The field may be different, but for Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retired), who spearheaded the counter attack at Tololing and Tiger Hills that brought about the turning point in Kargil war two decades back, the battle is not over yet.
In Kargil, he defended the borders of the country as Commanding Officer of 18 Grenadiers in Indian Army, and now he is in another lead role, fighting for the rights of over 40,000 families who are losing their lands, homes, and livelihood to pave the way for four-lane projects in Himachal Pradesh.
Thakur, who hails from Nagwain in Mandi district and retired in 2010, formed Four-Lane Sangharsh Samiti four years back for the cause which has now taken the shape of a movement to get fair compensation for all the affected families in the state.
“I was sensitised to the issue when my family lost the ancestral land for a four-lane passing through Mandi. I dug out the whole issue and found that thousands of families in Himachal were bearing the brunt of four-laning. They are not being given their due as per Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. I thought we must awaken the unaware and ignorant people, above party politics” Thakur told The Statesman. (The Act, also referred as Land Acquisition Act, 2013, had replaced the 120-year-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894).
The process for four four-laning projects of National Highways is underway in Himachal, which includes Kalka-Shimla, Kiratpur-Manali, Pathankot-Mandi, and Mataur-Hamirpur-Shimla.
“In none of them, the new Act is being followed. As per Land Acquisition Act, 2013, the government was to follow scientific formula, wherein the affected people were to be given market rate of their property with different factors for urban and rural areas, along with solitium (which meant a goodwill amount as a person is sacrificing land and livelihood for generations). But the system has not changed and the compensation is still being calculated in age-old manner, without considering current value. There is no transparency and no administrative will to give due compensation to people,” he said.
He said as per new Act, the affected people in rural areas should get compensation based on factor-2, but that too is not being followed in Himachal.
“Earlier, the Resettlement and Rehabilitation was a part of policy, but now they are in the legal framework. Not only the people who lose their land, but the tenants are also entitled for benefits. Not a single person has been identified so far in this regard,” he said.
“We are worried about the fate of people in HP with 69 more National Highways (NHs) coming up in Himachal. Another concern is the problems in the applicability of provisions of Town and Country Planning Act in villages,” he added.
The Four-Lane Sangharsh Samiti, which has been consistently organising dharnas, demonstrations and submitting memoranda to the government officials and political leaders for four years to no avail, is however hopeful. “The present government has constituted a cabinet sub-committee to look into the whole issue. We consider it a silver lining for our fight for people’s due,” said Thakur.