Cash-flush Chhattisgarh tribesmen broke in 2 years

  • Ejaz Kaiser, Hindustan Times, Ambikapur(Chhattisgarh)
  • Updated: Sep 14, 2014 03:58 IST

Kalyan Ram's wood-and-bamboo hut is a little distance away from the muddy trail snaking through the tribal village of Parsa in Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh. It's grim, dark and scruffy.

But 46-year-old Ram still boasts of his past as a multi-millionaire. And that was not too long ago. In 2012, he received Rs 1.25 crore from Adani Mining for his farmland in the Parsa-Kente Basan coalmine area in north Chhattisgarh.

When the Gujarat-based conglomerate bagged the contract for operating the Parsa East and Kente Basin coal blocks from the Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Nigam Ltd - which had been allocated the block in 2007 - several tribesmen in the area turned rich, overnight.

But the good days didn't last long. The day money arrived, middlemen of all hues started chasing Ram. He ended up buying two tractors and several motorbikes, but didn't know what to do with them.

During the last two years, Ram has bought at least 20 motorbikes - a sign of prosperity and stereotypical masculinity among tribal men in the area.

And whenever a vehicle developed a snag, the agents would convince him to buy a new one and dump the old vehicle at throwaway prices. Sometimes, he would not even get any money for the old vehicles.

Now, Ram is unemployed and landless. His wife is sick and children out of school. "A businessman took away my tractors on monthly rent. People purchased my bikes. But no one paid me. We are surviving only on the public distribution system."

Worse, Ram was also duped by a man in a "fake" land deal and lost the plot he possessed.

The state as well as mining and infrastructure companies often say that they had out proper compensation to farmers and tribals.

But due to the lack of a system to make them aware of investment methods and save the "suitable" compensation, many land in a tight spot.

Gangaram Paikra, a social activist in the area, told HT: "The tribesmen are poor, ignorant and simple people. There should be some regulation or monitoring structure to prevent such open loot."

Bhonduram Majhwar (61) is another tragic hero. "We spent the Rs 40-lakh compensation on a sedan car, two Bolero SUVs, one motorbike, six buffaloes, a power generator and a tube-well." But now, Majhwar has only a three-room thatched hut for his family of eight.

"These people have never had such huge amount of funds at their disposal. Most of them are happy to get used vehicles at their doorsteps," said Bholenath Sigharmo, a local employment worker.

A couple of local two-wheeler dealers confirmed that they had sold 280-odd motorbikes during the past two years, immediately after the Adani money was released. "Over 200 motorcycles from our showroom went to the villages in the coal mine areas since 2012," confirmed owner of Basant Automobiles, a local dealer.

Even new, mobile phone handsets are acquired at high prices, but are mostly kept at home owing to poor network coverage. "The Adani group perhaps ensured a Vodafone network for the region, but its range is restricted only to the mines area," alleged Kranti Rawat, a local journalist.

The story of the Jhariram brothers of Kente village is a similar one. They gave Rs 60 lakh from their Rs 1-crore compensation to brokers for buying land in a neighbouring village. But the ownership papers have not arrived yet.

Local residents alleged that even the police did not help them when they complained, adding they have now have decided to boycott middlemen.

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