It is alleged that no public hearing or gramsabha was conducted for getting approval of tribal families to be displaced due to proposed Chheligada multipurpose project on Badajhor river in Gajapati district.

Around 420 tribal families are to be displaced by this project. Most of these families allege that no gramsabha or public hearing had been held to take their consent for displacement. According to the authorities of this proposed project, these tribal families had signed or provided thumb impression on paper agreeing to displacement.

The tribal families are now demanding that proper public hearing and gramsabha meeting had to be called to discuss the issue of their displacement for the project. Their demand has received support of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Odisha Krushak Sabha (OKS) and Adivasi Dalit Vikas Samity (ADVS).

Following a gherao of Chheligada project office at Mahendragada in Gajapati district by the tribal people to be displaced supported by the DYFI, OKS and ADVS on Monday, the authorities of the project promised to write to government for holding public hearing and gramsabha to discuss the issue of displacement at the tribal villages to be displaced.

Vice-president of the OKS, Jagannath Mishra said it seemed through use of unscrupulous methods signatures or thumb impressions of tribal people had been taken on papers to show they had consented for displacement. “Most of the tribal people are either illiterate or do not understand the whole issue. Some local youths had been used to get their signatures of consent,” Mr. Mishra said. Greatest irony is that Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act or PESA had been violated in this case, alleged leaders of DYFI, OKS and ADVS.

This project has received approval of the Central Water Commission (CWC) in 2007 and forest and environment clearance in 2009. But the foundation stone for the project had been laid in 2005, much before the approvals.

The Chheligada multipurpose project had been proposed in 1986. As per the initial plans cost of the project was around Rs. 55 crore. But the project had remained in files till last decade when the project cost was escalated to around Rs. 200 crore.

Till now more than Rs. 100 crore has been spent on the project although construction work for it was yet to start.

The OKS, DYFI and ADVS have also expressed doubts over the proclaimed benefits of the project.

As per the plans this project would provide irrigation, 35MW of power as well as drinking water to Berhampur city. President of Odisha unit of DYFI, Jatin Mohanty and general secretary of ADVS Dandapani Raita opined that there were doubts whether the tribal people to be affected by the project would get electricity form it.

“Like Hirakud project where people near the reservoir do not get water for irrigation from it in the time of need, Chheligada project may also not release water in time for irrigation to keep up electricity production.

There are also chances of flash floods in the area due to sudden water release from the Chheligada project as the reservoir of the project would be fed by mountain streams”, Mr. Mishra of OKS said.