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Duo slam Balmuchu over Panem

Dumka, Nov. 27: The Congress protagonists in the anti-Panem agitation have lashed out at state party president Pradeep Balmuchu’s decision yesterday to order an internal probe into their involvement in a campaign led by estranged ally JVM’s chief Babulal Marandi.

Stephen Marandi, who launched the indefinite strike with the JVM supremo against Panem Coal Mines Limited demanding proper rehabilitation for people displaced by its project in Pakur, today termed the campaign “non-political”, while fellow Congress leader Furkan Ansari asked Balmuchu to stay within his limits.

“Balmuchu appears to have crossed his limit by setting up the inquiry panel,” the firebrand Ansari, a former Godda MP, told The Telegraph over phone.

The Marandis have been observing a dharna for 12 days at Pachuara village near Panem’s office in support of the demands of the Rajmahal Pahad Bachao Andolan Samiti, seeking compensation, jobs, health and education benefits promised by the company in a 2006 MoU to the displaced. An economic blockade launched by JVM has also led to disruption of coal transportation.

Taking exception to Stephen Marandi’s role, against the backdrop of the JVM recently withdrawing support to the UPA government, Balmuchu appointed five members in the enquiry committee led by former MLA Niel Tirkey.

Balmuchu, also a Rajya Sabha MP, has asked the panel to submit a report within a week.

Ansari, who had earlier called on the striking politicians to express solidarity, lauded Stephen Marandi for “raising his voice against the miseries faced by the tribals in the Panem project area due to the company’s failure to implement the rehabilitation and relief package for six years”.

He went on to accuse Balmuchu of safeguarding the interests of the Panem management rather than supporting Stephen Marandi.

“Both Balmuchu and Tirkey have vested interests and have been jolted by the support from local tribals for the agitation,” Ansari said, adding that dumper trucks owned by the duo were being engaged in transportation of coal by Panem.

He also alleged that Balmuchu had appointed middlemen to look after his dealings with Panem by awarding them posts in the Congress unit in Pakur, though they were not members of the party organisation.

Stephen Marandi said the agitation was being staged under a non-political platform for the interest of the displaced tribal populace.

“In fact, I had called the agitation against Panem under the banner of Rajmahal Pahad Bachao Andolan Samiti. Babulalji decided to support the agitation after witnessing the exploitation of tribals by the Panem management, who are yet to implement the MoU,” he told The Telegraph.

He also claimed to have informed the state Congress unit and the party high command, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, about his decision to launch the agitation beforehand.

Echoing Ansari, Stephen Marandi doubted any impartial probe by the party committee, citing Tirkey’s business interests with Panem.