The Telegraph
Thursday , March 21 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Land fee protest stalls Essar work

Durgapur, March 20: Sixteen villagers with alleged Trinamul backing whose land is being used by Essar Oil Ltd for laying pipes stalled work at Burdwan’s Kanksa today, complaining they have not been paid.

“The company had promised to pay us (a one-time fee of) Rs 300 per metre for laying the pipes to supply coal-bed methane (CBM) but we have not got the money yet. We had no alternative but to stall work,” said Badal Mandal, 47, who claimed to be a Trinamul supporter.

The work started around two months ago.

The Mumbai-based Essar does not need to acquire land on the 7km stretch where they are laying underground pipes. Villagers will be able to cultivate the land once the pipeline is laid. The land in Molandighi is single-crop. The villagers grow vegetables on it, but right now, the land is lying fallow.

Essar is laying pipes between Molandighi and Egaro Mile, a 7km stretch covering five villages, to supply the CBM to the upcoming Rs 5,000-crore Matix Fertiliser plant in Panagarh. Essar has finished laying the pipes on 2.5km.

The 16 villagers arrived at Essar’s garage-cum-site office at Molandighi around 7am.

“The villagers stopped our earthmoving machines when they were about to roll out of the garage and started sloganeering. Our workers did not dare to step out. I have informed my superiors,” said Rakesh Patel, the site in-charge.

Trinamul’s Kanksa block president Debdas Bakshi said: “Before the villagers are identified, we cannot say if they belong to our party.”

He, however, supported their demand. “They are demanding money for (the use of) their land. The company should accept their demand,” Bakshi said.

Essar officials said that since January, four such disruptions had taken place at various sites of the project.

Asked about the payments to villagers, an Essar official in Durgapur said: “We are still carrying some verification work and payments will be made soon. We will sort out the matter with villagers through discussions.”