MAC: Mines and Communities

Possible legal action on Kalinganagar

Published by MAC on 2006-01-19
Source: NewKerala (2006-03-19)

Possible legal action on Kalinganagar

by NewKerala / Bhubaneswar

19 January 2006

Just as Vedanta Resources plc announces it will likely completely construction of its illegal Orissa bauxite refinery in the next six months, calls are mounting to stop all work at Kalinganar, on the steel plant at the root of the massacre of tribal people, three weeks ago.

The Orissa High Court has served notice on the state government on the issue of displacement of people that led to the death of 12 tribals in police firing.

The court Tuesday decided to examine the conditions under which thousands of tribals were being displaced from the Kalinga Nagar industrial complex in Jajpur, 100 km from here, where the police firing took place.

In its notice, the court asked the government to clarify why status quo should not be maintained at the site, a government lawyer at the high court said.

The 12 tribals were killed Jan 2 when over 500 tribals clashed with police at the Kalinga Nagar complex while protesting constructions by the Tata Steel Company.

The tribals had alleged they were not adequately compensated for their land that the company wanted to acquire for its plant. One policeman was killed when the tribals attacked the force, prompting the cops to open fire at the protesters.

Leading social worker Shyam Sunder Das had filed a public interest petition in the high court after the incident seeking direction for maintenance of status quo at the construction site.

"To save further loss of life, we have sought the court's direction to stop construction work at the site because it will create a chaotic situation unless the grievances of the affected people are addressed and given due attention," Das said.

He alleged that on May 9, 2005, thousands of people were baton-charged when they opposed the prayer rituals to kick off a steel project of Maharashtra Seamless in the same complex.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) probed the incident and recommended rehabilitation of the tribals before taking over land for the proposed steel plant.

But without paying any heed to that, the state government allowed the construction by Tata Steel Company in the complex, he said.

The court asked the government to submit an Action Taken Report on the recommendations made by the NHRC after probing the May 9, 2005, violence in Kalinga Nagar, he said.

The court also asked the state to clarify its stand on the formation of a high-level committee with an eminent social worker as a member to formulate a rehabilitation and resettlement policy for the persons or families to be displaced by the establishment of the Tata Steel plant.

Kalinga Nagar at Duburi is a 12,000-acre complex where various industries propose to set up projects with a total capacity of 15 million tonnes.

While two companies - Nilachal Ispat Nigam Ltd and Mideast Integrated Steel Ltd - have already set up plants in the area, Tata Steel proposed to set up a six million tonne steel plant there in two modules of three million tonnes each.

The Jan 2 clash is likely to hit the state government's industrialisation drive under which at least 43 memorandums of understanding (MoU) have been signed with various companies for setting up steel plants.

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