Monday 17 February 2014

Insane democracies and Journalist assaults

By Jiten Yumnam

In another shocking instance of undermining media persons rights and freedom in Manipur, Mr. Aribam Dhananjoy alias Chaoba, a reporter with the Imphal Free Press, was physically assaulted inhumanely by personnel of the 1st Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) on the night of 10 February 2014.  Havildar Md. Majibur, leading the IRB frisking team at the Northern Gate of Kangla Fort in Imphal town, Manipur, started assaulting and hit him on Mr. Chaoba’s forehead with his walkie talkie set inflicting severe injuries on the left eyebrow, leading to profuse bleeding. In a clear disregard of the dignity and rights of media persons, Mr. Chaoba was assaulted even as he identified himself as a reporter of Imphal Free Press and a member of All Manipur Working Journalist Union. The security personnel robbed two of his mobile phone handsets and further threatened to eliminate him if he complained to concerned authorities. Pursuing an act of brutality, dacoity and inhumanity by defenders of Indian democracy in Manipur even on members of fourth pillars of democracy is a clear testament of insanity of democratic practice in India.  

With the incident provoking furious condemnations, the Government of Manipur, through the Commandant of the Ist Indian Reserve Battalion issued an official order on 13 February 2014, placing Mr. Majibur under suspension from his official duties, Suspension is indeed a mockery in Manipur, and it cannot substitute for justice. Manipur, unfortunately, has witnessed enough instances as to how security forces involved in rights violations are initially suspended and later reinstated with promotions. With Manipur recorded as one of the most corrupted places, probably on Earth, this is no surprise.

A deeper reflection of the incident and as to how security forces in armed conflict afflicted Manipur, dared to unleash mindless brutality, even to a media person would be worthwhile, and probably would find consonance with the larger state of affairs in the state. One may wonder if this is the first case and it’s unlikely. Mr. Chaoba, as a media person only bears the audacity to confront the IRB personnel and to report it, and makes the case different. There’s every possibility that countless number of innocent people are regularly subjected to such humiliation and brutalities from security forces. The assault on Mr. Chaoba also re-affirms the lack of respect of human dignity and even the rights of journalist and other human rights defenders by the security forces in Manipur.

One also need a serious introspection as to why low ranking law enforcing officials and security forces in Manipur, can unleash violations and even to the extent of threatening people to derogate non derogable rights such as the “Right to Life”. Till very recently, Manipur witnessed a reign of terror, one of the most brutal forms of human rights violations, probably in its entire history, a systematic elimination of its youths in extra judicial executions, involving the Manipur police commandoes and the Indian army and its paramilitary forces, operating under the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. One may recollect that the period from the year 2006 till 2010 was, indeed, one of the worst nightmares for many parents in Manipur.

Those fortunate to survive and to resist such reign of terror were subjected to illegal detention, torture and inhumane treatment by the very people like Mr. Majibur of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB), whose personnel shuttle between Manipur Police commandoes and IRB. And those experiencing such nightmares will recall the threats and intimidations by such personnel during the periods of incarcerations, and a usual and an unusual form of harassment is threatening to eliminate them and to take their “right to life”, a non derogable right indeed. So, to issue a threat to eliminate a media person like Mr. Chaoba by a security person like Mr. Majibur is no wonder and simply not an individual aberration, but simply a outcome of a long pattern of human rights violations and a culture of impunity attached to it in Manipur.

In Manipur, the law enforcing officials and security forces enjoys a de-facto immunity for their violence and violations and none of those police and army personnel involved in the more than 1000 extra judicial executions over a short period of four years from 2006 till 2009 were ever punished, not to mention of other similar violations in the last several decades. The prolonged application of emergency laws, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA, 1959) to subdue the ongoing Self determination movement in Manipur and prolonged derogation of non derogable rights such as “right to life” and ‘right to “justice remedy”, seems to reinforce a very wrong concept among the security forces that they are just above the law, with license to harass civilians at will, without fearing to worry for prosecution. On the part of the Government, a serious and concerted effort to ensure full protection of the rights of journalist in conflict torn Manipur and to accord appropriate justice to those perpetrating violations against media persons is simply nonexistent and deficient.

The issue of ‘justice’ remains oblivious for journalist and human rights defenders targeted to human rights violations. The assault on media persons by the State security forces is not uncommon. There are even cases of media persons being targeted to extra judicial execution, illegal detention and torture in several instances. However, justice delivery continues to be a serious challenge. The punishment of the police personnel involved in the extra judicial execution of Mr. Konsam Rishikanta, a sub editor of Imphal Free Press and confirmed by the investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, continues to be a long pending issue. Mr. Thangjam Nanao, a journalist of Prime Time was also killed in a police firing in 23 December 2012 while covering protest against sexual harassment of a woman in Thangmeiband area of Imphal.

The prolonged denial of justice is evident in the outcome of the meeting of the All Manipur Working Journalist Union, on 13 February 2014, which resolved to take legal recourse to seek punishment of the IRB personnel involved in the recent assault on Mr. Chaoba. This is also an indication that AMWJU’s earlier rapprochement and reconciliation approach with the Government of Manipur on incidents of rights violations on Journalist has failed, and, thus, the recourse to seek justice. And this also indicates justice has been denied for long even to journalist victimized to rights violations.

The assault of Mr. Chaoba by the security forces on 10 February 2014 again constitutes a serious violation of human rights and freedom of the press. The assault constitutes a violation of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007, among others.

