Locals affected by the Galchhi- Trishuli - Mailung - Rasuwagadhi road widening project organize a protest rally in Nuwakot in this recent picture. | Photo: Bhagwati Lama/Republica
NUWAKOT, Dec 11: Widening and repairing of the Galchhi- Trishuli - Mailung - Rasuwagadhi road, one of the national pride projects has come to a halt due to a controversy on the compensation amount. The project that kicked off on December 16, 2016, was supposed to complete in 22 months. However, due to protests from the locals over the amount of compensation paid to them for the land acquisition it remains in limbo. Concerned officials claim that the project might not meet its present deadline if the ongoing protests are not settled. As per the new deadline, the project should complete before February 17.
Since the last few weeks, affected locals have taken to streets demanding due compensation for their land acquired by the road expansion project. Until and unless this issue is addressed, the project cannot move forward.
The locals who have formed a committee to fight for the issue have even alleged the government of discriminating them. Stating that the government has been providing compensation in other places, they said that they have been ignored and ‘that would not be tolerated’.
On Monday, the committee had led a procession that marched from Pipaltar to Dhunge. The participants had carried placards with slogans like - ‘We won’t tolerate discrimination’, ‘we cannot be rendered homeless’ and so on. They have also urged the government to publicize detailed project report (DPR) of the project.
According to Mohan Bahadur Khadka, one of the participants in the rally,
the government has discriminated between victims.
At some places, victims have received due compensation and at some other places, they have been overlooked.
“Our demand is genuine. We are demanding reasonable compensation,” he said. “Until and unless the government fulfills our demand we will not backtrack from the protest. We will intensify it further,” he added.
Khadka further stated that even DPR of the project has not been shown to the locals. ‘And that is not fair’. “We want the government to show us what kind of DPR they have made. We have requested for access to it,” he said.
According to the locals, families affected by all national pride projects across the nation have been compensated substantially. They claim that only they have been deprived of it.
“We have heard of other cases. In national pride project, the government is paying a pretty good amount to victims, but in our case, it is not so,” Khadka stated.
The committee even reiterated that the constitution has ensured the right to property. It has been enshrined as the fundamental right. However, the government is backtracking on securing the rights of landowners, the participants alleged.
In the last few months, victims of some of the roadblocks have been provided compensation. There are few who are yet to get the compensation. However, the committee is adamant on the distribution of compensation was not satisfactory.
“We are very sad that they are discriminating. At some places, they have already provided compensation as per the market rate. But in our case, they are conspiring against us by not compensating it accordingly,” Khadka said. “To people along the Pipaltar to Dhunge road section, they have denied paying any compensation at all to the affected families. This is not fair,” he added.
Participants of the protest rally claimed that the affected families living along the Kolpukhola to Devighat section of the road have been well compensated.
Since the measurement of the highway was done way back in 1977, providing compensation to the people residing along the road section has become a controversial matter. The government has not cleared its stance on the number of people it will be compensating and the basis for doing so, the protestors alleged.
Delivering its verdict on a case filed by residents along the Kalimati - Nagdhunga roadblock, the Supreme Court last year had ordered the government to compensate the affected residents. The verdict says the government must widen roads or carry on with development projects only after acquiring land through the legal process. This verdict has however been condemned by government officials.
There are hundreds of such cases pending in courts across the country. If compensation amount is given as per the victims’ demand, developmental projects are never going to be successful, officials argue.
According to one of the participants who requested anonymity, the government must have a strong mechanism to identify real and fake victims. “If some people are fake victims, it is okay not to give them compensation. But those who have earned their property legally or acquired land legally must be compensated,” he said.
Bidur municipality had conducted a public hearing on the issue recently. Locals had a heated discussion with the project chief Subodh Devkota at the time. The government has allocated Rs 9.5 billion for upgrading the 82 kilometers roadblock.