Ramakanta Biswas

For over six decades, compensation continues to elude many families displaced by the multipurpose Hirakud dam project, the longest dam in the world. With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announcing homestead land to 2000 displaced families, clamour has grown shriller to provide the same to all the affected people, not just a fortunate few. 

According to sources, residents of about 360 villages from Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Bargarh and Sundergarh districts had lost their land to the dam constructed across Mahanadi River in 1957. 

Rukmani Bhuyan, who now lives in Sonutikra village of Sambalpur district, recounts how her family was ousted from Tihuda village along with many others to facilitate the construction of the dam with assurance of immediate compensation and rehabilitation by the government. 

“We lost our land and home and moved to this village. The government officials had assured that we would get land, but we are yet to get the compensation, “Rukmani rued.   

Srikant Bhoi, whose family was also displaced by the dam, said the project has destroyed their livelihood. He said his father and grandfather were farmers before they lost their land to the Hirakud dam. After being displaced by the project, the family has been eking out a living by fishing in the dam for the past three decades. 

He lamented that his family has not received any compensation or homestead land from the government yet.

Gokulananda Behera, a resident of Jamadarpalli village, said, “Many families have not been fully compensated yet after being displaced by the dam project. Even many people who got land from the government are unable to take possession of the same due to several issues.”

Gopinath Majhi, convenor of Hirakud Budi Anchal Sangram Samiti termed the announcement of homestead land as a delayed move by the government and said many affected families are still left out. He demanded that homestead land be given to over 20,000 families.

“About 2000 applicants have been identified for the homestead land, but many more are still left out. If they are not compensated now, we doubt that they will have to wait for many more years,” Majhi said.