The direct assault and intimidations by the IRB personnel involved in the assault of Mr. Chaoba indicates a larger culture and practice, harboured for long among security forces. The IRB personnel and petty officials like Majibur already experience power abuse and already used to the written and unwritten safeguards. Thus arose the need not only to seek justice for Mr. Majibur of 1st IRB and those involved in his frisking team but also to review and reflect on the performance and the lack of respect and indiscipline among the security forces in Manipur and the context which enables them to abuse their power and role. The impact of militarization and massive deployment of security forces and also the impact of prolonged application of emergency laws, which facilitates culture of impunity need be thoroughly assessed for human rights compliances.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Margaret Sagakya, during her visit to India in 2011 strongly urged upon the Government of India to recognize the role of all human rights defenders, including journalist, in promoting culture and practice of democracy and hence should be accorded full respect and protection of their human rights. Ms. Margaret’s message continues to be highly relevant in the context of conflict ridden Manipur, where journalist takes exemplary role to end human rights violations and to establish a system based on rights, respect and justice. As demanded by the AMWJU, the Government of Manipur should terminate Mr. Majibur and all those IRB personnel involved in the gruesome assault on Mr. Aribam Chaoba on 10 February 2014 and should be awarded befitting punishment.

A thorough investigation and review of the entire conduct, indiscipline, disrespect of common people among security forces, the cause of such, and necessary changes, needs urgent review, to at least instil a peace of mind among the common people. The Government should also initiate adequate measures to protect the human rights and personal integrity of all journalist and all human rights defenders of Manipur. It is also high time the Government of India fully Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders in Manipur. Insane practices and mindless brutalities, unleashed on common people, are no means to achieve democracy. And this is more pertinent in a country like India, which brag on as the world’s largest democracy.  

Thursday 13 February 2014

Mega Dams and CDM fraud in Sikkim

By Jiten Yumnam

teesta-III-dam-site-and-destruction-300x225 (1)
In the state of Sikkim, land of rhododendrons, in the Himalayan foothills in India’s North East, rivers have been aggressively dammed over the last decades. Dam developers are pushing these projects as clean energy sources to seek carbon credits as additional profits from the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). More than fifteen mega hydro projects are already seeking carbon credits in Sikkim where hydropower is common practice. Some of these wrong decisions should be reversed and no further projects must be approved.

The 500 MW Teesta VI project of Lanco Energy Private Limited is a hydropower project located on the Teesta River at Subin Khor village of South Sikkim. On the same river, the 1200 MW Teesta III project is one of India’s largest hydropower projects trying to register under the CDM. Providing a misleading picture to the UNFCCC to receive undue CDM benefits, both the Teesta III and the Teesta VI project are clearly not additional. They are common practice because all power plants in India’s north-east are hydro power stations. What’s more, neither during stakeholder consultations nor at public hearings the project developers did reveal that these projects are planning to seek CDM credits. This makes the obligatory stakeholder consultation process under the CDM faulty. Fortunately both project are still at validation and have not generated carbon credits so far.

The dams in Sikkim are not green and clean and will only worsen global warming if their credits are used to comply with emission reduction obligations.

However, the non-recognition of Lepcha peoples’ rights over their land and their exclusion in decision making processes for dams on their sacred Teesta River remain key issues. The Lepcha peoples’ wishes, to protect the sacred Teesta River and their last reserve, the Dzongu, have been completely dishonoured. The blasting for construction of the project has led to severe landslides in hills and destruction of several houses near the dam site. A holistic impact assessment on ecology, seismic impacts, transmissions lines, impact of reduced flow and other impacts on Lepcha People such as blasting, is absent from its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Other common practice large hydro projects in Sikkim such as the 96 MW Jorethang Loop project of DANS Energy Private Ltd on the Rangit River are already registered as CDM projects. They are now generating non additional carbon credits. More projects are knocking the door in the registration pipeline. Those projects do not reduce emissions compared to what would happen without the CDM and do not contribute to sustainable development (to the contrary!). They must therefore be rejected by the CDM Executive Board.

Conclusions & Recommendations
International and national CDM policy is too weak to govern CDM projects and their impact assessment. There is no credible independent verification of developers’ claims regarding approval criteria. According to a Wikileaks cable, the NCDMA does not actually evaluate projects for sustainable development or additionality. Indeed, experience has shown that the Indian DNA and the UNFCCC approve almost all projects even when credible unchallenged evidence is presented.

Hydro power plants are common practice in Sikkim and other parts of India’s North East region and the projects do not rely on carbon credits to be financial feasible, even more so at the current price of carbon credits. The dams in Sikkim are not green and clean and will only worsen global warming if their credits are used to comply with emission reduction obligations. At the same time they will destroy the backbone of livelihood support for millions. Most dam projects ignore the recommendations of the World Commission of Dams (WCD) and the recommendations of the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 to respect indigenous people’s rights in dam construction in India’s North East. All validation and registration of big hydro projects for CDM from Sikkim and other parts of India’s North East should therefore be revoked immediately and no new projects approved. Indigenous peoples’ rights in Sikkim must be fully recognized in all development policies and projects.

Monday 10 February 2014

Land And Its People: What’s in Mapithel Dam?

