Awaiting rehabilitation for the last 46 years, the Pong Dam oustees in Kangra district are now preparing for a final fight against the governments of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan to get their promised rights.
The people who gave their land to pave the way for the construction of Maharana Pratap Sagar, known as Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh, have been running from pillar to post to get their promised compensation.
“More than 100 villages of Dehra were submerged in the water and many innocent Himachalis were uprooted from their native soil,” Independent MLA Hoshiar Singh told The Statesman.
“We want compensation for 46 years of pain and suffering as per Narmada judgment along with our promised land plots,” he said.
He said they will file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court against the State, Central and Rajasthan governments for alleged contempt of court as they have not followed the apex court’s 1996 judgment on allotment of land.
“It is a matter of shame that the dam oustees are still not getting their claims. These poor and innocent people left their homes and sacrificed their land for this dam 46 years ago,” Singh said.
“Many people have died waiting for their rights. My grandfather was one among them. But now no more, we will fight for our rights,” he added.In 1974, the 240 square km long Pong dam was completed on the Beas river in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. More than 95,000 people were displaced as 339 villages were affected and 75,000 acres of land were immersed in the water.
Out of 339 villages, 223 were fully submerged and 116 were submerged partially in the Pong reservoir. The dam was completed but there were no plans for resettlement of the people whose homes and villages it had deluged. They were allotted ‘Murrabas’ in Rajasthan.
“We got land in Anoopgarh, Rajasthan. The place, people and the climate were too harsh for us. There was no electricity, no irrigation, zero facilities at all. Life was hell there,” said Surinder Singh Parmar, 52 year-old resident of Dehra Gopipur.
The barren and deserted land plots allotted as claims to about 4138 families got cancelled because the people were not ready to shift because of social and climatic constraints.
And the authorities rejected many claims because of incomplete paperwork. Most of the Pong Dam oustees were illiterate and innocent. They were thrown out of their land in lieu of development.
“This is unfortunate that we are running here and there for the past 50 years for our own land. How can the Himachal and Rajasthan governments be so insensitive? This dam is a curse for us,” said 76-year-old Mannohar Singh.
There were many horrific tales of resettlement which the Pong dam oustees can still remember. The law and order situations in Rajasthan for the resettled Himachalis was terrible. Most of the land allotted to them had been encroached and occupied illegally by local goons. Many of them were threatened and forced to sign the land papers and thrown out of Rajasthan too, he added.