Dhanbad's dirty 'black diamond'
More than 30 years after veteran film-maker Yash Chopra made a multi-starrer block-buster Kaala Patthar, which showcased illegal coal trafficking in and around Dhanbad brilliantly, the coal mafioso in Jharkhand still rule by the barrel of the gun.
The movie, which starred Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha (as coal labourers), Shashi Kapoor (a mining engineer) and Prem Chopra (a coal mafia) depicted the plight of those who worked in coal mines.
After the nationalisation of mines in the 70s, Coal India Limited (CIL) came into existence and took over the private coal mines. But three decades down the line, illegal coal trafficking is still rampant in Dhanbad. According to a report prepared by XLRI, Jamshedpur, Rs 700 crore of illegal coal trade takes place right under the nose of the administration. It is the control of this vast amount of illegal trafficking which leads to the killing of one coal mafia don after another, year after year.
Sample this: 2002: A dreaded coal mafia Sushanto Sen Gupta is shot dead by unidentified gunmen near Dhanbad in Jharkhand. Marxist Coordination Committee (MCC) MLA Arup Chatterjee is one of the named accused.
Status: Probe on.
2004: A prominent coal trader Pramod Singh is killed. Former minister Bachcha Singh, brother of original coal mafia Surajdeo Singh (who created the framework, culture and ground rules for the Dhanbad coal mafia and was a close associate of former prime minister Chandrashekhar), is an accused. Rajiv Ranjan Singh, son of Surajdeo, is also made a co-accused.
Status: CBI investigation underway.
2006: Rajiv Ranjan Singh is kidnapped and murdered in one of the bloodiest battle for one-upmanship in coal belt of Jharkhand.
Status: CBI probe on.
Sushanto was gunned down as he was believed to be involved in the killing of MCC MLA Gurudas Chatterjee. Later, Sushanto’s wife Aparna used the killing as an opportunity to turn the tide in her favour and won the Assembly election from Nirsa as a Forward Block nominee.
But then, Aparna is not the only one from coal trade industry to enter the hurly-burly of politics. The original don Surajdeo Singh, flaunting his proximity to Chandrashekhar, used his clout to run his fiefdom. It is believed that his men still extort Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 for every truck that carries coal outside the sprawling, decrepit mines. And no body dare stop this illegal trafficking. Such is the influence of Singh, that after his demise, his wife Kunti Singh was elected MLA from Jharia. His brother Bachcha Singh too became a legislator and was the urban development minister in the previous regime of Arjun Munda.
Whenever a “boss” dies or “settles down” in politics, a replacement would be waiting in the wings to keep the loot flowing.
The state, which is rich in mineral resources, has around 200 mines, including open cast mines. Of these, 66 mines happen to be in and around Dhanbad. According to one rough estimate, nearly 50,000 people are directly or indirectly involved in illegal mining in Jharkhand. This happens mostly in Kusunda Colliery, Jharia Colliery and Putaki Balihari Colliery. Sources in the district said that nearly 500 persons, engaged in illegal coal trafficking, die every year in mishaps. But strangely, no body comes forward to claim their bodies for fear of being arrested.
The bodies lie discarded. As the abandoned mines.
No wonder, our own Bihari Babu Shatrughan Sinha had produced a movie Kalka in early 80s to show the plight of coal labourers. But the movie, in which Shatru was the main protagonist, too was abandoned. What should be borne in mind is that Dhanbad’s mafia has always been, and always will be, ambitious, and would be willing to risk everything for the power and riches.