NAMCHI (SIKKIM): A leading pharmaceutical giant found themselves in hot weather in the cool climes of Sikkim for alleged illegal constructions and encroachment of forest land.
Social activist Som Bahadur Rai is leading a campaign against the pharma company as he and fellow activists are staging a protest in Gangtok, the state capital, for the past 16 days.
“We felt neglected by the government, such big companies are taking undue advantage of our land,” Rai, who is popularly known as Jack Rai, said. Activists have also alleged that the company is discharging harmful industrial effluents into the nearby Rangit river.
Demanding action against the company, Rai and his supporters have staged a protest march towards the Forest department secretariat in Gangtok.
Many groups have joined the protest saying that it is an unholy alliance between the state government, concerned departments and big companies. Activists of Sikkim Progressive Youth Forum have also supported the protest, the team demanding an independent enquiry.
“Companies are looting us and our environment, there is also a lack of accountability on part of the government,” said social activist Passang Sherpa of Sikkmay Nagarik Samaj.
A joint inspection was conducted by a team led by the Minister for Forest and Environment Department, Karma Loday Bhutia, state officials and other officials of pharma major IPCA Pharmaceutical Company, South Sikkim, on Monday.
The inspection started with the team taking a tour of the entire company premises. The Minister and the team surveyed the concerned area and took stock of the measures taken by the departments in this respect. The team also inspected the Effluent Treatment Plant and the waste disposal system located within the premises.
After an inclusive inspection of the area and interaction with the concerned authorities, the Minister assured that the issue will be resolved at the earliest.
Meanwhile, he said that an immediate inquiry was conducted and the alleged illegal construction was stopped instantaneously. The minister further informed that a Joint Committee has been set up consisting of officials from all the concerned departments and assured that after surveying the area thoroughly if any unlawful/illegal activity is found, it would be dealt with according to the Forest Act and other necessary provisions of law.
On their part, the officials of IPCA Pharmaceuticals made a presentation which highlighted the continuous change in the course of the river leading to significant damages to the Company infrastructure in the year 2020.
“We are fully cooperating with the state officials and investigation is going on. The area that has been alleged to be encroached by us is actually on lease for 99 years since 2008/09,” said Raj Jha, Vice President (Operation), IPCA, Sikkim.