India is moving forward on the path to industrial development and progress at a quick pace. While India moves forward, several voices have been accused of being obstacles to this surge.
These are the voices which have come out for environmental protection and the rights of those who are made to sacrifice for the collective advantage of many. The most recent uproar in India’s quickly fading memory is the agitation against the dam on Narmada river which submerged several rivers in MP and Gujarat.
Fear of dam collapsing
Now, another case that has come to refresh those memories is that of villages being submerged in a part of India far away from the media spotlight, Manipur. For the past several days, fear has gripped the residents of villages situated towards the downstream of the Mapithel dam.
The concern about the dam collapsing due to rise in water levels has forced villagers to vacate their homes and live in relief camps. But, this is just one chapter in the tragic story that is the plight of these poor villagers.
The complete story
Ever since the work on the dam’s construction begin in 1980, it has faced opposition from people living in the villages which will be submerged. The very first issue was that of the absence of Free, Prior Information Consent (FPIC) of the people which is mandatory under customary law.
After several rounds of negotiations and waiting for years, compensation was given to most villages except Lamlai Khunou and Chadong. The resettlement and rehabilitation program is a cruel joke with the site of relocation identified by officials being one without any electricity or transportation facility. What’s worse is that there is no mention of the site in the official document.
On top of everything, the R&R; compensation offered by the government has been refused by 138 households in Chandong which is the worst affected village. This is because the state government has failed to honour the agreement with the affected villages’ organisation.
The agreement had a charter of 26 demands which included fishing rights, forest rights and tourism rights. All these demands have been dismissed by the Government of Manipur.
No transport and basic amenities
The people in the villages are left with no transport except for bamboo rafts for which they have to wait hours. Apart from this single means to cross over, the village remains cut off from the outside world.
There is a lack of basic amenities. The villagers have been living in make-shift huts, thanks to consistently rising water levels fueled by incessant rains. The villagers have been deprived of electricity for several months now.
Something to think about?
The discussion here is not to prevent the work of the dam from progressing. The villagers’ major concern is to get basic amenities and proper rehabilitation. The residents of Chandong have witnessed their Church and a newly constructed school get submerged in water, bit by bit — something no one can ever compensate for.
As for the other villagers from Mapithel downstream, they are still trapped in relief camps despite assurances. The State Congress Committee member, KN Singh, termed reports of the dam being damaged as rumours spread for political gains.