The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed the government to consider and decide in three months rehabilitation issue of villagers affected by the Kishanganga hydroelectric power project in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
“The cabinet sub-committee or the delegated authority may hear the grievance of the displace families. The Commissioner Secretary for Relief and Rehabilitation is also to take part in the deliberations,” a division bench of Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice D S Thakur said in its order.
While the bench directed the concerned authorities to hear the affected villagers after they place their grievance by a proper representation, the authorities were asked to accord consideration and redress their grievance within three months.
In a petition villagers of Kralpora and Check in Bandipora have approached the court through advocate Altaf Mehraj, contending that J&K Government and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) should redraft the policy of resettlement and rehabilitation for the people affected by the project in keeping with the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy-2007.
The villagers seek to quash the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy-2007 that was drafted by the NHPC and J&K Government to rehabilitate the people affected by the Kishanganga hydroelectric power project.
Counsel for the petitioners contended that in 2007, the Ministry of Rural Development Department of Land Resources formulated a National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 that provides rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced persons in relation to development of infrastructure by the State.
He submitted that the petitioners grievance is that their right to just compensation was affected by the Government by not strictly adhering to the said policy in letter and spirit.
To a query whether the affected families have received any compensation and were rehabilitated and resettled, the counsel told the court “He had no instruction at this point of time on the issue”.
“We are of the view that the factual aspect of the grievance should be at the first instance addressed by the respondents. If the grievance of displace families is justified then the appropriate authority to accord consideration in the first instance would be the sub-committee of the cabinet which has been delegated the power to examine the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for the project affected families,” the bench said.
Observing that Supreme Court in unequivocal terms has stated that courts should not embark on an issue as to whether a particular policy is correct or not, the bench held that “It is left to the discretion of the lawmakers and the administration to form policies to serve public interest at large or a group of displace people as in the present case”.
While the affected families through their counsel contended that that in keeping policy of 2007 they would be entitled to higher compensation, the State counsel pleaded that the rehabilitation and resettlement plan was framed taking into consideration inputs given by the stake holders as well the University of Kashmir.
The state counsel also stated that a substantial amount has been released and compensation has been paid to the displaced families. “However this is a fact in dispute, we are not inclined to go into this aspect of the matter as we propose to address the petitioners’ grievance in an appropriate manner,” the bench said.
Traders’ body calls for public meet to press for repair of dilapidated road
Owing to pitiable condition of 59 kilometer Bandipora-Srinagar Road, people from all walks of life are assembling here in Main Bandipora Chowk on February 26 to press the government to repair the road.
Traders Federation Bandipora which is organizing the mass public meet has initiated a campaign to press the government for the repair of the dilapidated and potholed 59 kilometer Srinagar-Bandipora road. They (members) have called for a public assembly on 26th February in Gulshan Park Main Chowk to discuss the repair of the neglected road. Federation is expecting participation of Civil Society, Trade Unions, and Transporters from other parts of district.
Earlier youth of the region resorted to online protest while starting a campaign under hash tag #BetterRoadsForBandipora. The campaign received a massive support and people are sharing their torrid experiences on facebook they had while commuting on the road.
Pertinently the consecutive regimes have neglected the vital Srinagar-Bandipora Road.
From last 30 years the road has witnessed only a minor repairs and now the condition of the road has worsened.
“Srinagar-Bandipora Road is the vital link between the two regions and the bad condition of the road has considerably affected trade during last few decades,” Traders Federation President Shamshad Ahmed Bat said.
“Besides that, the crater and huge potholes are proving health hazard for the people,” he said.
“We have invited people from all walks of life even appealing everyone to participate in the meet so that future course of action can be decided,” He said
The road is dotted with countless potholes and craters causing immense public inconvenience.
The road earlier in 1995 came into limelight when funds worth corers meant for its repair were allegedly embezzled by the contractors and engineers.
Later the notorious Ikhwani (counterinsurgency) period that ruled the areas hampered the repair of the road.
It was after 2003 PDP-Congress coalition when the people started looking forward to the repair of the road but besides being represented by a Minster in the government nothing was done.
“Poor maintenance of the road and loads of potholes make it difficult for us to drive safely,” Gulzar Ahmed, a driver said, adding “The roads are in a bad condition and we cannot do anything about it. The government is to be blamed,” he said.
Earlier BRO Chief Brigadier Sharma told Kashmir Post that they will use every resource to repair the road during the current year.
