Shimla, April 14
The talks between representatives of the villages falling in the vicinity of the Luhri Stage-1 hydropower project, near Rampur in Shimla district, and the SJVN have failed to yield positive results.
CPM legislator Rakesh Singha today claimed that the SJVN did not show any inclination to accommodate even their small demands at the meeting on Wednesday evening. He warned the SJVN that things were now unfortunately moving in the direction where the project could come to a grinding halt.
Can’t be allowed at farmers’ cost
We understand that the project is important, as it will generate revenue for the state but it can’t be allowed at the cost of local farmers —Rakesh Singha, CPM MLA
“We have given the SJVN time till April 29 to reconsider its position vis-à-vis our demands. If the SJVN still continues to stick to its stand, people will start an agitation to shut down the project,” said Singha, whose panchayat is among the ones where apple and stone fruit crops have reportedly been damaged due to dust emanating from the project site because of blasting. “We understand that the project is important, as it will generate revenue for the state but it can’t be allowed at the cost of local farmers,” he said.
The protesters have been demanding compensation for their apple and stone fruit crops damaged due to dust emanating from blasting at the site, and the revision of the criteria of 900 metre distance from the site to declare ‘affected areas’. The other demands include employment to local people and land acquisition.
Sandeep Shroal, pradhan of Thanadar panchayat, said that people were upset with the SJVN’s stubbornness. “The slogan for the second phase of our agitation will be ‘No Means No: Save Apple and Stone Fruits’. We have taken the slogan from Kinnaur’s opposition to hydropower projects,” he added.
He said that the work at the site would not be allowed to start until they reach some sort of understanding with the SJVN. Meanwhile, SJVN official RL Negi said that he had a meeting with the pradhans of six “affected panchayats”. “They all agreed that the development work should not stop, and we would look to resume the work by tomorrow evening or day after,” he added.
“As for the panchayats that are declared not ‘affected’, as per the norms, the SJVN doesn’t have the mandate to engage them or declare them as affected. It’s for the government to take the call,” said Negi.