Illegal mining, water crisis, displacement major issues in Dhanbad constituency

The coal city of Jharkhand, Dhanbad, situated on the banks of Damodar River, is the largest producer of coal in India and has the largest coal mines of India, Jharia. Here, life starts with coal mines and ends with coal mines.

Amidst nature’s unlimited bounties and blessings, the constituency has numerous problems like illegal mining, water crisis, displacement of people for mining, rehabilitation of underground fire victims (in Jharia), naxal insurgency including others remain as main issues in this Lok Sabha election.

The constituency goes to the poll on May 12 along with its neighbouring constituency Giridih and Jamshedpur. A total of 20 candidates are in the poll fray for Dhanbad LS seat.

Dhanbad Lok Sabha constituency covers few parts of the Bokaro district besides Dhanbad district and it comprises six Assembly Constituencies — Bokaro (36), Chandankiyari (37), Sindri (38), Nirsa (39), Dhanbad (40) and Jharia (41).

A total of 20,49,181 voters will cast their votes under the Dhanbad Lok Sabha constituency, which includes 11,09,541 male and 9,35,243 female voters, while 27 transgender and 4,379 are service voters. About 23,000 voters in the Dhanbad LS constituency will use their votes for the first time in this LS poll.

As of 2011 India provisional census, Dhanbad had a population of 26,84,487 with 14,05,956 male constitute 53 per cent of the population and 12,78,531 females who share 47 per cent of the total population. It has a sex ratio of 908 and the average literacy rate is 80.78 per cent which is higher than the national average of 74.04 per cent.

The constituency has remained a BJP bastion for most of the times in the past. In Dhanbad Lok Sabha Constituency the contest is between PN Singh the sitting MP of BJP and Kriti Azad fighting on Congress ticket.

PN Singh, three-time MLA (1995, 2000 and 2005) from Dhanbad and two-times MP from Dhanbad LS seat (in 2009 and again in 2014).

Kirti Azad (Darbhanga MP) has recently quit BJP and joined the Congress. Azad, a former cricketer and son of Bihar’s former Chief Minister Bhagwat Jha Azad, has won Darbhanga Lok Sabha seat thrice for the BJP.

It is worth mentioning here that in 2014, PN Singh had registered a thumping victory with a margin of more than 2.92 lakh votes. Congress’ Ajay Kumar Dubey who had contested against him was placed second. The poll percentage in 2014 election was 60.59 per cent. The Grand Old party won the seat in recent past in 2004 when Chandrashekhar Dubey alias Dadai Dubey bagged the seat. Congress and BJP have been locked the horn since last two decades on the seat.

Incidents of house and mines cave-in, trapping of lives inside the illegal mines and heap of coal slurry are common in this region. As the areas have several mines, illegal mining is also rampant. Land subsidence and underground inferno are the major threats here. Underground inferno raging since over 90 years in the various localities of Dhanbad district not only fears for the local residents but also poses a stern threat to the railway track (Chandrapura-Dhanbad), four lanes Grand Trunk (GT) Road and National Highways.

Underground inferno resulted in huge loss of ‘prime coking coal’- used for manufacturing Steel; the biggest challenge for the government. According to the study conducted by IIT (ISM), Dhanbad, out of total reserve of about 5 billion tonnes nearly 2 billion tonnes of prime coking coal of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) in Jharia Coalfield trapped under earth due to the inferno. It might be assumed that over 50 million tonnes of coal worth of about 3000 crore have already been lost. The study (in the year 2010) which also reveals that estimated 50MT coal has already been lost and about 2000 MT coal is locked and cannot be accomplished due to the underground inferno.

The study also reveals the shocking truth that inferno has a devastating effect on the environment and about 17.32 sq kms area of Jharia coalfield has become sterile and barren.

Huge opencast and underground mines are threatening the health and homes of thousands hear at Jharia. Villages or slums like Bokapahadi, Kujama, Ghanudih, Baghdighi, Jairampur, are mining areas in and around Jharia where hundreds of families live above the fire. The land beneath their feet is hot and everywhere smoke and sulfurous gases escape from thousands of fissures and cracks.

Meanwhile, Jharia Rehabilitation Development Authority (JRDA) mulling hard to resettle the Jharia fire victims soon in pre-fabricated houses.

The families affected with underground fire and land subsidence under Jharia coalfield area would be rehabilitated in the houses erected by prefab technology. At least 40 thousand houses (flats) would be constructed with prefab technology in the next four years to rehabilitate them, informed an official. For the implementation of this project, consultants from IIT Chennai and Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) a unit of government of India will be appointed shortly. The construction work will be allotted through a global tender process after the approval HPCC.

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