16 July 2021

PBKMS statement on illegal eviction of forest dwellers and the fascist behaviour of the Khandwa Forest Administration in Madhya Pradesh

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS), condemns the illegal eviction of traditional forest dwellers from their lands inherited through customary rights in direct violation of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The forest department in utter disregard for the legal safeguards enjoyed by the community residing in Jamniya village (Khadwa District, Madhya Pradesh) encroached upon their lands and destroyed their shelters, standing crops and cattle. The Khadwa district administration has also not taken any measures to address the periodic harassment meted out to the forest-dwelling communities by the forest administration despite existing legal provisions acknowledging their customary rights over forest resources.

Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), the leading tribal and dalit rights collective intervened and made attempts to protect the interests of the families who were facing the wrath of the forest administration. The District Forest Officer did not acknowledge that the interests of the concerned community are protected by the law of the land till the completion of the verification of their claims over forest lands as per the provisions of the FRA, 2006. The fact that the Madhya Pradesh High Court had passed a stay order in an ongoing petition filed by the members of forest-dwelling communities in Jamniya claiming individual and community forest rights, too was disregarded. The Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has also passed an order restraining the state from evicting any individual during the present pandemic situation which was clearly violated as well. Hence in complete defiance of the legal protection accorded to the tribal community, the forest department not only trespassed on their property with criminal intention but also took a twelve year old girl named Puja and her parents along with other members of the community into their custody for protesting against their illegal acts.

The activists of JADS along with the community leaders vehemently protested against the high-handedness of the forest officials and tried to secure the release of the detained persons. Much to the horror of the protestors, the forest officials decided to target the activists of JADS and forcefully took away Nitin bhai, Ramesh bhai and Ratan bhai into their custody. The forest department has no legal right to enforce detentions and has acted in complete violation of the constitutional provisions in detaining the three activists and confining them to the room of the Forest Ranger without any access to legal help. A non-responsive administration finally relented on witnessing a midnight ‘sit-in’ protest led by adivasi women in front of the office of the Superintendent of Police, Khandwa. The 8 people from the community who had been illegally confined in the forest ranger’s office along with Nitin bhai, Ramesh bhai and Mahesh bhai then were released today. The forest administration is yet to hand over the phones of the three activists of JADS and threatened to charge Nitin bhai with false allegations under the Wildlife Act, having non-bailable provisions. Only for standing up to the might of the forest administration in a district of Independent India displaying colonial disdain towards ‘adivasis’ and traditional forest dwellers, a people’s association has to face such systemic harassment. Shame on the Shivraj Singh Chouhan led Madhya Pradesh Government!

45 adivasi families have been looted of their meagre belongings with their homestead lands resembling a battlefield marked by the destruction of standing crops and killing of farm animals. A six year old boy named Mahendra is still missing after the trespassing of the forest department and he has not been traced till the time of circulation of this note.

We demand strict action against the erring officials who have violated even the principles of natural justice with impunity, witnessed in the conduct of only outlawed groups and associations. We also demand a public apology from the office of Hon’ble Minister in charge of Forests, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh and adequate compensation to the families whose shelters, standing crops and cattle have been destroyed. The district administration should assure the community of protection against harassment and illegal trespass of forest officials on their lands and immediate compliance with the provisions of the FRA, 2006.

PBKMS stands in complete solidarity with the activists of JADS and the community of forest dwellers who have displayed tremendous courage and determination to challenge the hegemonic grip of the district forest administration over natural resources. We completely endorse the following demands put forward by JADS and urge upon the state government of Madhya Pradesh to assure us of immediate action:

    • All charges against adivasis and activists must be dropped.
    • Police must immediately trace the missing child and hand him over to his parents. 
    • Confiscated phones of all persons must be immediately returned. 
    • The 45 families who have faced immense loss of food grain, crop and livestock must be fully and immediately compensated by Madhya Pradesh Govt

25 June 2021

54 Thousand Workers From Duncans Gardens File Claims for 1538 Crores Dues With NCLT

 

With Duncans Industries Limited going into bankruptcy, the future of the workers of 17 gardens owned by Duncans is now in doldrums. Workers have been worried about their dues and whether they will ever receive their due wages, fringe benefits, gratuity and provident fund.