By Koijam Pushparani

Never has it been tolerated  by the state, when it comes to the indigenous communities, asserting their rights over community land and other natural resources. The State has been imposing its will on the people, waging war against those who resist them. The decade long struggle of the indigenous tribal community in Manipur for their rights to land, cultivated and depended upon by them, has not been very smooth. The Government of India and the state government, in unison with the powerful corporate bodies, have defied their own set of laws and violated the rights of the indigenous tribal community. Despite the Forest Rights Act of 2006, the community rights to forests land are still being trampled upon and ignored. And at this juncture, it is certain that the interests of the tribal community have been set aside for vested-interest of the few.

The construction of Mapithel dam began in 1990 ignoring the rights of the indigenous communities’ over the resources and without seeking free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the affected communities. The project was sanctioned at the cost of Rs. 45 crore and the revised cost of the project is Rs 1,387 crores as per 2011 revised estimate. The ongoing dam in its completion will submerge 778 hectares of agricultural land and 595 hectares of forest land, not only forcing the communities out of their source of production but displacing thousands from their land as well. The displacement will take place in the absence of proper Rehabilitation and Resettlement plan for all the affected villagers. The State Government’s order for forced eviction of the affected villagers for Rehabilitation in 2012, has questioned its own legitimacy and responsibility towards its people.

The Mapithel dam over Thoubal River in Ukhrul district, Manipur was commissioned by the Planning Commission in 1980 with the aim of utilizing water resource of Thoubal River for irrigation, drinking water and to generate electricity. Without any detailed impact assessment of the project and a comprehensive Rehabilitation and Resettlement program for the affected communities, the state government has prematurely and unilaterally set the deadline for the project completion, leading to social divisions among the affected. Almost 80 percent of the construction work is finished and the project is set to complete by 2015 and throughout these decades, the construction work was carried out without the mandatory “Forest Clearance” and without monitoring the violations. And instead, the Ministry conceded final clearance for the construction of the dam, curtailing the rights and welfare of the tribal communities. With nearly 80 percent of the affected villagers dependent on agriculture and forest produces, the ongoing construction has severely impacted the livelihood, creating confusion and insecurity among the Tangkhuls and the Kukis in the Ukhrul district.

The construction will also have multiple impacts on the villages in the downstream area of dam site along Thoubal River such as Tumukhong, Itham, Moirangpurel, Laikhong, Saichang, Chaningpokpi, Bongyang, Bewlaland, Morkon, Songphel, Molnom in Imphal East and Senapati district of Manipur. Most of the village communities in the downstream have been living by collecting sand and stone from the Thoubal River. The construction will lead to water shortage, affecting agriculture and other allied activities both in the upstream and the downstream areas, threatening the food sovereignty of the communities dependent on land, forest and river.

The twist in the Mapithel Dam of the Thoubal Multipurpose came with the decision of Union Environment Minister, M. Veerappa Moily on 31st December 2013, to grant final stage II Forest Clearance for the construction of Mapithel Dam contradicting the letter sent by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on November 26 2013 which laid out the enforcement of the Forest Right Act (FRA), 2006 to ‘correct historical injustice’ done to the tribal communities as part of the ongoing case in the National Green Tribunal. Denouncing the earlier statement, the Ministry says that FRA should not apply to the acquisition of land from the Tangkhul and Kuki tribal people as a ‘rare and unique’ exception. 

The Posco steel plant in Odhisha met the same fate as Mapithel, with the Ministry clearing the Environmental Clearance for the project despite the contentious land acquisition process and protest from the local communities. While in another similar case of Vedanta bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri in Odisha, the Ministry complying with FRA, has rejected Forest Clearance for the project. The decision for non-compliance on application with the FRA in case of Mapithel dam, was taken in the shadow of the 1993 Memorandum of Agreed terms and conditions signed between the state government and some representatives of the affected villages, endorsing the agreement for Rehabilitation as ‘consent’ under FRA, 2006 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). The violation by the Government of Manipur in the past three decades is history now.

It is vital here to point out that the agreement of 1993 has already been confirmed to be defective as it had no Rehabilitation and Resettlement program and as most of the agreed terms were violated by the state.  In an acknowledgement of the violations and the incomplete nature of the 1993 agreement, the state government finally constituted an Expert Review Committee in 2008 to review impacts of Mapithel dam and review rehabilitation process etc. However, backtracking from the ERC process, the Government of Manipur forged an arbitrary agreement (strictly for rehabilitation) with a newly formed body in 2011 and claiming it legitimate. This is contested by the affected groups and the Guwahati High court even denounced the legitimacy of such agreements.

The violation on the part of the state and the central government went beyond violations of forest laws. The social turmoil and economic impoverishment have been coupled with militarization of the project site in order to put down the resistance from the affected villagers. The aggressive use of force by the law enforcing agencies following a protest by the affected villagers in 2008 can be best exemplified. Responding to the Human Rights violations in Ukhrul, the UN Special Rapporteur strongly urged the Government of India to fully take into account the provisions in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as well as other relevant provisions and respond to the articulated, demands and acts of protest by tribal communities in relation to Mapithel dam. However, the State has ignored the recommendations of the UN SR IP and stayed indifferent to the plight of the tribal communities.   

The impact of militarisation has also risked the safety of women in the affected villages. Village school has been turned into military camps infringing the right to education of the children in the affected villages in Ukhrul district. The imposition of militarisation can also be understood against the backdrop of the ongoing self determination movement of the various ethnic groups in Manipur. Sidelining all these political and socio-economic concerns, the State continues to insist on corporatization of land and natural resources in the name of development in Manipur, whose benefits, as the country’s post independent economy testifies, never reached the masses.

