Industrial area plan faces backlash from former Kamaiyas and landless in BankeAround 500 households living on the proposed site at Baijanath Rural Municipality for generations demand that the government first manage housing for them.
The residents of Baijanath Rural Municipality in Banke are protesting the government’s decision to set up an industrial area in the local unit. They claim that the land proposed for the industrial area has been used by freed Kamaiyas (bonded labourers) and landless people for years.
Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supply Lekhraj Bhatta recently laid the foundation stone for the industrial area in Baijanath.
“We are not against the establishment of an industrial area in our rural municipality. All we want is for the authorities to manage land and housing for the hundreds of impoverished families who have been staying in the area for decades. What kind of Loktantra is it to ignore the people’s problems and forcefully implement its decision?” said Subas BC, the chairman of Naubasta Industrial Area Victims’ Settlement Management Struggle Committee.
Around 500 households are a part of the struggle committee.
The government had announced that it would set up an industrial area in 525 bighas of land in Baijanath seven years ago. Out of the total land cover, 338 bighas are unoccupied while the remaining land is home to several settlements of freed Kamaiyas and landless squatters.
The district administration, people’s representatives and local leaders claim that the dispute regarding the land has already been solved. But members of the struggle committee say they are convinced that the government will manage housing for the families likely to be affected by the project.
The protesting locals demand that the authorities first manage housing for the concerned families before the industrial area is set up. Kul Bahadur Shahi of Baijanath said that the government has seized the settlements of the freed Kamaiyas and landless people in the name of industrial development.
“The authorities concerned have assured the families of resettlement. But the details are yet to be discussed. The government should manage the resettlement first before beginning works on the project,” said Shahi. According to him, his family has been staying in the Naubasta industrial area since 1966.
The struggle committee claims that the authorities prepared the Detailed Project Report and Environment Impact Assessment by ignoring their issue.
Nautan Tharu, a 67-year-old freed Kamaiya who has been living in the area for the last three generations, is anxious about his family’s future.
“The government had settled us here after our liberation. But the land is about to be seized. Where should we go now?” said Tharu.
The Industrial Area Management Limited, however, claims that it will take over the land of the protesting villagers gradually.
“Works will begin in the unoccupied land first. The settlements that lie in the industrial area will be resettled within six months,” said Nanda Kishwor Basnet, the chairman of the Industrial Area Management Limited. According to him, the issues of the protesting villagers will be resolved with the help of the Land Problems Resolution Commission. Basnet said the construction of the industrial area would be completed within two years at the cost of Rs 9 billion.