Villagers armed with traditional weapons protest at Khairbani on Friday. (Animesh Sengupta)
Armed villagers prevented government officials from entering the site of a proposed solid waste treatment plant in Khairbani on the outskirts of Jamshedpur on Friday, their resistance inspired by fears of the project leading to a polluted atmosphere.
A month earlier, local residents had also pulled down a boundary wall of the proposed plant, 15km from Jamshedpur, over similar fears.
Nearly 200 villagers, mostly tribals, blocked the main entrance to the project site from 9am on Friday, an hour before local administrative officials and employees of the Gurgaon-based SPML (formerly Subhash Projects and Marketing Limited) were scheduled to arrive.
The company’s Khairbani project head, Bipul Sharma, said they were supposed to take possession of the land for starting construction of the plant after demarcation of land by the government officials concerned.
“But let alone demarcation of land or getting possession, the local residents did not even allow us to enter the project site. Despite desperate attempts by local police officers and other administrative officials, the protesting villagers did not even move an inch,” he said.
Sharma told The Telegraph that SMPL was supposed to commission the project and begin waste processing within 300 days of signing a concession agreement on August 8.
The Rs 250-crore waste management project has been granted 34 acres. Of the total land, 30 acres belong to the state government while four acres is raiyati land.
Acquisition of the raiyati land is not a hurdle, with the landowners said to be keen on parting with it. However, though three months have passed since the MoU was signed, taking possession of the land remains a stumbling block for the company.
R.N. Dwivedi, nodal officer of the Jamshedpur Urban Agglomeration — the implementing authority of the project under JNNURM — confirmed that their attempt to take possession of land earmarked for the plant was foiled by residents, who were armed with bows and arrows, sticks and hatchets.
“There was enough forces to take on the agitating villagers, but Jamshedpur block development officer Dayanand Karji, who is also the in-charge circle officer, said that he would get the issue sorted out by talking to the district administration tomorrow. Moreover, he refused to use force, saying the tribals were observing a local festival today,” said Dwivedi.
A protester said, “We are not going to allow the project to come up here, irrespective of the consequences. We are opposed to it because we will not be able to bear the foul smell of garbage brought from across the city and adjoining areas. If the government wants to keep Jamshedpur and its outskirts clean, it may opt for some other spot for setting up the plant.”
The project is slated to kick-start in Jugsalai municipality and the three notified area committees of Jamshedpur, Adityapur and Mango. It will also cover eight village panchayats — Parsudih, Ghorabandha, Chhota Govindpur, Gadra, Haludbani, Sarjamda, Kitadih and Bagbera.