Himachal villagers boycott poll as protest against dam

May 13th, 2009 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, May 13 (IANS) Over 400 villagers of Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmaur district boycotted the parliamentary polls Wednesday as a protest against the construction of a multi-billion rupee hydroelectric project that will provide drinking water to New Delhi.
The Rs.27-billion Renuka dam, to be constructed on the Yamuna river in Sirmaur, will not only provide water to Delhi, but will also generate 40 MW of electricity for the hill state. But over 1,500 residents of over dozen villages, who face the threat of displacement due to the project, have launched an agitation against the dam.

“We (the dam-affected people) have decided to boycott the elections to lodge our protest against the construction of Renuka dam,” Yoginder Kapila, convenor of the Renuka Bandh Jan Sangharsh Samiti, told IANS over telephone.

“The protest was successful as no voter turned up to cast their vote in two polling stations,” he said.

Sirmaur is some 200 km from here.

Sirmaur Deputy Commissioner Pushpendra Rajput admitted that no one came to vote at the two polling stations located in the vicinity of the proposed Renuka dam.

“No voter turned up at two polling stations where 452 voters are enlisted, but I don’t know the reason for this,” Rajput said.

The villagers agitating against the dam say the government did not take them into confidence before starting the land acquisition process. According to them, the project may have ecological repercussions and endanger Renuka lake, which lies downstream of the proposed dam and is of religious importance to them.

“Pre-construction activities have already begun without taking the affected villagers into confidence. If the government does not provide us suitable compensation, we would prefer a watery grave rather than surrendering to the government our fertile lands,” Kapila said.

Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL) managing director Tarun Kapoor, however, said the government would provide more compensation to the affected villagers.

“The government has promised to provide more economic benefits to the families that will be affected by the project. It (poll boycott) seems to politically motivated,” he said.

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