He said that if the organization fails it will hand over road maintenance to State government.
Right Wing Shiv Sena Hindustan claims that 200 people from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district joined it on Thursday.
Abdul Khaliq Bhat, the Mumbai-based party’s Kashmir President, said the people joined the party at Sumbal, Nowgam.
“More people were willing to join us, but due to lack of space, only 200 people were able to join Shiv Sena. These people were earlier associated with NC or PDP,” Khaliq told The Kashmir Post.
He claimed that these people joined Shiv Sena because they were “deceived by NC, Congress, and PDP since 1947”.
“These parties are not able to provide basic amenities to the people while in power. How can they talk about the autonomy or the Self-Rule?” he asked.
On the occasion, Khaliq, along with Shiv Sena Hindustan leaders from Kashmir, welcomed the new comers into the party fold and asked them to strengthen it.
He said the Shiv Sena Hindustan is a part of Shiv Sena headed by Uddhav Thackeray.
Those who joined the party were raising slogans in favour of Shiv Sena and carrying the party’s flags in their hands. They said they will “defeat” the politics of NC and PDP in Kashmir.
“The PDP sought votes from people in assembly elections to stop BJP from entering into Kashmir, but later it joined hands with Modi Ji. The people in Kashmir have to shun the politics of these regional parties, which only deceived Kashmiris over the years,” Khaliq said.
He said if the people want to resolve Kashmir issue, they have to strengthen Shiv Sena.
“The PDP and NC only do vote-bank politics. It is Shiv Sena that can resolve the Kashmir issue,” he asserted.
He said the Shiv Sena has the presence in every district of the valley.
“We will field our candidates in the upcoming Panchayat elections. Shiv Sena candidates will also contest for the parliamentary seats of Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies,” he said.
Presently, he said Shiv Sena Hindustan has district body in Budgam.
“Its office is at Chadoora. The process is on to open offices in Pulwama, Baramulla, and Bandipora districts,” he said.
He also questioned the killing of Burhan Wani’s brother, saying “if he was a civilian why was he killed?”
“How can they kill a civilian?” he asked.
In December last year, National Vice President of the party Rajesh Kesari’s comments stormed a major controversy when he termed Burhan Wani and his brother “martyrs”.
Affected people allege non-utilization of funds meant for rehabilitation
The delay in implementation of Rehabilitation Plan by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) has affected health of people and environment here in Kralpora Mantrigam area in Bandipora, where the work is in progress on 330 Megawatt Kishenganga Hydro Electric Power Project.
The residents demanded probe into the utilization of funds meant for Rehabilitation Plan.
Affected villagers said that all is not well with the Rehabilitation Plan meant for development of the affected area.
Panicked by growing destruction, people affected by the construction have lamented that NPHC has failed to implement the Rehabilitation Plan even as construction of the project is near to its completion.
They say that even after eleven years when NPHC framed the plan, not a penny has been utilized in the affected area.
With the surprise NHPC in it six-monthly progress report 2012-13 (copy with RK) has claimed that it has utilized 5794.35 lakhs among the 30352 lakh allocated under the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) including Biodiversity Conservation Plan, Catchment Area Treatment Plan Fisheries Development, Public Heath Delivery System, Solid Waste Management, Energy Conservation Measures, Rehabilitation of Dumping Sites, Landscaping and Restoration of Construction Area.
The claims of NHPC utilizing huge funds have been denied by the affected people stating that NHPC has given nothing other than destruction to the people.
“Nothing has been done on ground so far as development or EMP is concerned,” said Majeed Ahmed, a resident of Pazalpora told Kashmir Post.
“They never bothered to repair the wall of graveyard in a village Kralpora where NPHC had acquired 800 kanals of land, what to say about utilization of thousand crores,” he said.
“Government should probe how the funds have been utilized by NHPC? It is fraud; they have duped poor people,” locals told Kashmir Post.
The residents demanded thorough probe by CBI, Vigilance or Crime Branch.
The affected people in the area say all is not well with the Rehabilitation Plan worth 253.75 crore that was to be implement in the devastated area of Bandipora due the project construction.
“Earlier scores of directives were issued to NHPC in presence of senior officers and local legislators for time bound implementation of Rehab Plan but corporation which has adopted ‘dictating’ approach has not paid any heed to the directives as nobody dares to take action against NHPC,” locals said.
