The thatched houses along the under-construction Marine Drive in Kadma that are threatening completion of the ambitious artery in Jamshedpur. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Some 47 families living illegally in a slum along the under-construction Kadma-Sonari Marine Drive refused to shift to an alternative site earmarked for their rehab by Tata Steel on Wednesday, putting the high-profile road project in Jamshedpur in limbo.
Officials from Tata Steel’s logistics department, who were supervising the shifting process of encroachers at Rupnagar area of the road in Kadma to adjoining Sati Ghat from 9am, saw work stop around 11am when local JMM and Congress leaders came to the site and asked people not to budge.
Calling an alternative site arrangement “inadequate”, the leaders asked the encroachers to mount pressure on Tata Steel and district administration for a better rehab deal that included money for constructing houses or fully built homes.
By then, only three families had left for Sati Ghat area. The rest, on hearing the words of the local leaders, refused to go.
A senior official of Tata Steel’s logistics department confirmed that slum-dwellers who had agreed to shift from Rupnagar earlier refused to leave for Sati Ghat after political leaders brainwashed them.
“We have earmarked plots measuring 250sqft for each household as a rehab plan. But, some local politicians have convinced the bustee dwellers not to vacate homes,” the senior official said. “The status of the ambitious marine drive project is back to square one.” He added that ideally, the administration should have handled the encroachment issue.
“When it did not do anything despite repeated requests, we convinced slum-dwellers to shift from the project site to an adjoining area where we had developed shallow land. Bustee dwellers had agreed and some started shifting. But, intervention of local politicians spoiled it,” said the senior official.
Contacted, slum-dweller Sudarsan Bhumeej admitted Tata Steel offered them land in exchange for vacating from Rupnagar, but added that the company had not given them money to construct homes.
“We will shift to the new place only when we get money to build homes,” Bhumeej said.
The Rupnagar stretch is crucial for the Marine Drive project. If slum dwellers had vacated on Wednesday, Tata Steel had been hopeful about completing work in three months.
The 9km-long road, worth Rs 120 crore and a part of the Tata Steel western corridor project, is aimed to keep heavy vehicles off city roads. Started in June 2012, it is scheduled to end by June 2014. But due to encroachment hurdle in Kadma side, work has been suspended since over past three months.
When contacted, the East Singhbhum deputy commissioner proffered conditional support.
“I had taken stock of the progress of the Marine Drive project that’s very important for the city. But the pace at which the construction is going on is disappointing,” East Singhbhum DC Amitabh Kaushal said. “If the company expedites the pace of work, the administration will definitely help remove encroachment,” he added.