MAC: Mines and Communities

Arcelor Mittal's Orissa Steel Plant Runs Into Controversy

Published by MAC on 2007-01-15

Arcelor Mittal's Orissa Steel Plant Runs into Controversy

15th January 2007

Barely a few weeks after Arcelor Mittal signed an MOU with the Orissa government to set up a 12 million tone steel plant in the Keonjhar district of Orissa, the project has run into controversy.

Phulamani, an affected tribal, says, "We will not allow Mittal steel to come up here. We will not give away our lands as they are our only source of livelihood. No matter what money the government or Mittal steel gives we will fight against it till the end."

This is just one among the angry voices of the thousands of villagers at Patna Tehsil in Keonjhar district of Orissa where the 40 thousand crore worth 12 million tonne Mittal steel plant is proposed to come up.

These angry villagers from the 17 villages demonstrated a protest rally to Keonjhar District Collector's office demanding that their land should not be acquired for the Mittal steel plant for which the Orissa government has already signed an MOU with Mittal steel.

BB Mohapatra, Collector at Keonjhar, comments, "In the memorandum they gave us, they demand that since it is a multi crop fertile irrigated land this should not be handed over for the project."

Hrudayaballav Rout, a member of the Bistaphan Birodhi Manch, says, "This is the ultimatum we are giving to the government. If they want to set up plant, they should look for barren land not ours."

But what has made the matter worse is the Chief Minister's decision that he would be providing only one crop land for SEZ [Special Economic Zone]. Mittal Steel has sought SEZ status for the project where the lands the people say are multi crop, fertile and irrigated.

The Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, says, "In rural areas we will give only one crop land for SEZ and we are going very carefully on the matter. In the Mittal steel case we will go according to rules."

Though the Orissa government is yet to demarcate the exact land that would be acquired for the project, the Patna Tehsil area has been chosen for the project which is one of the biggest ambitious project of the Orissa government apart from South Korean steel plant Posco at Paradeep in Orissa.

The Orissa government has been telling that it has the best Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy for the affected people. But going by the protest in Keonjhar against the Arcelor Mittal project it seems the affected people do not believe the claim of the Orissa Government.
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