Sept. 14: Hit by land-losers’ protests, a central PSU is planning to move a portion of a power project out of Bengal at a time chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to attract investment to the state.
If two of the four units of the Damodar Valley Corporation’s thermal power project in Purulia’s Raghunathpur are set up in Jharkhand, it could send out the message that the business environment in Bengal is unsatisfactory.
Around 1,000 people who have given land for an allied infrastructure project of the Damodar Valley Corporation’s proposed 2,640MW thermal power plant have been demanding permanent jobs in addition to the compensation.
The Left government had acquired around 1,000 acres in Raghunathpur for the power plant in 2007. Two of the four 660MW units have already been built on the land.
Another 51 acres was acquired for a water-supply corridor from the Panchet dam. Of the 1,600-odd people from whom these 51 acres was acquired, 1,000 are refusing to let the corporation work, demanding permanent jobs.
“The decision (to relocate two planned units to Jharkhand) has to be taken by the (DVC) board. The problems have been continuing for about a year. There is a section in the corporation that is in favour of relocation. There is no formal proposal yet but one could emerge soon,” a board member said this evening.
“Permanent jobs for nearly 1,000 people, besides the compensation, is not something the corporation is in a position to promise,” he added.
The planned 20m x 10.5km pipeline is supposed to carry 12,000 cubic metres of water an hour to the plant. After DVC finished constructing 1km of the pipeline last year, the protests started.
A power plant cannot be built without water supply as electricity is produced by a generator connected to turbines rotated by steam power.
“Because of the protests, we cannot complete the pipeline. The ruling party and the district administration have been mute spectators,” a Writers’ source said.
The first phase of the project, comprising two units, was to be commissioned in November this year but that seems impossible now because of the delay in laying the pipeline.
If the future of the Raghunathpur project becomes uncertain in Bengal, it will deal a blow to its plan of generating more power.
Because of the Mamata Banerjee government’s hands-off land policy, the NTPC’s proposed 1,600MW thermal power plant at Burdwan’s Katwa has not taken off.
Although the chief minister has shown keenness in wooing investors and promised all help in removing the hurdles facing investors, the message doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the lower levels of the party.
District Trinamul working president Sujay Banerjee said the land-losers’ demands were “justified”. He said: “We are pro-development but this (the DVC project deadlock) must be solved through negotiation. The demands are justified. So the corporation must hold talks with an open mind.”
Power department officials said tripartite meetings between the land-losers, DVC and the state government have so far failed to find a solution.
CPM MP Basudeb Acharia, who had played a pivotal role in bringing the project to Raghunathpur, accused the Trinamul government of not taking the initiative to end the stand-off.
The Raibandh Bhumihara Anchal Jomi Suraksha Committee, under whose banner the land-losers have united, said it would not oppose the project if the job demand was met.