Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Plantation wars: Orissa Dalits driven to despair

Sampad Mahapatra

Tuesday, August 17, 2004 (Goradijhari):

It has been seven years since 41 landless Dalit families in a village in Orissa's Khurda district were allotted 82 acres of cashew plantation by the government under the Economic Rehabilitation of the Rural Poor.

However, it has been a tough battle to retain this high cash yielding land.

A few weeks ago, their whole crop was destroyed and the police doesn't appear to be helping despite the fact that the Orissa High Court has already intervened three times to protect the rights of these families.

Livelihood destroyed

"It's been our bread and butter. When we heard of the felling on the night of July 27, I went there, but Laxmidhar Das took out his revolver and threatened to kill me," said Rabi Behera an affected farmer.

"The reason behind the felling is to discredit us and deprive us of our rights over the plantation. What else?" added another.

Orissa HC steps in

Apparently a local land mafia has been eyeing these plantations to such an extent that two years ago, the Orissa High Court had to order the police to protect the land.

However, the police could not prevent the attack last month as they were stationed a distance from the plantations.

"Because it was nighttime, we still don't know who was actually responsible for the felling. However, we are investigating the matter and we will be taking steps as per the law," assured Arun Kumar Sarangi, SP, Khurda.

The plantations bring these 41 families an annual income of Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000. While the law takes its course, even this income is lost to them.

Source: NDTV, August 17, 2004

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