Struggle for Survival

By Gladson Dungdung

Newswing 26 November, 2008

The benefits of development projects were only enjoyed by the Landlords, Project Officers, Engineers, Contractors, Bureaucrats, Politicians and outsiders, and those who sacrificed everything for the sake of the “development” are struggling for their survival.

A Mass Meeting against land acquisition at Potka
A Mass Meeting against land acquisition at Potka

 The Jharkhand government has signed 98 MoU with several national and multinational companies for setting up 74 steel plants and 24 power plants with the estimated investment of Rs 4,67,240 crore, which require approximately 200,000 acres of land. The government, the Industrialists and the Media are putting hard efforts to convince people by propagating the message that the industrialization is only way to develop the 8 years old Jharkhand therefore the villagers must surrender their land for the development projects, which would provide them jobs, infrastructure and boost the economy of the state. But the Adivasis and Moolvasis are not convinced with the ideas as 70 percent of them still rely on agriculture, forest produces and livestock for their survival. They are resisting against displacement, attacking the company’s officials and not allowing them to enter into the villages. Consequently, the government is not able to execute even a single MoU at the grassroots for last 5 years.

There is turmoil against displacement in the state. On 1st of October 2008, the villagers attacked on the Kohinoor steel plant near Jamshedpur, seized 70 trucks and stopped the work. They alleged that after acquiring their agricultural land, the company neither compensated nor gave them jobs as promised and the company is also causing huge environmental affect in agriculture, water sources and public health therefore they would not allow the company to destroy their livelihoods. In another case, the villagers attacked 3 surveyors of Bhushan steel Yusuf Ahmad, Sheetal Kumar and Sahdev Singh when they were conducting land survey near Sarmanda River at Potka of East Singbhum district. The villagers caught them, painted on their faces with cow dung, asked them to eat straw and cow dung, garlanded with shoes and paraded in the villagers on 11 September 08. Somari Hembrom of Roladih village (Potka) justified it by saying, “We had already declared for not giving our precious land to the Bhushan Company but despite of this, these people were measuring our land without informing us therefore they were taught a lesson”.

Similarly, the villagers attacked Jupiter Cement factory, beaten the workers and stopped the factory on 11 September 2008 at Kharsawan alleging for violating the land related laws. Recently, the Indian CEO, Project head and other officials of the steel giant Arcelor Mittal were not allowed to enter into the villages in Torpa- Kamdara areas where Mittal has proposes a 12 million ton steel plant. The Jindal Steel, Esser Steel and CESE were forced to leave the proposed areas. The Jindal steel has singed MoU for 5 million ton steel plant with the estimated investment of 11500 crore, needs 5500 acre of land for a steel plant and already has purchased 70 acres of land and the Bhushan Steel has proposed a steel plant with the estimated investment of Rs 10,500 crore. It needs 3400 acres of land for the project and it has bought 90 acres of land. According to the villagers, both the companies have appointed some middle men, who are making false land deeds. Shalendra Mahto of Ghatiduba village said, “The middle men have sold the land of many farmers in the villages to Jindal and Bhushan companies by making false deeds but we are not going to give up our land”.

The people’s struggle for protection of livelihood resources has spread across the state. Loha Nahi Anaj Chahiye (We want grains not iron), Jal, Jungle aur Jamin Hamara Hai (Land, forest and water belong to us) and Jan denge, Jamin Nahi Denge (We will surrender our lives but not land) are a few overwhelming slogans being raised in the proposed areas of Arcelor Mittal in Torpa-Kamdara, Jindal Steel in Asanbani, Bhushan Steel in Potka, CESE in Shikaripada, Kohinoor Steel in Saraikela-Kharsawan and many other proposed areas. A series of mass meetings, Road blocks and Rallies are being organized in these areas, where thousands of Adivasis and Moolvasis are participating and echoing their voices. The message they want to convey is that ‘they won’t give up agriculture land for industry’.

The Bisthapit Virodhi Ekta Manchi, Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, Bhumi Sangharsh Samiti, Bhumi Suraksha Sangharsh Samiti, Bhumi Sudhar Andolan, Khutkatti Raiyat Bhumi Sangharsh Samiti, Gaon Ganrajya Parishad, Majhi Pargana Mahal, Bhumi Raksha Gramin Ekta Manch, Bhumi Sudhar Andolan, Creaj Jan Mukti Andolan, Jharkhand Ulgulan Manchi and JMACC are some of the prominent organizations working against displacement in Jharkhand, have cautioned the state government against increasing intrusions of representatives from several industries in villages, registering false cases against anti-displacement activists and threatening the villagers. “Our message is loud and clear that we do not want to give our land for industries”, says K.C. Mardi the convener of Bisthapan Virodhi Ekta Manch who played a major role in throwing out the Jindal Steel and Bhushan Steel from East Singhbhum. “Such attempts should be stopped immediately because the conspiracy to snatch our land would cause social unrest in the villages” he added.

According to a young Activist Ramesh Hembrom, the development of agriculture is a need of the hour. He said, “It is more important to boost up agriculture than setting up industries in Jharkhand, as agriculture production in Jharkhand is marginal. If the government provides irrigation and other facilities, local farmers could reap three crops in a year.” Dayamani Barla the convener of Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, the organization fighting against the Arcelor Mittal at Torpa-Kamdara said, “We will not allow the company to enter into the villages because one can not be rehabilitated after displaced.” “The lands belong to our ancestors therefore we will not leave it”, she added.

The people’s resistance has created upheaval in the state. The Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of commerce and industries had organized a protest march in Ranchi on 15th September, 2008 for condemning the attack on companies, pleaded for filing cases against the anti-displacement activists and demanded protection to the industrialists. The president of the Chamber, Manoj Reddy said, “The chamber opposes such actions against industrialists. We demand to file cases against the culprits and protection for the industrialists.” “The political support to the anti-displacement movements should be stopped”, he added. After pressure building on the government, 3 criminal cases were registered against 1025 anti-displacement activists under the sections 307, 147, 148, 149, 323, 341, 342, 427, 506 of IPC and 3 of them were arrested but released after the huge people’s protest.

The industrial minister of Jharkhand, Sudhir Mahto has assured the Industrialists for providing them protection. “The industrialists will be provided security if they demand. The government is committed for industrialization therefore we will talk to the people and sort out their problems,” he said. According to the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Sibu Soren, the people are afraid of displacement as they had bitter experiences in the past therefore they are resisting against it. He said, “Every one knows what happened after establishment of the Heavy Engineering Corporation at Ranchi, Bokaro Steel plant at Bokaro and Tata Steel plant at Jamshedpur, only the outsiders got the jobs”. “We will promote industrialization with the consent of the people, when the industrialists visit villages they should inform the villagers and administration,” he added.

The fundamental question is why people do not want to give their land for the Industries and development projects? One would go back to understand the pains and sufferings of the displaced masses, which suggests that after the independence, 1710787 people were displaced after acquiring 24,15,698 acres of their lands for setting up the Power Plants, Irrigation Projects, Mining Companies and Steel Industries in the Jharkhand. In every project approximately 80 to 90 percent Adivasis and Moolvasis were displaced but merely 25 percent of them were halfway rehabilitated and no one has any idea about the rest 75 percent displaced. The benefits of these development projects were only enjoyed by the Landlords, Project Officers, Engineers, Contractors, Bureaucrats, Politicians and outsiders, and those who sacrificed everything for the sake of the “development” are struggling for their survival.

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist. He can be contacted at

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