Bengal: Solidarity Platform Formed to Protect Rights of People Hit by Deucha Pachami-Like Projects
Mass convention today on deucha pachami
Kolkata: A new platform, called Solidarity Platform or Sanghati Manch, to protect the rights of people affected by government projects, such as Deucha Pachami and the Farakka land acquisition being attempted by the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government, was set up in Kolkata on Wednesday.
The platform, announced after a mass convention held at Subarna Banik Samaj Hall, elected former Jadavpore University Vice Chancellor Ashokenath Basu and advocate Bikashranjan Bhattacharya as its joint convenors.
“The new platform will serve as a morale booster for the anti-land acquisition movement in Deucha Pachami area. It will work at the grassroots to explain to the people that this project will not only affect tribals but also a larger section of people across the state”, Ramchandra Dome, general secretary of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, and one of the organisers of the convention, told NewsClick.
On Wednesday, the mass convention was addressed by a wide spectrum of people, from prominent educationists and cultural experts who decried the manner in which the Deucha Pachami land acquisition process was being carried out.
The main issue in the convention was raised by tribal leader Rabindralal Hembram, who highlighted the manner in which the government was bulldozing the rights of the tribal people residing in areas , such as Deucha Pachami, Dewangung , Harinsingha , which was heading toward ruining the ecosystem of the region.
It may be recalled that the West Bengal Government has embarked on an open cast coal mine project in the area, which is being resisted by the local populace.
It is being said that the project has been so unprofitable that even the Central government-administered Coal India Limited was not willing to invest in it due to geological hindrances, that is, by about 225-245 metre-wide basalt rock system that makes the entire coal excavation process unviable.
In November 2021, the state government had “unilaterally” declared a compensation and rehabilitation package without going through any mass redressal of grievances, which is mandatory in the Land Acquisition Act 2013.
As per sources, about 10 mouzas (a type of administrative district, corresponding to a specific land area within which there may be one or more settlements) will be affected due to the decision by the state government to constitute an open cast mine. A total of 4,314 families consisting of 21,000 people will be evicted from their homeland out of which 9,034 people are santhals (a major tribal group) and 3,601 persons are from the Schedule Castes. Out of 3,294 acres earmarked for the project , over 70% of the land belongs to local residents while only about 20% belongs to the government, the rest 6% is forest land.
Speakers at the mass convention, which included coal workers, tribal leaders, educationists, academics, social activists among others, lamented that the environment impact assessment or social impact assessment of the project had not been taken up by the West Bengal government, which was “unscientific in its approach on the feasibility of the entire project”. The state government was also criticised for advancing in the land acquisition process in a “completely illegal manner”.
Tribals constitute 8.2% of the country’s population but from 1940 to 1990, among all displacements done for projects, such as large river dams or coal mines, about 56% have been tribals, said many speakers.
Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said the manner in which adivasi women had come to the forefront in the movement, wielding sticks to ward off the evil designs of the government, in the same manner, the civil society of Kolkata, if need be, should come out in support of the movement of Deucha Pachami , Harinsingha , Dewangunj residents. Prof Basu said this convention was not the end but the start of the movement.
On behalf of the anti-land acquisition campaigners of Deucha Pachami region, leaders such as Ratan Hembrem, Sohagi Soren , Sushil Murmu , Sorai Hembrem highlighted the pathetic condition of their villages even after 75 years of the country’s Independence. The village roads are in poor condition, doctors rarely visit their villages, their primary school is without any drinking water source and they also do not get any benefits under the 100 days’ work guarantee programme MGNREGA, they said. Instead, after starting their movement began, they have been slapped with false cases and have been severely beaten up, they alleged.
The convention adopted a proposal against the constitution of coal mines in the Deucha Pachami area, which was followed by tribal cultural expert Mangla Murmu enthralled the audience with solidarity songs of struggles being carried out by the people of Deucha Pachami.
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