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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Those behind Ram temple's copper spine rue BJP amnesia over Jharkhand's closed mines

Ramesh Majhi, the working president of the Jharkhand Khan Majdoor Union, Surda, alleged that the BJP government is not serious about operating the mines and hinted at plans to give it on lease to private entities

Animesh Bisoee Jamshedpur Published 22.05.24, 06:48 AM
Trade union leaders and mine workers in Ghatshila.

Trade union leaders and mine workers in Ghatshila. Picture by Bhola Prasad

This election, false promises will be dealt with stern messaging at the EVMs, said workers who had supplied copper strips and copper wire rods for assembling the rocks of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

“Modiji hamein bhool gaye, hum unke MP ko bhula denge (Narendra Modi forgot us, we will forget his MP)” says a workers’ union leader at Maubhandar in Ghatshila subdivision of the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat in Jharkhand.

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Ironically, the union leader’s remark came just 24 hours after Prime Minister Modi addressed an election rally at the Maubhandar Grounds on Sunday in support of BJP candidate and Jamshedpur incumbent MP Bidyut Baran Mahato, who is eying a third term.

Hum bahut umeed se sabha sthal gaye thhe. Pradhan Mantri bandh khadaan ko khulwayenge soche thhe. Par wo ek shabd bhi nahi bole. Hum kyun unki sunein? (We went to the rally with the hope that the Prime Minister would declare the closed copper mines open. But there was not a word about it in his speech. Why should we listen to his appeal?)” asked Subhash Murmu, the vice-president of the Jharkhand Krantikari Majdoor Union (JKMU), a worker’s union espousing the cause of copper mine workers in Ghatshila.

The Indian Copper Complex project at Maubhandar in Ghatshila is a unit of Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL), a public sector undertaking under the mines ministry. It has mines at Badia, Banalopa, Mosaboni, Pathergoda, Kisangadia, Surda and Kendadih. Out of these, only Surda and Kendadih are functional with minimum production.

“They (BJP) shout about Ram temple but they forgot that copper from HCL was used for joining the temple rocks. We have been listening to false assurances of Bidyut da (Bidyut Baran Mahato) for the last several years. Not this time,” said Dhananjay Mardi, the president of the JKMU.

The HCL website, in its achievements section, mentions that it had delivered 70,000 pure copper strips and 775 copper wire rods for joining the rocks during the Ram Mandir construction.

Ramesh Majhi, the working president of the Jharkhand Khan Majdoor Union, Surda, alleged that the BJP government is not serious about operating the mines and hinted at plans to give it on lease to private entities.

“The BJP does not have the intention to run the mines. Senior HCL management officials express their helplessness when we meet them with our demands. They have got the required environmental clearance for 323 hectares but they are not allowed to start the mines till they get the same clearance for another 60 hectares. The BJP-led Centre is not too keen to renew the lease and instead pass it on to private entities,” Majhi said.

Budhan Soren, also an official of the union, said the families of more than 15,000 workers were suffering because of the closed mines.

“Youths are forced to migrate to other states for jobs and those staying back because of family compulsions have switched to farming for a living,” said Soren.

Dipankar Sahu, an assistant bellman at the Surda Copper Mines, said he was forced to sell masalas door to door for livelihood after it was shut down.

“We will teach the MP a lesson this time for failing to keep his promise of opening the copper mines,” said Sahu.

In the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat, Bidyut Baran Mahato is in a straight contest with INDIA-backed JMM Baharagora MLA Sameer Mohanty.

Apart from incumbency against Mahato, factionalism among BJP workers, whose allegiance is split between former chief minister Raghubar Das (currently Odisha governor) and party president Babulal Marandi, is also a hurdle for the BJP candidate.

BJP workers especially in the Jamshedpur East and Jamshedpur West Assembly constituencies who have been loyal to Das have openly accused senior district officials owing allegiance to Marandi of ignoring them.

Former Baharagora MLA and BJP state spokesperson Kunal Sarangi resigned on Sunday from the party post citing that he was insulted and ignored by the party and not invited for the Prime Minister’s rally.

Though a general seat, political observers believe that the fortunes of the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha constituency are decided by the rural voters of three reserved constituencies and one general seat — Potka and Ghatshila (reserved for STs), Jugsalai (reserved for SCs) and Baharagora (general). Jamshedpur East and Jamshedpur West are urban segments.

Jamshedpur votes on May 25

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