Anti-land acquisition protests are gaining more and more strength in Deucha Pachami area – commonly known as pahar in the Birbhum district of the state.
On December 18, an anti-land acquisition rally was organised in Deangunj. The tribal women from the region, who have mobilised fiercely for the cause, reportedly shooed the pro-acquisition ruling party leaders from the area with broomsticks in their hands. The police personnel accompanying the ruling party leaders–one among whom was the chairman of the Mohammad Bazaar Panchayat Samity–also had to leave as the agitation became quite intense.
It should be noted that the Deaucha Panchami coal block – the newest coal mine in West Bengal – is situated in Deucha and Panchamati areas under Mohammad Bazar community development block. This coal mine is set to be excavated in an opencast fashion and will displace a population of over 10,000 people from 11 villages. It will also affect about 53 hamlets and 70,000 people in the area overall. Most of the land in this area belongs to the tribals, but it has been taken on lease by some Jharkhand-based or Bengal-based industrial groups for their stone crushing units.
The proposed mine will occupy over 11,222 acres. Of these, over 9,100 acres belong to the tribals. In September 2018, an agreement between the central government and the state government-owned West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) allocated the land in question to the corporation. The state government has failed to start work on the ground for the past two years.
The Pachami area is known for its stone chips throughout the state and most of the residents of the area work in stone mines for their livelihood. Due to the presence of this stone crushing industry in the region, the air quality is relatively poor. However, owners of stone mines are in favour of more mines. A foreman of a local stone mining bigshot Arun Udyog told NewsClick, “The chief minister has told us that when the mines would be excavated, the owners of the stone crusher units would get preferential treatment in deploying their machines – apart from getting compensation in case the stone quarries are affected.”
The irate tribals have started the agitation under the aegis of Paschim Banga Samajik Nyayabichar Manch and Adivasi Adhikar Raksha Manch. They have been organising rallies and expressing their distrust in the compensation packages offered by the state government. There have also been protest meets in Siuri, Bolpur, Rampurhat, and Rajnaharand in Kachujor colony of the district against the police excesses against the women rallyists.
On December 19, there was a huge rally called at the behest of the Save Democracy forum where noted advocate and MP Bikashranjan Bhattacharya and Congress leader Abdul Mannan met with the tribal residents of the area to know their views on the land acquisition. The tribals condemned the move by the state government to take over the land of the tribal residents and sought redressal for the forced land acquisition.