Chhattisgarh, the 'Rice Bowl of central India' witnessed 309 farmer suicides between January 2013 and January 31, 2016 because of crop failures, rising debts and rapid land acquisitions. While agriculture is the chief source of livelihood for the population, Chhattisgarh is on an industrial roller-coaster with more & more coal-based power stations, mines, cement production and storage companies popping at every other turn. In the rush to industrialise, the state is diverting land and forests - that sustains more than 80% of the population- to industries and not once has the state stopped to take stock of the cumulative impact of so many projects on agricultural land, livelihoods and environment on the whole.
Farmer Damodar Bhoye, one such victim of the rapid industrialisation tills his ancestral land during uncertain times. The Sarpanch, village head of Saraipali and a few others have given a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to set up a storage facility for gunpowder, while the entire village is opposing it.. "Over 100-150 villagers have signed a petition opposing this move but so far, no action has been taken," says Damodar. They have violated the PESA or the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 by not conducting a Gram Sabha before taking such a decision that impacts the whole community.
“The adjacent lands won't have any value. There are rumors already. . .Agriculture won't be possible on this land due to the industry. Because this industry emanates a smell which does not allow people to come close. We have land right next to the factory; if we ever sell it, nobody will buy it.”, clarifies community correspondent Rajesh Gupta. “Even if they, what price will we get? This means a huge loss to us and the villagers.”adds Damodar.
While the livelihood of Saraipali farmers is under threat, safety is also a rising concern. "If something like the Bhopal Gas tragedy occurs here, it will be catastrophic.” says Pyarelal Bhoye. The community has appealed to the Chief Executive Officer of Raigarh district to intervene and stop the unlawful construction of gunpowder storage their village. There are many ‘Saraipali’s brewing in Chhattisgarh today as its rapid pace of industrialisation gobbles up more and more villages. We can help by calling or messaging him on 9479042200 in support of their cause.
Rajesh Gupta reports from Saraipali, Tamnar, Raigarh, Chhattisgarh for IndiaUnheard
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