61 years on, many Pong Dam oustees are still powerless, landless

Sixty-one years after they were displaced as their houses got submerged in Pong Dam lake following construction of the dam on Beas river in 1961, several such families are still awaiting to be called bona fide residents of Himachal Pradesh.

While scores of such oustees are settled at different places in the state, at least 400 families, mostly engaged in menial jobs, are settled in Dehra subdivision in Kangra district alone.

Baldev Singh, an oustee, who has a house in Gupt Colony in Bhatoli village, said that they were facing issues, from getting potable water to power supply, but they were hit the hardest when their sons found it difficult to get brides. “Nobody wants their daughters to marry son of such oustees. Life is a big struggle for us, as a result,” he added.

Sukrit Sagar, an activist of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, who has been spearheading a campaign for these oustees, said that he was raising their issue again with the political parties ahead of elections. “The situation is such that the colony where Baldev Singh and others live is called Gupt Colony, meant to be a secret set-up. This is a kind of social stigma these people face. While they gave up their houses to provide power supply to scores of people through Pong Dam, they remained without power for 60 years. There are still more than 50 families in Dehra alone that are without power.”

He added, “They are not even called bona fide residents as they do not have a residence proof. They do not own land. That is why they were unable to get electricity meter and water supply, because you need to provide residence proof for it. The government made a provision that they could submit an affidavit. But there is so much of red tape that nothing moves.”

He said that while the government had announced that they would be given land, they were mostly settled on forest land. The permission for allotment of this land had to come from the Union ministry for environment and forest. These people had initially settled on common lands that were later classified as forest land in 1980s. The government should either declassify forest lands, on which these oustees were settled, as common lands or should allot land to them at other places, he added.

While he was able to get power supply and water connection last year after a long struggle, there are scores of them who have not got any such facilities, he said.

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