Is the Indian capitalist above the law in Kashmir?

  • Irfan Amin Malik
  • Publish Date: Aug 30 2017 9:20PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Aug 30 2017 9:23PM
Is the Indian capitalist above the law in Kashmir?

Sterlite Power and Tata Projects brazenly violate the Supreme Court’s order against blasting inside Shopian wildlife sanctuary. And they won’t even pay the penalty

 

Using the 2016 uprising in Kashmir as cover, the Indian company Sterlite Power and its contractor, Tata Projects, brazenly violated the Supreme Court’s order regarding the laying of the 400 KV Samba-Amargarh transmission line through the Hirpora wildlife sanctuary in Shopian district.

The double circuit line is supposed to provide reliable power supply to Akhnoor, Rajouri, Poonch and Shopian.

In 2016, the Supreme Court had allowed Sterlite to lay the power line through the wildlife sanctuary on the condition that the work be done manually so as to avoid damage to animals and property.

However, as the Azadi uprising shut Kashmir down last summer, local villagers and officials said, the company threw aside the apex court’s order and used heavy machinery to carry out illegal blasting in the sanctuary, causing potentially irreparable damage to wildlife and ecology.

Ifshan Dewan, Shopian’s Wildlife Warden, confirmed that Sterlite violated the Supreme Court’s order. “On this issue, we had various meetings chaired by the deputy commissioner of Shopian and the divisional commissioner of Kashmir,” she said. “The defaulters are ready to pay the full penalty for damaging Hirpora sanctuary.”

Sources said an initial penalty of Rs 2.47 crore has been levied on Sterlite Power and Tata Projects based on the estimation done by a committee constituted by the government. But not only has Sterlite not paid a single rupee of the fine, it continues to carry out blasting. Sources said the company has erected 20-odd transmission towers in the sanctuary, destroying vast swathes of it.

Incensed by this brazen illegality, villagers living around the sanctuary have demanded a thorough investigation against the culprits. “Action under law must be taken against those found violating the law,” said Abdul Rashid Dar, a resident of Hirpora, Shopian.

The Hirpora sanctuary is a fragile ecosystem and damaging it in the name of “development” will greatly harm the area’s wildlife and also the human population. In May 2006, a Public Interest Litigation was filed in Supreme Court, challenging the construction of the Mughal Road through the sanctuary after concerns were raised that it would disrupt the movement of wild animals, especially the endangered Markhor, leopard, musk deer, Tibetan wolf and Himalayan palm civet. The petition has been closed.

It’s a sign of the government’s utter disregard for our precious natural resources that Minister of State for Forest, Ecology and Environment Zahoor Ahmed Mir was not even aware of the illegal blasting in the Hirpora sanctuary. “I don’t know anything about this issue,” he said when asked what his department was doing about the matter. “But I will seek information from higher-ups to ensure immediate release of the penalty from the executing agency, and stop the illegal work inside the sanctuary.” Would he, really?