Tehri Bandh Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti
C/o Riverview Hotel, Tehri, Uttranchal.
Delhi Contact- NAPM, 14, Supreme Enclave, Mayur Vihar-1 Delhi-91
NO LAND, NO DAM: PEOPLE’S VOICE FROM TEHRI
The governments both at the centre and in Uttaranchal decided that the diversion tunnels of the Bhagirathi river should be closed on the 31st of March so that the flooding of both Bhagirathi and Bhilangna valleys would begin. However, the issue of rehabilitation has been handled extremely callously by the governments. In fact no proper rehabilitation has taken place in the last twenty years. The dam is given environmental clearance with the stipulation that the rehabilitation should take place “pari passu” (simultaneously) with the construction of the dam. This condition has been clearly violated and this fact has been pointed out by the Hanumantha Rao Committee on Environment and Rehabilitation. This is the provocation for the current struggle of the people of these two river valleys.
On the 30th of March, in spite of the heavy rain and cold weather, more than one thousand people from both Bhagirathi and Bhilangna valleys marched enthusiastically to the Tehri Dam site and stopped the work there. People had been mobilized by local leaders in both the valleys. They demanded land for land and insisted that the work on the dam should stop till complete rehabilitation of all the affected villages was completed.
From the 31st of March there has been a continuous Dharna by the people from villages of both Bhagirathi and Bhilangna valleys. The work on the main dam site has been stopped by this Dharna. Today, the 19th of April is the 20th day of the Dharna. Every day, a new batch of more than 100 men and women are sitting in the Dharna. These people represent the villages of Malideval, Sirain, Dobra and Uppu in the Bhagirathi valley and Badkot, Assena and Lampungdi of the Bhilangna valley. Villages of the Raika patti, the region in the hills high above the Bhagirathi have also joined the struggle now. Studies have shown that this region is likely to slip and come down when the reservoir of the dam is filled with water. Gradually the struggle is spreading to all the affected villages of both the valleys. Women are the main force in this struggle. They are participating in large numbers, and they are ready to sacrifice their everything in this struggle for justice. So far four tents have come up in the Dharna Sthal to protect the people from the intermittent rainfall and the cold weather. As a symbol of support and unity every woman brings a handful of rice, wheat and dhal to the Dharna Sthal when she arrives there. Food is being cooked there everyday for all the people assembled there. In the evenings there are songs and bhajans in the local Garhwali language.
In the meantime, the administration has been making attempts to persuade the people to give up their struggle. The District Magistrate came twice with an assurance from the Uttaranchal government that the rehabilitation issue would be sorted out within six months. The people replied that they were tired of assurances and they would continue with their struggle until every affected family was fully rehabilitated.
On the 13th April, the Chief Minister of Uttranchal sent a message to the people that they should send some representatives to Dehra Dun to talk to the Government. To this the people replied that they would not send anyone to Dehra Dun and if anyone from the Government wanted to talk to them they should come to the Dharna Sthal. And they were not willing to withdraw their struggle merely on the basis of assurances.
A couple of days ago, the main contractor to the dam, the Jaya Prakash Company approached the High Court of Uttaranchal with a prayer that since the Dharna by the people has made it impossible for the construction of the Tehri Dam to continue, the Court should order the Uttaranchal Government to intervene and make sure that the Contractors can go on with their work.
Sri Sunderlal Bahuguna is also sitting with the people from the 1st of April onwards. He leads the prayer meetings twice a day and inspires the people with his presence and his conversations with them.