Responding to the workers’ concern, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) has supported workers 54250 workers to file a claim of Rs.1538,76,90,240 from nine Duncans Industries Limited gardens in Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri. The claim includes arrear wages, over-time, extra leaf payment, rations, fuel wood, gratuity and provident fund.

While Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) has already filed a case in Supreme Court for the dues of 29 gardens including 7 former Duncans gardens,on making enquiries,  we found that the Duncans Industries Limited has gone into bankruptcy. The Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process was started against them on 05th March, 2020 in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). By this process, all creditors of the company are to file their claims and the NCLT will approve a plan by which the amounts owed to them will be paid back, either by liquidating Duncans’ assets or by finding a new owner.

PBKMS took the matter on urgent basis and made the workers aware of the Resolution Process against the Duncans Industries Limited. One PBKMS member then filed a claim with the Resolution Professional (RP) appointed by the NCLT on behalf of 124 workers in April 2021. The RP rejected the claims stating that the workers are late in filing their claims. The workers then approached the NCLT Kolkata bench, who accepted their plea and directed the RP to accept the claims. On 15th June 2021, the Court has directed the workers to submit their claims with appropriate documents to the Resolution Professional by 30th June 2021. Now claims have been submitted for 54, 250 workers on the basis of list of workers provided to PBKMS by the Provident Fund Commissioner’s office at Jalpaiguri.

The gardens for which claims have been filed are Lankapara, Gairganda, Hantapara, Dumchipara, Tulsipara and Birpara in Alipur Duar District. In Jalpaiguri, claims have been filed for Nageswari, Killcote and Bagracote.

21 June 2021

Relief work in South and North 24 Parganas after Cyclone Yaas

May 26, 2021, saw another addition to the list of violent cyclones in the Sundarbans. The entire Sundarbans, including the coastal areas of East Midnapore, South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas, was again devastated by the landfall on the Orissa coast. While the exact amount of damage can never be known; agriculture, fish farming, animal husbandry, trade and commerce have all been affected. Around 10 lakh people had to be brought to safe shelters. 

According to various sources, the impact of cyclone Yaas in various areas and villages in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts caused dangerous damage to the property, as seawater had dangerously swelled and dams in various places collapsed. Various villages were completely inundated by the floods. Mud houses of many people in the village were destroyed by the storm or by the tidal wave, forcing villagers to take shelter in the flood centres. As the tide rose, the river overflowed in different villages and whole villages were submerged. For a while, there was nothing left to help the helpless people. Crops grown in the field got flooded with saltwater, leaving them very worried about their immediate future.

After the landfall, PBKMS rushed to provide relief and assist speedy rehabilitation, in the Sundarbans.  We provided 10Kg Bleaching and 60Kg Lime powder each, in villages of Nandakumarpur, Kumropara, Kankandighi, Namkhana, Narainpur anchals of South 24 Parganas (as of 14th June 2021) to clean the water sources and to purify drinking water. More than 70 quintals of Lime powder and 10 quintals of Bleaching powder has been provided to villages committees of different blocks of South 24 Parganas like Gosaba, Patharpratima, Kulpi and Kakdwip, to be spread in the next few days


Similarly, in Hasnabad, Minakhan, Kholapota, Sandeshkhali blocks of ​​North 24 Parganas, PBKMS has extended a helping hand to the people affected by the cyclone. 250 Kg Bleaching powder and 1400Kg Lime powder has been provided in 25 villages of the district.


