26 February 2012, Hazaribagh
On 26 February the first halt of the journey was at Vishnugarh in Hazaribagh district where ‘Sajha Manch’ had organised a meeting of local leaders of the Jansatyagrah movement. Addressing the meeting Jathanayak Shri Shibu said that the main problem in the region is the number of claims that have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act and there is a plan to present all these cases to the state and Indian governments. In addition to this a list of people who would participate in the Jansatyagrah is being prepared, he said. So far a list of 80 people has been prepared from the nearby villages. Dalnayak Smt Bhagiya said that 500 people from the Vishnugarh region would become part of Jansatyagrah 2012. Dastnayak Smt Gulabi Bai said that the process of creating Jansatyagrah Fund is on in 12 villages of her area. She expressed her firm belief that all Satyagrahis with Rs500 each would become part of the decisive Jansatyagrah movement in October 2012. One and half quintal of rice has been collected for the grain bank, she added.
The second halt of the journey was the Bermon region of Bokaro district where a meeting had been organised by the ‘Damodar Bachao Abhiyan’. Together a group of senior social workers welcomed the Jansatyagrah Samvad team to the meeting. Addressing the meeting Hsri Saryu Rai of ‘Damodar Bachao Abhiyan’ said that the Bermon region of Bokaro district is one of the most polluted regions of the country. There are more than 1000 industrial units in the Damodar valley and all these units discharge their industrial waste and water into the Damodar river. As a result the entire region faces acute shortage of fresh drinking water not to mention the increasing number of skin and health problems faced by the people. Several applications regarding this have been made to the state government and several more to the Central Pollution Board but no action has been forthcoming. Addressing the meeting sniro social worker and leader of ‘Jal Biradari’ Shri Rajendra Singh said that the industrial units that were set in the Damodar valley in the 1960s and 70s led to the destruction of more than 1000 villages and death of not only the Damodar river but also of many of its tributeries due to pollution. Uncontrolled mining has depleted the forest resources to less than 5% and many villages have begun reporting that the water table has receded beyond 500 feet. Prior to promoting large-scale industrial growth the state and Indian governments should make a policy for people’s development in collaboration and consultation with the Gram Sabhas and peoples organisations. The Ministry of Rural Development should immediately constitute a committee for dealing with the issues raised during Janstayagrah Samvad Yatra, he added. Leader of ‘Vikas Bharti’ Shri Ashok Bhagat said that the current process of development is against the verdicts given by the people and undemocratic. The government should show some sensitivity at least by accepting the orders passed by the Gram Sabhas of tribal dominated regions where in the PESA is applicable. He suggested that for the tribal regions the development planning, management and finance availability should be ensured at the district level and social organisations should be involved in the process so that services and facilities can reach remote areas and the organisations can play a positive role in their development. Ex-MLA of Bermon Shri Yogeshwar said that the campaign for the saving of Damodar river requires support at the national level. Further the Coal Ministry and Ministry for Tribal Affairs should be made aware of the reality on ground and compelled to work in accordance with the demands of the local people. On behalf of the ‘Damodar Bachao Abhiyan’ he said that in case the state government fails to respond to their demands before 2 October 2012 they will join the Jansatyagrah movement in thousands.