Indian Oil Corporation Limited is denying rehabilitation measures it promised while acquiring their land, allege protesters
Hundreds of displaced villagers and unemployed youths on Monday stalled construction work at an upcoming oil refinery project in Odisha to demand permanent jobs at Indian Oil Corporation Limited's (IOCL) oil refinery.
The protesters, gathered under the aegis of the East Odisha Industrial Development Council (EOIDC), locked the entry gate of the Rs 30,000-crore project at Paradip and declared an indefinite strike. "The IOCL acquired our land promising jobs for us. But now the company is not considering our demands, so we have stalled construction work. We will now organise an indefinite sit-in protest starting Monday," said EOIDC president Golekha Chandra Kayak.
But the oil refinery management says it is following due process. WR Borbara, General Manager (HR) of the Paradip oil refinery project, said — “143 displaced families have been provided with 10 decimal homestead-lands per family at Dhinkia. Peripheral development activity of neighbouring villages has been undertaken by the oil company. Members of the displaced families have also been engaged on a contractual basis in the construction work.”
But villagers whose land was acquired say they are being denied special privileges decided by the rehabilitation advisory committee that was constituted for the transition. Golekha Chandra Kayak says the IOCL promised jobs to the family members of all the 143 households that lost their land.
Villagers say IOCL management is also not giving priority in recruitment to those displaced, a provision they claim was decided by the Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee.
The Rs 30,000-crore Paradip oil refinery project is expected to be commissioned next year. The company acquired 1337 hectares (ha) of land in 2002 for Rs one lakh for every .40 hectare. Villagers allege the IOCL is also not carrying out any peripheral development works.
Across villages near the port town of Paradip, up to 5000 people are estimated to have been displaced because of the oil refinery project.
Ramachandra Sethi (60) was displaced for the third time seven years back. In the 1960s, he was first displaced from his village Ghanaghalia as the government acquired land to build a port in Paradip. In the 1980s, he was again displaced from his home in Jhimini village after a fertilizer plant acquired his land. Seven years back, he was again displaced after the IOCL acquired four acres of his land in Gobindapur village by paying him Rs four lakh.
Dilip Behera, secretary of the Oil Refinery Contact Labour Cooperative Society, said displacement means much more than losing just land. "People also lose their livelihood and natural resources," he said.
The oil refinery management claims it is doing its best to rehabilitate those displaced. Sangram Mishra, deputy manager of corporate communications at the IOCL, said, “The construction work of the oil refinery project was totally paralysed on Monday due to agitation of locals. We are trying our best to sort out the matter.” He further said that about 50 per cent of the workforce engaged in the project construction jobs since commencement of the projects in the year 2009 comprises of local people. “For skills which are not available locally, skilled workers from neighbouring states have been deployed in project jobs. IOCL is working on a comprehensive plan of skill development of the local youths in collaboration with the ITIs and Skill Development Institutes," added the official.
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