Though 2,700 acres were acquired for the proposed mega steel plant by Posco near Paradip, resentment seems to be brewing among locals who felt the administration had adopted a dilly-dally approach on issues of compensation, rehabilitation and peripheral development.
Alleging neglect by the district administration of Jagatsinghpur, irate people had damaged a machine meant for preliminary construction work and detained one person recently. A case has been registered in local Bijayachandrapur police station, police said on Wednesday.
Jagatsinghpur district collector S K Mallick had recently announced that land acquisition had been completed with government taking possession of 2,700 acres. Altogether 1,116 betel vines were dismantled and Rs.16 crore paid as compensation for betel vines, Rs.1.15 crore for farm land, Rs.1.10 crore and Rs. 3.50 crore for tree felling respectively.
Denying any use of force during the exercise, the district collector said, “We have acquired land from the people who were willing.”
Besides, it was assured that those who lost their betel vines and labourers working there would be paid Rs. 4,500 and Rs. 2,250 per month respectively till permanent solution for their rehabilitation was made.
However, after land acquisition there is no sight of any senior district official in the area nor any concrete effort to address the problems facing people, project protagonist Jeebanlal Behera of Gadakujanga alleged.
A general perception now pervades the area that the people were taken for a ride by the administration.
Even several project supporters appeared to have toughened their stand on issues relating to compensation, re—settlement and rehabilitation as well as peripheral development.
Groups of people are often seen holding meetings and discussions as to how to face the situation in the aftermath of land acquisition.
Project supporters, opponents and fence-sitters appear to be upset, preparing to resist ancillary works being undertaken by state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO) before the land is formally handed over to Posco.
A large number of people had been rendered landless in Gadakujanga and Nuagaon panchayats after land acquisition.
Those who were working in betel vines had migrated to other states in search of work, Mr. Behera claimed.
Besides, they had acquired land to set up Posco plant here but entrusted the work to an outside agency, which employed outsiders for carrying out peripheral development work causing resentment among the people and affecting brotherhood in the area, alleged Mr. Behera.
Allaying such apprehension, the Collector said as per the agreement Posco would pay Rs. 4,500 to land losers and Rs. 2,250 to the labourers per month and accordingly a list of people affected during the first phase acquisition had been prepared and presented to Posco. “I hope the payments would be completed by August 20”, he said.
However, a list of people affected in the second phase of land acquisition is yet to be prepared and payments by Posco could be made only after completion of the process by the administration, Mr. Mallick said.
As the land acquisition activities have been completed, the state government wanted the company to expedite peripheral development works in all areas, official sources said.
The CSR initiatives included periphery development work, setting up of rehabilitation colonies, building roads and bridges, erecting of protection wall, taking up massive plantation and other developmental activities.
The formal process of land acquisition for the Posco project, MOU for which was signed in 2005 commenced on November 29, 2007 and about 2,000 acres of land spread over Nuagaon and Gadakujanga panchayats were acquired by May 20, 2011, sources said.
But the process faced road—block thereafter and the government could acquire further 700 acres only in Gobindpur under Dhinkia panchayat by July 4, 2013, they said.
The steel major had initially wanted 4,004 acres of land spread over Dhinkia, Nuagaoon and Gadakujanga panchayats for its 12 mtpa steel mill with an investment of Rs. 52,000 crore but later changed the design due to stiff opposition and scaled down the requirement to 2,700 acres for construction of an eight mtpa capacity plant in the first phase.
Responding to opposition of the residents of Dhinkia village, the state government announced that there would be no land acquisition in the village for the mega project.
Among the 1116 betel vines dismantled for the purpose, Gobindpur accounted for 488, followed by 460 in Nuagaon and 168 in Gadakujanga panchayats.
At least five persons were killed in separate clashes and violence during the entire period of land acquisition between November 29, 2007 and July 4, 2013 with 15 persons injured and 45 jailed, a senior police officer said.