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Updated 02:00 IST[Late CityWednesday, August 11, 1999, New Delhi
 

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Narmada finds an echo in Tehri
Tehri, August 10 (Umesh Raghuvanshi)

Encouraged by Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy’s plunge into Narmada dam agitation, the people of Tehri have stepped up their protest against dislocation.

Even as the process of evacuation is being expedited, the State Government is yet to make arrangements for land to over 2,500 families to be evacuated from this age-old town.

The State Government is yet to acquire the land to be allotted. A large chunk of the land remains to be identified as the evacuees have stressed that they should be shifted to Dehra Dun instead of Hardwar, which does not form part of the proposed Uttarakhand State. Immediate shifting of the town has been necessitated to pave way for further construction of the Tehri Dam, which has to be completed by March 2002.

The locals here are sore at their neglect by the State Government. Though protests by Sunder Lal Bahuguna had drawn attention towards the environmental aspects to some extent, the battle being waged by local people has failed to have any impact on the shifting programme. The locals have not only made complaints against the amount of compensation being paid to them, but have also found flaws in the Rehabilitation Policy being implemented by the State Government at the behest of the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation.

Locals speak bitterly against the move to shift the town without addressing to the problems of the people in the rural areas. A majority of the rural population depends on the Old Tehri town for their day-to-day earnings or supply of essential commodities.

A banner put up by a local organisation here, warns the State Government against shifting the town without addressing to their problems. The banner reads, “Devon ki bhumi hamari devon se hain bhav hamare, yadi danav sa vyavhar hua to ham daityon sa sanhar karnge.” (This is the land of Gods. We cherish high values. We will fight to finish if a fair treatment is not given to us.)

Many locals in the town, including Mr Durga Prasad Bhatt and Mr Rajesh Dyondi, had complaints against the amount of compensation paid to them. Mrs Sushila Devi Parmar, who claimed her lineage from a royal family, said she had been paid Rs 2 lakh and 300 square-metre plot in New Tehri town. “Even value of our old house doors exceeds the amount of compensation paid to us,” she said with disgust.

The Director Rehabilitation, Mr Chandra Singh, said he was personally looking into the problems of the evacuees. The complainants in a large number of cases do not have any grounds to substantiate their points.

However, the problems of some of them may be genuine which would be looked into. Meanwhile, all banks situated here are being shifted to expedite the process of evacuation of this town, which would begin to submerge in November this year.

The leading nationalised banks have already informed the public to complete transactions as their branches would be shifted to New Tehri soon.

A notice in this regard has also been published by a nationalised bank in the local newspapers, asking its customers to make necessary transactions before its branch is shifted to New Tehri town. The branches of the banks are being shifted following directives from the district administration, which asked them to relocate their branches in the New Tehri town.

The GM Project Tehri Hydro Development Corporation, Mr S. C. Sharma, said the rehabilitation work had been transferred to the State Government. Regarding shifting of the town before November, he said, it had been necessitated in view of the proposed closure of Bhagirathi tunnels.

The Bhagirathi water will thereafter be passed through T-3 and T-4 tunnels of Bhilangana River. The water was expected to rise to a level of 632 metres which would pose a serious threat to the Tehri town. The Bhagirathi’s water level may go dangerously high during rainy season even before the tunnels are closed.

Adequate arrangements have been made to evacuate people to safer places. The siren will start blowing and people residing in Malin Bastis in the town will be shifted immediately if the water level, which was at 620 metres now, goes up further, he said.


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