19 January 2012, Sundergadh

The Janstayagrah Samvad Yatra entered the state of Odisha, traveling through 8 states, on 19 January 2012. The students of ‘Alakh Mahima Pathshala’ at Purgaon village of Sundergarh district located on the Chattisgarh-Odisha border gave a traditional welcome to the traveling team. The principle of the school Shri Krishanchandra said that the aim of the school is to promote human values among the children and an inclination to work for the society. Subsequently the Jansatyagrah Samvad Yatra team moved to village Tapadia in Himgiri block of Sundargarh district where a public hearing had been organised. Shri Ramlal Patel, leader of the Gram Sabha said that the entire 145 acres of the village grazing land had been acquired for Bhushan Steel Limited despite repeated written appeals of objection by the Gram Sabha. The local administration did not respond to their appeals and as a result the entire

nistar’ system of the village has come to a standstill.

Village leader Shri Hota Mahraj said that Bhushan Steel had taken over the village grazing land for the purpose of compensatory forestation in 2006 but till date no compensation has been given to the Gram Sabha for their land. He insisted that the issue must be raised before the state government through the samvad yatra process. The second halt of the journey was made at Ratanpur village wherein the ‘Himgiri Adivasi Sewa Sangh’ had organised a public hearing. The chief of the Sangh Shri Damodar Majhi said that 225 families from Ratanpur Panchayat had received the record of rights booklet under the Forest Rights Act but of these in 220 cases the land given is far less than what had been claimed while no action has been taken on the remaining 908 claims that were filed by people. He further added that 15 villages of the area had been surveyed for the possibility of coal deposits. Land belonging to 14 villages has been ear marked for coal mining by Mahanadi Coal Field Limited, Gopalpur and since 1997 there has been a ban on the sale and purchase of land in this area. This has resulted in a serious problem for the farmers of the area. The problems are being aggravated by intense pollution caused by the sponge iron plants managed by Bhushan Steel and Vasundhra Metallic Company. The pollution is not only having an adverse affect on the health of the people but also leading to reduction in the availability of forest produce. The next halt of the Jansatyagrah Samvad Yatra was the ‘Sewak Samaj Sewi Sanstha’ of Sundargarh district where a dialogue session was organised attended by the village leaders of many villages in the region. Addressing the meet senior social worker Shri Nicholas Barla said that the problems of pollution and land acquisition were increasing in the area as more and more companies were given permission to set up sponge iron plants in the Sundargarh region. The entire region is governed by the PESA law, but while giving permission, objections made by the Gram Sabhas have not been considered. This is a constitutional violation of the law. Shri Khirodh Bahi said in Sundergarh and Jharasguda region alone 10 power plants are scheduled to open and the public hearing proceedings that are organised for the purpose are mere formalities because one the villagers are prevented from attending these meetings and two the objections raised by the villagers receive no consideration from the concerned officials. Therefore despite constant protest and objections by the local people the projects get approved by the government. This is a serious violation not only of the law but also the human rights of those are affected by these projects.

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