Kuhi: The tag of ‘project affected person (PAP)’, also brings social discrimination. Many men of marriageable age living in the villages soon to be submerged under the Gosikhurd dam waters are finding it difficult to find brides.
The problem is acute for those still living in their homes and tilling land already acquired for the project. There is always a risk of the area getting submerged; which could be anytime as Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) has started raising the dam’s water level.
Facing the prospect of being ousted anytime, the families here are facing a stigma in the community. At one such village — Sonarwahi, TOI came across unmarried youths in their 30s. “It’s difficult to find a bride; who would risk to marry off their daughter to us? People fear that we would be rendered homeless any day,” said Rahul Bagde, aged over 35, and unmarried.
Sanjay Dahake, also in his 30s, had the same story. His family’s 40 acre farm was taken over in 2009. With the compensation divided among cousins, Dahake says he could not buy alternate land, and is now working as a farm labourer.
“I had almost given up hope of marrying off my son. Every family we approached turned down the proposal, saying our family had a bleak future living in the submergence area. Finally, I could find a girl within the extended family,” said Vinod Bhoyar of Pimpri-Munje. The village, on which TOI had reported earlier in the series, is surrounded by water from three sides. The PAPS holding on to their land that has been acquired can be evicted any time.
“We had to forcibly bring the bride home in another case, as the girl was reluctant to come and live in the submergence village. Her parents were convinced about it since the marriage was within relatives,” said Bhoyar, pointing at the girl. With a child in her arms now, she laughed to admit her resistance.
“We continuously live in fear and life is miserable here. Now, we’re told that we need to leave the village and resettle in Weltur Bothli, without any facilities,” she says.
The stock reason by every PAP for not vacating their land even after it was acquired is that they could not buy any alternate farmland with the compensation.
Anti-dam activist Medha Patkar said such problems are faced even by PAPs at the Narmada project. The oustees are treated as pariahs by others. This has created a major social problem in other pockets too, she adds, the government should consider social impacts of displacement too.
Vilas Bhongade, an activist who had championed the cause of Gosikhurd PAPs, said the acquisition has left a majority of the oustees landless. Many could not get decent jobs too, due to which they are not preferred as grooms.
Apart from brides, youths also find it difficult to get jobs.
Ramesh Kharkar, an arts graduate, has taken up fishing, though it is not the traditional calling of his community. “I could not get a government job despite all efforts. The extended compensation package announced in 2013 promised a job to one member of each family. But we got none,” he said.
Shankar Dahake, a tech savvy youth with MA and DEd degrees, has tried hard in cities like Nagpur, but couldn’t find a decent job. He preferred to return and take up farming.
Bhongade said under the package the oustees were supposed to get a job per family, or compensation of Rs2.9 lakh. Those who could not get jobs were given the money. However, the amount was spent mainly in building a new house at the resettlement site.
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