Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Sunday, Jul 04, 2004
Industry & Economy
Harsud a town waiting to be submerged
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE... .? A resident of Harsud tearing down his house to retrieve bricks. A.M. Faruqui
In Harsud (Madhya Pradesh)
PARAS Sand is a small town businessman like any other you will find all over India. Except that he happens to be residing in the doomed town of Harsud that will be literally washed off the country's map in the next fortnight. He is today a displaced person, uprooted from his own soil and forced to find a home elsewhere.
Harsud is a bustling trading town with a population of 25,000 that is located upstream of the Indira Sagar dam built on the Narmada River. The town will be submerged as water level rises in the dam this monsoon following its wall being raised to the full height of 263 metres.
Paras, whose family has been residing at Harsud for generations and owns a jewellery and textile shop, does not plan to leave till the last possible moment but most of the other residents are already moving out. While some have opted for the resettlement town of Naya Harsud, 12 km away, where the Government has allotted small plots of land to the displaced families, others are moving to nearby towns.
June 30 was the last date set by the Government for evacuation but the town is still populated. As you near Harsud on the road leading from Khandwa, the district headquarters, you can see a long line of tractors with trailers in tow driving out, filled with family belongings, people and even bricks and wood from demolished houses.
If that is not a sight wrenching enough, you are struck by more inside the town where residents are busy pulling down their own houses, once their home and hearth. They are trying to retrieve every possible brick that is intact, doors, windows and frames that will help them in building their new houses.
Electricity has been cut to one part of the town that will be affected first. This part appears bombed out with empty shells of houses enveloped in darkness.
The part of town located at a relatively higher level still has power and even telecom connection. Twenty-four year old Asif Ahmed who owns a STD/ISD booth in the market says he does not plan to vacate his shop till the very end. He has not received compensation from the Government. "My shop is located on panchayat land for which the panchayat has already received compensation but has not disbursed to us," says the LLB qualified Asif.
HARSUD WOES: The footwear shop of Sanjay Goyal in Harsud, a town in Madhya Pradesh waiting to be submerged. The board says the shop has not yet been paid its due compensation. A.M. Faruqui
There is a row of shops in the market that is faced with a similar predicament. Sanjay Goyal, whose family owns a footwear shop, also complains that he has not received compensation. "What will I do with all this stock?" he asks pointing to the footwear stocked in his shop. "I will have to rent a godown to stock this as it is not easy to set up shop in a new, unknown place", he points out.
Paras, the jeweller, agrees. "The greatest loss for us is the loss of our goodwill. Customers would come to our shop from surrounding villages thanks to our goodwill. Can the Government compensate us for that?" he asks.
Compensation is a sticky issue. The Government has added a 30 per cent solatium and 12 per cent interest on the value of the land/house for the period between notification of the submergence and the actual grant of compensation, which is 31.5 months.
Yet, Paras claims that the values of land and houses are depreciated by up to 40 per cent. While he received Rs 8.66 lakh as compensation for his shop, Asif, the STD booth owner got Rs 3.94 lakh for his farmland. Cheques are being issued every day even as the Government machinery appears in full swing with scores of top officials and bureaucrats descending on the town.
This apart, feelings run high on the issue of resettlement. As part of the package, the displaced can either opt for a small 60x40 feet plot of land in Naya Harsud or get Rs 20,000 cash in lieu of that. The displaced people complain that basic facilities such as water, power and sanitation have not been provided in the new place, which is no more than a vast expanse of land.
Fifty-year old Roop Chand, who owns a textile shop, points out that the resettlement has come at a difficult time for the people who find themselves without a roof in the peak of the monsoon. He says that children's education has also been affected, as schools in nearby towns have no capacity to handle the extra rush. His own three grandchildren have been turned down seats in a school at nearby Harda town.
Harsud was a bustling trading town where, according to Asif, almost Rs 2-2.5 crore worth of seeds alone were sold in a year. "Twenty to 22 trucks would arrive every week with groceries and merchandise," he says, adding that his STD booth alone did business worth more than Rs 1,000 a day. There were 22 such booths in the town.
All that will now be history as the town waits to be consumed in the embrace of the holy Narmada.
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