It’s above endless struggle of these ‘refugees of progress’ in Himachal Pradesh, who were uprooted to pave the way for Pong dam to facilitate irrigation of fields in Rajasthan in early 70s.
Work on the 240 square kilometres long Pong reservoir on Beas river in Kangra district of HP bordering Punjab was completed in 1974, displacing over 20,000 people in around 350 villages, submerging huge chunk of fertile land in the area. However, over 4,000 of them are still waiting for real ‘rehabilitation’ promised to them in lieu of the land they lost much for ‘lack of will’ allegedly displayed by the beneficiary state.
The Pong dam oustees were promised land (murabbas) in Hanumangarh and Anupgarh districts of Rajasthan, which in itself was a ‘painful proposition’ for many as they were reluctant to leave their roots and head for a totally alien land and environs.
Official sources said over the years, while a number of displaced did not take possession of land allotted to them in Rajasthan, many more sold it without any such provision only to get poorer. With much development in Rajasthan side due to better irrigation facilities over time, in some cases, the land allotted to Pong dam oustees in two Rajasthan districts, which remained vacant for long due to hitch of oustees to shift there with bag and baggage, was allegedly encroached by the local residents.
Ultimately, it added up to a complete mess-up in the original rehabilitation plan, together with Rajasthan government’s alleged failure to act and sort the issue case by case timely.
As a consequence, all these oustees have been running from pillar to post to get their due over the last four and a half decades. Their cases are stuck in ‘procedural lapses’ that numerous official meetings between two states and court cases over time have not been able to solve.
The HP government has since been pursuing the matter at all levels with the Rajasthan government to settle all the cases on and on.
A fresh round of meeting between HP and Rajasthan high ups, including ministers, convened in Shimla on Wednesday evening has again enlivened hopes. But how far it will give results, the oustees are already apprehensive.
“The officials decided to dispose and settle the cases in a time bound manner with a cut off of three months,” said Deputy Secretary, Revenue, HP government, Praveen Tak.
He said the Revenue department has been continuously following up the pending cases, but due to long time gap and the procedural complexities, the disposal is becoming difficult. “But we are hopeful,” Tak said.
Official sources said HP government has been off and on blaming the Rajasthan government of delaying the settlement of land issues of Pong dam oustees.