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Essar work stopped

Durgapur, Feb. 15: Nearly 50 villagers, most of them construction material suppliers, today stopped work at two Essar Oil pits near Durgapur for the third time in less than a month accusing the company of not keeping “promises”.

The villagers claimed Essar Oil, which is extracting coal-bed methane in Laudoha’s Nachan, had not constructed four metal roads in the village and drains, nor renovated the local burning ghat as it had promised when 4 acres were acquired from around 100 villagers two years ago.

The agitators said they would not allow Essar to work in the area unless senior company officials met them.

“Essar has started extracting coal-bed methane from one of the pits and work is going on in another, but the promises are yet to be fulfilled. We have decided not to allow them to work unless senior executives come here and take steps,” said Chandan Goswami, a Trinamul activist who gave land.

Kenaram Ghosh, the secretary of the Nachan Civil Material Suppliers Welfare Association that stopped work today, said the outfit had submitted its demands to the project head and met him several times at his office but “nothing was done”. The protesters led by Goswami went to pit No. 54, which is under construction, around 10.30am and asked the engineers and labourers to stop work. “They shouted slogans against our company and asked us to leave. We got scared and left,” an engineer said.

The engineers and labourers at pit No. 53 were also allegedly threatened and asked to leave. A team from Laudoha police station urged the villagers to withdraw the agitation but to no avail. “We told the police that we would not allow work until the promises are fulfilled,” said Kajal Mukherjee, a local Trinamul worker.

Trinamul’s Laudoha block president Sujit Mukherjee said the protesters were party supporters and their demands were justified. “But the agitation is not party-sponsored.”

A senior Essar Oil official said from Mumbai: “It has become a regular practice to stop work in the area. As of now, we are trying to settle the issue through discussions. But if interruptions continue, we will seek help of the government.”