Bhangar people’s movement: OPDR fact-finding report

Released on 15-03-2017

A three member team visited a few villages of the Bhangar block 2 area and closely interacted with the people and also walked under the Grid Lines in the fields to verify the people’s perception of fear. Here with we summarise the people’s voices and record the committee observations and demands.

People’s voices:

The people were given the impression that government shall construct a power house to augment supply of to the locality and for that the latter require certain amount of land at Khamarait village abetting the state highway. The people are reluctant to give land but some people under duress, some convinced of the utility of the Power House received compensation at the rate of rupees 1.2 to 1.5 crore per acre by way of cheque from PGCIL and surrendered land. The fact even now around 11 families did not accept compensation is clear indication that many people gave up their land under duress.

With technical acceptance of some peasants and without the acceptance some others 13.80 acres of very fertile triple crop land was taken over by the government and while construction of sub-station work was in progress the sign board reads “power house” and latter it was renamed POWER GRID. The people of the village felt fishy of the project is when construction of huge towers started in their surroundings in September 2016. The site engineers and workers were interrogated by the people and the former told the people that the project is not a simple power house but a very high power grid consisting of many incoming and outgoing lines totaling around 24. The engineers, on further questioning of the people blurted out that such a grid should not be constructed in Bhangor like densely populated and fertile land area. Then people stated agitation.

The people met SDO at Baruipur more than once and put before him their apprehensions more than once but no officer of govt. of West Bengal or PGCIL official cared to interact with people. The people approached leaders of various political parties including Trinamul Congress (TMC), Congress and Left front parties unsuccessfully.

The government instead of addressing the grievances and apprehensions of the people started repression both State and TMC muscle men. Six people are arrested on 3rd November and released on bail on 21st of the month.
Sometime in early November the CPI(ML) Red Star party voluntarily entered the villages of Bhanghor Block-2 area and informed the people of the of all aspects of high tension power grid scientifically. Jomi Jibika Bastutantra O Paribesh Raksha Committee (Land Livehood Ecology and Environment Protection Committee).

The first written representation to the SDO was submitted on 02-12-2016 but no response from the officialdom. Ten thousand people marched the streets of Kolkota and a memorandum was submitted to the Governor on 22-12-2016. It fell on deaf ears. More than 60 thousand people blocked 10KM stretch of road from Lauhati to Syam Nagar demanding to stop the grid work immediately. Simultaneously a parallel road from Lauhati to Bhangar was also blocked by 1 lakh people of 20 villages. It was partially suspended on the same day in that area and on the demand of the people work was completely suspended in all the seven districts from 16th January onwards.

On 16th January a man was frisked away by police the man was let off and the blockade was withdrawn on the same day. A man popularly known as KALOO was frisked away by police from Gazipur village. Immediately thousands of people came out on the roads demanding his release and the police let him off. But on the same night, in the early hour of January 17th huge police force and others ransacked hundreds of houses in many villages and lathi charged who ever came on their way. In protest of this police atrocity thousands of people came out the roads to the whole area on 17th January. The whole day witnessed a ding dong battle like thing between the police and estranged villagers. The police resorted to firing resulting in death of two young men, one with a family of wife of three children and another a student. A case with no 31/2017 Kashipur PS was filed against 36 named people and other 2000 people. Subsequently 11 people of the area and Sarmistha Choudhury and Pradip Singh Thakur were arrested and now they are in Alipore Jail. The reprehensible UAPA was applied against them. Subsequently scores of cases were foisted against thousands of people under various notorious sections of IPC including 120(b), 307,302. Subsequently the armed police tried to enter the villages twice or thrice and the people in unison thwarted all their attempts. There is no police presence in Khamarait, Padmapukur,Tona kamar badi and a few other villages the fact finding team visited on 14th March2017. But the arrests else where is continuing. Mr Sankar Das and Kusal Devnath, joint convenor of Bhangar movement solidarity committee were arrested on the 14th evening at Kolkata.

Observation of the fact finding committee:

It was notified that the power grid was to be established at Rajarhat but it is established at Khamarait, South 24 Pragnna district without any notification.

Bhangar block 2 area and many adjoining areas have very fertile land with three crop a year and hence construction of a power grid there is violation of all established norms and laid down policy of PGCIL itself and also against international principles.

Thousands of scientific papers are available which detailed the severely harmful effects of 400/220 KV transmission lines on the nearby human beings and aquatic life etc.

It is most unfortunate that the TMC under the leadership of Mamata Benarjee that came into power on the shoulders of Nandigam and Singur struggles is resorting to the similar repressive methods on Bhangor people anti grid movement instead of talking to the people and leadership of the movement in spite of such a request from the latter.

Demands of OPDR:

The state government of west Bengal headed by Mamata Banerjee should pay a solecism of Rs.30 lakh to each family of the killed in police firing on 17th January 2017.

All the arrested people should be released from the jail forth with.

The government of west Bengal and PGCIL should enter into talks with the concerned people and the leadership of the movement immediately in order to find a scientific satisfactory solution to the problem .

Members of the Fact Finding Committee:
C. Bhaskar Rao, Chairman ,OPDR-India
Advocate Bibek ranjan, Secretary OPDR-India
Tejaram Bidrohi, Member OPDR-India


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