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Dalmianagar’s Eviction Crisis: Families Face Uncertain Future

Reported By Umesh Kumar Ray |
Published On :

Asha Devi is in fear. She does not know where she will go with her three children, husband and old father in law in this rainy season.

“During the monsoon season, even the bird’s nest is not destroyed, but we have been told to vacate the house,” says 40-year-old Asha Devi.

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“This quarter is our only home. Everything is here. My husband was born here. My marriage took place here in Dalmianagar. Our third generation is living here. We have nothing in the village. Where will we go after leaving this quarter?,” she asks.

Theirs is not an isolated struggle, as over 1,400 families in Dalmianagar are facing a similar predicament.

Local youth Vishnukant Jha lives in another quarter of Dalmianagar industrial town. His maternal grandfather Binda Jha would work in the sugar factory here. Vishnukant was born and grew up here. Currently, He is working as a data operator in the registry office, earning Rs 6500 as salary. Along with this, he prepares for government jobs. Vishnukant has filled up applications for government jobs

“I have nothing in my village. Dalmianagar is everything. Our postal address is Dalmianagar. I have applied for government jobs with a Dalmianagar address. If we are evicted from here and meanwhile the admit card for the exam arrives, how will we get it,” he said.

Jha says, “When we got the news that the quarters would have to be vacated, my mother fell ill due to worry.”

Asha Devi’s father-in-law used to work in a factory in Dalmianagar. Ever since the factory closed, he has been working at a construction site. Asha Devi’s husband Prem Soni works with an electrician.

She says angrily, “When the factory was closed, we would have been told at that time that ‘we should leave from here’, then we would have gone somewhere else, would have made some arrangements. The quarter was dilapidated, so we spent Rs. 50-60 thousand to make it livable.”

Dalmianagar industries closed in 1984

Dalmianagar, nestled along the Son River, was once a thriving industrial hub, courtesy of Ramkrishna Dalmia, the founder of Dalmia Group. Combining several villages, he established Rohtas Industries Limited, encompassing industries like paper, sugar, steel, and more. The town boasted schools, colleges, and even an airport, becoming one of India’s oldest and largest industrial centers.

After flourishing for five decades, Dalmianagar began a downward spiral around 1970, witnessing the closure of its industrial units one by one. The crucial turning point came on September 9, 1984, when all factories ceased operations. Over 12,000 workers were left jobless, and the company declared bankruptcy, leading to legal battles.

On August 4, 2023, the Patna High Court issued a definitive order for the eviction of all residents from 1,471 quarters by August 30, 2023. Assistant Official Liquidator Mohit Kumar stated that this mandate is part of a broader plan to vacate the quarters and subsequently auction the vacant land.

Residents living in these quarters, although modest in size and deteriorating, have made them their homes over generations. Despite the challenging conditions and lack of facilities, they vehemently oppose eviction, as these quarters hold immense sentimental value.

Unresolved Dues and Allegations

The company owes its former employees a substantial sum, with claims reaching six and a half billion rupees. Former workers insist that only a fraction of their dues has been paid, and they continue to pursue legal avenues for full repayment, alleging that interest on the outstanding amount is substantial.

In 2009, the then liquidator JC Yadav, had calculated that the company owed Rs 6.5 billion to the ex employees. The court had ordered to pay this outstanding amount by selling the assets of the company.

Siyaram Singh Yadav, head of Sangharshsheel Shramik Sangh in Dalmianagar, would work in the company’s paper mill, claimed, “On the court order, only 10 percent of the money was given to the employees. About 90 percent of the money is still due.”

60 year-old Yadav says, “I have filed a writ in the court on September 11 for payment of the balance dues,” said.

Kiran Kunwar’s husband Gaya Singh used to work as a security guard in the company. He retired in 1996 and died four years later in 2000. Now her only support is one room in the quarter.

“Whatever little land we had in our ancestral village, we sold and survived till now. Now there is nothing there. This one room quarter of Dalmianagar is my only property. Orders have been given to leave this also. Where do we go now?,” he said.

Accusing the company of cheating, she said, “The company owed Rs 6 lakh to my husband, but we got only Rs 60,000 so far.”

Virendra Kumar’s father also worked in the company. He says, “My father’s Rs 500,000 was due to the company but so far we got just Rs 50,000.”

Sanjay Singh’s father Bhola Singh was working in the company’s power house. “We were to get Rs 7 lakh from the company but till now we have received just Rs 70 thousand.”

Siyaram Singh Yadav says, “If the interest on the outstanding amount is added, a huge amount is made for the employees.”

Assistant Official Liquidator Mohit Kumar termed these allegations of former employees as baseless. “The dues of all the former employees have been cleared,” he added.

Community’s Plea for Intervention

Former employees say that instead of auctioning in the open market, the land should be sold to them, so that they do not have to leave.

Though, earlier, some quarters were auctioned, but people allege that transparency was not maintained in it and land of most of the quarters was bought by outsiders.

“72 quarters were auctioned on some occasions in the past, but due to the connivance of an official conducting the auction process, most of the quarters were bought by outsiders, many of whom are his acquaintances,” said a local on condition of anonymity.

On the question of selling the quarters to the ex-employees, Assistant Official Liquidator Mohit Kumar says, “No such order has been given by the Patna High Court, so we cannot do anything.”

Shiv Gandhi, a local resident and president of Youth India, says, “PM Modi had talked about building houses for the poor and here so many families are being evicted from their homes. He should take cognizance of this.”

Shiv Gandhi is uniting locals against the eviction and collecting signatures of people living in the quarters. He said the signatures would be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“PM Modi has given the slogan of Har Ghar Tiranga on the occasion of independence day. When there is no house left, where will the tricolor be hoisted?” he asks.

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Umesh Kumar Ray started journalism from Kolkata and later came to Patna via Delhi. He received a fellowship from National Foundation for India in 2019 to study the effects of climate change in the Sundarbans. He has bylines in Down To Earth, Newslaundry, The Wire, The Quint, Caravan, Newsclick, Outlook Magazine, Gaon Connection, Madhyamam, BOOMLive, India Spend, EPW etc.

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