The Chief Minister
Government of West Bengal.
Respected Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharaya
There is no doubt that the 100 days National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) is a program that has been of great importance for the poor rural people of our country. The recent report that has poured in is highly disturbing where we are hearing that one Mr. Narayan Mahato Narayan Mahto, Vice President of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) has been brutally attacked and has been hospitalized on 2.4.09. The only fault of Mr. N.Mahato was that he exposed the corrupt people and their practices. The report also shares that Mr. Mahato is not alone who is attacked as there are few others who have also been at the receving end at the hand of persons who have their own vested interest that overrides the very candid purpose for which the NREGA has been well crafted. The recent incident that I am refereing to you has taken place at a worksit at Puncha in Purulia district of West Bengal. This is a very serious matter that can not be allowed to be swept below the carpet. I share with you the following for your kind perusal with a request to please order immediate necessary corrective measures to help the victimised persons and severly punish the guilty to ensure that the confidence of the poor people on the constitution of India remains intact.
It is specifically stated that at a NREGA work site at Kendadih Ledamahul Gram Sansad in Puncha was completed about 3 months ago. 259 workers, 244 of them members of the PBKMS had worked at the site. When measurement was done by the CPI(M) controlled Gram Unnayan Committee, (village development committee) about a month and a half ago, after the work was finished, workers found many of their names and the work done by them had been left out. The workers protested and asked for re-measurement. When the BDO did not respond the workers gheraoed the BDO on the 18th of March 2009. The BDO promised re-measurement on the 21st and later on the 25th. However this was also not done. The workers therefore protested again.
On 1.4.09, the BDO ordered re-measurement and asked the Block Sub Assistant Engineer and Upapradhan to take up this task. On 2.4.09 nearly 100 workers were present at the work site to see that measurement was done properly. The workers began protesting when the Sub Assistant Engineer missed out certain names and some pits dug by them during measurement. The Gram Unnayam Committee members who had also come also started arguing. Within minutes, the workers were attacked by a mob of nearly 150 people armed with lathis, axes and chains.
The attack was clearly pre-planned as not only was the mob armed, it consisted of people from 6 villages namely Ledamahul, Damdahi, Kusum Tikri, Tatari, Bahadurpur and Puncha. Known local leaders from the CPI(M)- Sukhdev Murmu, Panchayat member from Damdahi, Pariskshit Sahis from Ledamahul, Manik Singh Bhuiyan from Kusm Tikri and Ananda Karmakar from Tatari led the mob. It was also clear that Narayan Mahato, a very popular PBKMS leader who is also an NREGS worker himself was their main target. Narayan Mahato narrowly escaped being killed, receiving head injuries that required 4 stitches and a spinal fracture. Malati Mahato a woman member of PBKMS had also to be hospitalized after being bruised and beaten severely when she tried to save him. The Upapradhan Mahipal Mahato has also been hospitalized after receiving severe blows on his back
In addition, 26 cycles belonging to the workers who fled the site were looted by the mob, while 3-4 of them were burnt at the work site itself. Workers have also complained that their job cards and bank pass books were also looted from bags where they had kept them together for the re-measurement.
The workers resorted to a 6 hours road block in front of the police station. The police finally lodged an FIR and promised to arrest the assailants within 72 hours. The BDO who had ordered the re-measurement also directed the police station to lodge the FIR. So far, 4 persons have been arrested. However, a false case has also been lodged against the people who were injured.
The above report of violence is not just a stray incidents. In Achinta Nagar Gram Panchayat, Patharpratima Block, South 24 Parganas in Village Kamdevpur, PBKMS workers was attacked at an NREGS work site, this time by a mob instigated by the local Panchayat member. The issue at stake was the fact that the PBKMS workers had got work using due process of the law, even though the Panchayat member had not wanted to give them work. Jagannath Mondal's left thumb was bitten off by Jhontu Sahu (one of the many workers deployed by the Panchayat member to threaten the workers). A section of his finger had to be amputated and his treatment continues. A criminal case has been registered. Similarly, in January, PBKMS vice president Narayan Mahato, was again attacked at Manbazar I Block during a protest at the Panchayat office where workers were demanding work. On that day also, he had to be hospitalized. Here again the mob was instigated by the Panchayat leaders and consisted of drunken men who deliberately targeted Narayan Mahato.
These three incidents throw light on the kind of violence being perpetrated to stop workers in West Bengal, who are only demanding their very basic right to 100 days of work and timely wages under NREGA.
We look upon you with great hope to do the best needful and oblige.
Thanking you and with warm regards
For and on behalf of
Tribal Welfare Society
Director for East Zone.
Copy forwarded to
1. By Email to District Magistrate, Purulia for information and with a request to to the best needful at the earliest.
2. By fax to Joint Secretary , NREGA Government of India, at Fax No: 011 2338 4703
3. The mail is also posted at Jharkhand Network.