It is hard to believe to both the onlooker and the inhabitant of Tehri that several villages will be submerged in the waters of Bhagirathi. It is matter of irony that it was over the very Bhagirathi River King Sudershan Shah of the Shah dynasty established the kingdom of Tehri. The change on demography is due to the construction of the expansive Tehri Dam over the Bhagirathi. The dam may be perfect design for development and opportunity, but for the displaced resident it is a structure of dislocation.
The Government on its part has been rehabilitating people in places like Rishikesh and Hardwar, but some of the people who are affected have not even stepped beyond the threshold their village.
It is equally surprising that the submergence occurred almost all of a sudden. As per the directives of the Nainital High Court, the dam authorities enforced the closure of one of the main tunnels in the dam. The closure of the tunnel and the resulting accumulation of the river water inundated some of the villages. The residents of these villages therefore were forced to leave everything behind and flee their homelands.
Another growing voice of dissent that is brewing among the residents is the limited compensation that has been handed over by the Government. The Tehri Dam in its full form, is the largest dam in Asia and therefore the number of villages that are going to be submerged are huge in number. It is anticipated that nearly one hundred and twenty five villages will cease to exist. The administration however has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to providing relief, rehabilitation and compensation.
One another aspect that the authorities have failed to address is the issue of connectivity. A huge number of vital roads that were linking two blocks will submerge along with the villages. The delay in the civil work for linking the two blocks has severed the road network. This will lead to a circuitous route between the blocks and thereby increase the travel time. It is a serious development since the discharge from the dam waters will also distort the connectivity of Pratap Nagar and Uttarkashi districts with Tehri Garhwal.
The rehabilitation package that was provided to the affected people has become a topic of scorn and had even put the then ruling Government in a quandary. Several people, who were unsatisfied with the compensation that they received, apprised the media and knocked on the doors of several NGOs. This snowballed into a national issue and put the then Chief Minister in a position of embarrassment.
The old timers and the students of history have a lot of disappointment in store since nothing of the Old Tehri remains now. All the structures and contraptions that were devised in the pre-independence era will vanish from sight forever. Though the residents of Tehri have organized several soft protests, the reality that this will emerge as a mega power project is always ominous.
Along with old Tehri, some of the long cherished folklore and sweetmeat such as singori mithai may also cease to exist!!