The roads leading to the affected villages are completely in shambles, water pipes damaged, paddy land destroyed, water resources polluted and even forest cover has been destroyed in absences of proper rehabilitation and environment management plan that was supposed to be implemented by NHPC, locals said.
People affected by the project had earlier staged protests after the government failed to give a schedule for completion of their rehabilitation.
In response, concerned authorities had assured that there will be no comprise on the “due and legitimate rights” of the people affected by the project, however, all went in vain, they said.
Locals in the area told Kashmir Post that the project is turning to be the devastating element for the people who are losing health, environment and water resources once used to crystal clear.
“It is all due to the non-implementation of Environment Management Plan by NHPC, that people are forced to live in miserable conditions,” locals said.
“Had NPHC implemented EMP, our water resources, forest cover, roads and environment may not have been affected,” they said.
When contacted General Manager NHPC Shair Ahmed Zargar refused to comment on the issue.
“I have no information about the issue so I can’t comment,” he told Kashmir Post over the phone.
“There are provisions of utilizing funds for the development of affected people; I have directed concerned people to do the same, “said Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, Sajad Ahmed.
“So far as the earlier utilization is concerned, I have no information,” he said.
At least seven persons died after a Beacon vehicle carrying labourers met with an accident in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Friday.
Five bodies were recovered from the site of the accident in Tragbal late last night.
The vehicle was on its way to Bandipora from Gurez when the accident took place.
A police official said that 17-18 persons were travelling on the ill-fated vehicle.
He said seven persons have died while nine others have suffered injuries, adding that all the injured have been shifted to a hospital in Srinagar for treatment. The driver of the vehicle, also feared dead, is still missing, he said.
The deceased have been identified as Madhu Harman, Jasu Harman, Sibu Muran, Pagan Muran, Chanu Harman(matt), Kisum Marmo s/o Prabhat Marmo- all residents of Jharkhand – and Manzoor Ahmad Palal (35), son of Mohd. Rafiq Khan, resident of Tanghat Bandipora.
Army on Saturday allegedly beat up residents of Saderkote Bala in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
Witnesses said that residents had gathered near SK Bala chowk and were protesting peacefully when the army men went berserk.
“In the meantime, army men armed with lathis started beating up locals without any provocation,” they said.
They alleged that the men from 13th RR stationed at Manasbal beat up the residents ruthlessly. An army spokesman in Srinagar, however, said their men were not active in the area. “Our men are not active in the area. We have no such inputs. I will find out and get back to you,” he said.
Five persons, including a Hurriyat activist, were booked under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) over their alleged role in instigating stone-pelting incidents.
A top district administration official said that the accused persons were shifted to Udhampur. The Hurriyat activist, he claimed, was also involved in “instigating” protests in 2010 unrest.
Angry protesters on Saturday beat up a school principal and vandalized the property in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Reports said that protesters were taking part in a march when they pelted stones at the Govt Higher Secondary School in Nadihal area of the district.
Witnesses said that the protesters also beat up the school principal Abdul Rashid Malik and other staff members after finding the school open despite the shutdown call.
The injured principal was shifted to SDH Bandipora for treatment. They also damaged the school property and vandalized the Principal’s office. Authorities, it needs to be mentioned, have been allegedly forcing the employees to attend to their duties.
Reports said that people raised anti-India slogans during the rally. “Enthusiastic protesters raised Azadi slogans as well,” sources said.
Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was being observed in Kishtwar against the civilian killings in Kashmir valley at the hands of government forces.
Hundreds of people offered congregational Zuhr prayers on road in Kaloosa area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora on Thursday.
Soon after the afternoon prayers ended, they staged sit-in while chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
‘Few pro- Indian political workers recorded statement inside BSF camp’
Enraged over what they call “anti Kashmir propaganda” people here in this remote border area of Bandipora are protesting against the Zee News Network from the last three days after the network telecasted the few ‘selected’ statements during an evening programme on Tuesday.
Gurez and Tulail area observed complete shutdown following the protests from Wednesday to express their anger against what they call “army sponsored, biased and communal” reporting by Indian Zee News Network.
Locals said that representatives of Zee News Network allegedly bribed few political workers who are also working for India Army and recorded their statements inside a BSF camp and later telecasted in the evening show on Tuesday.
“The biased Army sponsored programme was recorded and later telecasted to create divide among people in order to weaken the public sentiments,” Ahmed Mustafa, a local told Kashmir Post.
“We are appealing Supreme Court of India to take suo motu notice against the news network which put lives of thousands in risk just to gain the TRP,” Ahmed said.
