Tribal women in Odisha attempt mass suicide over rail track construction

The women alleged the track was being constructed without compensating tribals in the area for their land

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Tuesday 07 January 2020

Police thwarted attempts by 50 tribal women to commit suicide in protest against the construction of the Sukinda-Anugul-Duburi railway line on their lands in Odisha’s Jajpur district on January 7, 2020.

The incident happened at the Rangahudi, Bagharaisahi and Duburi villages under the Kalinganagar police station of Jajpur district.

“Around 50 tribal women came to the railway track construction site and threatened to commit suicide. They also tried to prevent construction work from taking place. However, the police were able to stop them,” Additional Superintendent of Police of Kalinganagar, Rajkishor Dora, said.

The tribal people alleged that the authorities had recently started construction of the railway line on their land without their consent.

“We have been opposing the construction of the track as the railway authorities are trying to build it over our land without paying proper compensation. We decided to commit suicide by pouring kerosene on ourselves. But the officials seized it and assaulted us,” Pramila Mohant of Rangahudi village, said.  

Like Pramila, several  tribal people whose lands had been acquired for the railway line project have alleged that they have not been compensated for their land and have threatened mass suicide if they are not given due compensation and land in other areas.

“The ecology of our village will be destroyed if the authorities build a railway line. The railway construction company has been illegally quarrying soil in our village as a result of which, many villagers are facing problems. The authorities have no right to acquire our land for the railway line project without paying us proper compensation,” Golapa Mohant of Bagharasahi village, said.

The 102-kilometre-long Anugul-Sukinda railway line project will connect coal fields in Talcher to the Banspani-Sukinda line. It will aid the movement of coal and iron ore in two directions.

“The railway line will be a reliable economic and faster alternative for passenger transport. It will serve Angul, Jajpur and Dhenkanal districts. But some villagers with an ulterior motive were trying to oppose the construction work on January 7,” Ranjan Kumar Das, the district collector of Jajpur, said.

“The railway authorities acquired government and private land for the project after paying proper compensation. The villagers of Duburi, Rangahudi and Bagharasahi have no right, title interest or possession over the land as the railway authorities are building the track over government land,” he added.     

Meanwhile, police have detained eight men on charges of opposing the railway line’s construction. Security has been tightened in the area to prevent any law and order situation. Five platoons of police have been deployed to check any untoward incident from happening.

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