ROURKELA: Forced displacement due to Rukuda irrigation project in Bonai sub-division and lack of proper rehabilitation has left 17 tribal families of Sundargarh in the lurch. Although land rights were given to the displaced families under Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 in 2009, the dam’s backwater submerged the houses of around 17 families and 30 acre of their land in Bandhabhui village in 2016. The dam is situated a few kilometres from the affected village at Musaposh under Gurundia block.
The families had to move to unfamiliar territories with their livelihoods affected and no help in sight. “The then dam superintending engineer Sunil Naik had promised us rehabilitation with alternative agriculture land and compensation for the house along with basic facilities including road, school, anganwadi and healthcare centre and drinking water but none of those has been fulfilled,” said a displaced Jitbahan Kandeiburu, adding that more than three Bonai sub-collectors during their tenures had also made such rehabilitation promises.
Struggle for basic rights for Jitbahan and other FRA beneficiaries including Ramsahay Munda and Manmohan Kandaiburu continue as they have shifted to the upper elevation of the forest, built mud houses and prepared new land for agriculture. Besides, they have built a temporary wooden bridge to gain access to the outside world as dam water has cut them off.
Jitbahan, who had petitioned to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), said a hearing was conducted by the NCST Member Ananta Nayak on November 2 at Bhubaneswar where Sundargarh Collector Nikhil Pawan Kalyan had personally assured them of proper rehabilitation as per legal entitlements. Kalyan is also scheduled to visit the affected area on November 12. Social activist Suru Mishra said the administration is taking the matter very lightly as Bandhabhui village has not yet been surveyed under FRA yet, further delaying the rehabilitation process.