(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 06, 2010
Joint Struggle of Peasants & Workers in Kinnaur
Dr Onkar Shad
THE Himachal Kisan Sabha is fighting against the anti-peasant attitude of the Himachal Power Corporation Ltd (HPCL), a Himachal government undertaking which is constructing the 243 MW Kashang hydro power project in Kinnaur District and its contractor Hindustan Construction company (HCC) in Pangi panchayat. HPCL & HCC are doing the construction of this project using force and ignoring the genuine demands of the peasants and workers.
The HCC is a murderous company. It had killed three CITU leaders in Chamera project and one comrade in Nathpa Jhakri project. Both the companies are using some local contractors and panchayati raj institution members to suppress the peasantry. The land compensation has not been given, but the work is going on with high speed. The peasants had to go to court against the rupees three lakh and twenty thousand per bigha, which the company had given. Now, an out of court settlement has been reached and rupees twenty lakh and eighty thousand per bigha will be given to the farmers.
The HCC Company is putting muck on the land which is not acquired by the company. For per blast 50 kg gelatine is being used. Due to this there are cracks in houses and on land. Because of blasting, dust and chemical gasses are causing a lot of pollution in the atmosphere, which is damaging the fruit and vegetable crops like apple, chilgoza etc. As a result, the productivity has gone down. Respiratory diseases among human beings and animals have increased. The HCC company is not providing employment to the local people. It is violating the law of state government which ensures 70 per cent employment in projects and industries for local and Himachali unemployed people. Due to its anti-people policies, the resentment against these companies is increasing.
The Kinnaur Kisan Sabha intervened in this situation and organised the affected people. The district secretary, Sanjeev Negi was invited by the affected peasants and a meeting was convened. He called upon the peasants to fight collectively to achieve their demands. Earlier, a sangharsh samiti was formed, but the leaders of this samiti were not fighting for the interests of the affected farmers. They were using the sangharsh samiti to serve their own interests. In the general body meeting on May 9, affected peasants were invited and workers were also invited. This meeting was very successful. The committees of project affected sabha and project workers were formed.
The project affected sabha committee gave a demand charter to HPCL management on May 11 at the district head quarter, Recong Peo. About 200 men and women participated in the rally and the demand charter was submitted. The general manager did not want to receive the demand charter. He locked himself in one of the office rooms. But the farmers went inside the building and reached him. The rally was led by Sanjeev Negi, Kinnaur district secretary and Bihari Sewagi, Shimla district president of Kisan Sabha. The CITU district president Ranjeet Thakur, Kinnaur district president, Milap and secretary, Mohan Lal were also present. A seven days notice was given to resolve the demands of the peasants. If these are not resolved, the work in the projects will be closed from May 18. The ward wise meetings of Pangi Panchayat were also planned. And in the adjacent panchayat of Purvani, a meeting was also fixed. These meetings were attended along with local leaders by the state secretary of Kisan Sabha Dr Onkar Shad. The HCC and HPCL managements decided to sabotage these meetings. Local panchayat’s pardhan and the office bearers of sangarsh samiti were utilised by the HCC and HPCL management. But were not successful in this attempt on May 18. The construction work was closed by the farmers in all the sites. About 300 men and women marched to the project sites in spite of heavy rain. The march was led by Dr Onkar shad, Bihari Sewagi, Sanjeev Negi, Milap and Ranjeet Thakur. Since then the project workers are enrolling themselves in the union. The HCL company tried to start the work but failed .The workers supported the peasants’ demands. The joint rally of workers and peasants was held in Recong Peo. About seven hundred workers and peasants participated in the rally. The demand charter of the workers’ was given to labour officer to implement the labour laws which the HCC company and its contractors are violating. The rally was addressed by Rakesh Singha. Dr Onkar Shad, Bihari Sewagi, Sanjeev negi and Man Chand Negi, president of the project affected Sabha. All the speakers supported the genuine struggle of the peasants.
The local MLA Tejwant Negi and the elected panchayat’s representatives tried their best to start the work and break the worker- peasant unity.But they could not break the unity and now the HPCL management has agreed to negotiate with the project affected sabha and Kisan Sabha leaders. The negotiation is going on. The HCC company does not want to recognise the CITU union. But the peasants are with workers. Due to the peasants’ support, the workers morale is very high. On May 24, about 800 workers and peasants gheraoed the HCC office. The management sought four days time to settle the demands of the peasants.
This struggle has given a catalytic effect in the whole tribal district. In other hydel projects, the peasants are organising themselves and helping the workers to fight the exploitation of contractors. The companies are using the local contractors against the workers to create obstacles in forming unions. They are also attacking the workers. But due to the peasants’ support, now the workers are organising themselves under the banner of CITU. The peasants are also getting organised. The worker-peasant unity is becoming a powerful weapon against the common enemies of workers and peasants. These enemies are the contractors and local goons hired by the company. The unity of peasants- workers will be able to achieve their demands.