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Land protest returns to DVC plant

Purulia, July 14: Villagers who have given their plots for the Rs 16,000-crore Damodar Valley Corporation power plant in Purulia’s Raghunathpur today prevented contractual workers from entering the factory, the protest stalling work at a time one of the units is ready for a trial run.

The 300-odd villagers demanded casual jobs at the plant and said they apprehended that DVC might employ people from Jharkhand and Bihar, bypassing an unofficial agreement to give the residents jobs for their land.

The DVC chief engineer in Raghunathpur, Hironmoy Chatterjee, said the agitation started around 8am when the plant’s skilled and semi-skilled contractual workers started arriving.

The chief engineer said that around 600 contractual workers were prevented from entering the plant at Damduni, about 340km from Calcutta.

“The agitators allowed the officers and supervisors to enter but prevented the contractual employees. This continued till 10.30am and the workers had to leave. As a result, no work was done today. We lost a day at a time the first 600MW unit is ready to undergo trials with coal and go in for synchronisation by the end of this month,” the chief engineer said.

Disruptions by land-losers under different banners have marred the setting up of the plant and ancillary work since August last year, so much so that the DVC authorities had at one time considered shifting the project to Jharkhand.

Intervention by then industries minister Partha Chatterjee and a meeting chief minister Mamata Banerjee had with the DVC chairman in Calcutta staved off such a possibility, as the land-losers conditionally agreed to hold their agitation.

The land-losers have been demanding casual jobs at the power project, training of unskilled workers and compensation at current market rates for the land they had given.

Chinmoy Banerjee, president of the RTPS Land Losers’ Association that organised the protest today, said the DVC authorities had agreed to some of the demands at a meeting on October 9, which was also attended by district officials.

“But they have gone back on their word. They are bringing in unskilled workers from Jharkhand and Bihar for doing work that we are supposed to do, We had been promised that,” Chinmoy said.

He added that he had led his group to confront contractual workers and had told them that they could work at the plant only after the land losers were given jobs.

Chinmoy threatened to continue the protest tomorrow.

Purulia police defused the agitation after about three hours.

Raghunathpur sub-divisional officer S.K. Meena said the agitation was withdrawn after an assurance of a tripartite meeting a week later.

Pankrishna Chatterjee, a member of a land-losers’ association who had given four acres for the project, said: “We want the project implemented here. But local people will have to be given priority while giving jobs.”

All four units of the DVC project, when completed, would generate 2,520MW.