Socialist India

International Socialist Alternative
Uttarakhand Tunnel Collapse Statement

The latest catastrophe to hit the mountainous state of Uttarakhand is the collapse of the under-construction Silkyars tunnel in Uttarkashi, in which 41 workers have been trapped since 12th November. The mainly Bihari migrant laborers of SC/ST background, forced by desolate poverty and the devastation of jativaad to become pawns of the ruling class, are only the most recent potential victims of the Modi government’s pet project—the Char Dham all-weather accessibility project, catering primarily to Hindu pilgrims. These projects like the Char Dham and the proposed Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail link projects are all part of an agenda which seeks on one hand to turn the nation’s periphery into a playground for wealthy investors mainly of the mercantile castes, as well as culturally whitewash India’s diverse cultures in the image of Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan.

The Modi government often approves these projects in the guise of improving the road connectivity, economic development, and promoting renewable power self-sufficiency for the local community. What locals are they talking about? The tribals and the working class of the Garhwal region, whose lands are forcefully usurped, and whose houses are damaged every year by flash floods, landslides, and subsidence, do not benefit from this. This eyewash is in complete contradiction to the fact that locals at Joshimath, Tehri, Auli in Uttarakhand and the entire state of Himachal Pradesh have regularly witnessed the catastrophic consequences of unplanned and unscientific government projects—be it road expansion, hydro power plants or the hotel industry. “Once-in-a-lifetime” disasters are now a regular and recurring part of their lives.

The hypocrisy of the BJP government is blatantly exposed when major conservation policies are discussed but never approved, while on the other hand big money-making projects in these historic and fragile ecosystems are approved without discussion involving the local communities. In a capitalist system, such projects will continue to flourish, be it under the Congress government, BJP or the various state governments controlled by TMC, DMK etc. While the ruling class lines its pockets with lucrative government contracts, the SC, ST and other rural poor communities in the Himalayas are relegated to the inconsistent, low-paying and labor-intensive hospitality and dangerous adventure tourism industries.

ISA India demands an immediate stop of the various under-construction and proposed major projects in the Himalayan states, the Western Ghats and the various ecologically sensitive regions of India. No new coal mines or hydro power projects should be approved. The puppet strings linking the Ambanis and Adanis of the country to government projects must be severed. We demand that the workers and locals be democratically represented as stakeholders at all stages of decision making. Most importantly, proper and fair ecological and safety evaluation needs to be made available to the public before embarking on any project.

Stop the assault on the Himalayas!

Bring the workers home!

For sustainable, worker-controlled development, not greenwashing!