Over six decades since they were displaced by the construction of the Massanjore Dam, 500 families continue to fight for compensation and rehabilitation.
Constructed in 1955, the Massanjore dam was built to generate hydroelectricity and to facilitate irrigation in Jharkhand and West Bengal. “Jharkhand doesn’t benefit from the dam at all, the West Bengal government has jurisdiction over water and overfishing activities”, says Priyanath Pathak who was also displaced by the project. While at the outset, there was an agreement to share water resources between Bihar and West Bengal in 1957, when Jharkhand was formed, there was no amendment made to the agreement to enable usage of water from the dam by Jharkhand.
The dam, which is also a popular tourist destination, displaced 500 families across 144 villages — 80% of those displaced were adivasi. “It’s been nearly 65 years, and the government has not given us compensation or land”, says Priyanath Pathak who is also the secretary of the Massanjore Dam Visthapit Kisan Sangharsh Morcha, a collective of families displaced by the project who are fighting for compensation.
While questions surrounding the benefits of the dam for the people of Jharkhand, the rehabilitation of those displaced were hotly debated during the 2014 elections, there has been no relief or resolution since. Last year parties from Jharkhand and West Bengal were caught up in a tiff, claiming Trinamool Congress, painted white and blue on the gates of Massanjore dam which is in Jharkhand. Although this fight was taking toll, nobody raised issues about the people who were displaced.
The families displaced by the project have held protests, demonstrations but to no avail. “We were even given an assurance in writing,” says Pathak. “50% of our compensation was cut. 20 years later, it is still with the government. This needs to be given to the displaced families in a timely manner as per law. If the government does not gives is our land, they must leave it”, he adds.
Video by Community Correspondent Sanchita Pathak
Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of the VV editorial team