Bhubaneswar: Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to extend compensation to the families displaced by the Rengali Multipurpose Dam project and address all seven of their demands. In his communication to the Chief Minister, Pradhan highlighted that the dam project on the Brahmani River stands as the second-largest in Odisha, significantly enhancing the state’s irrigation and power generation capabilities. However, the project has cast a shadow of perpetual hardship over thousands of displaced families for the past forty years, expressing the Minister’s concern.
The impact in 1973 saw 263 villages submerged in Angul and Deogarh districts, rendering around 13,000 families homeless. The lack of proper resettlement and compensation mechanisms compounded their suffering, with residents forcibly relocated without the involvement of gram sabha, palli sabha, or public hearings. Despite numerous protests and hunger strikes for justice, the victims’ conditions have seen no improvement.
The absence of strong leadership, particularly in the aftermath of the late Pabitra Mohan Pradhan’s advocacy for the displaced through the Gadajat Movement, has deprived them of justice. Unfortunately, over 80 percent of impoverished families, including tribals, farmers, and backward classes, feel neglected and humiliated, unable to access legal recourse. This has led them to perceive the state government’s attitude towards the Gadajat region as indifferent and neglectful.
In their pursuit of justice, the displaced families are currently engaged in a Satyagrah, pressing for the fulfillment of their seven legitimate demands. They have even gone to the extent of threatening to take watery graves in the reservoir. Minister Pradhan expressed hope that the State government would address this sensitive issue promptly and provide the displaced families with their rightful dues.
The seven demands put forth by the displaced families encompass compensation of Rs 50,000 per acre, the provision of permanent leases, the guarantee of a permanent job for a member of each displaced family, the issuance of ration cards and health insurance schemes, access to a lifetime supply of free electricity from the Rengali Power House, and the immediate implementation of the Chakdhar Samakoi project. Additionally, they seek the identification and registration of Hindu deities, priests, and the renovation and development of temples.