The residents of Dongri village, which is located in the Mahan forest in Singrauli are going to be displaced due to the proposed mining activities of the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation and Jaypee Group.
Several residents of the village stated that the company numbered houses, took photos and signatures without giving any reason. A resident that we met stated that he has received three months notice to clear out from his house. He said, "They will destroy our forests and give us tiny plots instead. They might as well put us in jail. We will lose our livelihoods and will have to pay for basic things like food and water which we get currently from the forest for free".
His fears of life at a displacement colony are not unfounded. Three years ago Amlori was a peaceful village in the Mahan forest but since then the landscape has altered drastically. About 1,400 people were told to vacate their homes to make way for the overburden of the Amlori and Moher coal mines run by Reliance. When the residents protested against being displaced they were sent to jail.
A small group of houses are the only ones still standing, located near the massive mountain of the overburden. When the wind blows heavily, there is a sand storm. When it rains, portions of the mountain turn into sludge and flow down with deadly force towards their houses. Just a few days ago, due to the heavy rains, two goats got caught in the sludge and were killed. The people worry that the overburden will soon collapse and destroy their homes forever. They are still waiting for the tiny plots that Reliance promised to provide them as rehabilitation.
Earlier they were dependent on their land and the forest for their livelihoods but this is no longer the case. A resident, Lalji states, "There is no forest anymore, so all we can collect is just a bit of firewood from the few remaining trees. Finding a job is extremely difficult and now we have become daily wage labourers. They acquired my house 10 months ago but have not given me compensation or a plot till date"
Next to the group of houses is the displacement colony started by Reliance. The colony is a group of small yellow houses, many of which are inhabited by more than one family. Till date, there is no electricity and there is only one hand pump for water for all the families that live there. All the people we met stated that they have not been receiving the unemployment allowance that they were promised earlier. A resident Nanhegiri said, "They promised to build a road and when I protested about the fact that they did not, they jailed me for two days". He showed us the small empty room that the eight members of his family live in.
His wife, Nilamati said "Our children got a transfer certificate from the previous school since the company said that they would open a new school for our children. They built a building but the school is not running. So our children don't go to school anymore."
Another resident Mahijaya said that her family was promised 90,000 as compensation apart from the plot they received. She says, "They gave me 90,000 and took away 74,000 for the house they gave me".
It is stories like that of the residents of Amlori that have made several people join the Mahan Sangarsh Samiti (MSS). Bechan Lal, a member of the MSS concludes insightfully, "The British said that they have just come here to trade with us and then took away our freedom. Now the companies have come saying that they will just take a bit of land but they will take away everything.”
Photos © Neha Nautiyal/Greenpeace
Gopika Nangia works with the coal campaign team at Greenpeace India.