The conflict between tribal people of Himachal Pradesh including labor union protests at hydropower projects over their demands. On the one hand, laborers are fighting for rights prescribed in the constitution, at the same other tribal are fighting to claim their community rights over forests and its resources given under Forest Rights Act 2006.
The state government is in a state of constant conflict. There has been bloodshed followed by FIRs on union leaders, imprisonment, assaults, and continuous hue and cry of the laborers, who are on strike for over five months now. However, the government is in no mood to attend to them. Now that the protests have become a hindrance in efficient working of projects and clearance of land by evicting tribal people for new projects, the Chief Minister has toughen his tone.
Govt. Worried Over Commissioning of Hydropower Projects
The government is concerned over undue delay in commissioning of run of the river, Sawara-Kuddu (111 MW), Kashang Hydel Project 195 MW (three Units of 65 MW) and Sainj (100 MW) projects. The government claim it to be an unnecessary delay in commissioning escalates the cost and directed to get completed the under-construction hydel projects well within time.
HP Government’s Warning to Trade Unions
Virbhadra Singh has cautioned few trade unions, particularly those, who for their political mileage try to create ruckus and resort to violence by misguiding labour working in the hydel projects which not only delay timely commissioning of hydro projects but also enhances cost of the project. He stated this while addressing the 25th General Conference of the Himachal Power Engineer Association (HPEA) here today.
However, the CM agreed that legitimate demands of the labourers must be met, they should be given their dues they are entitled for and as and when payable, but the undesirable means of violence for political survival and recognition by Trade Unions would not be tolerated.
The CM believes that the working class is not annoyed with the functioning of the board or certain department or corporation but the labourers has grudge with the contractors who delays in giving their dues well in time and forced to adopt undesirable methods of halting the work, said the Chief Minister. He said the contractors should be fair and compassionate towards their workers and should give them their entitlements instead of letting them wait for long or give them an opportunity to raise their voice against the management and hindering work. The Board should also ensure that all the legitimate demands of the labourers working in hydro projects be conceded well in time by questioning the contractors if they fail to give incentives due to the labourers.
It has been observed occasionally that for taking political mileage and for their very existence, few trade unions, particularly in the tribal and far flung regions of the State try to induce the workers to resort to agitation, this won’t be tolerated at all, said Shri Virbhadra Singh. He said that government intends to take strict action against such scrupulous elements on the spot where they agitate and their masterminds sitting elsewhere and provoking them.
The hydro projects in Kinnaur, Chamba and other far flung areas face lot of problem due to such people, he said urging trade unions to solve the genuine issues if any on the negotiation table instead of creating problems for themselves and the local people. Any such type of intolerance, or violence would be given befitting reply. The Chief Minister said that he had always been in favour of the working class. They come from far and wide for earning and should be given the legitimate share.
The Chief Minister also suggested that since the tribal belt of Kinnaur has an international border along with it, the government has decided to open a check post at Wangtoo in Kinnaur district for issuing inner line permits to keep vigil on subversive elements in the larger interest of the Country as well as the State.
But What About Tribal and Labor Rights?
However, the rights of tribal can also not be ignored for commissioning of new projects and labeling it as overall development activity. Tribal people must given their rights of the forests and its resources as they are dependent on them. They have been living there for generations and are not encroachers. The HP Government must implement the Forest Rights Act 2006 along with supporting the laborers who are in unrest due to violation of labor rights including delayed wages and other benefits. The government must protect the habitat of its people along with preserving the ecology.