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Villagers flee after house walls crack

- Residents of subsidence-prone Kalipahari shifted to camps, illegal mining blamed

Asansol, Feb. 8: Over 60 families in Asansol’s subsidence-prone Kalipahari today fled their homes after they noticed cracks in the walls and on the roads.

The fear of subsidence also stalled traffic on the lone road leading to NH2. Trains, however, ran at their normal speed after railway officials declared the tracks safe.

Villagers in Kalipahari today woke up to see cracks in their mud walls and on the roads after rain last night. “As it rained last night, I felt a slight tremor and some rumbling. When I woke up in the morning, I saw cracks in the walls and floors. I ran out of the house with my family fearing it may cave in. By then, many in the village had left their houses,” said Azad Turi, a grocer.

The residents have been shifted to camps set up by the Burdwan administration and some abandoned quarters of the Eastern Coalfields Ltd.

Villagers, who alleged that illegal coal mining was responsible for the void in the ground beneath, also accused police of turning a blind eye.

“Coal pilferers have colluded with the police. They hardly take any step to stop illegal mining. As a result, our lives are always in danger,” said Kamal Turi, a villager.

Officials from ECL’s Satgram area who rushed to the spot also blamed the police for the illegal mining. “We have lodged several complaints with the police, but to no avail,” an ECL official said.

Asked about the allegations against the police, additional deputy commissioner of police Suresh Kumar said he had no idea that illegal mining prevailed in Kalipahari.

Illegal mining in the area had in 2006 led to a subsidence on NH2, which had developed several cracks. The NHAI had to lay a temporary road for vehicles running between Calcutta and Delhi.

Railway officials had also restricted the speed of trains to 20kmph on the 5km stretch.

Today, the local Trinamul councillor and chairman of Asansol municipality, Jitender Tiwari, said illegal mining was rampant during the Left regime. “The area is subsidence-prone because of illegal mining during the Left regime. Our chief minister has managed to stop illegal mining in the region,” he said.

Local CPM leaders refused comment.

In the evening, the affected villagers demonstrated outside the ECL office in Satgram, demanding immediate rehabilitation.

“A permanent rehabilitation package has already been approved by the coal ministry and the Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority is working as the implementing agency to build homes,” said Niladri Roy, the director (technical) of ECL.