Bread earned in the name of dead
Nagpur: Touching the height of corruption and injustice to poor land-owners, the Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) through its Gondegaon coal mines is repeating the history and thus reminding one of the days of feudal lords who instinctively crushed the poor land-owners and exploited them to the extent they liked, and thus prospered at the cost of exploitation of the poor masses. In addition to this, the WCL has provided certain jobs to persons other than the project affected, and raising the height of corruption, several dead persons are on WCL’s pay-roll and other are drawing pay in the names of those departed.
Here is what one is reminded of when one looks into the sizable land of Gondegaon open cast mines from where the coal, euphemistically called ‘black diamond’, is being excavated for crores of rupees, enriching the WCL or its parent unit Coal India Limites (CIL).
It may be noted, when the WCL acquired the agricultural land measuring 1465 acres from as many as 262 farmers belonging to villages, like, Gondegaon, Juni Kamptee and Ghat Rohana in year 1993-94, under Parshivani tahsil, 30 kms away from here, it was then promised by the WCL that the project affected farmers would be paid appropriate compensation and also offered jobs for their acquired land. To the surprise of one and all, each project affected was paid a meagre sum of Rs 35,000 per hectare as an advance payment with a commitment that the remaining balance of payment would be made after receiving the award from Nagpur district collector, but that day has not come as yet. It was also committed by the WCL that each member of the affected 262 farmer-families would be provided job within 60 days on the basis of 7/12 document, and Alas! this commitment is also not fulfilled as yet.
Now, about 21 years have passed since land acquisition and promises made, bearing land and the sky as witnesses, if not God, the WCL-project affected are running pillar to post for compensation as well as jobs. The are even knocking the doors of political leaders and administrative officials, but of no avail. The WCL, shedding its crocodile tears of sympathy or to gain fake publicity towards the affected did give certain jobs. But to whom? The project affected? Not at all. It gave jobs to persons other than the project affected, that too by taking heavy bribes. The project affected complain that the WCL has given jobs to 500 persons so far among whom 250 are WCL employees on bogus documentation, and by recourse to bribery.
A Bing Den of Corruption
As the diamond traders are quite dauntless in their business, so are the officials of black diamond mines. For, they do not fear the government rules not the rule makers. Recently 150 persons were employed at the cost of bribe, and the practice of providing employment for the dead workers of mines is still very sincerely going on in Gondegaon mines of WCL.
The project affected are still struggling to seek justice. According to a project affected Bhagwan Rachhore, when he sought the requisite information under RTI, he was shocked to know that a large scale fraud had been committed on the basis of 7/12 documents, and those were provided employment who did not lose their land under the project.
Bhaghwan Rachhore had lost about 7 acres (2.74 hectares) of land under the project. He is father of three sons and he had registered their names on the acquired land document (7/12). But, none of his sons has got job from WCL. They were replied that those whose land is below prescribed limit (2 acres) will not get job, though Rachhore’s land is 7 acres.
About rule for compensation
According to Maharashtra Government’s GR dated 22.8.2012 and CIL’s RR policy of the year 2012, the rate of compensation for irrigated land acquisition is Rs 10 per acre. But in case of Gondegaon mines, the project affected were paid only Rs 35,000 as advance in the beginning and no payments thereafter. Under the provisions of National Rehabilitation Policy 2007 and Maharashtra Rehabilitation Act 1999, it is mandatory to ensure rehabilitation of project affected and a job to one member of each family affected.
WCL employee got more compensation
According to Bhagwan Damodar Rachhore, one Suryabhan Kumbhalkar, who is a WCL employee, got more compensation just because of his nexus with WCL officials while he possessed only 2.6 acre land which was acquired by WCL. Kumbhalkar had given false details about his land (as survey No. 217/1) showing 2 wells, 84 forest trees, 499 orange plants, 49 lemon plants, 8 small size orange plants, 49 neem trees, 5 guava trees, 2 mango trees, one tamarind tree, in all 600 trees.
The agriculture experts had opined that there could not be more than 200 orange trees on 2 acre land, while he had only one well in his farmland. The claimed number of trees were not shown in his real survey. And the compensation paid to Kumbhalkar on the land did not actually belong to him. Moreover, the survey number of his land was 203. He somehow managed to get job in WCL for his family member.
