Bullet train project: 'We will be sent to some place in Latur with water crisis'
Tired of unmet promises, Palghar's Kaka says villagers will not move for bullet train.
Palghar: In Damkhind, a small tribal village in Palghar taluka, it is 4 pm and the office of the Adivasi Parishad is locked. We are told that the octogenarian who runs the organisation that fights for tribal rights will be here any minute. And, he is.
Kaluram Dhodade—recognised as the pioneer of the Adivasi movement in Western India—apologises for being late. He got caught up washing his clothes at a nearby well. "The government says they are doing only one project—the bullet train—but it is a lie. For decades, this scheduled area has been destroyed for development projects. Apart from the bullet train, the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway and the Freight Corridor constructions are slowly killing both fertile land and forests here."
Popularly known as "kaka" (uncle) within his community, he adds, "They [the government] think that Adivasis are cockroaches and can be eliminated easily. They are offering to resettle people, but we know we will be sent to some place in Latur, which is reeling under a water crisis. Only to reduce travel time between the two states, the government is destroying the lives of tribals. It is unfair."
Kaka says villagers from the neighbouring Hanuman Nagar are dreading a repeat of history after 36 years. "Thousands of residents of Hanuman Nagar, a tribal village in Palghar, were displaced in 1982 for a dam construction on Surya river. From Saava, a fertile village on the banks of Surya, they were sent to Hanuman Nagar. And now, Hanuman Nagar falls on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train alignment. Is this a joke?"
The government has assured the villagers compensation and rehabilitation, but they refuse to believe false promises, he adds. "They will not be fooled again; they have borne the brunt once, they will certainly not leave their houses for the second time. To even expect this of them is ridiculous."
Kaka says, "Britishers were unjust, but showed sympathy for the people. But, the government shows no remorse. When the Surya dam was being built, they promised to employ local youth. Today, water from the dam goes directly to Mumbai. They are stealing our water. We have had too many bad experiences, we are not budging this time."
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