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Nirsa, the Left bastion in Jharkhand


Late in the afternoon, there is hectic activity in the open-cast coal mine at Dahibadi in Jharkhand. Workers can be seen loading trucks before they slowly make their way up the massive open quarry. A 100 metres away, at the Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL)’s Basantimata colliery all is quiet except for the occasional sounds of a water pump.

Gopal Singh, the attendance clerk in shift ‘A’, says 104 mine workers are 1,500 metres underground. There are six hours to go before the shift ends. Both Singh and Birendra Ram, the Haulage Operator, working nearby turn philosophical when they speak of work. “This is a place of pure darkness,” says Ram. “Workers find a new life every time they emerge from the mine. It is a relief for all of us once the full shift comes out,” says Singh, in his late 50s. Every BCCL employee seems to know the histories of mine accidents from decades ago. “Nineteen workers drowned in Hurriladih when the mine got flooded on September 14, 1983. It was the same in Gajritand. In Chasnala, the entire shift of 370 workers died underground.”

At the Basantimata colliery, a few metres away from Mr. Singh’s small cabin, there was an accident just last year. On November 13, 2013, three workers — Harilal Hairjan, Litti Sau, Sitaram Manjhi — died when a portion of the mine’s roof collapsed. The sitting MLA, Arup Chatterjee of the Marxist Coordination Committee (MCC), spent six hours inside the mine coordinating the retrieval efforts after the body of a BCCL manager remained trapped a day after the three workers’ bodies had been removed.

Nirsa in Dhanbad district goes to the polls on December 14 in the fourth phase of elections in Jharkhand.

The MCC’s Bihar Colliery Kamgar Union (BKCU) and the rival Janta Mazdoor Sangh (JMS) both compete for cadre membership and workers’ votes. Both the MCC and the BKCU were formed in the early 1970s by A.K. Roy, founder of the Jharkhand Movement. Nirsa is one of two Assembly seats in Jharkhand the Left has been able to hold on to for the last two decades. The JMS was set up by former MLA Surya Dev Singh, whose son Sanjeev Singh is contesting from nearby Jharia on BJP ticket. The BJP candidate in Nirsa is Ganesh Mishra, an RSS functionary.

The rivalry between the two parties triggered clashes between the MCC and the BJP on December 11 in which MCC worker Machan Ravidas was killed hours before the MCC was to hold a rally at Pithakyari near Basantimata. “For us, this is a fight against growing corporate clout here and for the rights of the people of Jharkhand as Comrade A.K. Roy envisioned,” said Sushanto Mukherjee, MCC Central Committee member.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 8:12:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/jharkhand-assembly-polls-nirsa-the-left-bastion-in-jharkhand/article6689627.ece

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