Eviction of Bhakra dam oustees from forest land remains unresolved

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Photo used for indicative purpose only. Courtesy : Internet

“Will the state silently witness while Bhakra dam oustees would again be ruined due to the court orders of removing encroachments?’ questioned Ram lal Thakur, Congress MLA in a private member motion at the HP Vidhan Sabha. The motion stated that “The house recommends that the state government should form a policy for all familiies of Bhakra Dam oustee that wherever in the entire state they have done encroachments should be regularised on as in where in basis.

Thakur said in the house that these oustee were not even compensated properly while acquiring their lands in early 60’s and now the high court orders of removal of encroachment from forest land shall axe whatever little they are left with. As per the official process these oustee have already been served notice of demolition and the same would be done by March 28. “ Save Bilaspur otherwise this demolition would create a situation of distress in the state,” urged Thakur to the house while speaking for his motion.

“ There were total of 371 villages of which 256 were from Bilaspur district alone,” said JR Katwal MLA from Jhandutta (BIlaspur) while speaking for the motion raised. He said a total of 1.03Lakh acres of land was submerged into water after construction of Bhakra Dam. A total of 41600 acres of land was acquired then of which about 28000 acres from old Bilaspur citizens, he added. The ruling party MLA said that their government understands the graveness of this issue.

Going into the background of this issue 3,600 families were promised land in Haryana but barring 740 others could not be accommodated there. Of the remaining 2860 families, only 800 could get the ownership of land in Haryana. Thereafter oustee were promised plots in new Bilaspur town, but very few could get it while others were forced to rehabilitate in the nearby forests. Apart from this, some of the displaced had also been resettled along the forested slopes on both sides of the reservoir from Bhakra to Slaapad and Lathyaani.

These oustee settled in forest areas kept on urging various government to regularize their encroachments. In the name of Bhakhra Dam oustee Right Protection Committee, Bilaspur the DC Bilaspur requested government to form a policy in the matter and the issue was also brought up in the state high court. Based on the orders by the state high court in 2013 the Congress government had decided to regularize the land in Bilaspur (upto 150sq mtr that too on free hold basis). The cabinet then, had framed a policy which was also reviewed by the court.

But in the matter of other oustees rehabilitated in other parts of the state, on forest land, the regularization process will have to be done under provisions of law.  And since the matter regarding Demarcated protected forest (DPF) and Urban and Peri urban (UPF) is already under consideration with High court in CWPIL No.17/2014 Court on its own motion Vs. State of HP on illegal enchorachments, therefore a decision cannot be taken yet. And the same has now become a clift stick for these oustees whose holding are bound to be demolished on court’s order.

Former chief Minister Virbhadra Singh also supported the motion, and termed the issue to be of top priority urging the state government to come up with a solution.

Rakesh Singha of the CPI (M) said that Forest conservation act of 1980 had become a problem in this case. He said the rehabilitation of these oustee was being termed as encroachments today because of it. He said that in 2002 the then BJP state government had made an amendment under section inserted section 163A to the HP Land revenue act which could have become a solution for these oustee. He said the amended law 163A is still intact and if worked upon could bring light for a solution to this matter.

Whereby Mahinder Singh IPH minister in reply to the issue displayed helplessness for taking any action on the matter citing that the matter was sub-judice in the high court pertaining to forest land. Though, he agreed that the issue was highly genuine as these oustee were not suitably compensated in those days and now could lose even further. “ The state government are trying to find a solution of the problem,” added the minister.

Not satisfied with the reply, the opposition though created a ruckus in the house, but the motion was not accepted in the house.

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