Agitated villagers (top) demonstrate at the construction site (above) at Belgarhia in Dhanbad on Tuesday. (Gautam Dey)
Villagers of Baliapur block in Dhanbad took out a protest rally on Tuesday, accusing Jharia Rehabilitation and Development Authority (JRDA) and Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) of using land acquired for an open-cast mine to raise residential quarters for victims of the underground fire.
The agitation began on Monday evening when hundreds of armed villagers from Belgarhia, Dhokra, Palani, Mohanpur and Pradhankhanta attacked the JRDA team, police and district officials.
They damaged two earthmovers and other machines of Indu Projects Limited — the contractor that is carrying out construction work — before shattering the windscreen of Baliapur BDO Prakash Kumar’s vehicle.
Subdivisional officer of Dhanbad Abhishek Srivastava, said an FIR against 12 people, who launched an attack on JRDA officials and others, had been lodged at Baliapur police station. “Appropriate action will be taken against them,” he added.
Since machines and earthmovers have been damaged, construction work has been stalled for a few days.
“As the two heavy earthmovers and other machines of Indu Projects Limited have been damaged during the attack yesterday, the work had to be suspended until the machines are repaired. Work will resume under police protection as soon as the machines are ready,” the subdivisional officer added.
According to the protesters, they had given their land to BCCL for setting up an open cast mine and not for any other purpose.
Speaking to The Telegraph, land loser Dinesh Mahto said: “The BCCL had acquired around 1,758 acres in Zone B of Belgarhia to set up an open-cast colliery in 1986. But, as the Mukunda Open Cast Project failed to take off, the coal major had transferred the 45 acres to JRDA for constructing houses for the non-BCCL victims of the underground fire.”
Mahto, who led the procession from Dhokra to Belgarhia on Tuesday, added that BCCL had offered a throwaway price of Rs 19 per decimal in 1986. “The BCCL is bringing in outsiders to occupy our plots in the name of rehabilitation. We do not accept this,” the protester added.
According to plan, the JRDA will construct over 2,000 two-bedroom quarters on the 45 acres under dispute.
“There is no row in Zone A of Belgarhia over the 7.5 acres acquired plot. As many as 644 quarters will be constructed, of which about 440 is almost on the verge of completion,” said JRDA chief manager (civil) Sunil Dalela.
The development authority had begun site levelling work on 37.5 acres in Zone B of Belgarhia on December 13. The construction work started under the supervision of the local administration and a posse of police.