R&R anomaly in Mapithel dam

Jajo Themson *

Mapithel dam water level rises (May 22 2016)
Mapithel dam water level rises (May 22 2016) :: Pix - TSE

Introduction : History of India witnessed rampant involuntary social displacement and subsequent sub-standard life of its citizens due to development interventions like Industrial expansion, Highway & Railway construction, Mining activities and dam multipurpose projects. In each of such development undertakings, compulsive marginalization, loss of ancestral land, forest, homes, animal grazing fields, rivers etc. usually give drastic change of ecology, environment, and negative impacts on socio-cultural, economy, health and survival of the original incumbents of the project areas have been a common characteristic in century.

Yes, it is undeniable that the infrastructures development is keys to improving well being of its citizen, advancement and up-gradation of national economy. However, the irony is, life of some sections of the society who sacrificed their invaluable land, forest, homes, river and resources for the general welfare, are permanently uprooted and pushed down to ground level towards abject pauperism, inability to continue dignified life and left with no hope of access to the main stream of the society in the name of development.

Life of the settlers of Loktak Lake who were uprooted from their ancestral homes by Loktak Hydro-electric project and of the displaced tribal communities of Khuga dam project in Churachandpur, are some of the right examples of social displacement that led to disruptive livelihood and subsequent disaster thrown upon them due to mega projects in Manipur so far.

Being a welfare state, it is very much mandatory on the part of the states in attempt to undo continuous victimization of its own citizens in development interventions. The main objectives of Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RR) policies in all legislations- emphasis were laid on minimizing displacement and to promote,’ as far as possible, non-displacing or least-displacing alternatives; to ensure adequate rehabilitation package and expeditious’ implementation of the rehabilitation process with the active participation of the affected people. Welfare and well being of the public shall not be excluded adequate housing, living standard, education and better of the quality life of its own citizen.

R&R anomaly in Mapithel dam: The affected villagers of Mapithel dam have been demanding for framing up a concrete R&R policy program of Manipur since early part of 2000’s and urged conclusion of Mapithel R&R matter under the plan. There were times when experts of various Govt. departments have been exhaustively working to frame up a definite shape of an RR for Mapithel dam since 2008 till 2011 in its review process.

The recommendations of the experts field investigation were laid special emphasis on inevitability of arrangement of alternative livelihood sources, economy, proper RR etc. including detail impacts assessment. However, the expert’s reports were totally left oblivion.

Mapithel dam might be the first in the entire history of the world where multiple and varied standards of R&R policy programs are implemented and series of agreements signed in execution of one development project. The first R&R program of Mapithel dam project was implemented in 1990’s for construction area covering Louphong, Phayang and Maphou Kuki village followed by Memorandum of Agreed Terms and Conditions, 1993 for upstream.

Another unilateral R&R plan was sketched in 1994 which was revised in 1998 and named it as RR plan of 1998. Still another R&R plan was formulated in 2008 for some group. This was followed by yet another segment of R&R plan in 2011. Still different kinds of R&R plan are coming up for different affected villages in the upstream, construction area like 2nd time RR for Maphou Kuki and 3rd time R&R for Louphong under compulsion being multiple cracks occurred as dam water impacts and immediate downstream villages.

As far as initiatives of state Govt. regarding Mapithel dam R&R is concerned, a clear testimony of unsystematic, inefficient, unjust, manipulative, random access and immaturity can be witnessed by general public. It is really unfortunate to experience that dealing the complex part of the project works in such a kind of lump-sum manner, where actually most of the controversies on social displacement, relocation and rehabilitation on alternative survival of the affecting people are circled like it happened in other such projects.

R&R anomaly still lingers in Mapithel dam project even after numerous attempt made by the project authority in such a long years. Most of the affected villagers turned down the arbitrary R&R program arranged by the project proponent/IFCD, Govt. of Manipur. The villagers of Chadong and other adversely affected villages objected the revised RR program of 2011 prepared by the state Govt. on the ground that whole process of RR program and subsequent implementation are against the High Court’s Stay order and deviated from the right channel which were carried out in complete lack of transparency & accountability. The villagers termed the latest R&R plan even as Imposed and Immature plan that undermined the rights and aspiration of the affected villagers.

However, it is optimistic to acknowledge formation of High Powered Committee (HPC) with the initiative of Hon’ble Minister, IFC, Govt. of Manipur on 2nd may 2017 with an aim to resolve the long contention of Mapithel dam RR issues. It is a firm believes of the general public that the HPC will take up positive steps towards finding a mechanism for permanent solution to the aged-old Mapithel dam R&R controversy which was wrought and fragmented by the previous Govt. in an insincere manner. Moreover, it is believed that the cardinal ingredients of R and R (2 Rs) are not screwed into single “R”, but the pertinent livelihood being disrupted be given serious concern to sustaining their future lives.

National Rehabilitation Policy : The Govt. of India did not give due consideration on such kind of rehabilitation or relief measures for the project affected people due to different reasons before she attains her independence. The matter of R&R is the concern and responsibility of the state Govt. as per conditions enshrined in the R&R Bill of 2007. Maharashtra was the first state in the country to pass a law on R&R in 1976. A rehabilitation law was passed by Madhya Pradesh Government in 1985, which applies only to irrigation projects. Karnataka state passed the rehabilitation act in 1987 but received the president’s assent only in 1994. Other states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Orissa have their state rehabilitation orders.

Much later than the states Govt. enacted law, National Bills on R&R policy came to introduce on realization the quantum of negative impacts on India’s own citizen in the welfare programs for centuries. The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007 was framed up which was first formulated in 2003. Another act called Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013 which was officially enforced since January 2014. The latest one is the “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement” (amendment) ordinance, 2015.

R & R policy in Manipur : Many states of India as abovementioned, R&R programs were implemented based on their own state’s Rehabilitation & Resettlement policies in 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s and Indian National R&R policy was enacted way back in 2003. However, it is very sad to witness that, there is no such R&R policy in Manipur state till date.

It was on acknowledgement of lack of R&R policy of Manipur state, the UNSR on 26 March 2015 urged details of resettlement and Rehabilitation plan for Mapithel dam and measures taken for full enjoyment of right to adequate standard of living, including housing and food, and rights of indigenous people, social and environment impacts assessment of Mapithel dam but found no answer till today.

Conclusion : Considering the above circumstances, an attempt to finalize the RR matter for Mapithel dam project without definite R&R plan policy will be quite irrational as well as ridiculous as one compares to other states of India which follow their own states policies. It is assumed that Mapithel dam R&R issue cannot be left unresolved and not without comprehensive and fair conclusion in a systematic way.

Further, if the project authorities, Govt. of Manipur really means to resolve the RR issues of Mapithel dam, should it be best framing up a comprehensive Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) policy first and take steps to finalize the impending issue under it’s purview, other than inconclusive piecemeal manner like it has been dealing in the history of last three decades of Mapithel dam construction.

Finally, adoption of a holistic and viable state R&R policy program can be an anchor and good exemplary for all upcoming mega projects in the state so that undue victimization to its own citizen in the name of welfare project can be averted to maximum. Framing up of R&R policy in the line of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is highly incorrigible.

* Jajo Themson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 14, 2017.

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