SRINAGAR: The J&K High Court on Saturday directed state government and NHPC to file reply within four weeks to a petition, seeking directions to quash the rehabilitation and resettlement policy that was approved on December 12 last year by the state cabinet for affected families of the Kishanganga Hydroelectric project in Bandipora.
The directions were issued by a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey on a petition filed by members of joint committee of Kishanganga hydroelectric project affected families of village Badwan Wanpora and Mastan Khopri, tehsil Gurez.
In the plea filed through advocate Altaf Mehraj, the committee said the state government handed over the execution of the 330 MW Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).
The project shall utilise Kishanganga River running across the Gurez Valley after its diversion through a 23-KM long tunnel to the Power House located in Kralpora village of Bandipora. The project involves displacement of the 400 families and 200 of them are tribal population of the ‘Dard-Shin’ tribe specific to Gurez, they said.
The government puts the number of the displacement families to 180 only and according to the petitioners, it’s not based on any correct assumption. “The (government) has not included many of the project affected families for the purposes of the formulation of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy.”
They said that the people, majority of them being Tribals speaking ‘Shina’ language, are losing their entire properties and occupational assets to the dam.
The Dard Shin tribes speak the Shina, one the languages recognised under constitution. They are entitled to various promotional schemes to safeguard their tribal characteristics.
In order to rehabilitate and resettle the project affected families, they said, the government of India formulated a comprehensive policy, commonly known as the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007. Its basic document, they said, is regarding resettlement and rehabilitation of the project affected families. The policy has laid down the basic minimum requirements and the procedure to be adopted by the state while carrying out the process of rehabilitation of the project affected families.
Before formulating the policy, the state government had sought the consensus of the locals on a policy formulated in 2011.
“The policy by and large contained various benefits which are contained in the National Policy. However the respondents had not resorted to the procedure as is provided in the National Policy of 2007.”
The state government, they said, has by and large completed the measure work of the execution and it is expected that by this month, the NHPC would commission the first phase of the project. However, the most vital and important issue of the resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected people is yet to be taken care of by government.
“The (state government and NHPC) have also till date failed to notify the project affected area and besides have also failed in carrying out the comprehensive baseline survey or census of the project affected families in accordance with the National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement 2007,” they said.