Ten Years of Injustice

Bharat Lal Seth

It has been more than ten years since the 260-meter-high Tehri Dam was commissioned on the Bhagirathi River, a headwater stream of the Ganga. Vimal Bhai, an activist working in the upper reaches of the Ganga for more than two decades, spent years fighting the project and, after it was completed, catalogued the failures of the state government and dam company.

Vimal Bhai (extreme left), director of film at the launch and panel discussion on April 9, 2016 in New Delhi.
Vimal Bhai (extreme left), director of film at the launch and panel discussion on April 9, 2016 in New Delhi.

Last year, on the dam’s tenth anniversary, Vimal Bhai decided to document the evidence, which resulted in a 28-minute Hindi language film, Tehri 2015: Ten Years of InjusticeThe project was a first for the activist. “I’m not a filmmaker; our equipment and means are limited, but we’re confident our research and content is substantial,” he says.

The film captures the hardships braved by people who were displaced by the multipurpose dam project. It particularly focuses on the resettlement site, new Tehri, which has been a disaster for the displaced people. Proponents cite the dam’s benefits, saying the reservoir stores water for irrigation, supplies some drinking water to Delhi (more than 300 kilometers away) and other locations, and runs a 1,000 MW-capacity hydropower facility. But critics say the people displaced by the project were left in the lurch.

New Tehri residents highlight the corruption in the rehabilitation and resettlement process. In the new township, an empty building – the supposed post office – stands idle. A bus stand looks like a deserted shed with unmanned ticket counters. Residents complain of the poor water supply, emergent cracks in buildings, land subsidence and the constant looming fear of an earthquake or landslide disaster.   

The relocation has disjointed the society and impacted trade and business. “The old Tehri town was at the epicenter of the religious pilgrimages in the upper reaches of the Ganga. The new town has no connect whatsoever; traders and businessmen are swatting flies all day long,” says Kamal Singh Mevar, a resident of new Tehri interviewed in the film.   

On April 9, 2016, the film was previewed along with an open panel discussion at the Constitutional Club of India in New Delhi.

To view the film on YouTube, click here

Tuesday, April 12, 2016