Sikkim National People’s Party has been monitoring the aftermath of the horrendous earthquake which hit Sikkim on September 18. Being a small party with limited resources, the party regrets not being able to do anything physically but is committed to finding the truth about the event and the factors leading to it, so that in the future, no Sikkimese may have to lose his life for the sake of development.
The party takes strong objections to the statements made by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling where he has tried to distance the power projects from the destruction caused by the quake. The people of Sikkim have to know that it has been determined that man-made structures like dams and other mega development projects has been known to cause earthquakes even in non seismic areas. The Koyna dam in Maharastra was the cause of a devastating earthquake in the 70’s. This fact has been ratified by experts in the field. This is not the only example.
The party is alarmed at the recent statements given in the Hindustan Times of Sept. 23, by experts like Prof. J Sanskritayan of the NBU that no dams should be built on the river tista as far back as 1980, as it was suspected to flow over a seismic fault line.. Prof. Sanskritayan was member of a committee set up to look at the general eco system of the Tista river.
SNPP has always maintained that the power companies working in Sikkim, other than the NHPC, are exploitative in nature and do not have the expertise to handle projects of this magnitude in areas of high seismic activity.
Even the way the contracts were given to these companies has been questioned by the CAG and strong words like “institutional failure” have been used in its audit reports since the year 2003. The people do not have to be reminded that these power projects have turned out to be the fountainhead of the massive corruption plaguing Sikkim.
It is to our shame that the CBI has booked a case against the Chief Minister who has misused every democratic institution in the state to stall the investigation by using the protections of Article 371F.
The party has always maintained that most of these power projects have been awarded in complete violation of the provisions of the article for personal gain and institutionalized corruption and today, this corruption has led to innocent Sikkimese losing their lives. The party strongly believes that a decade of blasting and tunneling has also contributed to the death toll in a significant way and condemns the fact that the Chief Minister is trying to brush these facts under the carpet.
The party is deeply saddened by the loss of life and offers condolences to the bereaved families and would appeal to the people of Sikkim to make sure that no more people have to die for the greed of a few.
Though the earthquake exposed the physical destruction, we appeal to consider this as an eye opener. We urge the people to see the unseen destruction to our way of life, our demography, social values and also our constitutional protections. The people will have to decided what development suits them and shall have to be aware that unscrupulous businesses have made Sikkim a scapegoat right from the days of the cigarette excise tax scandals of the 80’s to these exploitative power companies now who have wrecked a lot more things than just the environment.
The party therefore demands:
1. That the Government of Sikkim immediately release a white paper regarding the power projects to make clear to the people that they were aware of the high seismic activity in Sikkim and that the MOU’s signed reflects this knowledge. That the companies selected to undertake these projects were experienced and were competent to work in a terrain like Sikkim.
2. That the Government of India immediately constitute a committee of experts from outside Sikkim who would determine if these mega power projects did in any way aggravate the destruction caused by the earthquake and whether the allegations of financial impropriety pointed out by the CAG caused the overlooking of crucial measure to overcome obstacles like seimic activity.
3. That the Central Government take up the disbursement of relief money through one of its own agencies till the CBI is allowed to investigate its charges on the Chief Minister as the SNPP believes that the massive corruption has resulted in the death of citizens of this beautiful state.