WCL’s illegal favour to an MLA family
One Ankush Madhukar Patil lost his land, but none of his family members got job, but some one in the name of Ankush Patil is serving in the WCL. A former MLA Deorao Asole from Juni Kamptee owns 2.5 acre barren land under survey No. 128/1 and three members of his family are employed in WCL. Is it not a great surprise? The Village farmers informed that it was all because the matter pertained to a former MLA. Unfortunately, the man who should think of the welfare of public first is thinking of the self. How sad on the part of our politicians and public representatives!
Accusing the WCL for rampant irregularities, Republican Bhimshakti leader Chandrashekhar Bhimte said, the condition for job was that one should possess 3 acres of land minimum, yet Leena Deorao Asole, Vaishali Deorao Asole and Nanda Asole from ex-MLA Deorao Asole’s family were given jobs by WCL.
In a letter written to Nagpur tahsildar, Bhagwan Rachhore had pointed out that out of 500 persons given jobs 250 persons got the jobs on bogus documents, by way of bribery in crores of rupees, and Patwaris and WCL officials were involved in the scam. There are so many project affected who have been demanding justice, and they include Dr Manohar Narayan Pathak, Mahadeo V Lillare, Mulchand D Sindekar, Pravin Deochand Tikkam, Meerabai Tikkam and several others.
Patwaris-WCL officials nexus in scam
According to Rachhore family members, one Yashwant Mangal Tikkam died on May 24, 1997, and there is death certificate to that effect. In spite this fact, deceased Yashwant Rachhore and his 90-year old widow Miriyabai Tikkam are on job of WCL. As per information obtained through RTI on August 28, 2007 the WCL had provided them jobs on December 7, 1994.
Similarly, Deochand Tikkam family possessed 16 acre land of which 11 acre land was in the name of Miriyabai and 5 acre land was in the name of Yashwant Tikkam. As per rule, two members of this family should have been given jobs ini WCL, but none of the family members got job. Rather, some other has been employed in the name of Tikkam family, which is still on the road to struggle.
Bhagwan Rachhore struggling for rights over 20 years
Bhagwan Damodar Rachhore knows that the corruption by officials in WCL is a chronic issue as everyone has black palms in the cell of soot. He is 70, yet he has been running pillar too post to seek justice for over 20 years. Though illiterate, he has been facing anxieties with defeats from government offices and also from the doors of court. He even approached the ministers and top brasses of WCL, but in vain. However during such a long course of struggle he collected very important documents which reveal rampant irregularities against WCL and its officials.
He still laments that though he had possessed 2.74 acre land registered in the name of his three sons, none of them got job in the WCL.
Rampant irregularities in employment
Irregularities are so much infested in the WCL that its employment policy is based on ‘pay and take job’ formula. The RTI information obtained reveals that those who had no piece of land were also given job in WCL by way of taking underhand money. But those who lost their minimum possible land were denied their bread and butter.
The irregularities of Gondegaon have been brought to the notice of social workers, political leaders, the then coal ministers like Pralhad Patel and Prakash Jaiswal and other Central ministers, but nothing has been done to grant them relief.
Rachhore’s certain attempts made the ministers to write letters to the senior officials for taking action, but the action as desired has never been taken as yet. Bhagwan Rachhore had written letters to former MPs Datta Meghe and Hansraj Ahir, but again in vain. Now, he is trying to seek help of present Central minister Nitin Gadkari.
Local public representatives’ indifference
While the issues have been pending since a long time and awaiting their immediate redressal, no public representative has show interest of any kind. The issues were brought to the notice of former MP Mukul Wasnik from Ramtek under which Gondegaon comes, but he too could not sort out the problem, making some or other excuse. Even Shiv Sena MLA froom Ramtek Ashish Jaiswal, who was twice elected to state legislature from Ramtek could not do anything concrete save giving assurances.
In the words of Ashish Jaiswal, “Though the WCL is showing no interest in sorting out the problems of project affected, the efforts are underway. Results will take some time, but the people are getting justice.” This seems to be a type of lolly-pop reply from a responsible person.
A ray of hope from Nitin Gadkari
The project affected struggling for justice are now hopeful of finding their grievances redressed with the help of Union minister Nitin Gadkari, whom they believe to be having much influence at the Centre, and who is well known for providing justice to the public. Recent development is that on the appeal of the project affected, Gadkari has directed the WCL chairman and managing director to take initiatives to sort out the problems of project affected. After this development, a meeting of project affected was held, and the WCL has agreed to provide jobs to some of them.
… By Divyesh Dwivedi, Priyanka Dubey, Fauzia Sheikh
As Published in Central Today weekly newspaper of Nagpur Today