The Kinnaur’s Rarang village in Himachal Pradesh has decided to boycott the October 30 by-polls.
The residents of this remote village, living in eco-fragile environment have taken a decision to stay from casting their vote this time. Reason for boycott, villagers say is to save their eco-fragile environs and prevent any large scale environmental disaster in Kinnaur.
The biggest threat considered by the villagers to their environment is 804 MW Jangi Thopan hydel project. As per them, the project is a constant threat to the fragile environs of the place, and could deprive them of natural resources including land, water and forests at the place.
The residents arrived at the poll boycott decision at a meeting of the local Gram Sabha. It was held on the advice of a local deity—Patharo, whom the villagers revere. The deity’s word is considered as the final order, and everyone is supposed to abide by it.
An environmentalist Roshan Lal Negi said: “massive construction of hydel projects, tunnels and dams at the place have made three panchayats of Rarang, Apka and Jangi vulnerable. The project will spell doom for the people”.
“Already half of Kinnaur has been captured and taken over by the private companies. These companies have been allowed to build dams and tunnels , which are causing damage to the ecology, local biodiversity and fertile lands. We will save rest of Kinnaur by opposing all the proposed projects,” said Negi.
He said despite repeated pleas to the administration nobody is ready to listen to the woes of local tribal people.
He claims that the Kinnaur has already witnessed massive felling of the forests by the corporate giants.
“They have illegally occupied more than 420 bighas of the land and caused massive destruction caused to the mountains and fragile ecology to build tunnels, dams and roads has led to major disasters… There can't any further destruction to the ecology and biodiversity of this tribal land,” he said.
The 804 MW hydel project was initially allotted to Netherland based company in 2005. The project was then taken up by several private groups, before being finally allotted to Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN)—which also owns 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri hydel project and 412 MW Rampur hydel project.
Deputy Commissioner Kinnaur Apoorv Devgan confirmed that the villagers of Rarang have given a call for the poll boycott.
“ I have appealed to the villagers to participate in the democratic process as their issues relating to hydel projects could be addressed at different forums .I will send SDM Pooh to persuade the people or will myself meet ,if needed,” he said.
This is the first time in Kinnaur that the people will boycott the polls on environmental concern.
Officials said there are over 1000 registered voters in the village.