Shankargarh, an area falling in Allahabad district, has gained notoriety for being in news for all the wrong reasons. This area is infamous for illegal sand mining. If that’s not enough labourers in this area keep dying due to consumption of cheap liquor. We also often hear about fatal road accidents happening in this area, which make many families lose their only bread earner. Very recently, a police officer posted in Bara Tehsil of Allahabad was murdered by dreaded criminals in this region. And now it’s in limelight again after suicide of a worker named Ramesh Tiwari previous week. He was working for Bara Power Project, managed by Prayagraj Power Generation, a subsidiary company under aegis of Jaypee Group,
The exact reason for his suicide remains unknown. It’s learnt that he was working at this power plant since last two years. For past one year, he had allegedly been irregular at work due to medical reasons. His falling physical and mental health did not permit him to gain regularity, leading to financial crisis at his home. Incidentally at the same period a group of farmers, who had previously registered their protest for land acquisition done for construction of this power plant, entered into fresh sit-in-protests at the head office of this company situated at Bara Tehsil. Among many demands the most pressing was regularization of workers who have been working at this power plant. They also demanded for hike in their salary. To avoid the confrontation between management and workers attaining a vulgar shape, a meeting was convened by the company which made workers, management and local government officials sit together to solve the impending crisis arisen out of sit-in-protest. However, the talks failed. That led to pale of gloom among the workers.
It appears that Ramesh Tiwari on hearing about failure of talks became hugely depressed and before anybody could think of making him gain normalcy, he committed suicide. The farmers who were already agitated in regard to sad developments lost their cool on hearing about death of this Ramesh Tiwari-a farmer turned worker! They took possession of the dead body, not allowing the police officials to carry out the regular process. In the form of procession, they all reached to company’s main gate and there they staged a dharna (sit-in-protest) placing the dead body there. They wanted to have dialogue with company’s officials to seek assurances about proper compensation and job guarantee to one member of the deceased family. Strangely none of the officials of this company thought about diffusing the latest crisis. The company officials did not arrive on the spot to have words with the demonstrators.
Soon huge number of police officials appeared with Sub Divisional Magistrate who first ordered mild lathicharge, followed by the order to forcibly take into possession dead body of the worker. That’s how body was sent for postmortem. It’s a tragic coincidence that few weeks ago at the same power plant a welder named Lal Bahadur Singh met with serious accident. After preliminary treatment at local hospital, he got hospitalized in Allahabad, wherein he succumbed to his injuries. That time too workers had gone berserk, forcing the management to grant compensation of Rs Ten Lakhs.
This is travesty of natural justice that farmers who were first made to give up their lands in name of land acquisition are being made to face this sort of animalistic treatment once they have decided to be part of power plant as workers. They would have never imagined about receiving this sort of discriminatory behaviour, This area is also reeling under environmental crisis after this power plant came into operation. Many serious health issues seem to have started bothering residents of this area. However, people who made many sacrifices to make this power plant a reality, have been left at the mercy of fate!! In case of Ramesh Tiwari, an official of this company, on condition of anonymity, said that this worker had already left this company few months back and thus management can do nothing about him.
This has become order of the day that MNCs and some well-known Indian companies are prone to act of omission and commission in wake of fatal accidents occurring on their premises. Their immediate effort is to sweep the incident under the carpet. At this point I come to remember tragic death of Ambika, who died on 31st October, 2010. She was a permanent employee of Nokia Telecom Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Sriperumbadur in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu. She met with fatal accident after she was allegedly compelled to work at panel loading machine in the factory. Originally she was handling task assigned to a assembly line worker and she did not at all have the expertise to get involved with technical task associated with panel loading machine. Unfortunately, call her bad luck that she met with terrible accident which killed her. A joint investigation by State Labour Commissioner and Factories Inspectorate swung into action but management at that point of time decided to play safe by engaging in shrewd manipulations.
Coming back to suicide of this worker, I am not sure what’s going to be the fate of this case. However, right now the situation remains tense in Bara Tehsil of Allahabad. Shankargarh area is once again in grip of volatile developments. Let’s hope Ramesh Tiwari gets justice. Let it not be one of the cases wherein death gets unnoticed.
( With inputs from Shri Rajendra Mishra, Human Rights Activist And Senior Journalist, Kashiwarta,Varanasi )