Members of Basti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti stage a demonstration in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Governments came and went. So did stints of President’s Rule. But, encroachment on HEC land remains Ranchi’s ugly truth.
The umpteenth attempt to honour a Jharkhand High Court directive and evict illegal settlers from the PSU’s 342 disputed acres failed miserably on Monday, with the company and the district administration playing their old blame game.
While HEC said they had sought security from district mandarins three days ago to carry out an eviction drive on February 4 as its deadline to slum dwellers expired, the latter insisted that the PSU wasn’t very clear on its plan.
“HEC just sent us a letter asking for support. It had no plan and did not specify what was needed from us. How can we go about evicting people. Later, the administration will be in question,” a district official said.
Senior company officials denied the claim in chorus. But no one, including PRO Hemant Gupta, was ready to comment on record. “If the administration is saying what it is saying, then there has been serious miscommunication,” an HEC official said. He added that they had received a letter from the deputy commissioner’s office in this regard in the morning and would reply soon.
As the bickering continued between the two sets of officials, thousands of residents living in 22 slums gained benefit of doubt. Under the banner of Basti Banchao Sangharsh Samiti, they pulled off a rerun of their Saturday protest as both HEC and district officials remained conspicuous by their absence.
K.R. Dey, the founder of the outfit, demanded regularisation of slums in HEC area.
“We have been living here for over four decades. How can they just throw us out? Many of us have worked for the company and donated our lands for it. We want regularisation. In Delhi, 914 slums have been regularised in public interest. That should act as an example,” Dey said. She added that they would fight till the end if the administration or HEC tried to evict them using force.
The contentious issue, meanwhile, gave political parties the perfect opportunity to gain mileage.
In the morning, Congress MP Subodh Kant Sahay first aired the party’s views. “Unless there is a proper rehabilitation policy in place, it (eviction) cannot be done. If needed, I will talk to the party high command and the governor for a way out,” he was heard telling the electronic media.
BJP, on the other hand, issued a news release, blasting the Congress for showing double standards.
Ajsu MLA from Hatia Naveen Jaiswal visited Dhurwa in the morning to express his solidarity with the slum dwellers. He, however, received tepid response.
“No political party has done us any good so far. They only come when there is a controversy. This is a fight of the common man and we will see its end,” said Mintu Paswan, convener of the Samiti.