Development model emphasizing on infrastructure such as mega dams, infrastructure projects, power projects, etc. has adversely affected large section of people, particularly rural community. In addition to existing failed mega/micro projects in Manipur, the state is pushing for more destructive projects, namely Tipaimukh project, Oil Exploration Plan, High Power Transmission Lines and the recent Loktak Ring road project, evoking strong opposition from the affected communities against the exploitation of the resources which is linked with their livelihood. Apparently, the state is at war with its own people. And with the state firmed on acquiring and corporatizing more land, however with negligible rehabilitation, displacement will be a serious issue of the state in the following years.  

Notwithstanding the social crisis, the construction of dams and diversion of the forests for non-forest purpose shall also be considered in the growing concern for the global climate change. Threats to the climate and ecology also arise from exploitation and expropriation of the resources by the states and corporate. The submergence of 595 hectares of forest land from the construction of Mapithel dam will have an adverse impact on the environment, aggravating the climatic condition of the state. Besides, the forests of Manipur are increasingly targeted for climate change mitigation, such as REDD and REDD+ project initiatives, which will give transfer control of community’s forests land to state forest departments and companies, giving a free hand to the states in the politics of land and other natural resources.

The way forward

The increasing and aggressive pursuance of neo-liberal policies in Manipur, especially in the last few decades, has brought huge investments from developed countries and international financial institutions, with obscurely predefined objectives to eradicate poverty from Manipur and within the region. The pursuance of such neo liberal policies led to exploitation of natural resources of Manipur and further subjected indigenous communities to land alienation, displacement, conflict related human rights violations, violence against women and other multifaceted and multiplying impacts. The spoils of the exploitation have been strictly confined to the few political elites and corporate making them filthy rich, at the cost of the lives of the communities. Manipur, unfortunately, is increasingly witnessing such paradox and contradictions.

In a democracy where rights of the poor, particularly tribal, have been grossly violated, it is likely that states’ apathy will create severe political crisis with distrust towards the democratic ideology of the country. It is hereby essential that the state recognises the inherent relationship between the communities and the natural resources that sustain their livelihood and also ensures the democratic participation of the communities in issues that concerns their land and survival, lest it could invite violent resurrection from the million victims, questioning India’s own democracy. The development of Manipur and Mapithel region can be best assured with the full participation and consultation of all communities to be affected by Mapithel dam. Embarking on a dubious process of mastering divisions and manipulations of all sorts will only complicate the development imbroglio and the resistance from all impacted by such development malaise.

Tipaimukh dam amidst Manipur’s development imbroglio

By: Koijam Pushparani

Quite often, we come across people complaining about the price of the basic necessities available in the market. We complain about the frequent load shedding, the bad condition of the roads and the drainage system. One might have seen the crowded and dreadful roads of the Imphal city or the flooded roads after a heavy rainfall. The condition becomes even worse as we move away from the city area. We cannot deny that the state seriously needs to address the issues of development but one basic problem associated with it is the state’s approach to development where negative impacts often precede development. The developmental works taken up by the government are yet to be critically looked upon. No doubt, the development of physical infrastructures such as transport, tourism, power supplies, irrigation and water supply, etc is of public interests and welfare but the fact that most of these projects end up disappointing the public is a well-known story. Furthermore, the efforts of the government often strike off the development of social infrastructure such as health, education, poverty, employment, etc which would help in building an egalitarian society, hence reflecting the discrepancies in terms of developmental approach towards the physical and the social infrastructures in Manipur.

The proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam as a development plan pursued by the Govt and other corporate bodies can be illustrated. Tipaimukh is an initiative of Assam government which was materialized in the year 1999 when the Brahmaputra Flood Control Board (BFCB) handed over the project to  a company named, North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO). The Project was approved by the Governor of Manipur under President’s Rule in 2001 without the consent of the communities of Tamenglong, Churachandur and the rest of Manipur, and it was followed by a series of formalities devoid of proples’ rightful participation. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Government of Manipur and NEEPCO in 2002. An Environmental Clearance (EC) for Tipaimukh Dam was granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), New Delhi in 2008. Later, with the change in project propagator (now a joint venture of NHPC, SJVNL and Government of Manipur), another MoU was signed in 2011. After the clearance for Environmental Clearance (EC), the GOM sought for the Forest Clearance (FC) which has been rejected by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).

The Forest Clearance for Tipaimukh includes 22, 777.50 hectares in Manipur and 1551.60 hectares in Mizoram. The FAC in its minutes on 11th and 12th July, 2013 and 13th and 14th August, 2013 rejected the forest diversion in Manipur and Mizoram. The FAC concluded that the requirement of the forest land for the project is large in case of Manipur and not proportionate to its power generation capacity. The FAC further concluded that the mega project will also have significant forest impact in Mizoram.

