Thursday, August 11, 2011

lawyers observed bandh in protest against Sindhol project

Following the 12-hour ‘Bandh’ call given by the district Bar Association in protest against the proposed Sidhol hydro-electrical project, normal life remained out of gear in Sambalpur and various parts of the locality on Tuesday. The ‘Bandh’ was supported by various mass and political organizations including congress and BJP, hit both bus and rail services because of the picketing of the agitators at Railway and Bus stations of Sambalpur.
Baring with few small incidents ‘bandh’ was a big successful because there was spontaneous support of the common people in favour of the ‘bandh’. Offices of both central and state governments, courts, commercial establishment, markets, banking and financial institutions remained closed in view of the agitation.
“It was a big successful because of the spontaneous support of the common people. I appealed the people not to be content because this is only the beginning. We have to be ready for a bigger challenge in future, as government wants to go for the project despite people’s mandate’, President of the Bar Association Pramod Rath said in the evening reacting over the success of the Bandh.

On the other hand elaborate police arrangement was made in the town in view of the ‘bandh’. Sambalpur SP Nikhil Kanodia along with other senior police officers of the district was seen supervising the situation personally to check any untoward incidents during the bandh “There was no untoward incidents and Bandh passed in a quite peaceful manner” SP (Sambalpur) Nikhil Kanodia said.
Meanwhile, Bandh was also observed in Kuchinda, Redhakhol and other part of the district. In Redhakhol the scheduled programme of Health minister Prasanna Acharya was postponed in view of the Bandh. Acharya was scheduled to visit Redhakhol on Tuesday, but he cancelled his programme. In Dhama, the Sindhol Prakalp Birodhi Committee along with member of both congress and BJP burnt the effigies of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Health Minister Prasanna Acharya and power minister Atanu Sabyasachi on Tuesday in protest against the proposed project.

Sindhol project brings unity among the locals

By proposing a hydro-power project in western Orissa at a cost of Rs 2,600 crores, the state government has unnoticedly put live in a dead volcano that becomes now beyond the control of the government after it started exploding. Government wants to pacify the situation by making declaration of conducting public hearing on the project. But it makes no difference in the situation as people questioned the significance of holding a public hearing after the signing the MOU for the proposed project.  The situation has gone out of the control of the state government as Individuals, mass organizations and leading political parties have already joined to bring out a massive agitation in the region against the proposed Sindhol power project.
The Orissa government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Hydro-Power Corporation (NHPC), a central PSU, on July 21, signaling its motive to go ahead with its plan to set up three hydel units in Sambalpur, Sonepur and Boudh districts.The government declared that the proposed plants would have an installed capacity of 320 MW and that Orissa would receive 12 per cent of the output for free. The government also announced that 1 per cent of the cost of the power generated will be spent on peripheral development activities in the region. , Government disclosed  that the JVC between Orissa Hydro Power Corporation Ltd. and NHPC Ltd would implement Sindhol-I (100 MW), Sindhol-II (100 MW) and Sindhol-III (120 MW) hydro electric projects. Government has also announced that the power project would provide ample employment opportunity apart from the economical development in the region. But people of the region do not want to buy the theory of development at the cost of their displacement.    
Warning of huge disruption in the area, former MP and eminent social activist Bhawani Sankar Hota exhorted the government to dump the proposal to evacuate people from their dwellings to accommodate the power plants. “It would wreak havoc. We will not allow the government to go against the will of the local people,” Hota told the media in Sambalpur. He warned that the people of the area were ready to fight tooth and nail if the government opted for a rigid line on the issue. He said the proposed project is a replica of the Hirakud Stage III project that was abandoned due to stiff opposition by local people and Opposition leaders during reign of the Congress.
Going by the present power production status of Hirakud and other hydro-power plants of the state, Hota claimed that the actual generation of the proposed units would never cross 150 MW. He asked the government to scrap the proposed project as the same amount of power could be generated in the Hirakud and Chipilima power plants by improving the infrastructure and facilities.
On the other hand the former MD of OHPC, Karunakar Supakar, blamed the government for making this move without undertaking any fresh survey in the region. He asked the government to disclose the actual position of the proposed project with regard to the exact extent of human displacement and loss of land. “When the government claimed that the project would not disturb any inhabitant of the region, there was no clear-cut substantiation of such a claim," Supakar said.
Water Initiative Orissa (WIO), a social organization, has reacted sharply and asked the state government to initiate public consultations before going in for such a project. “Successive governments have been prevented by public opposition from going ahead. I do not understand why the present government is bent upon green lighting the project,” he said.
Sources revealed that during the 1980s, the then chief minister JB Patnaik had proposed the construction of the Manibhadra dam but had dropped the idea when the people of the entire region opposed the plan. In 1996, the project was revived under the name of Hirakud Stage III. The then Union energy minister NKP Salve visited Chipilima to push the issue. However, in the face of strong public resentment, Patnaik had promised to bury the proposal for good.Again in 2003, during the Rairakhol Assembly by-elections, Naveen Patnaik stated the project was ”no longer relevant”.
Later that year, the then energy minister SN Patra made a press statement that “even though the Sindhol project has been under discussion at various levels for the last 15 years, no detailed project report has been prepared so far. According to preliminary investigations, this project will submerge 28 villages and displace 1850 families. So the government has decided not to implement it.
”In the 1990s, the state government inserted an advertisement in various language newspapers revealing that the project would submerge 118 villages, which would include 40 thousand acres of fertile agricultural land, reserved forests and homestead land. Meanwhile, the Sambalpur Sangram Samiti has decided to launch a massive agitation against the project. Its members told the press that the Samiti would visit the proposed areas soon to motivate the people to support the agitation as the project would bring nothing but misery to the villagers. Submitting a memorandum to the government, the members of the Samiti demanded that the proposed project be scrapped."We do not want displacement anymore. We do not have faith in the state government as it has miserably failed to provide compensation to people affected by the Hirakud dam project even 55 years after its construction," convener of the Samiti and senior Communist leader Ashok Bisi said.
The district presidents of both Congress and BJP have also decided to oppose the government on the issue. , The Sambad, an Oriya daily, organized a readers' convention in Sambalpur to discuss the implications of the proposed project. The editor of the newspaper, Saumya Ranjan Patnaik, declared the project ‘a dead one’ when not a single participant spoke in favour of the project. "The state government should not undertake a project when a majority of the people are clearly against it”, the editor said. Meanwhile two organizations in the name of Sindhol Prakalp Birodhi action committee and Sindhol Sangharsa Samiti have emerged in the region to oppose the proposed project.