Welcome to the Archives

Rehabilitation of people uprooted from the Tehri dam area: What is the reality?

PUCL Bulletin January 2002

(Excerpts from the preliminary report of the PUCL released in November 2001. The full report will follow shortly. Copies of the original report in Hindi can be had from Rajendra Dhasmana, G-7 Akashbarti Apartments, 24 – IP extension (Patparganj), Delhi 110 092. )

The rehabilitation schemes for those uprooted from Tehri dam are being touted as an ideal plan. The facts are to the contrary.

The usual migration from the hills to the plains from the sub-mergence area, the government servants transferred from the hills, and the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) employees has all been shown as the uprooted and rehabilitated people. Besides all the expenses on government office buildings have been shown as expenses on rehabilitation till sheds were erected at Koti colony at a cost of Rs. 1 crore. The employees of the JP Company are living in these sheds, though these were meant for the uprooted people. This expense was charged to the rehabilitation budget. The employees of the company are using hundreds of flats though these were charged to the rehabilitation budget. There should be an investigation into the savings to the company in housing allowances and the revenue earned to the directorate of rehabilitation from the sale of shops and flats. Only last year the directorate sold shops and flats amounting to Rs. 3 crores. In the 11 years from 1990 to 2000 the rehabilitation work was with the water development corporation and it has earned revenue worth crores of rupees. It needs to be told where the amount has been spent. The corporation disowns it’s own orders in this respect. These orders had laid down that constructed houses at appropriate places would be provided to the families whose houses have been or will be acquired. Cost of construction and the cost of land of these houses were to be charged to the scheme for which the land would be acquired.

The most harassed are the original residents of the area of submergence who did not receive either proper compensation or proper residence and who are even today not in a position to go anywhere else.

The history of the dam tells us that its costs doubled every 6 years, but the rehabilitation budget is stationary. The Bungalow constructed for the district magistrate has claimed Rs. 47 lakh till date and the Bungalow for the Superintendent of Police Rs. 43 lakhs.

This is the preliminary report of the PUCL. The second report will be ready in another 3 months. November 20001 — Rajendra Dhasmana, Hem Geirola, Shobharam Raturi, Mahipal Singh Negi, Shailendra Nautiyal.

Statistics at a glance

The dam affects one town (Tehri), 37 villages fully and 88 villages partially. The urban families to be fully affected are 5291. Partially affected rural families are 4278. Rehabilitated rural families are 2473. 2539 rural families are still to be rehabilitated. It may be noted that families to be partially affected are not to be rehabilitated. They are to be compensated in cash for the land acquired from them. Those qualifying for compensation are 4278. Out of these 214 have been compensated.

It may be noted that the Tehri Dam will submerge 5200-hectare land. (Source rehabilitation progress report, directorate of rehabilitation March 2001)

Tehri Dam and Human Rights related question

  1. As the time taken in the construction of the dam goes on increasing, the whole gamut of the process from uprooting of the persons to their rehabilitation also goes on increasing. The uncertainty of the end of this suffering is a mental torture. Those displaced in the urban areas have lived through powerful blasts rumbling of machines, clouds of dust, and compensation during the nineties, and assistance for house construction in the present decade. This whole process has seen a generation of the uprooted getting old while making rounds of the rehabilitation offices and now the files are in the hands of the second generation.,
  2. Years before rehabilitation the civic services, health facilities, education, safe transport have been a causality and yet the uprooted have continued to pay various taxes. Children between the ages of 4-6 going to schools, have had to undergo huge suffering in the name of evaluation of the Tehri Town. A 10-year-old child has traveled about 10,000 kilometers every year. At the rate of 50 kilometers a day, 20 in a month, 5 years and 10 months comes to 50,000 kilometers. The 50 kilometers distant between Tehri and new Tehri translates into 3 hours bus journey of 300 hours height from sea levels 700 meters from 600 meters of old Tehri, and every day an atmospheric temperature changed from 10-15 degrees. This is the suffering of a 10 year old.
  3. The Uttaranchal government issued an order on October 3, 2001 that the assistance of house construction to the landowners of Tehri will be done only when their house in Tehri has been blasted. The question is of their staying between the blast of the old house and the construction of the new house. Finance from other sources takes time. Till then, the families have to stay on the roadside.
  4. In 1998, it was decided that about 250 land owners, shop owners, will be allotted shops first, before their old shops were sealed. In October 2001 these shops were sealed before new shops were allotted and the owners were deprived of their livelihood. The geographic and social environment of the rehabilitation side and the consequent mal adjustment of weather and society take time in getting adjusted. This means that mental torture and suffering will continue even after rehabilitation.

