Coastal villagers vow to oppose JSW steel plant in Odisha

Jindal Steel Works Ltd is to build a proposed steel, cement and power plant on land where POSCO was to build a plant earlier

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Thursday 11 November 2021
Prafulla Samantra addresses the public meeting at Patana village in Jagatsinghpur district, Odisha, against a proposed steel plant to be built by JSW Ltd. Photo: Ashis Senapati

Several residents marched from Dhinkia to Patana village in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district November 10, 2021 raising slogans against a proposed industrial plant to be built by the conglomerate Jindal Steel Works (JSW) Ltd.

The villagers also organised a meeting against the decision of the Odisha government to grant land for the proposed integrated steel, cement and captive power plant. They vowed to oppose its construction.

The plant will be built over 2,900 acres of land in the Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang Gram Panchayats by JSW subsidiary, JSW Utkal Steel Ltd, which is led by Sajjan Jindal. 

Prafulla Samantra, president of the non-profit Lok Shakti Abhiyan, criticised the state government’s decision to establish a steel plant over the fertile land of the seaside villagers.

He called upon the villagers to fight against the JSW deal on the lines of how people had forced South Korean steel giant POSCO to wind up its project in this place.   

Samantra said:

According to an analysis by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the port town of Paradip near the Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang Gram Panchayats may submerge in the Bay of Bengal by the end of the 21st century. It is not proper on the part of the state government to allow any company to build a steel plant in this area by felling trees.

Senior Congress leader Lalatendu Mohapatra said the state government had no right to hand over the 2,900 acres of land to JSW as it had acquired it for POSCO’s steel plant. POSCO had abandoned the project after stiff resistance from locals, he said.

The state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) had acquired the land, only on paper. After POSCO’s withdrawal, the government cancelled the land’s allotment to the conglomerate.

“The land was then illegally saved in a so-called land bank of the state government, which did not find it necessary to consult people over the land’s fate after POSCO’s withdrawal. This speaks volumes about the state of grassroot democracy in India, more particularly the status of constitutional safeguards and empowering acts,” Mohapatra said.

According to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013, land acquired and taken over but not utilised within five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert to the original land owner. 

Mohapatra noted that the Odisha government had done the opposite. According to its revised policy for land acquisition notified February 7, 2015 land acquired and taken over but not utilised within five years from the date of possession shall be deposited automatically in a land bank.

The villagers had organised a palli sabha, or village-level meeting, last year and passed a resolution stating their long-standing residence in the area.

They had also stated their traditional dependence on forest land, their eligibility of rights under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and their refusal to grant consent to the diversion of forest land for the JSW project. 

“The high-level clearance authority (HLCA) chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik June 2, 2017 transferred the land to JSW. The authorities acquired the land legally by paying proper compensation to villagers. They have no legal right to reoccupy the land,” Kanhu Charan Dhir, the additional district magistrate of Paradip, said.

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