The Pain of Tribal Communities Affected by Dam Projects

20 February 2012, Latehar and Palamu

On 20 February a public hearing was organised by the ‘Auranga Jalashay Doob Pariyojna Virodhi Manch’, ‘Gram Swaraj Abhiyan’ and ‘Sajha Manch’ at village Khed of Barvadih region in Latehar district. At the public hearing Smt Vimal Devi of village Khed said that consent for the Auranga Dam was taken from the Gram Sabha of the affected village. And on the other hand the people, of the villages that were going to be affected by the dam, were not given any information on the submergence area. For these reasons the people of the affected villages decided to unite and oppose the construction of the dam. Shri Viral Singh of village Khed sadi that the ‘Sangharsh Manch’ was founded in 1984 along with the start of the protest. The dam project proposed the displacement of 50 villages. On 28 February 1989 thousands of people joined the protest opposing the construction of the dam and the government of Bihar had to stop the project. Shri Rajendra Mahto of village Piparkalan said that the dam had been proposed for irrigation and power generation and estimated to cost Rs4000 crores. This project was going to affect a large part of the Betala region that is a National Park. Even though the work on the dam had been stopped the government has not given any official statement on the postponment of the project. He said that extensive illegal mining of black stone and granite stone is being carried out in the Betala National Park and based on this extraction more than 50 crusher units are operational in the area. Incidents of illegal felling of trees by the forest mafia in collusion with the forest department are also frequent. The villagers, he said, have reported these incidents and have faced threats and aggressive assaults from the mafia. Shri Bhupen Singh of village Piparkalan said that the Forest Protection Committees have been involved in destruction of crops cultivated on occupied forestland while the claims filed under Forest Rights Act have not been given any response by the administration. He said that claims from most of the villages in the buffer zone of Betala National Park have not been accepted by the administration. The local inhabitants of this region also obtain lac from the ‘Palas’ trees that forms a significant part of their livelihood. Shri Jitendra Singh that the Auranga dam project would affect 50 villages in a 30k.m radius. He said that a large area of the region was also being affected by other government projects for examples 200 villages by the Betala National Park Project, 60 villages by the Netrahat Firing Range Project, 30 villages by the Kutku dam and 30 villages by the proposed Bhediya Sanctuary in the Mahua Dod Axi area. He said that in a scheduled area of tribal self-rule the implementation of any of these projects without the consent of the Gram Sabhas is an insult and an injustice. ‘Auranga Bandh Virodhi Samiti’ and ‘Gram Swaraj Abhiyan’ announced their support and participation in Jansatyagrah 2012.

A meeting of social work organisations was organised by ‘Sajha Manch’ at Daltonganj where Shri Shatrughan Kumar of ‘Janmitra Sanghatan’ said that 300-400,000 people migrate annually from the Palamu region mainly because till date the government has not settled the rights, of the tribal communities and the landless dalit communities, over occupied forest and government lands. Shri Shiv Shankar of the ‘Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti’ said that Palamu region has always been a region of landlords and despite many land movements in the 1980s the government has never made any serious attempts at land reforms. Shri Santosh Bhai of village Chattarpur said that in 1980 construction of the Batane dam led to the displacement of over 25000 people who have not been re-settled till date. On the other hand due to the aggressive stance of the forest department in the Hariganj and Chattarpur region the Forest Rights Act has not been implemented effectively. He said that the lands that were donated during the Bhoodan movement still remain in the control of the landlords and that a large number of land cases languish in the local courts without any resolution leading to wastage of money and lack of benefits to the local people. Smt Sunita of ‘Sajha Manch’ said that only 5 percent of the people were given the claim forms in the Naudiha and Chatarpur region and even these received less land than they had claimed. In the Barvadih region crops cultivated by the tribal families on occupied lands were destroyed by the Forest Protection Committees, cultivators were sent to prison and the forest department forcefully planted trees on their land while at the same time their claims filed under Forest Rights Act received no response from the administration. The state government has signed MoUs with companies for land that belongs to the people and to Gram Sabhas that have not given their consent for such agreements. Land is being acquired in village Kajari for such companies as Jindal, Essar, Usha Machines and Abhijit. Similarly land is being acquired for various companies in more than 50 villages of Bataua of Harganj, Telipadih of Chatarpur and Jagdishpur region, Aabun of Haraiya Paki region and Telhar and Achleva of Sulvadiya and Chainpur region. Claims made by the people under Forest Rights Act are not being processed adequately in any of these regions. Many groups aligned with ‘Sanjha Manch’ announced that they would all support Jansatyagrah 2012 and start a parallel movement in Palamu.

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