New Delhi, Oct. 20: Two women and nine men from Jharkhand and Bengal who had lost their lands to Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) in 1953 began a hunger strike for their resettlement and rehabilitation here today.
Failing to get any written acceptance of their demands, despite lobbying at various ministries here from Monday, the protesters hope their fast in the heart of Delhi will mount pressure on DVC.
Since 1973, around 12,000 families have parted with lands, which were submerged by the four dams of DVC. Only 350 persons were given jobs while the descendants of the rest have continued to struggle for rehabilitation since. The last such fast of the evictees was organised under Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha at Dhanbad in July last year.
It was called off after assurances from the district authorities. Other extra-constitutional attempts to influence the companies such as vandalism, gherao and roadblocks have also failed to work in the past.
Former chief justice of Delhi and Sikkim high courts Rajinder Sachar and veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayar sat at the demonstration in solidarity with the protesters. Sachar prevailed upon them to have a relay strike, with people taking turns to fast every 24 hours. Sachar said, “We don’t want genuine people to die. We know this government is insensitive.”
He assured mahasabha leaders to would write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on behalf of Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, requesting them to ensure justice for the evictees. Mahasabha leader Ramashray Singh told Sachar that Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had agreed to contribute the state’s share to the rehabilitation package and the ball was now in DVC’s court. “Mamata has the responsibility to pressure DVC, which Bengal buys power from,” said Sachar.
Jharkhandi protesters like Dilip Kumar Ray said that it was almost like a sin that he was born in Dhanbad as they are purposely excluded from even casual labour at DVC plants.
“They can bring labourers from Bihar as they will work for less than the minimum wage. We are local residents and they are scared we may revolt so they don’t even tell us if there is work.”
The officers are mostly from Bengal. Everyone gets their relatives jobs. We lost everything and get nothing.”
Nayar said, “Nehru said that dams and industries would be examples for the world. The neglect of these people is the worst example we could set.”