Panchayats of 3 Dzongu GPUs condemn pro-project pamphlet distribution

Mangan, 08 Jun:

The Panchayats of Hee-Gyathang, Lum-Gor-Sangtok and Saffo-Passingdang Gram Panchayat Units of Dzongu have strongly condemned the pamphlet distributed by people favouring the Teesta Stage lV Project during their rally on 06 June at Mangan in North Sikkim.

The Panchayats have stated that these three GPUs have not yet passed the Gram Sabha on Forest Rights Act for Teesta Stage IV hydel project. The Gram Sabha for FRA was conducted in all the above GPUs and each GPU had said no to Teesta Stage lV, a release adds.

The pamphlet states that all the GPUs have passed the resolution. This, according to the Panchayats, is wrong information being delivered to people. They have stated that they will take legal action against those who were involved in distribution of the said pamphlet.

Panchayat Secretary-Saffo Passingdang GPU stated that the Gram Sabha held at their GPU has clearly stated that they have not passed the FRA and when it comes to the formation of Forest Rights Committee [FRC], the Panchayat Secretary clarified that the FRC has been formed only to look into who has claim to forest land.

Meanwhile, the Gram Sabha for Lum-Gor-Sangtok GPU which was held on 30 May has out rightly rejected the Teesta Stage IV project and so the FRC was not formed. People of the GPU stated that the FRA Gram Sabha for the said GPU which was held on 13 May is null and void since the majority of Panchayat members were absent during the Sabha.

It may be mentioned here that out of 10 GPUs, 04 GPUs fall on the right bank of the river and the remaining fall on the left bank.

Section 6 of the Forest Rights Act provides a transparent three step procedure for deciding on who gets rights. First, the gram sabha (full village assembly, not the gram panchayat) makes a recommendation – i.e who has been cultivating land for how long, which minor forest produce is collected, etc. The gram sabha plays this role because it is a public body where all people participate, and hence is fully democratic and transparent. The gram sabha’s recommendation goes through two stages of screening committees at the taluka and district levels. The district level committee makes the final decision (see section 6(6)). The Committees have six members – three government officers and three elected persons. At both the taluka and the district levels, any person who believes a claim is false can appeal to the Committees, and if they prove their case the right is denied (sections 6(2) and 6(4)). Finally, land recognised under this Act cannot be sold or transferred.