Hundreds of villagers on Sunday opposed setting up of integrated steel project proposed by JSW Utkal Steel Limited led by industrialist Sajjan Jindal near port town of Paradip in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district.
The JSW group has proposed to establish the 13.2-million tonne per annum (MTPA) capacity plant at an estimated investment of around ₹55,000 crore on land previously acquired for the project of the South Korean steel major, POSCO.
Stiff resistance to land acquisition
The project had to be shelved following stiff resistance to land acquisition in 2017. Now, fresh attempts are being made to set it up at the same place.
A 900-MW captive power plant and a 10-MPTA cement grinding and mixing unit are also proposed to be set up near the villages of Dhinkia, Govindpur, Nuagaon, Bayanala Kanda, Polanga and Jatadhar under Ersama Tahsil in Jagatsinghpur district.
Information and Public Relations Minister and local MLA Raghunandan Das, District Collector Parul Patwari and other officials attended a meeting convened to explain the project at Dhinkia village. However, villagers tuned angry over the presence of company officials at the meeting.
“We have been opposing the industrial project on our land, which is suitable for the lucrative betel leaf farming, for the past 17 years. Most of these land parcels come under forest category. The Government should first take steps to provide us the record of rights (RoR) of our forestland — as per the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 — which we have been rightfully using from the last more than 100 years,” said Debendra Swain, a resident of Dhinkia village, who is spearheading the movement.
“During the forcible acquisition of land for the POSCO project, officially 1.79 lakh trees were felled. Persons and agencies involved in the unauthorised felling should be taken to task,” said Mr. Swain.
Villagers are staging protests at the public hearings held for garnering support for the project.
Despite lack of consensus, the JSW announced that construction of boundary wall would commence from December. It claimed to have conduced tripartite discussions involving its representatives, the district administration and the panchayati raj institution members.
To woo people, the JSW came up with revised compensation for betel vines, prawn cultivators and fruit trees.
“Betel vine farmers will get ₹17.50 lakh per acre while ₹44,000 will be paid as one-time lump sum to each family dependent on betel vine. Similarly, ₹2.5 lakh per acre of prawn cultivation lost will be paid and ₹40,000 one-time lump sum will be paid to each family under forest protection committee in the project area,” the company said.
Mr. Swain said villagers were resolute in their stand that they would not take any compensation. “When betel vine farmers are earning much more than being offered, why would they opt for one time compensation? The land parcel being acquired is the lifeline of villagers. They are not in a mood to part with their land,” he said.