Reporters Find Dozens of State-Sponsored Projects at Assam's 'Eviction Site' Villages
By: Aditi Barnwal
Successive Assam governments, including that of BJP's Sarbananda Sonowal, had flooded villages in the Sipajhar area of Darrang district with facilities such as electricity, reasonably priced shops, banks and schools before the proverbial long arm of the current Himanta Biswa Sarma administration fell upon them, investigative reports by various media houses reveal.
According to The Wire’s ground report, the displaced people in the villages of Dhalpur I, II and III are in awe of the retaliatory measures taken by the state after the government “legitimized” their settlements by implementing various development projects over decades.
While visiting the three affected villages, a PTI correspondent saw numerous facilities created by the government, including toilets built as part of the Center's Swachh Bharat Mission.
There are five Aadhaar centres on the riverine island of Dhalpur, which provides people marked as "trespassers" by the Union with a permanent address on their unique IDs. According to various reports, around 1,2001,400 houses were razed on the island, and more than 7,000 people were made homeless on two different occasions during the past week.
During the evacuation operation, which took place amid fierce resistance from residents, two were shot dead by police on September 24, including a 12-year-old boy, who received his first proof of identity, an Aadhaar card, shortly before he was shot. More than 20 people were injured, including police officers.
“After 1983, the government began to recognize us as eroded people displaced from various flood-prone lower districts of Assam. In the years that followed, they gave us electricity,” said Safer Ali, whose house in Dhalpur III was demolished on September 23, to PTI. He added that “The government also built several houses under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana (PMGAY), formerly known as Indira Awas Yojana. They gave us solar panels and built septic baths in our houses, all under the latest BJP administration.”
The largest of the state facilities is the Dhalpur Bhetibazar Char Primary Health Centre, which has several concrete houses on more than 1,000 square metres.
“In the entire Dhalpur area that is marked for evacuation, we have a large number of government facilities including three health centres, 38 primary schools, two ME schools, 42 Anganwadis and 13 stores at fair prices,” Faizur Rahman of Dhalpur I said to The Wire.
When he was contacted, Darrang Deputy Commissioner Prabhati Thaosen said to The Indian Express that the government was investigating how many state-sponsored facilities have sprung up in Dhalpur.
Rafikul Islam, a teacher at the government-run Paschim Chuba Lower Primary School, told the paper that his house was demolished, but the school building near his house was not touched. “The officials who attended the eviction said that from now on they will not demolish any public property. What logic is that? The school is also in the invaded land but did they just demolish my house? That means my house could have been saved too,” he said.
DC Thaosen, for his part, said that the administration had just “completed the evacuation of the disputed land” and that there is still a lot of work “to be done”.
As part of the ambitious Gorukhuti agricultural project, for which the clean-up operation was carried out, the Assam government has allocated Rs 9.60 billion in the current budget to implement modern agricultural techniques and scientific husbandry practices for animals on 77,420 Bighas of land in the Sipajhar region.
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