Sarkar Raj in Giridih

Sarrkar Raj was the movie running in this little town in the 5 yr old state of Jharkhand and sarkar raj is the reason for where it is today.

Giridih is a small town bustling with people who love to eat in a chain of food joints called Bewakuf, Bewakuf No 1, Shri Bewakuf and Maha Bewakuf. People who loved and watched the ‘family’ film Vivaah so much that it had a super hit run of 6 months and where ‘mineral’ water brands like Baba Jal, Kempti, Vailleys give a run for money to Bisleri.

Giridih is also split - into CCL (the govt. owned Central Coalfield Ltd.) and non CCL areas. The CCL areas are rich for its natural resources of coal deposits under the ground and the non CCL areas are rich for its natural resources of forest, timber like sal, bamboo, khair over the ground. But… the people who live here are far from being rich. So close to these rich resources and yet so far removed from the benefits of this proximity and so utterly poor.

The reasons for this are several but the perpetrator only one – the sarkar raj.

In the CCL areas the reasons are:
This town is supposed to be administered (provide civic, health, education services to the inhabitants) by the govt. owned Central Coalfield Ltd. (CCL). But CCL does this in areas where its employees are concentrated and the rest of the people ‘do not exist’ …… for CCL.

  1. These people ‘do not exist’ because as required by the govt. they don’t have the ‘patta’, a long, scroll-like, official paper that proves ownership of the land.
  2. Non-existent people don’t get their rights – to a home, health, education and thus a livelihood.
  3. The govt. schemes like employment guarantee schemes, income generation schemes, mooted to help all people below poverty line are so mired in corruption that they fail to benefit the very people. The schemes either just stay on paper. Or get implemented by the contractors for the contractors ie they pay the local people less or get people from outside, pay them less and pocket the rest.
  4. The govt. owned CCL now does a lot of open mining (dig and scoop out pits the size of a sports stadium) to reach the coal below. They are supposed to cover it and return it to the original state. But they just leave it open. Result – these open, deep pits over time collect water that gets used by the local people leading to diseases. There is less and less of flat land left for even basic vegetation.
  5. The officially closed mines still continue to be mined illegally. Out of desperation the local people including children go in and then travel long distances to sell the coal. In case of accidents or death inside the mines due to the pillar or roof collapsing etc., it goes unrecorded and uncompensated.
The reasons of deprivation, unique to the non-CCL areas are: 
  1. The rampant illegal deforestation happening with the complete sanction of the forest dept. officials. Leading to a fast depleting forest cover, soil erosion, change in crop patterns.
  2. The prevalence of age-old and deep rooted social sanctions primarily in the area of caste and gender discrimination. The lower caste is unable to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty, debt, bonded labour, generation after generation.

The rest of the reasons remain the same 2, 3 and 4 as in the CCL areas mentioned above.

And then there is Jago (it literally means ‘Wake up!’). A team of locals, hugely committed to slowly but surely enabling the people – by creating awareness on what is happening around, why it is happening, the implications in their lives, arrive at what they want to do about it and how they can tackle it. The Jago team comprises of Surojit, Kiran, Birju, Mahendra Das, Ravi Das, Sunil, Ramesh, Bhimlal Das, Amiya Devi, Namita Kumari to name some and is headed by Baidyanath. Each of them use their strength and convictions to inspire an awakening amongst the people. Surojit is an ever-smiling and affable person who can make the strictest and most difficult people listen to him. Kiran has overcome economic and family pressures to work with the girls’ and women’s groups to encourage them in taking charge of their own lives. Amiya Devi is a firebrand known for collaring a local official with as much ease as getting the shy and oppressed village women to confide their problems, hopes and dreams and then inspire them to realising them. Mahendra puts his writing and musical talents to script, direct, act in street plays and write, compose, sing songs with social messages. He works with groups of boys from the different villages to reach out to the people with songs and plays. Baidyanath is a quiet man of convictions, leading this team towards a future when the people are awakened and charting the course of their own lives.

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