The 162.8 meter high earthen Tipaimukh dam is to be constructed at the downstream, at the confluence of river Barak and Tuivai Rivers near Manipur-Mizoram border. The estimated figures of the trees and bamboo groves that will be lost due to the project is over 8 million trees and 4 million bamboo groves which no “Compensatory Afforestation” measure would ever compensate. The proposed project would have an adverse impact on the environment and the ecosystem. It would affect the valuable and endangered floras and faunas that have medicinal, cultural and other values to the indigenous communities as well. While the project would cause displacement of thousands of people in Churachandpur and Tamenglong districts in Manipur, it plans to generate an employment of 862 nos, which is very less compared to the thousands who would be displaced. Moreover, the Project has not conducted a detailed and holistic Impact Assessment yet. In brief, the project is a death-trap for the indigenous community in the two districts and their source of livelihood. Further, the project alters and impact livelihood in the downstream portion of Barak River in Assam and Bangladesh. The project would affect the transportation of the communities including the historic Old Cachar Road (Tonjei Maril) and traditional waterways along the Barak River.

We need to acknowledge that the land, forest and river form an integral part of our socio-cultural belief system and that these resources sustain them socio-culturally and economically and the construction of Tipaimukh would have an adverse affect on them. The rights of the indigenous community such as Hmar and Zeliangrong people over the land and resources will be violated in the name of development. Against these facts, it is surprising that while these communities are the ones at the receiving end of the impacts of the proposed projects they have been denied a say in the decision making process. The project has been met with strong resistance from the communities. Public protests have been staged to revoke the Environmental Clearance (2008) and the MoU (2011). The court hearings have been opposed on account of absence of holistic Impact Assessment and non recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights over their ancestral land and resources. As a response to the public demands and agitations, the government restricted the public hearings and held them under heavy security. Tipaimukh project has exposed the governments’ indifference towards dealing with the issues that concern development on one side and that of the rights and traditional values of indigenous communities on the other.

Tipaimukh dam can be taken as a ploy of the governments to extract funds and misappropriate public funds. The proposed Tipaimukh project costs Rs.8,138.79 Crores. It is explicit that the Government insists on comodification of our natural resources and overlooked the devastating impacts of the proposed construction. Its highly apprehensive the Tipaimukh project, like other government projects in Manipur will bring no development but hardship for the indigenous community, especially those along the Barak and Tuivai rivers.

The reality of multipurpose projects in Manipur is yet to be discovered by a larger population of our society who welcome the developmental programs of the government without even realizing that these developmental works are profit driven. The indulgence of the state and the centre in collusion with some corporate in exploiting the natural resources had cost the survival of the communities dependent on the resources. These projects are often tangled with the inhumane artifact such as illegal seizure of large amount of private and community land, plundering of natural resources such as river, wetland, land, forests, etc and a series of civil and human rights violation of people. The Loktak Hydroelectric project (1984) and the Singda dam (1995) have not only completely failed in meeting their objectives but are laden with violation of communities’ rights. The Thoubal Multipurpose projects or Mapithel dam (1980) is still an ongoing construction with lots of loophole and civil rights violation. The past few decades have witnessed an over exploitation of the natural resources which seem to have no end and so is the struggle of the indigenous communities for survival and to protect their rights over the resources.

The situation invites an occasion from the government of an alternative to the existing development process, which is inclusive and a more humane approach towards development. Any developmental plan should ensure a democratic participation of people since it is an inherent right of the indigenous communities for free, prior and informed consent on any government program that affects them. The natural resources still sustain a large percentage of population and the undertaking of project without recognizing communities’ rights over their land and resources and without proper plans for the resettlement of the displaced and affected would negate the purpose of the project. And also keeping in view the increasing environment and the change in climate, and other socio-economic and larger political impacts, any developmental processes should be sensitive to the needs of communities and promotion of environmental integrity. 

Saturday 8 February 2014

Press Release on "Land Grabbing in Manipur"

The 31st January, 2014

The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, organised a consultation on “Land Grabbing in Manipur” at Manipur Press Club on 31 January 2013. The consultation, attended by communities affected by Mapithel Dam, Loktak Project, Heirok Canal Branch, Lamphel Yaipha Leikai, Tipaimukh dam etc and Oil exploration plan in Manipur, was moderated by Dr R.K. Ranjan, Senior Environment. Y Mani Khuman, President All Manipur United Clubs Organization, Ms. Nganbi, JAC Against the eviction of Lamphel Yaipha Leikai etc was the presidium members of the consultation. Mr. Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, provided overall key note on the trend of land grabbing in Manipur and the challenges.

The consultation, organized to assess the existing and emerging pattern of land grabbing in Manipur was also attended by representatives of Asian Peasant Coalition, AGRA, MONLAR from countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines and Nepal, who shared experiences on some of the key process of Land grabbing and its impact on agriculture in their respective countries. The consultation assessed the ongoing process of land grabbing caused by mega development projects, urbanisation, expansion of infrastructure projects, militarisation and possible threats and impacts on the food sovereignty of indigenous communities of Manipur.      

Mr. Oinam Deben of All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen Union expressed apprehension on the proposed Loktak ring road on the fishing and farming communities dependent on Loktak Lake. He appealed to repeal the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006. Mr. Thanmi Kashung of the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organization expressed concern as to how the mega dam will submerge more than 1000 hectares of prime agriculture land along the Thoubal River and another 595 acres of forest land due to Mapithel Dam and the various impacts on their livelihood and ecology. Mr. Laishram Mandir, spoke on the impacts of Mapithel Dam, proposed Heirok Canal branch, especially their access to water resources for agriculture. Mr. Tongbram Gunadhor also spoke on the hardship inflicted by the forced eviction at Lamphel Yaipha Leikai. Mr. Pangambam Tomba, President, Committee on Protection of Agriculture Land, Heingang also spoke on how agriculture land are targeted for forcible acquisition without consulting the land tillers. Mr. Rajesh of Sekmai Protection Committee spoke on impact of sand mining along Sekmai River, the loss of farm land due to creation of Gals Bottling Plant and militarization etc.

