“The Government took away all our fields and land, now they ask us to leave our homes”

Report by Dayamani Barla (above), translated by Vidya Jonnalagadda
The displaced people of Gurutoli and Paahantoli in Naamkom Block are eking out a living to put together a couple of modest meals a day by toiling as daily casual labor, and selling grass and country liquor. The financial constraints keep them from providing either decent education to their children or adequate treatment for their sick and ailing. There is no one at all to pay attention to these displaced folks. It seems that hunger, poverty, ill-health and flight (to the cities) is all that is left in their fate. Battling against financial difficulties, these women have themselves started to seek ways to provide timely medical treatment to their families, education to their children, and livelihood for themselves. They have organized into the Nayi Kiran Women’s Association to empower themselves. Under this scheme, each member contributes five rupees a week towards a Women’s Fund. These displaced women have determined to solve their problems themselves.
The President of this Association, Kavita Sanga, the Vice-President, Muni Sanga, and Treasurers Rani Sanga and Susanna Dungdung say, “The lives of the people have been devastated by the Government under the name of establishing Army Cantonment. They have no means to earn a living”. The women say that they now have to resolve their problems themselves. Anita Devi of Gurutoli told us “The Government has taken away our fields and land, and now the Government does not even want to talk about our difficulties”. Anita says that she does not at all wish to sell country liquor, but she has no other means of earning a living at all. Casual labor, working as a coolie or other laborer, and selling country liquor are the only vocations open to them. Karmi Devi said that her husband works, but is an alcoholic. He squanders away all his earnings. “We have four children, we need to educate them and arrange for their weddings; this is why each month I deposit five rupees a week in the Women’s Association”, she said.
Sarita Devi of Gurutoli said that upon being uprooted from the land, they were confronted with the predicament of finding sources of livelihood. “In the absence of any other employment, most of the women are selling country liquor. This is destroying the village”. She said that they want to undertake some other employment to halt this deterioration of their village and community. That is why the women have organized to save five rupees per week. Sarita added, “My husband works as a coolie and drinks moderately. That is why we are able to raise four children”. Javaa Tirkee told us, “Our agricultural lands have been taken away by the Government, so what can we do now!” She told us that her husband Rajesh Tirkee also works as a coolie, and she herself goes to Ranchi at times to work as casual labor. They manage to run their household thus. Malatee Sanga said, “Our farms and fields were taken away by the Government, now they ask us to leave our homes too”. She said that they are trying to educate their four children by working as coolies and casual laborers. Relating her sad tale, Puso Sanga said that their farm-fields were taken away by the Government. She also used to work as a casual laborer to run her household, but since the past seven years or so, she has been suffering from a chest disease (heart palpitations). That is why she cannot do any manual labor. Her husband Lakhan Sanga and one son work as coolies. She added that since the past six months her husband Lakhan has contracted tuberculosis. One of her sons, Babloo, is also sick from the past 15 years. Puso told us that they need a thousand to twelve hundred rupees per month for the medical treatment of the three of them. Asks Puso, “Should we run the household, or educate the children, or treat the ill?” Agitated by sorrow, she questions, “Jharkhand became a separate State (from Bihar), but what did we people get? The big-wigs got enthroned on the political power-seats; there is no one to enquire after the poor”. She said, “We got a separate Jharkhand State, now we should get back the land snatched away from the aadivasis (tribals)”. Let is be known that during the Second World War, land from several villages in the Naamkom Block was appropriated by the Army. There was no resettlement given to the displaced, no jobs, and no suitable compensation. Today all they have been given is some place to live under a Stay Offer.
“Tribals are becoming a minority in their own state!”
Jharkhand, a natural resource, mineral -rich region is sadly, also ‘rich’ in the ways and kinds of exploitation against tribal societies that live in these regions. Dayamani Barla’s is an inspiring story of a tribal woman who decided to stand up and campaign for issues that continue to erase, erode and impoverish tribal societies in Jharkhand in the name of development.
Dayamani, educated at the Ranchi University, has been writing articles in Hindi in regular newspapers and magazines like Prabhat Khabhar for the last ten years. Her writings powerfully articulate the exploitation faced by tribal communities, especially women. She strongly believes that by taking the voices of the tribal communities to the common public on issues of tribal women’s empowerment, health, local self-governance and on Government’s Tribal policies, common people can be made aware of the real situations on the ground and thus participate and influence development policies in the right direction.
She has been a powerful campaigner working shoulder-to-shoulder with the community on different issues ranging from eviction of tribals due to the Koel Karo Project, hazards of Uranium mining to forced prostitution of tribal women.
A recipient of the Counter Media Award for Better Rural Journalism (2000) and the National Foundation for India Fellowship (2004), Dayamani runs a local tea-shop for a regular living which she claims is also one of the best places to listen to the ‘voices of the people’!

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