17th April 2014
An independent all women’s fact finding team visited Holi village to be affected by GMR’s 180 MW Hydro power project on 16 and 17th April 2014. The team comprising of Nandini Rao from Women against sexual violence and state repression, Sridevi Panicker, an independent Delhi based lawyer, Sarvesh, a senior freelance photojournalist during its visit interacted with representatives of the communities to be affected by the project’s 15 km long tunnel.
Almost 100 women from the local mahila mandals under the banner Holi Ghati Bachao Sangarsh Samiti greeted the team with slogans asserting their rights over their land, forest and water. The women have been keeping a day and night vigil by camping at the proposed power house site at Kee nallah near Holi village since 29th March 2014. On 25th March, 31 of these women were arrested by the police for protesting against the illegal felling of trees and road construction for the project. While they were released on bail the next day, the women allege that many false charges have been filed against them. The women reported to the fact finding team that an atmosphere of intimidation has been created in the area with the stationing of police battalions in the village. The local contractors with support of the police have been threatening the women to stop their agitation.
Nandini Rao, one of the members of the fact finding team observed, “These women have been camping out in the forest, in the cold for almost three weeks now, and yet it seems that the district administration has made no effort in addressing their issues.” Sridevi Panicker, the lawyer member of the team added, “The demand being made by the women to shift the tunnel from left bank to the right bank of the Ravi river is simple and logical because commonsense shows that the left bank is inhabited by villages, agricultural land and forests.” The women raised the issue of non implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 in the area under which their rights have yet to be recognised. “Despite raising the issue of felling of trees without demarcation, the local contractors have been ruthlessly uprooting old oak trees. We witnessed the uprooting of one such tree on 16th evening close to the proposed power house site”, said Sarvesh, a member of the team.
Members of Himdhara, who accompanied the team said that the team also met with the ADM and District Commissioner to bring the issues to their attention. Both the officials said that they would look into the matter but gave no concrete assurances. The officials also cited the High court order as a reason for allowing the company to carry on its activities, and to justify the police presence on site. The fact finding team however raised that under no circumstances was the presence of police and inaction of District administration justified. “The struggle has been going on for the last three years in an area which is under Schedule V dominated by the Gaddi community. The consent of the gram sabha is mandatory for any kind of development activity that affects their lives and livelihoods”, added the team. The team also raised the fact that a high level committee set up by the state government visited the area to assess the situation, but till date the report of the committee has not been made public.
The team will prepare a report on the fact finding and submit it to the District administration, state government, concerned ministries at the center and the National Women’s Commission.
For details contact:
Manshi Asher – 9816345198
Kesang Thakur- 9816264754
Rahul Saxena- 9816025246