A press release by Saal Ghati Bachao Sangharsh Morcha and Himalaya Niti Abhiyan:
The villagers protesting against the land acquisition for Renuka dam in Himachal Pradesh have alleged the district collector of Sirmaur forcing Gram Sabhas (village councils) to pass illegal resolution in favour of the developers.
The District Collector and the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPCCL) prior to the scheduled Village Council meetings on last 2 October, wrote to all 25 Gram Sabha’s forcing them to pass illegal resolution in favour of Renuka Dam.”
While very few of the Councils succumbed to the force and passed conditional resolution, most of the Councils defied such illegal orders.
This is not the issue, whether the resolutions were passed in favour or against, but the real issue is the procedure adopted to transfer rights to HPCCL by passing a illegal resolution and fake certificate issued knowingly by Deputy Commissioner Sirmaur claiming falsely that the settlement of forest rights has been carried out.
Gram Sabhas also adopted illegal procedure to pass such resolutions declaring transfer of forest rights to HPCCL which were not still even recognised under Forest Right Act-2006.
Himachal Pradesh government has issued government order in this respect on dated 27th March 2012 for implementation of FRA in non tribal areas covering other forest dwellers category of the state and has ordered Deputy Commissioners to notify District Level Committee, Sub Division Level Committees and Forest Right Committees at Gram Sabha/Up Gram Sabha level as per rules notified by Government of India. Sirmoaur district has not even constituted these committees and next process cannot be carried out without these committees.
The process of implementation first requires constitution of Forest Rights Committee (FRC) at Gram Sabha/Up Gram Sabha level by gram sabha in its meeting comprising 2/3 minimum corm. FRC will invite claims of rights, compile, verify and recommend them to Gram Sabha for passing. After then these passed recommendation/claims will be sent to SDLC. SDLC will verify and recommend it to DLC on which DLC will pass final order of recognition of rights of individuals and communities. Hence without adopting the procedure of recognition of rights as per the Act DC Sirmaur issued certificate claiming that rights under FRA has been settled is a false and illegal order. Procedure of transferring/acquiring the forest rights cannot be carried out before their recognition under the FRA.
It is essential after 1-1-2008 under FRA that no forest diversion can take place to any/commercial/mega project without recognition of forest rights of tribal and other forest dwellers, hence all diversion of forest land after 1-1-2008 for any purpose such as Hydro Projects, roads, etc. stands illegal in Himachal Pradesh because the forest rights has not been recognised so far. It is also needed to cancel all those forestland diversion clearances issued after Jan. 2008. Forest diversion case of Renuka Dam is pending so far due to objections raised by local people and litigation in NGT.
So, legal action shall be taken against Deputy Commissioner, Sirmaur, concerned state government officials for illegally favouring the HPCCL and the officials of HPCCL for misleading and managing Gram Sabhas. They shall be panelised for misleading the procedure of recognition of forest rights knowingly under section 7 of the FRA and legal action under penal provisos be taken for issuing false certificate and presuming Gram Sabhas for passing illegal resolution in regard to transferring of forest rights.