The representatives from the Asian peasant Coalition, Ms. Roda, Mr. Budi, Mr. Lakpriya, and Mr. Poudel drew similarities of experiences of land grabbing and impacts between the people in other parts of Asia and Manipur. They expressed their reservation on the promotion of neo liberal policies in the increasing globalized world which has caused loss of means of production of the small scale farmers, fishing communities, indigenous peoples etc across the world.  

The consultation concluded with a general agreement among the participants to extend solidarity to the efforts of all communities across Asia to promote food sovereignty and rights of all communities striving for defence of agriculture land, natural resources.

                                                                                                                        Sincerely Yours,

                                                                                                                        (Jiten Yumnam)

Selected Media Reportages

1) MDAVO denounces Ministry's approval

IMPHAL, Jan 11, 2014 : Following the CCDD way, the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organisation (MDAVO) while denouncing the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Government of India's approval for the final Stage II Forest Clearance for Mapithel Dam construction in Manipur under fraudulent conditions on Dec 31, 2013, demanded the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to revoke its letter to the Government of Manipur conceding final stage II Forest Clearance for Mapithel Dam to ensure social and economic justice in the land.  
The MoEF should insist on its recommendations to the Government of Manipur to apply the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and to take the consent of the traditional institutions of the affected communities and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs should rather promote the interest and rights of tribal peoples affected by Mapithel Dam in Manipur and should recommend the full compliance of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the case of Mapithel Dam, a statement issued by the chairman of MDAVO, R Sakathan demanded.
It further urged the Manipur Government to stop construction of Mapithel Dam till the consent of all affected communities are taken with.
The matter of forest diversion of 595 hac does not come to the knowledge of the affected land owners till today. The compensatory Afforestation planned over twice the area to be submerged is also not informed to the affected communities. MDAVO is left at a lurch as to how the forest diversion and compensation afforestation etc will take place without informing and taking consent of the communities affected by Mapithel dam.
Registering strong objection to the grant of forest clearance without proper Impact assessment on environment, ecology, social, economic, cultural, health perspective of the project by the implementing authority /agency, the statement said that the de-recognition of tribal Forest dwellers rights on forest, based on the FRA 2006 is a straight violation. As such, it strongly condemned MoEF and demanded revocation of the Forest Clearance grant to the State Govt.
MDAVO also considered the act of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) conceding extraordinary ‘exceptions’ to the application of “Forest Rights Act, 2006” in the case of Mapithel Dam construction and exempting the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Government of Manipur not to implement Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA, 2006) for the project as a clear disrespect and an act of discrimination against the tribal people who will lose their land.   
Endorsing the Manipur Government’s reference to the 1993 agreement for Rehabilitation as semblance of ‘consent’ under FRA, 2006 by the MoEF and MoTA is unacceptable as the agreement is marred with serious and continuing violations, it said that the payment of land compensation to be done in 1994-1995 according to the agreement is not fulfilled till today. The same matter is under review in the Expert Review Committee process formed in January 2008.
The insistence on 1993 agreement as receiving ‘consent’ taken from the village Chiefs to claim exemption from Forest Rights Act, 2006 by the Manipur Government is not acceptable as the same was confirmed to be defective and immature by the state itself in 2003 and further the Village Authorities in the affected area are not authorised to sell their tribal forest land, even under the 1993 agreement. No forest land is acquired under the 1993 agreement as it was just a condition or terms for the deed.
Beside, the villagers under Catchment Area for the Mapithel Dam Multipurpose project, strongly objected the planned acquisition of 565 sq km of their forest land without their consultation and consent. The affected villagers also maintained that any occupation of their forest land not through the FRA, 2006, is a straight challenge to their traditional forest rights.
MDAVO also questioned the MoEF as to how it cleared Forest Clearance without any applicable Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for Mapithel Dam and how the MoEF and MoTA refers to 1993 as compliance of rules. 

2) Activists welcomes rejection of Tipaimukh dam by FAC

Aug 9, 2013: The anti-dam activists in the North Eastern states have welcomed the rejection of the Tipaimukh dam by the Forest Advisory Committee. However the Union government feels that this could be overcome. In fact India has been in consultation with Bangladesh on the issue of the construction of the dam which will generate 1500 MW out of which Manipur will get 15 per cent free of charge as the host state. The mega dam is set to be constructed at the junction of Mizoram, Assam and Manipur. 
All these years Manipur and Mizoram have been objecting to it. However the recurring flood in the Barak valley in Assam shall be controlled and vast areas could be brought under agriculture and horticulture. A consultative meeting on the proposed Tipaimukh hydroelectric power project was held at Manipur Press club on Thursday. Organised by the Union NGO Mission Manipur the speakers pleaded not to construct the dam since Manipur stands to lose in many ways. 27,777.50 hectares of forest will be subjected to diversion. At least 13 tribal villages will be submerged in the dam waters. Some portions of highway 37 will be destroyed. Besides there will be irreparable loss in flora and fauna. 
At the end of the meeting ten resolutions were taken. It said, among others, that the recommendation of the World Commission on dams, the UN declarations on the rights of the indigenous peoples should be implemented. Now that the Forest Advisory Committee has rejected the Tipaimukh dam it also called for the revocation of the environment clearance of the mega project given on October 24, 2008. 
Meanwhile NGOs and some high officials in Meghalaya are not happy with the statement of Jyotiraditya M. Scindia that 1279 sites have been identified in the NE region for setting up mini hydel projects. 97 of the sites are said to be located in Meghalaya. Ranking officials say that they are not aware of these sites. Some NGOs say that since these sites are believed to be located in private land the owners will not readily cooperate. They said that if the mini hydel projects come up Meghalaya will be submerged. 
The speakers in the consultative meeting in Imphal said that since the dam will doom the fate of the posterity and today's generation should do everything to oppose the proposed dam. The Manipur Assembly had also adopted a resolution to oppose the dam since Manipur stands to lose in many ways. However within a few years the Manipur government was prevailed upon to extend cooperation. 

