Wednesday, 4 July, 2007

Harsud; three years hence but saga of the sufferings, never ends ..

The story of sufferings of people of Harsud, one of the 250 villages in the State of Madhya Pradesh which got submerged due to Indira Sagar Dam project, is unending and probably this millenniums most inhumane and undemocratic displacement story. June 30 2007, it will three years hence when the people of Harsud were 'displaced by force' not by will. Till date many of them wait for adequate compensation. Many are unemployed and striving hard to earn their sustenance. Probably their lives have got stuck in the 'files' in 'corridors of powers' of the State Government. The state of affairs is such that out of 5600 families which were resettled in the new Harsud only 1600 families still remain. Fifty families are dalits. Where have the rest gone? Nobody knows. What happened to the children, their education, and health no one has a clue in the State?

Who matters for the state in present situation? If 100 medical students or doctors march on the roads of New Delhi, then Parliament, Media, Corporate starts jumping, but 6000 tribals sitting on Dharna in Bhopal under heavy rains for demanding their fundamental right does not matter for the Government. The Political and State leadership did not go to meet these people at all.

The Harsud got submerged in June 2004. This historic town was established in the year 1815 by the then King Harshvardhan. Before it got submerged it was a Tehsil which was surrounded by villages. People settled here, had means of employment be it their own business, or labour or farming but after their displaced after submergence, they live on state's false promises, with a hope it they may get fulfilled someday.

It may be difficult to locate a town similar to new Harsud in Madhya Pradesh wherein people have built in pucca houses but hardly have anything to eat. All the money they had, they had spent on constructing their homes. Uma Bharti, who was then the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, had announced that new Harsud will be 'an ideal town', with all the facilities. But reality is far from grim. The land here was made up of hard rocks and it was extremely difficult to construct houses on the same. It took huge effort to dig the rocky land for the foundation which was needed to build the house over it. People had to spend all they had in order to construct their shelter. Builders, cement, sand and construction material dealers minted money, to an extent that prices of building material shot up. Iron rods which are normally priced at Rs 2300 per quintal, were sold at Rs 4000 per quintal while sand which is normally priced at Rs 1000 - 1500 was sold at double the price. All the money they had received as compensation was spent only in constructing houses.

It was painful to see one's own houses getting submerged while they were forced to settle on these barren hard rocky plains. Today, they have a pucca house but only that nothing else. State was able to convince the judiciary that, they have been able to rehabilitate the displaced people. Photographs of the pucca houses were good evidence in the court.

Present revenue records of the state will tell you that new Harsud is developing progressively. But the reality is exactly opposite and grim. Economy and employment are correlated when people have no means of employment how can an economy flourish. New harsud contrary to old one does not have any bus stand, no vegetable wholesale market, and neither any bank which can help the people get loan i.e. nothing which can give the people any employment opportunity. In name of development concrete gutters, damaged roads, there is nothing much.

Dr Ashok Srivastava, a valiant fighter, fighting for rights of those who got displaced say that concrete roads and sewage lines are there as state wanted to show the court that development has been done. But then what? "Old Harsud was a complete economic zone in itself, it had a big wholesale market for farmers, about 200 villages used to cater to the same and almost everyone had a job. But it is exactly the opposite in new Harsud. Except concrete sewage lies, houses and government offices there is nothing. Arundhati Roy, a famous writer had said at the time when Harsud was getting submerged what kind of development is that wherein the name of progress human rights of one's own nation's people get violated.

Though Harsud is the latest example, but in name of progress, in our country after independence more than three crore people have been displaced from their own land and their own culture. All democratic methods of raising concern seem not to deter the state of Madhya Pradesh and NHDC, the company which is building these dams.

Narmada Bachho Andolan's Alok Agarwal shares that people in new harsud have not been given property rights of the land which is allotted to them, meaning that they cannot get any loan on the same. He adds that crime rate has been increasing in last three years. People do not have employment, poverty is rampant and people don't have anything to survive, hence crime rates have increased. It is not that only poor have got affected, even better off families are facing the impact but fact is that poor have the maximum brunt. Even the traders like Trilok Tripathi say that sales have come down as people don't have buying power.

Who will listen to Dalits ?

In the new harsud sector 7 is called dalit sector. It is here where fifty dalit families live in. Children are taking of their school bags and instead they have picked up shovels. Rahul, was studying in tenth class when harsud got submerged but now he has hanged his school bag. More than studies it was essential to get food for his family. Santosh who works as a laborer in harsud and is feeding his family recalls at in old harsud we never had a time when we had had to starve, as their was work at the agricultural farms, and we used to get some work always. But now neither we have any farming nor is there any work for us. We are just surviving, but when rains come we will not have any way of earning our livelihood.

Where is Employment Guarantee Scheme?

This new place for the rehabilitated is nothing but a box of problems and is difficult for community members here to manage just two meals a day. In situation like this why is government silent on getting people some work. What is the reason that state has not initiated an employment guarantee scheme here? Local people say that people here had protested strongly against the conditions prevalent here and corruption which was happening, the same had upset many important ministers like Kailash Vijayavarigya, Anoop Mishra, and the local member of legislative assembly Kunwar Vijay Shah. They are facing the brunt of the same protest. The people here are angry wit Jkunawar Vijay Shah who never spoke a single word for the people and against the displacement. That is the reason he was blessed with gift of Cabinet Ministership. Media has less presence here, no political leaders wants to raise his voice for their concern, as they feel that the vote bank here is not big enough to have an impact on elections. Though this year in fist time Municipal Corporation BJP had lost, but it does not see than they have learnt from their loss.

People are still stranded here.

Kalimachak River was a lifeline for harsud town. But after water levels increased in Indira Sagar dam, backwaters of Kalimachak only submerged Harsud. Though harsud now is depilated and is haunted. But still in ward number nine, Mohi rayat about 150 people of thirty tribal families are not willing to move from here. They till date have not received the compensation amount. Mohan Gaindala from these families tell us that as even after fulfilling all the requirements as laid down in the clause 4 as announced by the state government they still have not received the compensation. Among them is Poonam who is suffering from Tuberculosis shares that patwari and other government officials openly ask for bribes. 'If someone cannot enough to eat how can one afford to pay bribe. Mohan adds that we don't know where our compensation money has gone? There are many here who have not received their compensation yet. Either the state government officials or the powerful have eaten away the money which came as compensation for them.

State government officials including the officiating District Collector Sanjay Goyal do not have any answers'. Tribals communities staying here had previously got afflicted with Chickenguniya. In the last monsoon water had reached just near their huts, but there is no surety this time that water will remain till that place. Included in them there are ten such children who never have received polio vaccination anytime or for that matter neither any supplementary nutrition.

What does District Collector say?:

Khandwa District Collector Sanjay Goyal who is officiating says that district administration is trying its best. Brushing aside the issue of employment he said that somehow all of us, in any form will have to pay the price of development?

By Daya Shanker Mishra

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