District

Block

GP

Village

Lime (kg)

Bleaching (kg)

South 24 Parganas

Kultali


Kundakhali

200

50

Kultali


Bhubeneswari

1550

1050

Kultali


Moipith

Kultali


Deoulbari Devipur

Mathurapur 2

Nandakumarpur


600

100

Mathurapur 2

Kumropara


300

50

Mathurapur 2

Kankandighi


400

50

North 24 Parganas

Hasnabad

Amlani

Sundoria



Murarisha

Gara Kupi



Kholapota

Rajendrapur

Noldi



Sandeshkhali

Bayarmari

Bayarmari



Chuchra Bayarmari



Minakha

Chaital

Majherpara

200

25

Neruli

Neruli Abad

Nimichi

Uttar Akratola

Uttar Majherpara

Fulbari

Mohanpur

Paschimand Purbo Chandibari

400

50

Harinhula

Barabari

Kalibari

Dakkhin Kalibari

Tangramari

Ramjoygheri

Muchikhola

Ramjaigheri

Mallik gheri

Aathpukur

Beltola

Sukni Basa

Harinhola

Mohanpur

Natun Para

Uchildaha

200

50

Chapali Abad

Fulbari

200

25

Balaberia

Uchhemari

Chapali Abad


Community kitchens have been started in 17 villages where cooked meals have been provided (as of 1 July, 2021) to around 10,000 people, which includes people involved in river embankment repairing and their families. Meals are being cooked and served on different islands as well. 

Community kitchens have been started in 17 villages where cooked meals have been provided (as of 1 July, 2021) to around 10,000 people, which includes people involved in river embankment repairing and their families. Meals are being cooked and served on different islands as well. 


S. NO.

BLOCK

GP

VILLAGE

NO. OF PEOPLE FED (1st Day)

(2nd Day)

(3rd Day)

1

Kultali

Bhubaneshwari

Amtalar Kheya

200

200


2

Majher Kheya

200

200


3

Bhubaneshwari

200

200

200

4

Petkulchand

200

200


5

Haldar gheri

200

200


6

Bhasha

200

200


7

Uttar Devipur

200

200


8

Paschim Devipur

200

200


9

Deulbari Devipur

Shyam Nagar

200

200


10

Durgapur

200

200


11

Patharpratima

Achintanagar

Biratbajar Srigheri

200

200


12

Bishnupur

200

200


13

Brajaballabhpur

Brajaballabhpur

200

200


14

Mathurapur 2

Kankandighi

Daktar gheri

200

200


15

Shitalmaity

200

200


16

Dokkhin Kankandighi

250

250


17

Nagendrapur

Addi Baradanagar

200

200


18

Amtalar Kheya

200

200


19

Nandakumarpur

Chatua

200

200


20

Namkhana

Narayanpur

Narayanpur

200

200


21

Baidya gheri

100

200


22

Kultali

Moipeeth

Nagenabad

200

200


23

Baikanthapur

200

200


TOTAL

4550

4650

200


Our members, in various blocks of South 24 Parganas, have also coordinated and assisted individuals and other organisations like Udayani, Nabarun Sangha (a local club in Badu) and Sramajivi hospital in providing dry ration and food packets. 

S.No

Organisation Name/Partner Name

Particulars

No. of people/Quantity

Block

1

Nabarun Sangha (Badu)

Meal

750

Gosaba

2

Sramajivi hospital

Medikit

250

Namkhana

3

Arup Chatterjee (Kolkata)

Rice

7.5 quintal

Mathurapur 2

4

Father Jyoti (Dhyan Ashram)

Dry ration

400

Mathurapur 2

5

Father Shaju

Dry ration

950

Kultali

6

Udayani

Dry ration

185

Kultali


We had also made collections and distributed lungis, sarees, towels and other necessary items along with food packets in Kakdwip block.

Birla Cement Factory has provided 8,000 cement bags to PBKMS to use for embankment reconstruction. The bags will be utilized in Gosaba, Kulpi, Mathurapur 2, Kultali and Patharpratima for embankment reconstruction under the MGNREGA scheme.

We have sourced 2600 Kg Saline resistant paddy seeds for distribution in 5 blocks of South 24 Parganas (Mathurapur 1, Namkhana, Gosaba, Kultali, Patharpratima) and 5 blocks of North 24 Parganas (Hasnabad, Minakhan, Sandeshkhali 2, Basirhat 2, Nazet).

Bolpur Manav Zamin has provided us with 2000 kitchen garden seeds to be distributed to 2000 families in different blocks of North and South 24 Parganas who were trained by us to maintain organic kitchen gardens in their backyards, which were ruined by excessive rains, flood or the cyclone.