The Curse of Land Aaquisition, Displacement and Exploitation

21 January 2012, Sundergarh

The first halt on 21 Janurary was made at Shilpunji village of Sundergarh district where 30 people were arrested without any crime and kept in prison for years. Residents of the village have filed their claims under the Forest Rights Act but till date no action has been taken on their claims. Subsequently the Jansatyagrah Samvad Yatra reached village Kenduri where a public hearing had been organised by the ‘Jungle Suraksha Manch’. Known as the crown of Odisha through this Khandadhar region flow two grand rivers Vaitarni and Brahmani. Member of the district panchayat Shri Lothar Uraon said that 17 sponge iron plants already exist in this region and now the government is acquiring 6000 acres of land for mining. The proposed iron ore mining in this region will displace as many as

100,000 people of 62 villages.

Tribal leader Shri Singrai Munda said that this region is the homeland of the primitive Pahadi Bhuia tribe. The question that the experts should ponder, he said, is weather or not the planned thirty years of iron ore extraction will lead to the complete decimation of a tribe that has been living in this region for hundreds of years. Shri Ashwini of Lohanipada said that SEM Steel is responsible for pollution in the region that is an important factor in the damage caused to the crops. Youth leader Shri Suresh said that despite registering their objections and protest during the public hearing proceedings the people of Kenduri village have not succeeded in saving 3000 acres of their farming land that is being acquired by the government. He further added that the administration is registering false criminal cases against all those tribals who are protesting against the setting up of industries in the region. ‘Jungle Suraksha Manch’ announced its support for Jansatyagrah 2012.

The next halt of the journey was at Kandhol village of Devgadh district that has been affected by the Rengali Dam project. Shri Prasan Kumar of the ‘Rengalibhandh Sangharsh Samiti’ said that since the inception, in

1991, of the project 10616 families belonging to 263 villages have been partially and/or completely displaced. 99,479 acres of land has been acquired for the project. He accused the administration and the government of not having taken any worthy steps for the rehabilitation of the displaced people despite continuous people’s protests movements and appeals. Shri Labanidhar Sahu said that in 2008 the state government constituted a high level committee for review of the rehabilitation process that recommended increase in the compensation amount paid to the people and completion of the rehabilitation process within a specified time frame but the government failed to deliver. About 4000 families of the region filed claims for cultivated forestland through the ‘Jungle Suraksha Manch’ but have received no response from the government till date. All the villagers on behalf of the ‘Rengalibandh Sangharsh Samiti’ announced that they would certainly join the Jansatyagrah Movement 2012 in October.

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