50 years have passed since more than 20,000 people living in Kangra were uprooted from their land for the construction of the Pong hydroelectric power project, which would lead to the development of other parts of the country.
During the acquisition process, the oustees were assured help in the form of compensation and rehabilitation, but more than 50 years later, many of these families are running from pillar to post, fighting legal battles and pleading with the Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan governments for what is their right and should have been given to them years ago.
Their fate, as always, is an election issue this time too.
As India dances to the tunes of democracy, on the banks of the Maharana Pratap Sagar lake (created after the construction of the Pong Dam) the oustees are sitting on a dharna, demanding aid.
Government records show that the construction of the Pong Dam affected 75,268 acre in 339 village, with 226 villages with a population of 20,729 submerged completely.
Of the total displaced population, 16,352 people were found eligible for rehabilitation as the rest were labourers and possessed no land at the time of displacement. Of the total eligible population, 6,167 members of 2,051 families have still not been compensated, as the issue lingers on due to inter-state wrangling and court arbitration.
A few years a go, a standing committee was for med by the Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh governments to solve their problems. The Rajasthan government offered 3,500 murabas land, mostly arid and without proper irrigation facilities.
The oustees are demanding land reserved for the min the canal-ir rig ated areas of Ganganagar district in Rajasthan, which, they found, had been encroached upon by the locals.
The Rajasthan government maintains that no land is available in the Ganganagar district for the oustees.