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Lights off, pack-up time!

A dam that will light homes and irrigate crop fields has also brought darkness and despair. Shishir Prashant lends a ear to the tales of woe of Tehri dwellers. Of nostalgia for what is lost, of broken promises, of helplessness.

November is the month of weddings in the Garhwal hills. But this year, the weddings will have to wait or be held elsewhere. A bigger uprootment is taking place as people are being forced to leave their homes and make way for the swelling Bhagirathi river.

It was a chilly night in October when the dam authorities shut down the T-2 diversion tunnel of the dam blocking the flow of Bhagirathi after a group of Congress leaders lost a legal battle over the vexed rehabilitation issue in the Nainital High Court. Following the closure, panic gripped the entire area as the water level of Bhagirathi began rising, inundating vast areas of the town and adjoining villages.

The people, mostly poor, had little choice but to bid goodbye to their homes. It was a very high price in the name of development. Turmoil and despair took over as people began dismantling their homes and carting away everything, including window frames, doors, tin sheds, etc. “No one should suffer such misery in their life,” says 70-year-old Balo Devi, who was left alone in Malideval village after her only son migrated to New Delhi for a job. He never came back. But Devi, a widow now, has no idea about her future plans. Although she had been given a piece of land in Pashulok area of Rishikesh, Devi is still reluctant to move out from her village where she came as a bride at the age of 17.