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Govt see tourism potential, Rakhigarhi villagers fear livelihood loss

New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) Even as authorities see a huge heritage tourism potential of Rakhigarh village in Hisar district of Haryana and is making efforts in this regard, villagers are obviously fearful of what the future holds for them, including their sources of livelihood.

For a small village that does not even have a proper garbage disposal system in place, the Culture and Tourism Ministry plans to give Rakhigarhi a completely new identity, including a museum on the Harappan culture that would be the world's biggest.

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The village is about 150 km to the northwest of Delhi.

It is not exactly Rakhigarhi that is of interest to the world at large, but ‘teelas' or mounds nearby that hide within them the remnants of the largest Indus Valley civilisation sites, even larger than Mohenjo-daro in Sind in Pakistan that is dated around 2,500 BCE.

Rakhigarhi is also said to be the site of a pre-Indus Valley civilisation settlement dating back to about 6,500 BCE. Later, it was part of the mature Indus Valley civilisation, dating back to 2,600-1,900 BCE.

The archaeological excavations on the mounds adjoining the village in the past have revealed human remains and artefacts of Harappan and pre-Harappan civilisations, which have been kept at the Hisar archaeology office near Jhajpul.

Now with the plan afoot to construct a museum, villagers have welcomed the initiative but are wary too. Landless farmers who depend heavily on livestock to make a living point out they will have to leave the land holding traces of Harappan civilisation below.

The villagers claim the government is offering them flats in lieu of land, which will mean they will have to discontinue rearing of livestock, their only source of income.

“I currently own 500 square yards, while they are offering me a flat of 100 sq yards. Why should I leave my land? How will I rear cows and buffaloes in a flat?” griped Satbeer, an elderly farmer.

The authorities point out that Satbeer and over 160 other landless farmers like him are actually settled illegally on the mounds and that offering flats is the best the administration can do as limited land was available to compensate affected farmers.

The Archaeological Survey of India has been able to get hold of just 83.5 acres of the 350 hectares spanning 11 mounds ever since the process began in 1996, encroachments and pending court cases have drastically slowed down the excavations.

ASI's Chandigarh Circle archaeologist Zulfeqar Ali said the ASI has been able to excavate only five per cent of the land in the village since 1996.

Union Tourism and Cultural Minister Prahlad Singh Patel visited the village on Sunday to act as a facilitators between authorities and residents.

Patel interacted with both sides and took note of issues involved. He announced that the panchayat will come with a plan to move forward and put it before authorities and then both sides will try to find a middle path. He offered to mediate.

“Let's fix a date. You tell me when can you sit with the farmers; I will join in the discussions,” Patel was seen telling the area SDM.

“There is no way we will move ahead without the cooperation of locals. I propose that the panchayat comes out with a plan to be discussed with authorities,” Patel added.

Till such time arrives, farmers are using the mounds to dry cow dung cakes and throw plastic waste. No surprise that the site that boasts of nurturing one of the oldest civilizations in the world once upon a time at present can be mistaken for a garbage dump.

–IANS

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