Monday, December 1, 2014

Teesta Stage-IV landowners want acquisition rate resolved before any further discussions

Landowners and other stakeholders affected by the Teesta Stage-IV hydroelectric project registered their complaints, reiterated their demands and then walked out of the Special Gram Sabha convened in Mangan for the project on 25 November. The special Gram Sabha convened as per requirements of the Forest Rights Act of 2006 for the 520 MW hydel project was called for three Gram Panchayat Units - Singhik-Sentam, Ringhim-Nampatam and Thingchim-Chandey. It lasted barely an hour.
Representing the Left Bank Land owners committee, Lobzang Tenzing, who is the committee’s president, pointed out that the landowners have left their lands barren for the past eight years since the lands were demarcated and marked for acquisition. However, despite several meetings in which the landowners have given the go ahead for the project, no progress has been made, he said.
The landowners have already submitted a demand seeking land acquisition at Rs. 200 per square foot, but no intimation has been received either from the state government or the project developer, he announced.
He further pointed out that work on the project could be initiated with an interim payment even as the final revision of rates is being processed by the State government.
Such suggestions having been consistently ignored, the landowners staged a walkout from gram sabha, demanding that these issues be sorted out before the Gram Sabha was reconvened. The next gram sabha, they said, should be held in the presence of the Power and Forest Ministers, and Secretary Land revenue, Executive Director, NHPC and the District Collector (N).
A memorandum was also placed with the chairperson of the Gram Sabha, reiterating that the affected landowners and other stakeholders of the Teesta Stage-IV project from the three GPU’s in question objected to the holding of the Gram Sabha until the vital issues of land compensation, demarcation of lands to be acquired and other issues are sorted out.
Meanwhile, NHPC officials informed that the project was being delayed due to some clearance pending from Forest Department and further informed that the NHPC was ready to pay any rate for land acquisition prescribed by the State Government.
DFO-T, Sugen Saring, in turn informed that the Gram Sabha was convened to hear claims and objections of the affected people and to solve their problems for resettlement, if required. 143 hectares is to be acquired for the said hydel project, of which 45 hectares falls under the Department of Forests.
The Gram Sabha Sabha was organized by Ringhim-Nampatam GPU and chaired by Panchayat President Pinky Bhutia. Also present were Chief Engineer, NHPC Stage IV HEP, along with other officials, all Pancayats, DFO (T), President and members of Mangan Nagar Panchayat, officials from line departments and the landowners.

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