The Jaiprakash Power Ventures Ltd (JPVL), a subsidiary of Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL), started constructing 400 MW Vishnuprayag Hydro Electricity Project in the partnership of state (NTPC) and was the first venture in the publicprivate relationship of its kind in Uttarakhand. The Project displaced thousands. While, the people affected by this Project are still fighting for their rights and this time with a remarkable differencenot for their individual land right, but for common property as the company has acquired 5.08 ha Van Panchayat: a system of autonomous village forest, unique to Uttarakhand, land in Urgam Van Panchayat, but has shrewdly shown it in Salna, a neighbouring van panchayat, outside the Projectaffected area.
But, the people of 13 villages spread in five Gram Panchayats: Urgam, Lyari, Thainga, Bhenta and Devgram, refuse to give in and are fighting to protect this common forest land from where they get their biomass like fuel and fodder and homebuilding wood logs.
They are pursuing their fight at two levels: they are taking direct action by holding dharna (sitins) at District Magistrates, Companys and Nandadevi National Parks SubDivisional Commissioners offices.
And, they are also submitting letter, memos and applications to these authorities, detailing facts and figures and appealing them to take appropriate action and compensate for the loss.
Although the district administration has taking some action as it has written to the concerned authorities, especially to the company officials since it is a project in the publicprivate partnership, between NTPC and JPVL, but more than six of its letters have simply been ignored since 2016.
But, people are determined to fight because they erected this mixed forest with their own labor and money that they got from MNREGA in 201516 when they roped thousands of broadleaved species of oak, khirsu, Deodar, Tunand pear. They also built a khadanja (bridalpath), This forest is crucial for our survival and we will fight to conserve it, says Raj Rajeshwari Devi, expradhan (exvillage head), Bhenta village, Chamoli district. Others are also equally determined, Now, women dont have to walk long distances to carry fuel and fodder and we will not let the company usurp it, says a resolute Laxmi Devi, Urgam village.