The displaced seeking jobs at Electrosteel Castings Limited protest at Chandankyari in Bokaro district on Wednesday. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Bokaro, Sept. 25: Protesting against no jobs or lowly-paid ones from Electrosteel Castings Limited, hundreds of land-losers started an “indefinite economic blockade” near the Siyaljori plant and its Parbatpur coal block, both in Chandankyari, from the small hours today, a move that can cripple the company’s production.
As Bokaro and Chandankyari MLAs Samresh Singh (JVM) and Umakant Rajak (Ajsu) have distanced themselves from the protests, villagers under Asangathit Majdoor Morcha roped in Nirsa (Dhanbad) MLA Arup Chatterjee of the MCC to lead the agitation.
According to protesters, of the 1,800 land losers entitled to get permanent jobs, only 524 have, but with salaries lower than what SAIL or Coal India Limited gives. Protesters from Siyaljori, Budhibinori, Parbatpur, Fatehpur and other villages who sold “2,000 acres below government rates” to the company between 2005 and 2007, alleged MLAs Singh and Rajak had “sold out” to the management, while Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto had weakened the agitation. There are murmurs that MLA Singh’s son Siddharth had bagged a contract with the company.
Company spokespersons, claiming to have given jobs to “all the entitled persons”, have asked agitators to stop “disruptive attempts” that slowed down the state’s economic progress.
Chief of communications of Electrosteel Rohit Singh said the company gave job offers to over 570 local persons who gave their land. “They have been inducted as in-plant trainees (IPT) and on-job trainees (OJT) with an honourable salary (not at par with CIL or SAIL staff). The protesters’ demands are not genuine. They know well that production of the plant is at very early stage,” he said.
Company sources today referred to a tripartite agreement between the district administration, community leaders including MLA Chatterjee and villagers on the wage agreement and claimed they kept their part of the bargain.
But protesters armed with axes and sticks, who have put up tents to stop vehicles from passing, are accusing the company’s general manger R.S. Singh and senior politicians and MLAs of a “divide-and-rule ploy” so that “the management can get away without fulfilling legitimate demands of the displaced”.
Talking to The Telegraph, Nirsa MLA Arup Chatterjee said: “Nine months ago, a series of negotiations with the management and district administration took place. No concrete results have come.”
Displaced villager Mubarak Ansari of Budhibinori said 11 persons of his village gave 7 acres to the company at a very low rate but did not get wages according to the agreement. “If our demands are not met, many of us will immolate ourselves before the company gates,” he said.
Ranchi activist Dayamani Barla also joined the agitation.
Police are keeping a close watch to prevent the protest from getting out of hand.