Tatas candid on airport land poser

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  • Published 3.08.12

A corpus of Rs 400 crore from a steel giant, vast swathes of government land and a chief minister’s nod seem inadequate to send an ambitious airport project, 20km from Jamshedpur, off to a flying start.

For the first time since the proposal for Gamharia block in Seraikela-Kharsawan was drawn up in July 2011, project mentor Tata Steel candidly admitted that they had not succeeded in persuading villagers to part with around 50 ancestral acres for the 528-acre “international standard” airport on anvil.

Tata Steel vice-president (corporate services) Sanjiv Paul, on the sidelines of a function at Gamharia on Thursday, conceded that “lack of trust” had scuttled plans for acquisition of riyati land.

“Villagers are still not reposing trust on us and have opposed land acquisition. They feel that Tata Steel is using money power to go ahead with the project without giving them their due share, which is absolutely not true. So far, we have not been very successful on this (land acquisition) front,” he said.

A technical feasibility report for the airport was submitted by the Seraikela-Kharsawan district administration to the chief minister Arjun Munda in March this year. He showed the green light on April 3, but the project has been merely taxiing ever since.

Reason: construction of the airport — with an impressive runway length of 10,000ft — will affect some 7,500 residents across 15 villages from where a little more than 50 acres will have to be culled out for the project.

Ten of these rural clusters — Riyalda, Sodhipur, Santhaldih, Siridharpur, Upar Burudih, Burudih, Bardih, Rekhadih, Baramari and Hesselguttu — will lose schools and roads. The remaining five — Murgaguttu, Shibpur, Salem Pathar, Mohanpur and Machilikudur — will cease to exist.

Tata Steel sources revealed seven public hearings had been conducted in different villages between May and July. And there had been voices of resentment at almost all these gatherings barring two at Machilikudar and Mohanpur.

Paul’s statement on Thursday also echoed armed protests by villagers last Saturday, when tribals wielding traditional weapons had chased away a team of Tata Steel officials from Murgaguttu.

“They (Tata officials) tried to hold meetings four times and faced violent resistance each time. We will not let them take our land. There are two reasons. First, we simply do not wish to part with our agriculture land. Second, the main road linking Salempathar, Burudih and Murgaguttu will be usurped by the project and we will have to take a circuitous route to reach the block office,” said convener of Bhumi Raksha Sangharsh Samiti — an umbrella outfit formed by the 15 villages — Sokhen Hembrom.

Hembrom, who is also Burudih gram panchayat samiti member, added that the detour would take three hours, almost double the current time.

Though Tata Steel exposed its fears, the Seraikela-Kharsawan district administration remained an epitome of optimism and played down the recent protest.

“There has been resentment in Murgaguttu and a few other villages during the public hearings. We are confident of convincing villagers. The government owns the bulk of land (almost 90 per cent) required for the airport project. We require only 10 per cent from villages, which should not be a problem,” said additional deputy commissioner C.K. Singh.

Will the Gamharia airport see the light of day?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com