Company to spend Rs. 12 crore for development of panchayat

An agitation that was under way in Elamkunnapuzha village against Petronet LNG has been resolved at a meeting chaired by Excise Minister K. Babu here on Wednesday.

The people of the village panchayat had been on the warpath against the project raising a slew of demands. A meeting called recently at the instance of the Chief Minister to resolve the issue had proved inconclusive.

As part of the settlement agreement, about Rs. 12 crore will be spent on the development of the panchayat during the next four years, including in this financial year.

As per the settlement, the Petronet LNG will also assist in the renovation of a school and hospital in the panchayat. A cemetery will be built if the panchayat makes available land.

Apart from issuing identity cards to fishing workers in the area, a special rehabilitation package will be implemented jointly by the Cochin Port Trust and Petronet for mussel and fishing workers. Mr. Babu said that the fisheries department will be entrusted with this responsibility.

Local residents will be given preference in contract work in the project site and unskilled jobs in the LNG project.

The Minister said that any issues that may crop up in the future should be resolved by bringing them to the notice of the Collector.

The protest was under way in the panchayat based on six sets of demands – Petronet should give equivalent to three per cent of the funds allocated by the Kochi Refineries as part of its corporate responsibility initiatives for the development of the panchayat, assistance to school, hospital, and cemetery in the panchayat, rehabilitation project for fishing and mussel collecting workers, jobs to local residents in Petronet, assistance for the development of roads, and safety measures to prevent pollution.

Mr. Babu said that while corporate responsibility initiatives are meant for profit-making companies, Petronet LNG is fulfilling this responsibility even before starting operations here.

He said that the meeting helped to increase the allocation under corporate responsibility.

He said that the company’s demand for the inclusion of MP and MLA funds along with its allocation of Rs. 12 crore for the development of the panchayat has been accepted.

A committee of the District Collector, village panchayat secretary, and representatives of Petronet and PWD will monitor the execution of the project.

District collector P.I. Sheikh Pareed, Petronet senior vice-president P. Khetrapal, and village panchayat president Biatris Joseph signed the settlement agreement in the presence of the minister.

Dominic Presentation, MLA, panchayat vice-president Benny, Petronet general manager T.N. Neelakantan, district panchayat member K.J. Tomy, and members of protest committee attended the meeting.

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