Up to August 31, 2001 Rs. 582 crores are said to have being spent on rehabilitation. Facts reveal that this amount has not been spent actually on the rehabilitation of the uprooted. Large expenses on government offices, government colonies, offices shifted from Narendra Nagar have been included in the above figure. The figure also includes the expenses on administration on new Tehri. Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) and directorate of rehabilitation are playing the role of a builder. A sum of Rs. 94 crores out of these 582 crores has gone to the uprooted people, 170 crores have been spent on new construction in new Tehri, out of this 27 crores have been spent on the houses for the uprooted. Rs. 130 crores has been spent on water supply, electricity and land development. Rs. 2.82 crore has been spent on the field hostel and the residence of the DM and the SP. Electrification of 2 colleges and two government buildings has claimed 131 lakhs.

Along with this the State and the Central government are saving up to Rs. 15 lakhs in house rent. (Due to construction of flats and hostel shown as the rehabilitation expenses).

Compensation for land and buildings, allotment of agricultural and plots eligibility determination and assistance for house construction.

Old Tehri town was divided into ten wards for land/building compensation in 1983. The arte of compensation for ward 1-6 was fixed at Rs. 5/- per square feet and Rs.30/- for wards 7-10. Some persons challenged this discrimination in the court. The court ruled in their favour but the corporation filed an appeal in the High Court and the case is yet to be decided finally.

Compensation for building was made along with the compensation for land and the value of houses was depreciated. There were 14 families who received more than Rs. 500 and about 30% families received less than twenty thousand rupees. Payments were made in installments.

Eligibility for compensation

It was decided to regard the person, whose name was mentioned in the land records, as the head of the family. The second and third generation sons and grandsons, living separately have to share the compensation granted to the head of the family.

Land eligibility and allotment

This policy follows the policy of compensation eligibility. This resulted in subdivision and fragmentation, the maximum No. (492) of families were allotted 60 square meters each. This had to be divided in smaller plots if there were two, three or five brothers. The owners of Nazool and ‘unmeasured’ plots have also been concerned eligible. No one was assessed eligible for 300 square meter even if the plot was more than this. Some people had up to ten thousand square meters but they were allotted only 300 square meters.

Though this policy regarding the plots has been called allotment, in certain types of cases it is more of a sale than allotment. Landowners were to be paid the cost of land, of the project cost. Yet in the nominal rate the owners were made to pay hefty sums. For example an owner whose 300 square meters were taken away was paid a compensation of Rs. 15, 000. For the same area of land in new Tehri he had to pay Rs. 15750.

In 1996 the policy was to allot houses constructed out of the project cost. In 1998, it was decided to give them construction assistance. Different categories identified for construction assistance are unjustifiable and punitive. In the beginning they were 3 categories: sixty thousand rupees, one-lakh twenty thousand rupees, and one-lakh eighty thousand rupees. The second and third category have been changed to the detriment of the uprooted persons.

Exaction from the displaced and savings in government treasury

1980-81 onwards the government stopped spending on public utilities in these affected areas, especially in Tehri. On the other hand, all taxes had to be paid. Approximately, Rs. 50 crores were collected by way of income tax, sales tax, liquor vending, Tehbazaari. 1990 onwards, the budget for medicine in the Tehri hospital abolished.

According to a government order of 1973, persons whose land was to be taken for the dam were to be given free at the place of rehabilitation. In spite of this, the urban uprooted persons were made to pay for residential and commercial plots in new Tehri and DehraDun. One government document has given this figure as rupees one crore six lakhs.

Similarly the shops constructed from the rehabilitation budget in Dehra Dun and Mazoori have been sold to the uprooted persons. One document shows the government earnings from such sales of residences and shops to be four crores eighty-two lakhs.

House compensation in rural and urban areas amounts to rupees forty-seven crores. If 10303 land owning families spent on an average rupees two lakhs from their pockets, the total will come to two hundred and six crores. On the other hand, the government will spend ninety-seven crores. Reforestation schemes have been implemented in Jhansi-Lalitpur areas of UP to make up the laws of forests by the dam in Tehri and rupees six crore have been spent on this for the rehabilitation budget.

Important government orders that were not implemented or were withdrawn

The 1998 document laying down the Directive Principles of the National Policy for Rehabilitation says that rehabilitation and housing should be swift and judicious and should be according to the assurances given at the beginning of the scheme. Assurances given to the oustees of Tehri Dam have not been fulfilled from the very beginning. It will not be wrong to say that they have been cheated.

The Planning Commission had sanctioned the Tehri Dam in 1972. The Centre and the State government in 1988 set up the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) jointly. Till the work of the dam was done by irrigation department of U.P during this period, some government orders were issued for proper rehabilitation of the oustees. Two important government orders were never implemented and one of these was withdrawn in 1988.

