Odisha announces plan to rehabilitate those displaced by construction of the Hirakud dam

In a resolution to a seven decade–long land displacement issue, 1,749 families of 19 villages of Jharsuguda district will be given rights on 3,231 acres of land from December

September 02, 2023 06:53 pm | Updated 07:20 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

File photo of the Mahanadi river swelling after authorities opened the sluice gates of the Hirakud dam following incessant monsoon rains, at Naraj Barrage in Cuttack

File photo of the Mahanadi river swelling after authorities opened the sluice gates of the Hirakud dam following incessant monsoon rains, at Naraj Barrage in Cuttack | Photo Credit: PTI

The Odisha government on Saturday announced a plan for giving land rights to 1,749 families in Jharsuguda district, who had lost their land amid the construction of the Hirakud dam over the Mahanadi River in the 1950s.

Steps were taken to resolve a seven decade–long displacement issue following the direction of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who was apprised about it by V.K. Pandian, his private secretary and secretary to 5T (Team work, technology, transparency, transformation and time limit) initiative. Mr. Pandian had received grievances during his recent visit to Jharsuguda district.

A high-level committee comprising of Mr. Pandian, Development Commissioner Anu Garg, and Revenue and Disaster Management Secretary Satyabrata Sahu decided to start settling land issues pertaining to 1,749 families belonging to two tehsils of Jharsuguda.

Record of rights will reportedly be given on 3,231 acres of land to 1,749 families in 19 villages. Distribution of land rights will commence from five villages, Limeitikra, Sahasbaga, Lachhipalli, Patrapali, and Duanmunda from December.

It needs to be mentioned that when the dam was built, a total of 73,923 hectares (182,590 acres) of land were submerged. This included 49,920 ha. (1,23,303 acres) of agricultural land and 24,003 ha. (59,287 acres) of government land, including forestland.

A total of 111 villages were fully submerged, out of which 108 were in Odisha. Apart from the fully submerged villages, 174 villages were partially submerged (141 in Odisha and 33 in Chhattisgarh). According to sources in the government, approximately 18,000 families were displaced.

The National Human Rights Commission had in the past directed its Special Rapporteur to conduct a fresh probe into the alleged failure of subsequent governments in Odisha to rehabilitate and resettle more than 26,000 families displaced by the Hirakud dam project seven decades ago.

The State government had admitted that some of the displaced persons had been paid only half the compensation while some had not been paid anything during the acquisition of land for the Hirakud project in 1952-53.

In respect of the settlement of homestead land, hundreds of applications were received from Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Bargarh and Subarnapur districts. While some cases were settled, many were rejected on the grounds of the applicant’s ineligibility.

Similarly, the State government took a decision to give homestead land to 883 families of 17 villages in the Sorada block of Ganjam district. As many as 168 families would get agricultural land. All the process would be completed by September 23.

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