People' Protest against Land Grab and Displacement
An AIPWA Fact-finding Team Report
A water reservoir is due for construction by the Department of Water Resources of Jharkhand, on the Raisa river at Gitildih village of Humta Panchayat under Bundu block of Ranchi district. The reservoir incorporates a large dam, spillway, outlets, two canals and other structures. According to the information received from Bundu’s Divisional Irrigation Officer, the sanctioned amount for the project is Rs. 52,26,80,700. This project requires 11, 16, 000 square metres or 112 hectare of land is to be acquired, of which 75.60 hectares of land will fall in the submergence area. The people of Humta, Gitildih, Hesada, Kajibiru and other villages of the Humta panchayat are furious at such a project that will dislocate them en masse. They apprehend a brutal and forcible eviction from their land – as has been the norm of for land acquisition all over Jharkhand.
A four member fact-finding team of activists of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) comprising Singi Khalkho, Shanti Sen, Sarojini and Soni Tiria visited the project site. Our main findings are outlined below.
No attempt was made to generate a general any consensus among the villagers before starting work on the project. The work has been forcibly started without prior payment of the compensation thereby violating the Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy. The Department of Water Resources is getting the work done through local strong man Phanibhusan Singh Munda (also the Gram Pradhan of Humta). CPI(ML) leader in the region Comrade Rameshwar Munda who has been leading protest against the project was assaulted by Phanibhusan Singh and his hit-man Buti Singh Munda. An FIR was lodged against this incident but police is yet to take any action.
About 1500 poor tribals will be displaced and lose about 150 acre of rayati land. The amount of compensation fixed per acre by the Department of Water Resources is far below the market rate, and is extremely low, as is evident from the details below (all figures in rupees):
Doan #1 – 1,22,886 per acre
Doan #2 – 1,10,598/acre
Doan #3 – 86,021/acre
Tand #2 – 73,732/acre
Tand #3 – 49,732/acre
Parti land (barren?) – 24,577/acre
This project is a serious threat to environment also as it will cause direct deforestation in about three hundred acres of land of which 23 acre is 'khutkatti' jungle. The deforestation will seriously affect the livelihood of many tribal families who are dependent on the forests. Initially more than 300 trees have been felled. The tribals have not yet been compensated for the trees as promised by the Government officials.
Besides, the project is not even practical. According to the Irrigation officer the reservoir will irrigate 7800 acres of land; how can this justify the destruction of hundreds of acres of cultivable land and hundreds of acres of forests for the project?
The team was told by local people that the Maoists are supporting the project in return for a 'levy,' and that they have threatened the villagers opposing the project.
The AIPWA team found that the villagers have been agitating against this project since long. In February the villagers held a protest demonstration and did not let the 'shilanyas' (laying of foundation stone) take place. When the officials came for “bhoomi pujan” on 4 March the protestors forced them to go back. On 6 July they again chased away the officials and contractors who had come to initiate the project. The villagers are suspicious that any time forces can be deployed against them, in order to forcibly start the project construction work. To prevent smuggling in of machines on the site at nights, the women of the village are sleeping under the open sky to maintain a vigil.