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Posted at: Mar 9, 2018, 1:23 AM; last updated: Mar 9, 2018, 1:23 AM (IST)BUDGET SESSION

Cong walks out over Pong oustees issue

Cong walks out over Pong oustees issue
Speaker Rajeev Bindal with CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj in Shimla on Thursday. Tribune photo

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 8

Perturbed over the politicisation of the issue of the rehabilitation of the Bhakra Dam oustees in Bilaspur, who were being evicted, an agitated Congress staged a walkout during a debate in the Assembly today.

The resolution was moved by Congress MLA from Naina Devi Ram Lal Thakur, urging the government to formulate a policy so that the land, occupied by the oustees, who got uprooted in the sixties at the time of coming up of the Bhakra Dam, could be regularised on as is where is basis and not treated as encroachment.

The Opposition got agitated as Irrigation and Public Health Minister Mahender Singh, who replied to the debate in the absence of the Chief Minister, who holds the revenue portfolio, asked the Congress as to why they did not resolve the issue as it ruled the state for the maximum time. This infuriated Congress members who were on their toes as there were heated exchanges between the minister and Congress Legislature Party leader (CLP) Mukesh Agnihotri.

A visibly upset former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh indicated to his party MLAs to leave the House as the minister on behalf of the government, refused to adopt the resolution moved by Ram Lal Thakur. “My regime had created a mini-settlement at Kotdhar to settle the oustees and a policy must be formulated to ensure that oustees are not evicted,” advocated Virbhadra, while participating in the debate.

Agnihotri said the government rather than remaining a mute spectator to the oustees being uprooted for a second time should intervene and take up the matter with the court, where it is pending.

“It is a humanitarian issue which should not be politicised and the House must adopt the resolution so that the houses of the oustees, especially in Bilaspur, can be saved from being evicted,” urged Thakur. The people who, at the time of the coming up of the project, were asked to occupy any government land, are a harassed lot and the government must plead before the High Court their plight so that they can get relief.

Replying to the debate, Mahender Singh said the government too sympathized with the oustees but with the matter being in court, its hands were tied. “The previous Congress regime formulated a policy for their settlement but with the matter being in court, we are not in a positon to do much,” the minister said.

Others, who participated in the debate included JR Katwal, Subhash Thakur, Lakhwinder Rana and Rakesh Singha.

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