Delhi : Hunger strike against Uttarakhand govt’s callous response to disaster, Nov 7-9

In June this year, Uttarakhand witnessed a terrible disaster in which thousands of people lost their lives, a disaster that was greatly made worse by the illegal, irrational and undemocratic way in which this government is handing out the resources of the State. Even now, four months later, the Uttarakhand government has still done precious little to ensure that the victims receive help and rehabilitation. Instead, the government is violating their democratic rights and illegally continuing to seize both their resources and the money that has been received for disaster relief. As decided in Srinagar on September 22nd, from November 7th, eminent activists of Uttarakhand’s social movements will be sitting on hunger strike against this illegal and inhuman callousness, with the following key demands:

1. The relief funds should be given to the panchayats for planning and spending in a transparent and democratic way. Currently the control lies entirely with the bureaucracy.

2. The government is required by law to respect the powers of gram sabhas and local bodies under the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution and the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Projects cannot be built in forest areas without the consent of the affected gram sabhas. The gram sabhas also have the power to protect and manage forests and to determine people’s rights over them. But these laws are being consistently and consciously violated by the State government.

3. The State government should issue a clarification and a direction to all of its officers that the traditional hill dwelling communities who depend on the forests for their livelihood are eligible for rights under the Forest Rights Act. The Act should be implemented fully and all gram sabhas in the hill areas should be given title to use and manage their community forest resources as required by law.

4. The State government should recognise and respect the powers given to the panchayats in the 73rd Amendment. For this purpose the government should convene a committee to frame amendments to the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act; representatives of people’s struggles should be included in this committee.

5. All the projects in the State that have received forest clearance after January 1, 2008 are illegal, as they were given clearance in violation of the Forest Rights Act. Their clearances should be immediately cancelled and action taken against the officers responsible.

6. The State government should immediately direct the Forest Department to respect the powers of gram sabhas to protect and manage forests under section 5 of the Forest Rights Act. No damage can be done to trees or forests without gram sabha permission.

Press Note: On November 7th, 2013, we will assemble at Gandhi Park, and from there will take out a rally to the Deendayal Park. We will sit there on fast till the evening of the November 9th.

Participants will include Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Dr. Shamsher Bisht, Smt. Radha behn, Prof. Uma Bhatt, Shri Rajiv Lochan Sah, Prof. Shekhar Pathak, and hundreds of other protesters.

Smt. Nirmala Bisht, Uttarakhand Mahila Manch (9897310667)
Trepan Singh Chauhan, Chetna Andolan (9927665683)
Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Chetna Andolan / Campaign for Survival and Dignity (7409315867)