Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project
Reacting to the report released by World Bank's Inspection Panel (IP) on Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project, the complainants condemned the IP Report for being escapist, cosmetic and non-serious. They maintained that IP has remained silent on all contentious issues and no effective measures are recommended even where non-compliance is noted.

In July 2012 social activist Bharat Jhunjhunwala and representatives of communities affected by the World Bank funded 444 MW hydro project on Alaknanda River in Uttarakhand, the Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project, lodged a complaint to the complaint mechanism of World Bank, the Inspection Panel. The complainants raised issues related to non-compliance with Bank's own policies on rehabilitation and resettlement, absence of assessment of critical issues like cost-benefit analysis, impacts on the endangered Cheer Pheasant and Otter, deterioration of water quality and that Ganga was a critical habitat "recognized as protected by local communities." They argued that any external intervention in the flow of the river will severely impact the life of Ganga and the communities living in the river basin.

While the IP report recognised the non-compliance of rehabilitation policies, it remained silent on the mere ground that "negotiations are still continuing." The report failed to address any of the other issues.

That the project is approved and run on an erroneous assumption that the expenditures provided in Environment Management Plan will 100% mitigate the negative impacts of the project. The IP report fell short of examining it.

The complainants demanded that proper investigations should be conducted specifically tackling the issues raised by the people. Having failed to look into some of the key issues (such as...), the report released by IP should be withdrawn ('recalled').
A Reader

‘‘Mindset pollution as tall as Everest!’’
This has reference to Rangayakarma’s article ‘‘Mindset Pollution as tall as Everest!’’ appeared in the Autumn Number, 2014 [September 21-October 18, 2014].

True, but that applies more to the writer of this piece. I am amazed how there are some cynics who see negatives in everything and nothing positive. Instead of heartily congratulating the teen climbers who have done our country proud—especially Poorna set up world record as the youngest female to ascend the majestic mount—they see all things wrong and dark with their perverted interpretations and understanding [or, rather, lack of it] of Marxism. The 25 lakhs or some acres of land or other rewards they got is nothing substantial really—they deserve more. It is the young persons of this caliber and stamina and determination that motivate lakhs and crores of youths to struggle forward to achieve even the impossible. Struggle is not just class struggle or caste struggle or the so-called people vs enemies. Struggle is a struggle in life, for life and to improve the mettle and vision of the people in general, to strive for and achieve human welfare through multifarious means. It is not like KCR gifting away crores to Sania Mirza, a generally failing tennis star, for nobody-knows-what reasons at his whim and fancy. These young persons dared death to scale that almost impossible mount and did exhilarate all of us with their heroic exploits. Their life and struggle will certainly be a glowing example—they will certainly be role models—in any form of human society—even socialist. I have no doubt a socialist society would reward them more and better in its own way.
I M Sharma, Hyderabad

Dilution of MGNREGA
Concerned Citizens are very disturbed by impending moves of the Modi governrnent to undermine the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the support it provides to crores of vulnerable rural families.

Based on recent public statements from Shri Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Rural Development, and other available information, it is clear that the Central Government has initiated the following changes under MGNREGA:
* Restriction of NREGA to tribal/backward districts of the country through an amendment to the Act.
* Reduction of the minimum labour-material ratio from the current level of 60:40 to 51:49.
* Severely restricting the MGNREGA through a budget squeeze.

There have been unprecedented communications by the Central Government to States capping MGNREGA expenditure -"or the rest of the financial year, undermining the fundamental principle of demand-driven employment.

These changes are inimical to the spirit of the Act and compromise its basic objectives. They will only benefit the contractor class and other middlemen, and severely undermine the employment generating potential of the MGNREGA. The changes are also being undertaken without any public consultation. The MGNREGA was passed unanimously by all parties and all members of Parliament. The illegal and unwarranted budget squeeze has led to widespread reports of employment rationing and acute delays in wage payments. Even as MGNREGA workers are struggling to be paid for work already done, the Central Government is sending the message that money is going to be further rationed.

MGNREGA employment must remain a legal right of every rural household across the country and that dilution of any MGNREGA entitlements is not acceptable. The MGNREGA budget should be based on work demand, keeping with the spirit of the act, without any discretionary cuts.
People’s Action for Employment Gurantee and other Concerned Citizens

Vol. 47, No. 18, Nov 9 - 15, 2014