Government order 45514-61201-73 of December 20, 19763 had said that the families whose houses were taken under land acquisition or which were necessary to be taken will be given constructed houses at proper places. The cost of constructing the houses and the cost of the land on which the houses were to be constructed should be provided for in the scheme for which he land is acquired.

Again, government order number 20161/95-226 of February 29, ’96 also repeated the above direction. These government orders were never implemented with reference to the oustees of Tehri dam. Implementation of these government orders was never notified and application from the oustees for constructing houses were never invited. One interesting fact is that residential colonies in new Tehri were constructed out of the rehabilitation budget, but the houses were allotted to government servants. Oustees who did not opt for plots had to buy the houses. The flats were sold to the tenants and some others and also to some government departments. Some houses are under illegal occupation and some were allotted to unauthorized persons.

The 1973 order mentioned above also said that order should be issued that people displaced due to land acquisition will be employed in the concerned scheme. It also said that if necessary, training programmes for such employees should be arranged.

Another order 4862 of October 9, 1979 said that the applicants from among the people living in the submergence area of the Tehri dam would be given preference for appointment. Order number 20161 of February 29, 1996 also said that at least one member of every affected family must be employed in the scheme according to his / her qualification. One August 28, 1998 a meeting of the Tehri dam task force recommended the above mentioned order of February 29, 1996.

Land for Tehri dam was acquired from more than 11000 land owning families. This is a large number and it is possible that it would have been difficult to provide employment to one person from every family. But the oustees of Tehri could have been employed in other schemes of the irrigation department, especially in the schemes where large number of people were not being displaced. But there seems to be no record of either schemes of training or other such efforts.

According to a limited study one member each of even 5% displaced family could not get employment and large numbers of non-displaced persons from outside the district and even the state were given employment. The private companies also did not provide employment to the displaced persons on any considerable scale.

Rehabilitation vs. immigration / transfer

The families fully affected by Tehri Dam have been shown to be 10,303 in March 2001. It is already claimed that 5291 urban families have been rehabilitated. The interesting part of this claim is that this figure also includes government and semi government employees. This figure is shown as about 2000. The rest of the figure includes land building owners, nazool and ‘unmeasured’, tenants, and institutions. The highest figure is of those land-owning families whose land has been acquired for the dam. These are 1766 families. At some places this figure is shown as 1750.

Not only government servants transferred from Tehri to New Tehri have been shown as rehabilitated families, their transportation costs have also been charged to the rehabilitation budget. There are many employees who are oustees also. It is possible that they have been counted twice. There are also cases where the progeny of father or grandfather, (who are alive) has not been deemed eligible whereas transferred employees have been counted eligible.

Administration staff college, Hyderabad, in its comparative report on rehabilitation at Tehri and Narmada identified four phases in 1993:

  • Survey, identification, and acquiring of property;
  • Identification and acquiring of land to be allotted to the displaced;
  • Development of land to be allotted and allotment of plots;
  • Transference of affected population to rehabilitation areas.

With reference to Tehri an interesting thing emerges, that of migration. Migration is not rehabilitation. There were more than 2500 urban land-house owners, nazool and ‘unmeasured’ owners of which 10-15 persons migrated to Dehradun, Hrishikesh, and other places even before the process of rehabilitation could begin. This was a part of the process in which the well-to-do families migrate for better living, social status, and better education for children. The houses of such people, especially of those who were on better posts, were in dilapidated condition in Tehri and these were occupied by tenants or poor relations. Such families were not bothered about uprooting. They were already settled outside. They came to Tehri for a day, took the compensation and went back. Most of them opted for residential plots in Dehradun. Those who got them in new Tehri generally surrendered it or resold it and went back. Their number inflated the figure of rehabilitation. There have been some other reasons for migration and these figures were also welcome additions to the statistics of rehabilitation.

The other category of migration, that of nazool (urban government land on lease patta), “unmeasured” of tenants, category. This is 12% of total urban displaced families.

Such families have been rehabilitated by way of land/house-cost payment. The nazool and “unmeasured” displaced people were compensated for the house at ‘depreciated cost’ just like land house owners. The “unmeasured” displaced were allotted land at comparatively higher cost. They were not given any advance, construction assistance, of minimum rate plots, etc. But they benefited in that besides plot / house allotment in Dehradun or new Tehri, they became plot-house owner. This change in status was an agglomerating tendency for flocking to new Tehri or Dehradun. This was a more of a migration rather than rehabilitation.

