Farmers resort to indefinite chakkajam

Rautahat, August 10

Farmers continued their protest against damage to their paddy by toxic chemicals discharged from an industrial plant into a local river, in Rautahat, today.

Demanding action against Jyoti Distillery located at Pipara Pokhariya in Katahariya Rural Municipality, the agitating farmers started an indefinite chakkajam today at Shukadev Chowk along the Gaur-Chandranigahapur road section.

The farmers had started their protest last Thursday.

They have also sought compensation for their damaged crops and a long-term solution to the problem. No vehicles plied the route today after farmers enforced the strike from early morning.

Paddy planted in around 2,000 bigaha in Durga Bhagawati and Madhav Narayan rural municipalities and in a few wards of Gaur Municipality was damaged by toxic chemicals discharged from the distillery into the local Jhanj River.

“As the local administration remained apathetic to initiating action against the distillery even after we lodged a written complaint with it regarding the issue, we had no option other than to take to the streets,” Birendra Sah, a farmer from Durga Bhagawati Rural Municipality said.

On his part, the plant operator Baiju Prasad Babara said he was ready to pay compensation if it was proved that the paddy died due to the ‘liquid’ discharge from his plant.

Chief District Officer Uddhav Bahadur Thapa said investigation into the case is under way. “We’ve collected details about the damage and also sent soil samples of the fields in question to the centre for lab test,” he said.

Two years ago, in a similar incident, the local administration had slapped 82.215 million rupees  fine on Birta-based Baba Distillery and Garuda-based Shreeram Sugar Mills after paddy planted in thousands of bigaha in their vicinity was damaged by toxic chemicals discharged from the plants into a local river. The farmers whose crops were damaged are, however, yet to get compensation after the plant owners filed a writ at the Appellate Court in Hetauda.