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Jobless villagers to skip polls

As Dhanbad gears up for the Lok Sabha polls on April 24, nearly 2,000 residents of eight villages falling within a 25km radius of Bokaro have decided to boycott the elections over demands of employment and development.

The decision was taken at a meeting of over 300 villagers in Karmatand on Sunday. Representatives of Karmatand, Jamitand, Barugadh, Tetatand, Basteji, Muslim Tola, Shibutand and Chotakundauri were present. Later, the villagers removed party flags from campaign vehicles.

Sources said the eight villages were acquired by Bokaro Steel Limited in the 1960s. As compensation for displacement, one member of each family was given a job at plant. But, the villagers claim only a selected few got employment. On the other hand, since the villages are on acquired land, they do not fall under any panchayat and cannot avail of government benefits.

On Sunday’s meeting, , the villagers rued that their names were on voter lists, but they cannot enjoy benefits of state schemes.

Speaking to The Telegraph, one Shabbir Alam said: “Our villages do not have roads, drinking water supply or electricity. Dozens of youths are unemployed. Why should we vote for any party?”

Another villager Azam Ansari echoed Alam. “We met former deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar twice and apprised him of our problems. He promised to look into our matter and forward our demands to state headquarters. But, nothing has been done,” he added.

The villagers said they would boycott the polls to create pressure on the administration to fulfil their demands, which included included bringing them under a panchayat, development through state schemes and building pressure on the steel plant so that they get jobs. “We will go to vote only when our demands are met,” the youths said in unison.

Responding to the villagers’ allegation, communications chief of Bokaro Steel Limited Sanjay Tiwary said the company had given jobs to many more people than it promised to. “When the plant was established, 7,000 thousand displaced people were enrolled for jobs. Till now, over 14,000 people have been absorbed,” he said.