Calamity-Affected Protest on the Eve of Uttarakhand State Formation Day

Five months have gone by since the terrible disaster in Uttarakhand but the Congress government in the State has neither yet been able to provide relief to the victims, nor rehabilitate the people and villages who were rendered homeless by the disaster. The attention of the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and his government is focused only on media management and restarting of Puja in Badrinath, Kedarnath and Hemkund to indicate that things have returned to normal. The reality is that road access in several places has not yet been re-established and several bridges washed away during the disaster have not yet been restored.

On 8 November, the eve of State foundation day (9 November), CPI(ML)s organized a State-wide Protest Day to protest against the negligence of the State government towards the relief and rehabilitation of the disaster victims. In all working areas of the Party, dharnas and demonstrations were held demanding that the State government immediately solve the problems of the victims and formulate and implement a people-oriented policy for their rehabilitation. The rehabilitation policy recently announced by the government talks of constructing pre-fabricated houses in 1000sq.ft, with those not wishing to avail themselves of these houses being given Rs. 4 lakhs instead, and those who wish to build their houses in land which is not marked out by the government being given Rs. 5 lakhs for the purpose.

Leading the protest demonstration in Udham Singh Nagar district headquarters (Rudrapur), State Secretary Com. Rajendra Pratholi demanded that the disaster affected victims be given “land for land and home for home”. He stressed that the policy of pre-fabricated housing was nothing but a ploy to ensure profiteering for builders, contractors, politicians and bureaucrats. Com. Pratholi charged the government with complete failure to bring back normalcy to the affected areas. He pointed out that the State government has put only 300 villages on the rehabilitation list, whereas the actual number is around 1000 villages. State committee members Com. Bahadur Singh Jangi, Com. Lalit Matiyali, Student Union Vice President Kavita Verma, Ruby Bharadwaj, workers of Khurpiya farm, and Gujjar leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha also joined the protests in Rudrapur.

The State government has received hundreds of crores of rupees from national and international sources as aid for the disaster affected victims but there is complete lack of transparency as to how this money is being spent. Through the State wide protests the CPI(ML) has demanded that the State government put the details of these funds and their expenditure in the public domain. In a memorandum to the CM the Party said that there are 1000 acres of ceiling land farms in the terai region of the State which should be used for the collective rehabilitation of the affected villages rather than being given over to SIDCUL (State Industrial Development Corporation) or other institutions. At the same time, the families of the workers who had been working for decades on these farm lands should also be made part of the rehabilitation policy. The Party also demanded that the cultivators whose fruits and vegetables perished due to roads and transport not being re-established should be compensated for their loss.

The State government and local administration is doing everything possible to crush the movement of the disaster victims in one of the greatly affected areas, Pithoragarh, under the leadership of CPI(ML) and Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha. Recently, during the CM’s visit to Dharchula, Party District secretary Com. Jagat Martoliya was arrested and kept in custody for 3 days for no reason. Munasyari SDM has banned a demonstration which was to have taken place under the leadership of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha on November 15. Condemning this repressive behavior of the administration, the Party demanded punishment for the Munasyari SDM for his politically motivated action.

Despite the repressive attitude of the government and the administration the disaster affected people joined the CPI(ML) protests in Dharchula of Pithoragarh district in large numbers. Protests were also held at Lalkuan of Nainital district, Deghat in Almora district, Bhikayasain district, Joshimath (Garhwal), and Srinagar (Garhwal).

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