With polling day inching closer campaigning in the area has intensified, contestants have largely been focusing on rooting out corruption.
However, none of them have, so far, come up with a viable solution to the problems confronting those displaced over half a century ago by the construction of the Bhakra Dam.
Said Bhakra Dam oustees Sudhar Samiti president Nand Lal Sharma: “Though the country won its independence in 1947 people displaced when the dam was being built 54 years ago still can’t sense the taste of freedom. Our predicament is worse than even death. The issues of the Bhakra as well as the Pong Dam oustees should be taken up in Parliament.”
He added no political party had come forward with a credible plan to resolve the oustees’ problems.
“Thousands of residents of three assembly segments - including Jhandutta, Sadar Bilaspur and Sri Naina Devi - were displaced and, though many have been rehabilitated, most of them lack basic amenities. No one seems to be bothered about them and the state government has admitted 365 oustees have still to be rehabilitated”.
Sharma said five decades after people residing near the dam construction site were evacuated, only 118 of those displaced were allotted residential plots of land with the rest still waiting for the government to create of new residential areas around the town.
“In the rural areas many oustees have even been forced to live in jungles. No representative from the Hamirpur parliamentary constituency has ever raised this issue in Parliament. We want politicians to come up with credible solutions to our problems”, he added.
“The politicians should come up with their clear stands on how they would solve the Bhakra oustees’ problems within the stipulated period,” he said.
In 1960, population of 40,000 living in the 234 villages and then capital old Bilaspur were evacuated to set up the Bhakra Dam to achieve free India’s first self reliance project to provide food grains to then 1.53 billion population. On October 1963, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Lal Nehru said, “This dam has been built with the toil of man...”