MAC: Mines and Communities

Realities Belie Claims On Rehabilitation

Published by MAC on 2007-01-15

Realities Belie Claims on Rehabilitation

Statesman News Service

JAGATSINGHPUR, Jan. 15:

The reason behind increasing number of resistance movements against land acquisition for mega projects in places such as Kalinga Nagar, Keonjhar, Kasipur and Lanjigarh is the disgraceful track record of the state government in rehabilitating and resettling the displaced people.

And the criminal neglect in handling such issues right from the four-decade-old Hirakud dam oustees' rehabilitation problem to the more recent Oil refinery project or NINL have all sowed the seeds of distrust towards government among the people. Not a single soul is willing to buy the latest R&R policy promised by the Naveen Patnaik government ~ claimed to be one of the best in the country ~ as has been proved by the latest in the series of resistance movement.

While most of those facing displacement cannot relate to the half a century-old Hirakud project issue, they do have glaring instances virtually next to their plot of land. They have seen, like in Kalinga Nagar area, people ousted by NINL or Mesco turning into migrant labourers, rickshaw pullers or even beggars.

Promises were even made at that point of time and are once again being reeled out now by the government. But locals are unwilling to be bitten twice and they refuse to trust or believe the government. The latest resistance brewing in the proposed Essar steel project area is a bright example of this. Families living in the proposed Essar Steel project area have vowed not to concede their land holdings, adding yet another bother to the district administration which has failed over 18 months to acquire land for the Posco project.

They want the Naveen Patnaik government to come and search for the families who had been displaced by the administration for the OSWAL Chemical and Fertilizer Plant which has now been taken over by IFFCO. "Let the government tell us about the whereabouts and plight of the families who were displaced for the project," villagers said.

People living in Bijayachandpur, Mushadiha, Nuagada and other villages of Kujang block were displaced for the Oswal plant. They were initially provided with work under Balaji Construction Company. Some of them worked as contract labourers and a few years later, the company retrenched them.

Mr Sudrasan Swain, one such victim, said he used to earn Rs 6,000 to 7,000 per month but after he had been retrenched he is struggling to sustain his family. "My wife is forced to work as a domestic servant," he said.

When IFFCO took over the factory, these people were retrenched and hence, the IFFCO did not consider their demand for jobs. There are at least 90 such families which have been left in the lurch. Now the locals have formed Orissa Krushi and Gramin Mazdoor Association to oppose displacement and land acquisition for the proposed Essar Steel plant. Secretary of Mazodor association Mr Benudhar Jena draws people's attention to the plight of the 90 families which are struggling for livelihood and as per rules, do not even figure in the proposed list of displaced people . Meanwhile, the farmers of Bijayachandpur, Udyabat, Biswali, Paradipgarh, Bhutmundai and Nuagarh have united and formed Paradip Krushak Manch under the presidentship of Mr Kapil Chandra Samantray. The Manch held a meeting in Paradip and threatened to stop the steel project if their demands were not fulfilled. They have demanded proper rehabilitation and resettlement. They want even the encroachers to be put under the rubric of the displaced since several families are living on government land in Bijayachandpur and Udayabat.

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