Mine fire threatened Jharia will vote for rehabilitation

Dhanbad, Nov 23 (Inditop.com) A fire raging in an underground mine for nearly a century has put thousands of lives at risk in Jharia town in Jharkhand’s coal district of Dhanbad. Now, as the Jharkhand assembly elections draw closer, the people of Jharia are determined to vote only for those who will help prevent their eviction and will rehabilitate them.

“People of Jharia will only cast their vote in support of those who will help us save Jharia,” said Pankaj, who is a member of the Jharia Coalfied Bachao Samiti (JCBS).

Successive governments promised to help the people of Jharia. They also promised to provide adequate alternate accommodation, the residents say.

The legislators and parliamentarians had promised rehabilitation for the residents who would have to vacate the most dangerous zone hit by the underground mine fire.

The sitting BJP legislator from Jharia Kunti Singh is again in the fray for the Jharkhand assembly polls. The five-phase elections are slated for Nov 25-Dec 18.

JCBS, an association which is fighting against the proposed Jharia evacuation and for the welfare of its residents, has blamed the Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) and district administration for adopting an indifferent attitude towards solving the issue. It also blames political leaders for making hollow promises and not taking up the issue seriously.

Around three lakh voters from Jharia are facing eviction due to the underground inferno.

“BCCL only wants to extract coal and there is a conspiracy that they want to kick out the residents of Jharia for commercial reasons. Even politicians do not take up the issue. We have witnessed only hollow promises in the last 30 to 40 years,” said 76-year-old Rameshwar Singh who runs a transport business here.

Those residents who are facing immediate evacuation are opposed to moving to Belgaria, about 22 km from Jharia, where they have been provided accommodation of 10 by 9 feet.

The residents wonder how a family of five to six members can adjust and sleep in such a small area. They charge that they are fooled in the name of rehabilitation. The area is surrounded by forests and lacks essential amenities like markets, hospitals, schools, drinking water and electricity.

Under the Jharia rehabilitation plan, about 80,000 families are to be evacuated and rehabilitated.

“There is no water and electricity; this is an attempt to make us homeless,” said Madan Lal Khanna, secretary of the JCBS.

A Jharia Action Plan (JAP) has been designed and the government plans to spend Rs.6,997 crore on rehabilitation and dousing of the underground mine fire.

According to BCCL sources, more than 68,000 families will be shifted from the fire zone area of Jharia. Around 7,100 families who are residing in the most dangerous zone need immediate rehabilitation.

According to sources, Rs.4,500 crore will be spent on rehabilitation and Rs.2,400 crore on dousing the underground fire to save billions of tonnes of quality coal for BCCL.

Most of the residents are against shifting to the new place until they are provided with better accommodation.