As per the residents, Zee News Network on Tuesday evening telecasted some “anti Kashmir and anti-people programmes” which evoked prompt protest against the Network as well as people who featured in the programme.
Locals in the Gurez who are pretesting against the programme said that Zee News reporters had recorded the programme inside a BSF camp away from habitation after allegedly briefing the persons who are either pro-Indian political activists or working as porters with Indian Army.
“The persons shown in the news programme who spoke against Kashmir sentiment are either known Pro-freedom political workers or army porters,” said a local Ghulam Hassan.
The voice of few should not be taken as the voice of Gurez community, Hassan protestors said.
Enraged protesting Gurez residents condemned the “biased and Army supported journalism” of Zee News and appealed Journalist Associations across India and the world to investigate into the reporting telecasted by ZEE News which according to them has been recorded “after bribing few political and army workers to defame the voice of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Locals said besides having presences of more than 62,000 troopers amid 32,000 population Gurez has always sided with the voice of Kashmir and supported the movement from its beginning.
If official sources are to be believed there are 62,000 troopers based in around 10 units across 40 villages and hamlets in the area. The area remains closed for five months in the year while locals allege that the government is creating “planned artificial scarcity of commodities” so that people may depend on the army.
“Government is always cashing the situation with their hired agents so that people may depend on army but they can never kill over sentiments which we have towards our Kashmir brethren,” locals said.
Gurez residents have appealed people not to pay heed towards the “army backed, biased and communal” programme telecasted by Zee News Network.
Pertinently Gurez earlier observed three- day shutdown and staged protests against the Kashmir killing.
Traders Federation Bandipora has appealed people to maintain the unity in the area. President Federation Muhammad Yusuf Para while terming the Zee News reporting biased and communal appealed people not to pay heed to such reports which are aimed at ‘vitiating atmosphere” in the valley.
Angry locals said that Zee reporter bribed few pro-Indian politicians and army workers to record anti-freedom statement which were later telecasted on Zee News.
Locals said all the statements were recorded inside a BSF Camp.
They said besides having presence of more than 60000 troopers, amid 32000 population, Gurez has always supported Kashmir cause. Gurez has also observed three day shutdown against Kashmir killings.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued notices to the state government and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) on a petition by inhabitants of two villages in Gurez tehsil of Bandipora in north Kashmir which are getting dislocated by the ongoing construction of the 330-megawatt Kishanganga hydroelectric project.
While issuing notices, a division Bench of the High Court directed the respondents to file their response to the petition, which has now been treated as a public interest litigation by the HC, within four weeks.
The NHPC’s Kishanganga hydroelectric project, with a generation capacity of 330 MW of electricity, is coming up by utilising the waters of the Kishanganga in Bandipora district through a 23-km tunnel.
However, the project is leading to the displacement of more than 400 families, of which more than 200 families belong to the Schedule Tribe category, in two villages of Badwan Wanpora and Mastan Khopri in Gurez tehsil of the district.
The project consists of various components, including the construction of the water storage dam, which would engulf and submerge these two tribal villages entirely, leading to the displacement of these tribal families permanently. This has been submitted in the petition filed by the inhabitants of these two villages through their counsel Altaf Mehraj.
Initially, while the execution of the project began, the respondent state government had sought the consensus of the petitioners on a rehabilitation and settlement policy formulated in 2011, which was by and large containing the various benefits which are contained in the National Policy of 2007, a framework policy containing board guidelines to rehabilitate and resettle population affected by the development projects.
“The policy was, by and large, containing the various benefits which are contained in the National Policy of 2007. However, the respondent (J&K Government) had not resorted to the procedure as is provided in the National Policy of 2007,” it has been submitted in the petition.
However, in December 2015, the J&K Government again came up with a new policy of rehabilitation and resettlement for the petitioners and also got its approval through the Cabinet.
“However, the most vital and important issue of the resettlement and rehabilitation of the petitioners is yet to be taken care of by the respondents (government),” it has been submitted while seeking quashing of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2015.
“The impugned policy thereby lacks in the most important and vital aspects of the rehabilitation of the petitioners as far as their means of livelihood are concerned,” the petitioners submitted, adding that they would lose their means of occupation, livelihood once their villages and land got submerged in dam waters. Whereas for mitigating these concerns, the respondent (J&K Government) had not provided anything substantial in the impugned policy, they said.