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SC seeks status reports on Pong Dam oustees
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 8
The Supreme Court has directed the Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan Governments to submit latest status reports about the allotment of land to 20,722 families rendered homeless in the hill state due to construction of Pong Dam even as they continue to strive for rehabilitation after 30 years of their displacement.

A Bench comprising Mr Justice S. Rajendra Babu and Mr Justice G.P. Mathur directed the governments of the two states to place before it the reports within two weeks.

The court has sought details as to how many families were yet to be allotted land in the Indira Gandhi canal area in Sriganganagar district of Rajasthan and how many had been given the eligibility certificates (ECs) by the Himachal Government, making each family entitled to get 15.625 acres of land.

A total of 3.25 lakh acres of land was to be made available by the Rajasthan Government to the oustees as the state was the main beneficiary of the Pong Dam project linking Beas with Sutlej to augment the inflow of water in the Bhakra reservoir.

The direction was issued by the court during the hearing of a joint writ petition by Rajasthan-based Pradesh Pong Bandh Visthapit Samiti (PPBVS) and Himachal Pong Dam Oustees Welfare Committee (HPDOWC), seeking implementation of the apex court’s July, 26 1996 order directing the Union Government to set up a committee to sort out the problem.

The court had directed that the committee would take steps for settling the oustees under the settlement proposal agreed upon between the Centre and the two states.

Himachal’s Additional Advocate General J.S. Attari had sought at least six weeks time to submit the report stating that the latest data has to be collected from the Tehsildars and Deputy Commissioners concerned of Rajasthan where the oustees had been allotted lands. But the court did not agree with the request.

The petitioners said thousands of oustees had not been given ECs even after 30 years of their uprooting from their homes by the Himachal Government and the committee, appointed on the order of the court, had not held any meeting since 1998.

According to the petitioners 16,100 families were issued ECs during 1974-75 but the land during this period was allotted only to 9,195 of them, leaving 6,905 families without allotments.

Ironically allotments of 6,658 families were cancelled by the Rajasthan government during 1976-77 on the ground that they had not complied with the guidelines, fixed for acquiring the possession.

“Meanwhile, several local inhabitants of Rajasthan had trespassed on the land reserved for the ousted families and the state government had invited applications from such people for making allotments in their name in the reserved areas,” the PPBVS and HPDOWC said.

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