Shopkeepers are another set of migrates shown in the figures of rehabilitation of September-October 2001. Some have migrated, and some have quit business. This category consisted of those who had their own shops and those who were running rented shops. Those who had given their shops on rent were not included in this category. Shopkeepers whose shops were razed or sealed to compel them for migration were more than 600. They have been allotted shops on payment in new Tehri, Bhagirathipuram, or Dehradun. There are charges of corruption of all types in such allotment and compensation.

The really displaced persons amongst the various categories are those who are original inhabitants of Tehri and affected villages. They are the inheritors of family property and have no other permanent or temporary place or residence. Those amongst them, who could afford, have constructed or bought houses in rehabilitation areas and have migrated. But a majority of such landowners are still in Tehri and villages. About 3000 families of displaced villages have not yet been allotted agricultural or residential plots.

Above analysis shows that the rehabilitation policies have not paid any attention to the social structure and its constituent elements like original inhabitants, permanent – temporary residence migrated – rehabilitated, uprooted. This is the result of looking at rehabilitation as a mechanical and statistical process.

Tehri vs Narmada

According to a study of the administrative staff college, Hyderabad, the rehabilitation expense at Tehri was Rs. 332800/- per family. For Narmada it was 143660. But these figures are disputed. In Narmada (with cut off date 1987) every adult of 18 years has been considered as a separate family and every adult had been provided 5 acres of agricultural land along with other facilities of rehabilitation (submergence region of Narmada has no urban area). This means that the above amount has been spent on every adult of 18 years and above. In Tehri the definition of the family is different. We have mentioned above that in families where the head is 70/80 years old, even second and third generation adults have not been counted a separate family. In Tehri, thus, the expenses come to 80-85,000. Similarly land per adult head in Tehri also comes to half acre. Compensation per house building of Rs. 80,000 at Tehri is also deceptive against Rs. 10,000 at Narmada. At Tehri all the house buildings are urban and had 1, 2, or 3 floors. Two palaces of the king have also pushed up the average. Compensation in Tehri therefore has to be higher and is not comparable with the type of compensated structures of Narmada region.

Coming back to the family, in Narmada the number of displaced families is 15, 209, whereas in Tehri it is shown as 10, 303. If we, however consider every adult of 18 years as a family the number of families will go up. It might be better, therefore, if we estimate per head rehabilitation expense. If we consider a family in Narmada of average 3 members, per member expense will come to 1,4,3600 / 3= 47,866. In Tehri for each family of 4 adults and at an average 3 members an average family will have 12 members memberships spread into 3 generations. This will give the per person expense as 3, 32, 800/12 =27,733. This is slightly higher than half the expense at Narmada. This comes to about 57% of the Naramada expense.

The Hanumanth Rao Committee had recommended an advance in one installment to every adult of 18 years (cut off at 1990). On this score also there was a change and the age of an adult was revised from 18-21 years and a difference was made between married and unmarried adult with the former getting 1.5 lakhs and the latter .75 lakhs.

At Narmada housing plots of 60*90 meter have been given to the displaced free. Whereas in Tehri in urban as well as rural areas they have been given on payment. On top of that, the per family expense of Tehri includes Rs. 10,000 as land development charge. Though a large part of this amount has been charged from the land holders, it has been called concessional rate whereas in many cases it is more than the compensation paid.

The Hanumantha Rao Committee

The Hanumantha Rao Committee was set up in 1996 after the hunger strike of Shri Sundar Lal Bahuguna. Its report was accepted with some changes in 1997. The recommendations and the changes are summarized below:

  1. An adult of 18 years to be considered as a separate family. Married adult should be given an advanced of Rs. 1.5 lakhs and unmarried adult Rs .75 lakhs (this recognised the existence of a new additional family).
    The amounts were reduced to Rs. 32,000/- and the age of adulthood was raised to 21 years.
  2. Under rural rehabilitation married adult of 18 years (1990) should be given a house plot of 200 square meters at cost price or Rs. 33, 000 be played in place of the house plots. Loan at concessional rate for constructing a house should also be given.
    This recommendation was not accepted.
  3. Urban shop owners should get one shop each at cost price and four every additional shop Rs. 40,000 should be paid.
    One shop each was accepted. But payment for additional shop was not accepted. Now inability to give even one shop each is being expressed and a policy of cash compensation of Rs. 40-60 thousand has been formulated though it has not yet been implemented.
  4. Adults who are eligible for advance amount should be given Rs. 60,000 for house construction.
    This recommendation was not accepted.
  5. The State government should set up a committee to enquire into corruption during the process of displacement and rehabilitation.
    This recommendation was not accepted.

The general understanding is that the committee headed by Mr. Hanumanth Rao had wide powers and included representatives of Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) as member and member secretary. They had also signed the report. Therefore this report should have been accepted in toto.