‘Naked’ Truth of Damodar Valley Project

NAked1Indifferent government forced people to strip naked
By Shashi Shekhar

Just take a look at the pictures inserted on this page. Every picture tells thousand stories and in the process lays bare the naked truth of our society. At the same time it is a wake-up call for every concerned citizen. If they do not pay hid to this ugly reality today, the system will force us all to strip ourselves naked tomorrow in similar fashion. In case of denial of justice what option remains for ordinary people? A simple answer would be: protest. But what if the conventional protests fall on deaf ears of those in power? This definitely will leave people with little or no option. However, Ghatwar tribals of Jharkhand have different idea when their conventional protest did not yield anything. They invented a unique way of protest by stripping themselves naked to shame those in power. Chauthi Duniya delves deep into this special report:

What do you feel when your land is snatched away from you? It must give you a lot of pain. If you want to feel or see that pain, do visit affected of the villages of Dhanbad and Jamtara districts of Jharkhand and Purulia and Bardhman districts of West Bengal and see the agony of the affected people. Their agony started when for the construction of Damodar Valley Project, lands from around 250 villages of these districts were acquired and people were displaced. Since then these people have fought and still fighting for their rights. Such is their helplessness and desperation to get a compensation in the form of a piece of land, employment or compensation that they now have resorted to naked protest. However, all their efforts have fallen on the deaf ears of the government and the Damodar Valley Corporation. They have not yet received anything from them.

What are the demands?
1. All families displaced by the Damodar Valley Project must be given job and land.
2. Landless and dependent families should be provided with jobs and livelihood.
3. People appointed by fraudulent methods must immediately be dismissed from their jobs.
4. Declare panel for employment constituted by DVC illegal.
5. The right to get a job must be extended to the next generation of displaced.
6. Displaced people must be given justice under the Land Acquisition and Resettlement Act 2011.

The Damodar Valley Corporation, or the temple of modern India as it was fondly called at that time, was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India. But this temple of modern India brought only agony and pain to lots of people around it, who were forced to leave their ancestral lands without having properly compensated. The Damodar Valley Corporation came into existence in 1953. The aims and objectives of the project were to improve irrigation facilities and generate power. In the name of public interest, around 41 thousand acres of land was acquired in Dhanbad, Jamtara, Purulia and Barddhaman districts. According to the data available, four thousand households were displaced, accounting for a total of 70 thousand people. The struggle of these displaced people is still on – now the third generation has taken to the cause of struggle.
They were supposed to get compensated by land and job in lieu of their land acquired by Damodar Valley Corporation. Obviously, this never happen and hence the naked protest by the third generation of the displaced. The Damodar Valley Corporation gave job to just 350 people and compensated some families in monetary terms. As per the rules, every family should have received land, compensation and employment. Families who still do not get jobs, most of them are from Ghatwar tribal communities. Naked-2
There is also something fishy about the story. Mr. Ramashrya Singh, the leader of Ghatwar Aadiwasi Mahasabha, told Chauthi Duniya that DVC fraudulently gave jobs to 9 thousand people who were not affected by the project in any way, while the real victims of the projects are still running from pillar to post and stripping themselves to register their protest. Ramashraya Singh pointed out many underhand methods were applied while distributing jobs and compensation in the name of displaced people. He maintained that unaffected people were granted jobs and land meant for affected one. According to him the court also found irregularity in job allocation by DVC.
In 2006, displaced people formed Ghatwar Aadiwasi Mahasabha to fight for their rights. They sat on hunger strike and did Satyagraha. In 2010, about 20 thousand people organized a rally. Panchet Dam affected people also sat on hunger strike. Ramashraya Singh said he wrote letters to The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister of the state and the Supreme Court. And when the matter reached the Supreme Court it was revealed that fraud methods were applied in allocating jobs.
During the last three years, the BJP is in power both in the Centre and in Jharkhand. Ghatwar tribals had pinned their hope in new government, but the new dispensations have not yet taken cognizance of the matter and nothing concrete has happened so far. Damodar Valley Project is under the Central Government and the power ministry is the nodal ministry. Ramashrya Singh wrote several letters to the Prime Minister’s Office demanding CBI probe into the matter. But, each time, about 18 times, the PMO asked Jharkhand chief secretary to take further action. Neither the Chief Minister nor Jharkhand Chief Secretary did anything in response to those letters by the PMO. Ramashraya Singh says that DVC gives no detail of those who were allocated jobs in the names of displaced people.
However, after years of fruitless struggle, these people choose a unique way to protest. At the end of 2016, displaced families stripped themselves naked and demanded justice from the government. However, this dark picture of a gloomy part of rising and shining India did not draw the attention of so-called mainstream national media. Well, these people have not lost hope. Now they are preparing to show this darker side of shining India to the national capital Delhi in the same way as they did in Dhanbad.

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