Out of mind and sight

the Hirakud dam in Orissa is yet another "temple of modern India' (as Jawaharlal Nehru called dams), that has left behind unfinished business. "More than 6,000 families have not received any compensation so far, after having been displaced by a dam built during 1948-1957,' points out Gopinath Majhi of the Hirakud Bhudianchal Sangharsh Samiti, an activist organisation. The dam oustees had planned a demonstraton in September, to demand compensation.

From 1951-1990, multipurpose dams have displaced almost 16.4 million people in India, says Walter Fernandes, the head of the programme for tribal studies at the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi.

According to the government's national rehabilitation policy, drafted in 1994, eleven million people have been displaced by dams during the period 1951-1990. Only 2.75 million have been rehabilitated, which leaves 8.25 million unsettled. The policy draft, yet to be passed as law, also noted that "they (those affected) have devised their own mechanism for coping.'

How exactly have these people handled the situation themselves? In the case of the Hirakud dam, many live on government lands that are still not legally their's. Families who have been living on the periphery of the dam's reservoir are now being harassed by forest officials as their land now falls under the purview of the Forest Conservation Act (1980). According to Majhi, several villages near Hirakud housing the people displaced have been denied both water and electricity, which have been diverted to more prosperous regions of Orissa. At least 100 families dislodged by Hirakud, have attained the rare status of being