Muscle power

By Ranjan Panda
Published: Monday 15 September 2008

with the Orissa government going full steam with its industrialization drive, business houses are flexing their muscles--many a time with impunity. In Sambalpur district, farmers have found to their dismay that a unit of Rathi steel has been taking water from the power channel of the Hirakud dam, without the required permits.

The application of the sponge iron company located at Sikirdi village in the district for drawing water is still pending with Orissa's Water Resources ministry. In a meeting of Orissa's Rehabilitation and Periphery Development Advisory Committee (rpdac), held on December 24, 2007, farmer leaders opposed Rathi Steel's General Manager B K Surjan's contention that the company was using water from a borewell dug on the plant premises. This led to the rpdac asking the district's Chief Engineer (Irrigation) to commission an enquiry. The enquiry report is still pending.

Meanwhile, the company has deposited Rs 10 lakh with Orissa Hydro Power Corporation (ohpc) to use the water. "Even though ohpc is concerned with the power channel because this canal goes from the dam's power generation plant at Hirakud to the other plant at Chiplima, it has no official right to allocate water to anybody," alleges social activist D P Nayak, a supporter of the farmers' agitation. ohpc's Chief Engineer of Hirakud Systems Engineering Banamali Mishra admits that the company deposited the money but said he had no further details. When contacted the company officials refused to comment.

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