Balihari residents demonstrate with empty vessels in Dhanbad on Monday. (Gautam Dey)
More than 200 local villagers — mostly women armed with empty vessels — staged a demonstration near Kutchi Balihari Colliery of BCCL, 20km from Dhanbad district headquarters, on Monday in support of their demand for restoration of drinking water supply in the area.
The three-hour protest, led by councillor of ward No. 12 Debashish Paswan, began around 8am. It brought production to a halt for around half an hour as workers boycotted work to express their solidarity with villagers.
The protest quelled after an hour-long meeting between the colliery management, represented by project officer Jitendra Mullick, and Paswan. The former promised to restore drinking water supply.
Later, the colliery top brass, including Mullick and area civil engineer S.K. Singh, accompanied by Paswan and Mineral Area development Authority (Mada) officials inspected the affected village and promised reprieve.
Paswan said more than 500 families in Balihari Basti, situated less than 500 metres from the colliery, were deprived of any permanent source of water and had to trek more than half a kilometre to the Putki-Jamadoba Road to fill buckets from a Mada pipeline.
“The only pond in the village is polluted and its water can’t even be used for washing utensils,” said Jaleshwar Mahto, a local resident.
He added that the responsibility of supplying water to the village rested on the BCCL under its corporate social responsibility programme. “More so because 100-odd families of BCCL workers also live in our village.”
Paswan said earlier, regular supply of drinking water was made by Mada, while BCCL paid for it. “However, the supply was stopped two years ago because of some pipeline snag,” he said.
“We hold the BCCL as well as Mada responsible for the water crisis. The general manager of BCCL’s PB Area J.P. Gupta had visited the villlage along with me on November 25 last year, and promised to take steps to supply water, but no action has been taken in four months,” he added.
He claimed the BCCL authorities had agreed to provide a 150-metre-long pipeline to the village for water from Mada’s main supply line, but that has remained a pipe dream.
Mullick said a proposal for digging a pond was awaiting the go-ahead from the BCCL headquarters.