| Villagers block the road near Gadakujang which falls in the site for the proposed Posco steel plant. Telegraph picture |
Paradip, Aug. 3: Things were back on the boil today in the proposed Posco project area with villagers obstructing project-related work.
Over 2,000 villagers blocked the road near Gadakujang in Orissa to give vent to their resentment over delay in revising the rehabilitation package for landlosers and landless people living in the proposed steel project areas.
In an apparent attempt to pacify the protesters today, the administration made an official announcement that the Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee (RPDAC) meeting would be convened on August 24 to settle the demands.
“The RPDAC meeting chaired by the revenue divisional commissioner will be held on August 24. The six-point charter of demands including revision of compensation package for private and homestead land, betel vineyards, employment to land-losing families, hike in ex-gratia towards landless betel vines workers will be considered. As the RPDAC is empowered to consider such issues in accordance with the state resettlement and rehabilitation policy, people will have to be patient and wait for the proposed meeting,” said additional district magistrate Saroj Kanta Choudhury.
“The agitation by local residents was arbitrary and illogical. Resorting to strike to hold up the officials from discharging their duty is unlawful. The administration is no mood to talk to the protesting people. The project-related work would go on following the earlier schedule,” Choudhury said.
Unfazed by the people’s protest, officials continued the project-related work, though in a limited scale.
Later, in the face of a stiff protest, the officials were forced to suspend work midway. An estimated 500 forest classified trees were felled today and there was no ancillary project-related work such as boundary wall construction, sand-filing, digging up of trenches, ground-levelling and rehabilitation colony construction.
Visibly agitated because their six-point list of demands for revised rehabilitation and compensation package had not been considered, villagers of Gadakujang and Nuagaon gram panchayats confronted the authorities.
“It was a spontaneous show of protest. People are getting restive over the dilatory tactics of the administration,” said Dhirendra Pallei, working president of the United Action Committee.
However, sub-divisional police officer Shantanu Kumar Das said: “They stopped the police from gaining entry into forest areas by forming a human barricade. The situation became tense, as the protestors were insistent that the forest clearance exercise be stopped until their demands were met.
“Order was restored much later. No untoward incident occurred though officials continued tree-cutting in the neighbouring Nuagaon forest.”