Monday, June 25, 2007

Sikkim Hydro protests: Hunger strike enters 5th day

Talks between Government and ACT likely

photo-Shri B B Gooroong

GANGTOK: Even after the end of the fourth day of the hunger strike and satyagraha carried out by members of the Affected Citizens of Teesta to protest against the hydroelectric power projects coming up in North Sikkim, there is no positive response from the government yet. “The government should settle the matter amicably,” said Mr Thukchuk Lachungpa, president of Citizen Forum. He said that if the government still fails to act, Citizen Forum is ready to join the hunger strike. The Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee is also supporting the ACT. The party has appealed to all the NGOs and political parties to extend their support for satyagraha and the strike to check the arbitrary, thoughtless, discriminatory and anti-people activities of the state government and “save Sikkim from becoming another Nandigram and Singur.” Mr NBBhandari, SPCC president, said: “Even the locals need legal permission to go there because it is a restricted area. How can these power projects be constructed there?” Mr Bhandari said. The BJP state unit and the Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad have also extended moral support. But Mr BB Gooroong, an advisor to the chief minister, said that their is no intention to destroy any community, or any habitat, but that it is important to make the state self sufficient. Mr Gooroong said: “How long do we have to beg grants from the Centre?” If the centre stops giving grants, the people would die of hunger, said Mr Gooroong.

Even the Lepchas from Darjeeling and Kalimpong are supporting ACT. “Dzongri is our holy place and in each and every prayer we recite the names of our holy places,” said Mr Ajuk Tamsangmoo, a coordinator from Rong Ong Prongzen in Kalimpong. The Teesta Sanga Samiti from Darjeeling also extended their support alongwith Concerned Lepchas of Sikkim and Sangha of Dzongu. The chief demands of the ACT are to restore the protected identity of Dzongu and to protect Kanchanjunga National Park and Kanchanjunga Biosphere Reserve.The political Secretary to Chief Minister, Shri K.T. Gyaltsen had visited them but the talks could not be held since most of the officers of Government Department were away from the State, it is learnt.