FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Durgapur, April 28: A bullock cart laden with smuggled coal crushed to death a boy cycling home from school in Asansol’s Jamuria, triggering a road rage in which tonnes of coal and a police jeep were torched this morning.
Stones hurled by villagers left three policemen injured and at least seven protesters were hurt when the cops retaliated with their batons.
Illegal mining is rampant in the area and serpentine bullock cart convoys carrying smuggled coal ply through village roads all day after racketeers pay police for looking the other way.
The Telegraph had carried a series of articles exposing the rampant looting of coal in this belt. The villagers’ outburst today was fuelled by the ire against the police for their inaction on the racketeers.
Eleven-year-old Mohammad Ershad Rejjak was trying to overtake a convoy of five bullock carts around 11.30am when one of them changed direction and dashed against his cycle. “He fell in front of the wheels and was crushed to death instantly by the massive weight of the cart,” said Asgar Ali, a resident of Pariharpur who was resting under a tree when the mishap took place. A coal-laden bullock cart weighs up to 1.5 tonnes.
As the word spread, people came rushing. The cart drivers fled. The villagers unhitched the animals, toppled the carts and set them afire. Some of them also looted the coal.
As the police reached, the mob hurled bricks and coal at them. Outnumbered, the cops ran away, leaving the jeep behind. The villagers overturned the jeep and set it on fire.
“We are scared to leave our children on roads as the coal-laden carts ply round the clock. Instead of stopping the menace, the police collect bribes from the coal racketeers,” said Sheikh Bablu, a day labourer.
About 60 lakh tonnes of coal are allegedly mined illegally from the area every year. They feed hundreds of sponge iron and steel mills in Bengal and neighbouring Jharkhand.
Riaz Ansari, a day labourer, said Ershad was his only son. “I was working in the field when I heard shouts from nearby. I rushed there and saw a crowd surrounding a group of bullock carts. I took a closer look and saw my son lying dead,” said the sobbing father.
A large force led by Jamuria officer-in-charge Saikat Roy resorted to the lathicharge and allegedly fired in the air to disperse the mob. The police denied the firing and also the charge of supporting the illegal mining.
2 workers dead, Malda kilns flout HC order
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Malda, April 28: Two women were killed and a 40-year-old man was injured when a pile of bricks came tumbling on them while they were working in a kiln at Bagbari near here this morning.
According to police, kiln manager Yugal Kishor Tiklawala, supervisor Dilip Mukherjee and fire-in-charge of the kiln Brinda Sharif Yadav have been arrested after the accident.
A heap of bricks came crashing on the labourers while they were arranging baked bricks around 8am.
The deceased were Shila Mondal, 45, and Majera Bibi, 42.
Jallu Sheikh has been admitted to the district hospital.
Secretary of the Malda District Mango Traders’ Association Subodh Mishra alleged that brick kilns in the district were flouting the guidelines laid down by the high court.
“This is the season for mango and most of the kilns are by the side of the orchards. Smoke billowing out of the chimneys of the kilns cause immense damage to the fruits and the trees,” he said. The Bagbari kiln, too, is surrounded by mango orchards.
According to Mishra, the high court had passed an order in February 2009, which said kilns close to mango orchards should be closed for three months from March.
But, almost all such kilns in the district are open during these three months.
“We have brought the matter to the notice of the district land and land reforms department which issues licences to the kilns. A copy of the high court order is also lying with the department. But the authorities ignore it,” Mishra alleged. The deputy director of District Mango Development and Horticulture Department Goutam Roy said: “We have written to the department many times. But they are least bothered.”
Land and land reforms officer of the district Khagendranath Deu said all the kilns had been asked to remain shut from March to May. “It is the job of the police to see if the orders were being followed. We are not supposed to chase the kiln owners with lathis,” said Deu .
District superintendent of police Bhuban Mondal said: “It is the responsibility of the land reforms department to ensure that the kilns are closed for the specified period. If the department seeks our help to implement the orders, we shall extend our help.”
Amit Chatterjee, the owner of the kiln at Bagbari who is also the president of the District Brickfield Owners’ Association, said the next of the kin of the deceased would be given compensation.