Odisha— Kalipalli, a non descript village in Chatrapur block of Ganjim district in Odisha, continues to experience tension after the arrest of approximately 15 agitators who allegedly entered an industrial park area forcibly. The group of protesters, mostly women, had managed to trespass into the industrial park area and staged a protest on Wednesday despite the presence of armed police forces. Following their forceful entry, a clash ensued between the agitators and the police, with the detainment of around 25 protestors. Around 15 of them, including eight women, were arrested and were all later produced in court. The villagers had been opposing construction work by Dipak fertilisers in the area, and a clash had broken out between the locals and the police on previous occasions too.
Madhusudan, the State President of Jan Jagran Abhiyan, told The Mooknayak that the police brutally thrashed the agitators, dragged and forcibly took them to the police station, and did not even spare the children. Among other charges, one of the most shocking parts was that attempt to murder has been charged on innocent people who were unarmed and helpless before the police force at the time of the scuffle. The bail hearing is scheduled for February 22.
The President of the Kalipalli village committee, B Mohan Patra, condemned the police act sharply and said that while the administration was trying to hold peace talks, the police manhandled the people and jailed them on false charges, which is unacceptable. Speaking to The Mooknayak, Patra said it is unfortunate that even when the dispute over the construction of the unit continues, the administration is allowing the work to start. "Dialogue will only be held when our people are released, and Tata pays the compensation due to our villagers," he said in a determined voice. Another community leader, Gurudev Behera, said that the government wants to raise the boundary wall so that the fertiliser company can carry on with the construction of the chemical plant, which would prove dangerous for the area's ecology. He further said that the construction work for the boundary was commenced without taking the public's consent. "They even blocked the road, which is public property. Villagers are not able to go to the pond and for natural calls," he said.
The government had acquired approximately 6,000 acres of land for the setting up of Tata's mega steel plant in 1995-96. Then, the landowners readily agreed to part with their arable lands as the proposed plant was expected to not only create employment but also help improve the financial condition of the local people. However, 26 years have passed, and the construction work for the proposed plant has not progressed beyond a boundary wall. With the proposed plant appearing to be far-fetched, a great deal of resentment has already been there among the landowners and local residents. Amid this, the recent announcement of the government to return only 206 acres of land to their owners only added fuel to the fire. Tata Steel had, in January this year, denotified around 206 acres of land and announced that it would be returned to owners. Following the denotification, the officials decided to construct a boundary wall, the work of which began last Tuesday amid the presence of armed forces. However, villagers believed the work was being carried out by Dipak fertilisers.
Sources said that when the construction of the technical ammonium nitrate (TAN) complex started in June 2022, the villagers opposed it and staged a dharna. They reportedly created a ruckus by forcefully entering into the site despite the presence of police, administrative, and company officials. They maintained that with the setting up of the plant, the environment would be polluted. In December 2022, following the company's appeal, the court issued directions to the villagers not to stage any congregation within 500 meters.
As the protests continued affecting construction work, on February 1, Chamakhandi police issued notices to 53 people including labour union leader Shankar Das warning of stringent action in case of any law and order situation in the village. On Wednesday when construction of the factory boundary began, hundreds of villagers rushed to the site only to be stopped mid-way by armed police.
A senior official of Dipak fertilisers told the media that there is a misunderstanding. The villagers believe the construction work is being done by the company whereas Dipak fertilisers have just opted space in the industrial park to establish a unit there. "Our intention rather is to employ the locals and contribute to the economic growth of the area,” he said.
Additional Superintendent of Police PK Dalai said that 400 residents of Kalipalli villagers had entered into the company site and stopped construction work there. Due to the scuffle, sub-divisional police officer among four jawans sustained injuries. The officer said that the villagers were already informed that the land belongs to Tata Steel and the boundary wall was being constructed by them but they villagers didn't pay heed to the caution and took law into their hands.
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