3) Protection of human rights defenders

HNS/Imphal, Oct 17, 2013 : Committee on Protection of Natural Resource in Manipur, North East Dialogue Forum, All Tribal Students Union Manipur, All Zeliangrong Students Union, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Human Rights Initiative, Naga Women's Union, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur'and Sinlung Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Organization would jointly organised a "Convention on Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Manipur" at Manipur Press Club, Majorkhul, Imphal on 19th October 2013 at 10:30 A.M. 
The Convention has been planned in the backdrop of increasing targeting of human rights defenders and their organizations in Manipur by security forces operating under emergency laws in Manipur. The convention will also discuss the patterns of targeting human rights defenders and adopt specific resolution and strategies to promote the human rights and protection of human rights defenders of Manipur.
Chandam Brajachand, MJS, Grade I will grace the Convention as Chief Guest. Yambem Laba, Former member of Manipur Human Rights Commission and Wangkhemcha  Shyamjai, President of All Manipur Working Journalist Union (AMWJU), Kangjam Maharabi, Member of Manipur Commission on Protection of Child Rights will grace the Convention as Guest of Honors.   Rakesh Meihoubam, Director of Human Rights Law Network, Babloo Loitongbam, Executive Director of Human Rights Alert, Dr. Debabrata Roy Laifungbam, President of Elders Council, Centre for Organization Research and Education, Ms. Aram Pamei, Ex- President of Naga Women Union, Jiten Yumnam, Secretary of Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, Nobokishore, Secretary of North East Dialogue Forum, Traite of Sinlung Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Organization, Dr. RK Ranjan, Chairperson of Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Majabung Gangmei, Spokesperson of ATSUM, Phulindro Konsam, Chairperson of Committee on Human Rights, Pradip Keisam of Manipur Alliance for Child Rights will present sharings on protection of human rights defenders in Manipur.
The scheduled Manipur State Level Convention on Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Manipur is being organized in the context of increasing targetting of human rights defenders and their organizations in Manipur by security forces operating under emergency laws in Manipur. The convention will also discuss the patterns of targetting human rights defenders and adopt specific resolution and strategies to promote the human rights and protection of human rights defenders of Manipur.  I would like to thank you for your timely presence.

4) Locals object land demarcation

IMPHAL, Dec 20, 2013 : Locals of Takyel Khongbal Mayai Leikai today objected demarcation of land at Takyelpat for the construction of Government office buildings. Following an order issued by Imphal West DC, a team of Government officials led by SDC concerned tried to demarcate land at the area this morning. However, local club executives, meira paibees and villagers objected the move of the Government.
The locals submitted an application to DC Imphal West through the SDC requesting him to postpone demarcation of land for 15 days. Later, the locals conducted a public meeting at TUPO ground and resolved that even an inch of land would not be given to the Government. The meeting also decided to form a pressure group christened Takyelpat Land Protection Committee to spearhead movements against Government’s move.
Convenor of the newly formed body, Sapam Rajbapu said that villagers of Takyel Khongbal would stand against land acquisition at Takyelpat till death. He also warned that the State Government must be held responsibility of any untoward incident arising out of their indifferent attitude towards the common voice of the people of the area. The Government has already acquired around 40 paris of agricultural land for the construction of Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex and around 25 paris of land for Government offices like State Academy of Training, Manipur Science Museum, MANIREDA and IBSD etc, he said. As such, people of the area would not allow to take away the remaining 15 paris of land, where many people are residing, Rajbapu said. Mentioning that the State Government had also tried to acquire land in 1974 and 1987, Rajbapu said that the plan was abandoned due to intense resistance from the people of the area. He also said that a youth died in police firing following a flare-up erupted between police and agitating villagers in 1974. Rajbapu urged the Government to act according to the wish of the general public.

