Villagers seeking rehabilitation in Chandigarh pledge vote to former actor

Aam Aadmi Party’s Chandigarh candidate Gul Panag on Sunday received a shot in the arm when a section of descendants of villagers displaced during the second phase of the city’s construction pledged their vote and support to her maiden run for Parliament.

The Pind Wasao Sabha (village rehabilitation society) had organised an open session at the Chandigarh Press Club, attended by the candidates of all parties, to highlight the failure, since 1996, of successive governments to undertake their rehabilitation. The session was attended by AAP activist Meena Sharma and Hindustan Ekta Party candidate Dharmender Singh, while the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, were conspicuous by their absence.

Each and every resident of 11 villages was uprooted during the second phase of Chandigarh’s establishment, said PWS general secretary Harjinder Singh Billing. These villages included Kanthala, Faidan, Shahpur, Bajwara, Jaipura, Madhrian Fatehgarh, Datarpur, Bairmajra, Karsan, Chuharpura and Basta Bajwardi. The ousted villagers then belonged to 643 families, whose descendants today number 6,000.

Mr. Billing said all families displaced in the first phase were rehabilitated free of cost under the Punjab Reclamation Act and provided land and houses from among evacuee properties post 1947.

Land from nearly 50 villages was acquired to set up Chandigarh.

The members of the PWS demanded that they be rehabilitated immediately at the prices that had prevailed in 1966, when they were forcibly evicted from their houses. They suggested that the VIP sectors lying north of the Madhya Marg here be reacquired and redesigned to accommodate the oustees.

The society suggested that the present owners of the large plots could be given 7 Marla houses as compensation.

The members said the former Punjab Governor J.F.R. Jacob’s attempt, as administrator of the Union Territory, to rehabilitate the villagers was scuttled by bureaucrats immediately after he was eased out.The PWS also sought an undertaking that the next MP from Chandigarh would promote the villagers’ cause in the Lok Sabha and firm up a strong rehabilitation law.