Bulva Devi with her grandchildren and a neighbours’ son at her makeshift home in Dhanbad on Tuesday. (Gautam Dey)
Bulva Devi’s name figured in almost all the dailies of Jharkhand when land subsidence rendered her homeless on July 15, 2013.
Eight months on, the 60-year-old continues to live under a tarpaulin sheet with a divorcee daughter Soni Kumari (28) and three grandchildren — Toplal (9), Nikki (6) and Prachi (3). Similar is the plight of over a dozen families of underground fire-affected Parghauda area of Katras, 30km from the district headquarters.
The “neglected” families have decided not to exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha elections as a mark of protest against the administration and political class’s apathy towards their plight.
“We are compelled to take the extreme step due to the indifferent attitude of the government towards us. None of us has a house. We are compelled to live under tarpaulin sheets,” Bulva said.
She added that they had spent the entire monsoon and a prolonged winter under an eight-by-four feet area covered with only a tarpaulin sheet. But with temperatures rising day by day, they were clueless as to how they would ward off a heat stroke.
Before the cave-in, Bulva had a spacious house with three rooms and a big verandah, about 50 metres from the spot where she is currently living. She rued that the political leaders of the region had turned a blind eye to their suffering.
The displaced also slammed the administration for failing to give them BPL cards.
“Forget about shifting us to a safer zone, they have never helped us procure BPL cards or avail the benefits of old age pension scheme. My daughter Soni works as a domestic maid in a nearby house to meet our ends,” said Bulva.
The 60-year-old, therefore, declared that she would boycott polls.
“Why should we vote when are deprived of all basic facilities like house, drinking water, electricity and road?” asked Bulva.
According to her, politicians always made false promises. She cited the example of sitting MP of Giridih Ravindra Pandey who visited their place after the subsidence and promised them a pucca house, but never returned to take stock of the situation.
Bulva’s neighbour Sonia Devi (30) and her family — husband Basant Bhuian (33) and two sons, Sumit (5) and Vilash (2) — had something similar to say.
“We have to buy rice at market price from ration shops in the absence of BPL cards,” Sonia said.
She added that it was no point electing a leader who could not even provide them with a BPL card, forget about a permanent abode.
Gopalji, rehabilitation and resettlement in charge of Jharia Rehabilitation and Development Authority (JRDA) — entrusted with the task of shifting people to safer places from 595 fire-affected areas of Jharia coal field — pleaded helplessness.
“At present, we don’t have any residential quarter vacant to meet any exigencies arising out of land subsidence, gas emission et al,” he said.