At the time when the West Bengal government is trying to save Tata’s Nano car project in Singur, an RTI application has exposed the state’s track record on rehabilitation of people displaced more than 30 years ago due to the Damodar Valley project.
Rafique Ansari’s Right to Information application exemplifies story of thousands of oustees of abject poverty from being landlords and their fight for their rightful claim. Their land was taken over by the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) in the 1950s for constructing a power plant.
Once an owner of 23 acres of land acquired for the project in 1950s, Ansari, a disabled, is now a below poverty line card-holder and does not have money to send his son for higher education. The Central Information Commission, which was hearing his plea for denial of justice, estimated that he would have earned monthly income of Rs 48,000 from the land taken away for the project. His present monthly income is less than Rs 2,000.
Ansari blamed DVC for his present state, claiming that proper rehabilitation never took place and he did not get a job either — like other disabled people in 1978. “I could not get the promised job as I could not pay bribe to the officials of the corporation. Those below me on the disability list were given jobs,” Ansari told CIC. The DVC, however, refuted his claim, saying he would not have got job as per the eligibility criteria fixed.
Making a stinging observation on the rehabilitation package, Information Commissioner MM Ansari said the corporation has failed in its corporate social responsibility. “While DVC may have made significant contributions to the process of development of infrastructure, it has also contributed to marginalisation of the displaced persons, who sacrificed their land for the project,” he said.