Villagers at the dharna in Pachuara . File picture
Dumka, Dec. 3: At lunchtime, a picnic-like atmosphere prevails at Pachuara, 50km from the district headquarters, where thousands of villagers have been on dharna for the last 18 days against the Panem coal mine management.
Hot khichdi is served to the 2,000-odd people who have been braving the biting cold to demand what they claim is rightfully due to them by the Panem authorities. The food is courtesy the Rajmahal Pahari Bachao Andolan Samiti, the outfit spearheading the protest backed by JVM’s Babulal Marandi and Congress’ Stephen Marandi.
Residents of the dozen or so villages who are in the eye of the protest storm have been pitching in too for the community feast — with a little money, a handful of rice, pulses and vegetables.
“Local residents had lost all hope of getting their dues or a hearing from Panem. Now with both Marandis supporting their demand for implementation of the 2006 MoU, they can see a silver lining,” said Anil Murmu of the Congress.
He added that the grateful villagers have been assembling at the protest venue without fail everyday and contributing whatever they can afford towards the community meal.
About four quintals rice, one quintal potato and other vegetables and 25-30kg pulses are needed daily to prepare the khichdi at the makeshift kitchen adjacent to the dharna venue. Over two dozen villagers toil through the day to prepare the meal on time.
“We are committed to continuing the dharna till Panem agrees to implement the MoU in letter and spirit,” Stephen Marandi said.
He added that the Panem management and state government appeared to be feeling the heat and were expected to come forward for talks in a couple of days.
“We have come to know from reliable sources that Panem CMD Ujjwal Upadhyaya has finally agreed to come to the dharna venue for talks,” the Congress leader said, adding that incumbent Santhal Pargana commissioner Avinash Kumar would also accompany him on behalf of the state government.
Notably, the state government in a sudden move today announced that Kumar, at present the Kolhan commissioner, would hold additional charge of Santhal Pargana, replacing Surendra Singh Meena.