5) RK Ranjan flays ring road plan

Imphal, December 22, 2013: Taking serious note of the notification issued on November 8 this year for acquisition of land for construction of a ring road from Sendra to Ishok around Loktak Lake, Dr RK Ranjan has questioned whether the State Government has studied the Land Acquisition Amendment Act passed by the Parliament last year.   
In protest against the Government plan to acquire land for the ring road, people of 19 villages held a meeting at Khoijuman Langol Ningthou community hall today. A large number of farmers and fishermen who would be affected by the land acquisition move attended the meeting. Speaking at the meeting, environmentalist Dr RK Ranjan said that according to the Land Acquisition Amendment Act, the Government should first obtain consent of the people if it should acquire land for any project. The Government has no authority to bulldoze its way.  
Villagers need to find out whether the land acquisition notification was issued by the State Government after studying the Land Acquisition Amendment Act. If it happens that the Government issued the notification without studying the amended Act, people should register their objection with the authorities concerned. Construction of ring road around Loktak Lake may help in maintaining a healthy water level for power generation but it would destroy a large number of fish farms which are the only source of livelihood for poor fishing families, Ranjan said. Almost all the 19 villagers which would be left outside the ring road and large areas of paddy fields and fish farmers would be submerged under water. It is also crucial to find out whether the Loktak Protection Act and the proposed ring road have any link.  
If the people are against the proposed ring road which is being planned in the interest of big corporate bodies, it is the right time to raise a strong voice of objection, he asserted. 
BJP State unit president Th Chaoba said that the State Government is still unable to pay full compensation to the people affected by Loktak Project. After several huts belonging to fishing families have been set ablaze, the Government is again planning to take over more land. The Government's move is an open invitation for strong mass movement. Human right activist W Joykumar opined that the local MLAs consent would be surely taken even if people were not given prior information. The Government ought to inform the people about the project and take their consent in compliance with general procedures.

6) Ring road around Loktak proposed

BISHNUPUR, Dec 22, 2013 : The Fish Farmers’ Society has today organised a public meeting at Khoijuman Yangoi Ningthou Community hall regarding the construction of a ring road around Loktak Lake from Ishok to Sendra. 
During the meeting, Thounaojam Chaoba, ex union minister and president BJP Manipur Pradesh, N Ibopishak, pradhan of the Khoijuman Kwasiphai GP and CRA secretary Jiten Yumnam, environmentalist Dr RK Ranjan Singh, Human Rights Initiative director W Joykumar, senior wrestling coach W Chaobalal attended the public meeting as chief guest, president and guests of honour respectively. 
The meeting was participated by the land holding dwellers from Ishok to Sendra who will be evacuated due to the construction of the ring road. The meeting further discussed the grievances that will be faced by the people dwelling around the lake.  
Five resolutions including that the ring road be constructed considering the grievances of the people, and enough compensation was provided to the affected families, the formation of a farmers’ body and submission of a memorandum to the concerned authorities to review the construction of the ring road were passed during the meeting.

6) Power dept corporatisation finds Cabinet approval, process from Feb

IMPHAL, December 26, 2013 : The state Cabinet today has granted approval in principle to the proposal for corporatisation of the electricity department. The process is expected to begin from the month of February, next year.  Government spokesperson and education minister M Okendro stated that the agreement for transforming the government department into a corporate was taken at the Cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister O Ibobi at the CM secretariat this morning.  He continued that the meeting also reviewed the previous decision of the Cabinet to cancel the involvement of transport contractors of food grains during the distribution of essential items under the Targeted Public Distribution System in four valley districts. The matter was discussed minutely before the decision was taken, he stated. 
The earlier decision had entrusted the district administration to carry out the work for ferrying the items under the TPDS, replacing the transport contractors. However, the delegation of the responsibility to the district administration had intensified their workload and created extra burden, necessitating a re-think, the minister said.   Okendro further informed that the meeting discussed the plans for introduction of National Food Security Act in Manipur from March, next year. In this regard, the Cabinet took a decision to notify the DCs and ADCs to complete the identification of priority households before January 15, 2014. The last date for receipt of forms had been fixed on January 10, 2014. The DCs and ADCs will be advised to carry out comprehensive publicity campaign for maximum circulation of the forms, he added. 
The minister added that in order to achieve glorious success in the implementation of the Act, the Cabinet agreed to set up the required number of fair price shops in the Assembly constituencies and the construction of the additional shops will be funded by the Local Area Development Fund of the respective MLA. The Cabinet further gave its approval to the prorogation of the sixth session of the 10th Manipur Legislative Assembly, said the minister. Today’s Cabinet also approved the establishment of the State Society for Management of Institute of Hotel Management, the minister added. 

8) Oil drilling: ATSUM- Govt ready for showdown
HNS/Imphal, Jan 10, 2014: Voicing strongly against exploitation of natural resources in hill areas of the State, All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur (ATSUM) has been pressuring the authorities concerned to revoke the licenses of the companies engaged in oil drilling works at some hill areas in the State.
The oil drilling works are likely to be disrupted in the near future due to mounting pressure from the ATSUM. However, the State Government is committed to thwart any obstruction to the oil drilling. Moreover, the Government is planning to organize mass awareness programmes on exploration of natural resources and its benefits to the people.
The awareness programme would be organized to sensitize the people on various aspects of oil drilling and make them aware of the agreement signed between the State Government and the companies, assurance for not causing harm to the environment in the process of oil drilling, benefits from exploration of petroleum and natural gases in other states, and prevention of disasters with relevant case studies.
The Chief Secretary would also discuss organizing field trips to oil drilling sites in Assam and Tripura along with the representatives of ATSUM and other social organizations.
The oil drilling began in the State after the contract was awarded to a company by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gases, and later a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the State Government and the company.  The Jubilant House Private Limited is undertaking the oil drilling works at two places in Churachandpur and Tamenglong districts.
Even though there is much likelihood of the presence of petroleum products in the State, there is no guarantee that petroleum products would be found in the speculated areas alone. Even in case the petroleum is found, the company exploring the petroleum products would experience loss if the amount turns out to be little.