SRINAGAR: The J&K High Court has directed Cabinet Sub-Committee to consider and decide within three months the grievance regarding rehabilitation of the families affected by the Kishanganga Hydroelectric project in Bandipora.
“We direct the concerned authorities to afford the writ petitioners a hearing enabling them to place their grievance by a proper representation. The cabinet sub-committee or the delegated authority may hear the grievance of the displaced families. The Commissioner Secretary for Relief and Rehabilitation is also to take part in the deliberations,” a division bench of Justices R Sudhakar and Dhiraj Singh Thakur.
“A decision on the issue shall be taken and duly communicated to the petitioners. The consideration to be accorded expeditiously preferably within a period of three months from the date of this order,” the court added.
It said that the Supreme Court has in “unequivocal terms” stated that courts should not embark on an issue as to whether a particular policy is correct or not. “It is left to the discretion of the lawmakers and the administration to form policies to serve public interest at large or as in this case a group of displaced people,” the court said while hearing 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 utilize Kishanganga River running across the Gurez Valley after its diversion through a 23km long tunnel to the Power House located in Kralpora village of Bandipora. The project involves displacement of nearby families including tribal population of the Dard-Shin tribe specific to Gurez, they said.
The committee 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 tribe speak the Shina, one of the languages recognized under constitution. They are entitled to various promotional schemes to safeguard their tribal characteristics.
“Petitioner and few other numbering about 245 claim that they are displaced families, however, according the respondents (government) the project affected families are 185, which is not a matter in dispute at this point of time,” the court said.
In 2007, Government of India formulated a National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, providing rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced persons in relation to development of infrastructure by the state.
Advocate Mehraj submitted that keeping in mind 2007 policy, the affected families would have been entitled to higher compensation and state government did not formulate a policy for the state in light of 2007 policy, thus has caused great prejudice. He pleaded that it was the duty of the state to ensure that there is policy, which can be applied without any discrimination to displaced people.
Counsel representing the state pleaded that the rehabilitation and resettlement plan has been framed taking into consideration inputs given by the stakeholders and with the help of the University of Kashmir. “Substantial amount has been released and compensation has been paid to the displaced families,” he said. However the court observed that “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 division bench said and opined that the factual aspect of the grievance should be at the first instance addressed by the respondents (government). If the grievance of displaced 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 consequent to Kishanganga Hydroelectric Power Project in District Bandipora,” the court added.