion up to one Hector is made only for local essential facilities such as school, hospital etc. and power to propose diversion of forest land to MOEF under this section lies with Gram Sabha instead of DC.

Very few Gram Sabhas passed such resolutions on 2nd October 2012 with conditions and some of them completely opposed this move of HPCCL and government.

This is not the issue, whether the resolutions were passed in favour or against, but the real issue is the procedure adopted to transfer rights to HPCCL by passing a illegal resolution and fake certificate issued knowingly by Deputy Commissioner Sirmaur claiming falsely that the settlement of forest rights has been carried out is a illegal order and he can be punished  under section 7 of the Forest Rights Act-2006 and other penal provision of the law, whereas no process of implementation of FRA has come in to force so far in the area, HNA said.

According to HNA Gram Sabhas also adopted illegal procedure to pass such resolutions declaring transfer of forest rights to HPCCL which were not still even recognised under Forest Right Act-2006.

Himachal Pradesh government has issued government order in this respect on dated 27th March 2012 for implementation of FRA in non tribal areas covering other forest dwellers category of the state and has ordered Deputy Commissioners to notify District Level Committee, Sub Division Level Committees and Forest Right Committees at Gram Sabha/Up Gram Sabha level as per rules notified by Government of India. Sirmoaur district has not even constituted these committees and next process cannot be carried out without these committees.

The process of implementation first requires constitution of Forest Rights Committee (FRC) at Gram Sabha/Up Gram Sabha level by gram sabha in its meeting comprising 2/3 minimum corm. FRC will invite claims of rights, compile, verify and recommend them to Gram Sabha for passing. After then these passed recommendation/claims will be sent to SDLC. SDLC will verify and recommend it to DLC on which DLC will pass final order of recognition of rights of individuals and communities. Hence without adopting the procedure of recognition of rights as per the Act DC Sirmaur issued certificate claiming that rights under FRA has been settled is a false and illegal order.  Procedure of transferring/acquiring the forest rights cannot be carried out before their recognition under the FRA.

Press release says it is essential after 1-1-2008 under FRA that no forest diversion can take place to any/commercial/mega project without recognition of forest rights of tribal and other forest dwellers, hence all diversion of forest land after 1-1-2008 for any purpose such as Hydro Projects, roads, etc. stands illegal in Himachal Pradesh because the forest rights has not been recognised so far.   It is also needed to cancel all those forestland diversion clearances issued after Jan. 2008. Forest diversion case of Renuka Dam is pending so far due to objections raised by local people and litigation in NGT.

So, legal action shall be taken against Deputy Commissioner, Sirmaur, concerned state government officials for illegally favouring the HPCCL and the officials of HPCCL for misleading and managing Gram Sabhas. They shall be panelised for misleading the procedure of recognition of forest rights knowingly under section 7 of the FRA and legal action under penal provisos be taken for issuing false certificate and presuming Gram Sabhas for passing illegal resolution in regard to transferring of forest rights about which they are not informed so far.

Renuka Dam was initially proposed in sixties for supplying water to Delhi. In the year 1994 an agreement was signed between Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for distribution of Yamuna water and construction of Renuka dam but Rajasthan has not signed the agreement so far. Haryana is also not satisfied with this distribution agreement and is demanding the share in water released from Renuka and power generation at site. Whereas Delhi Jal Board says that the water will be supplied only for Delhi as per agreement. Himachal and Delhi government came to an agreement in 2007 under which Himachal sold its water right to Delhi and finally agreed to construct this project. Presently the cost of the project will be 39000 million rupees and will be constructing a dam of 148 Mitres height at Renuka which will store 23 Cubic square metre water in 24 long water body. The project will also produce 48 MW power when water will be released from to dam. There is a Giri Watta hydro project of the installed capacity of 60 MW running beneath this site which is producing 8 to 9 MW electricity average in a year because of water shortage.   The project will submerge 2200 Hector forest and agriculture land in 23 Gram Panchayat displacing 1100 families in  37 villages and will also submerge 1.7 millions standing trees.

People movement against this project is going on and had boycotted 2009 parliament election too and belt boxes in six villages remain empty.

People of the area are opposing this project since 2007, and have not allowed HPCCL to stare construction work. Environment clearance has been given by MOEF which has been opposed and challenged in National Green Bench (NGT), case is still in the court. Forest clearance has not been granted so far because of opposition from the local affected community.

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