The first thing that happens before any project, such as a hydropower plant, can be developed at a new site is the displacement of local communities. So, clearly, any upfront payment that the government of the state concerned takes from project developers should be earmarked—and used judiciously—in rehabilitating the affected families.
In fact, the Centre’s new hydropower policy explicitly states that there’s need to make the affected people stakeholders in the project’s progress—just as state governments have been made, by allowing them to take 12% of the power for free. But, the resource-rich hill states, in a hurry to mop up more money, are committing to projects without the due diligence on environmental and social impacts, and diverting the upfront fee they insist upon to spend at will. They want to have it all—at the cost of their own people.
Since this is a state subject, public opposition seems to be the best check for now—NGOs will need to work on a war footing. Or can the Centre take action?