In 50 years, another glimmer of hope for Pong dam oustees

  • Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, SHIMLA
  • Updated: Jun 05, 2014 20:15 IST

Half-a-century after Maharana Pratap Sagar, better known as Pong dam, came into existence; over 1,000 oustees have been running from pillar to post to regain their livelihood. With successive governments failing to get oustees their promised land, the Himachal Pradesh government has now asked the Rajasthan government to redefine the command areas for rehabilitation of the oustees.

The Himachal Pradesh government has urged the Rajasthan government to provide revenue records of the land that could be re-allotted to the oustees awaiting rehabilitation for past 50 years. "Shortly a high-level committee will visit Rajasthan to seek details about land available for the Pong dam oustees," health and revenue minister Kaul Singh Thakur told Hindustan Times.

Prior to holding discussions with the Rajasthan government, the revenue department will convene a meeting of oustees to seek their views for the settlement of long-pending issues.

The construction of water reservoir in a village near Pong began in 1961. The Pong dam project was conceived as part of larger project then known as the Rajasthan canal project (RCP), later it was rechristened as Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyoyajna. Total length of the canal is 649 kilometre, which takes water from the reservoirs to the desert land of Rajasthan. The process of the land acquisition started in early 1960s. Total 75,000 acres spread over 94 villages in Nurpur Dehra Gopipur tehsil of Kangra district was acquired for building a dam over Beas river.

At the time of construction of dam, the government had acquired 339 tikkas - revenue estate, out of which 223 tikkas were submerged fully and 116 partially.

The reservoirs displaced 30,000 families - a population of 150,000 was affected. Rich fertile Haldoon valley known as the heart of Kangra that produced crops too submerged in Pong dam.

The Rajasthan government had earmarked 2.20 lakh acres of the land in Anupgarh district, while 30,000 in Jetsar farm in Ganganagar district.

The Rajasthan government allotted 87968 acres of land to 9195 oustees upto 1977. But majority of the land was unfit for the agrarian activities. But the wait for rehabilitation turned more agonizing for the families allotted to 1188 murrabbas of land in Ganganagar in Rajasthan.

Murrabbas allotted to these oustees have been encroached by the locals. The Rajasthan government so far has failed to muster courage to remove encroachment.

"Rajasthan has been repeatedly maintaining that it was unable to evict the encroachment and was ready to provide land elsewhere," says deputy commissioner relief and rehabilitation (Pong dam) Sukhdev Singh.

Now the Himachal Pradesh government has asked Rajasthan government to provide revenue records of land available in the command areas. "We have asked Rajasthan government to submit the records pertaining to availability of the land in the command area," principal secretary revenue Tarun Shridhar said.

Even as the rehabilitation issues have stretched too far, the revenue department has directed its field staff to seek opinion from the third generation of the Pong dam oustees. "This is being done so that we find a permanent solution to the problem," said revenue official.

Efforts are being made by the government is nothing but merely a glimmer of hope for the oustees who have been struggling hard to get a chunk of land in lieu of the land acquired for the dam.

"Nobody knows for how many generations we will have to wait for the compensation for sacrificing our fertile lands on the plea of development," says Pradesh Pong Bandh Vishthapit Samiti Senior vice-president Ashwani Sharma.

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