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500 protest Jharia project

A mob of 500 Baliapur villagers on Wednesday protested against the bhumi pujan or groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of nearly 2,000 quarters in Belgarhia under the Jharia Master Plan and demanded the return of their land.

The villagers, armed with weapons like spades, shovels, axes and bow and arrows, reached plot number 55 of Belgarhia, the site of the bhumi pujan, around 10.30am and chased away officials of Jharia Rehabilitation Development Authority (JRDA), BCCL and Indu Projects Limited that bagged the Rs 68.3crore contract.

Sources said the JRDA and BCCL officials had a heated exchange with the villagers in the presence of police and CISF officers posted at the spot to prevent any untoward incidents. They then decided to hold the ceremony later and retreated from the spot.

Interestingly, a group of six land-losers, who had been provided jobs by BCCL, were present at the spot for the bhumi pujan, but quietly slipped away after the agitators arrived.

The agitators, beating traditional drums, stayed put at the spot for nearly four hours and dispersed on their own around 2.30pm.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Shanti Lal Mahto, president of Bhumi Bacao Morcha that spearheaded Wednesday’s agitation, said BCCL had acquired 1758 acres of land from the villagers in 1986 at the throw away price of Rs 14 per decimal for starting the Mukunda open cast mining project.

However, the project never took off and the land was later handed over to JRDA for carrying out rehabilitation work

“BCCL cannot use this land for rehabilitation. They bought it for starting an open cast mine. If they couldn’t do that, they should return the land to their owners,” Mahto said.


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