Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Jagatsinghpur/Kujang, Jul 29:
The administration in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district on Tuesday registered criminal cases against as many as 18 persons for re-erecting betel vineyards on land acquired for the Posco steel plant.
Ersama Tehsildar has filed a written complaint with the Abhaychandpur police station against 18 farmers, who have allegedly erected betel vineyards on proposed Posco steel project land acquired by the government.
Farmers from Gobindpur village–Babaji Sahu, Kshirod Das, Nrusingha Sahu, Kedar Sahani, Ashok Bardhan, Surendra Behera, Lakshman Das, Jagannath Rout, Sukant Jena, Santosh Das, Banamali Das and Sukant Das—have allegedly reoccupied the acquired land and started erecting betel vines on Plot No 1359, Khata No 550.
Several villagers from Polang village have also allegedly reoccupied the acquired land for betel cultivation. Babu Mandal has allegedly occupied Plot No 156, Khata No 135, Sanjay Swain-118, Nishakar Behera-156, Ramakanta Puhan-105, Gouranga Das-105 and Natabara Samal-164.
Following this, Ersama Tehsildar Sarat Kumar Purohit lodged a complaint with the Abhaychandpur police station on Sunday (July 26).
Cases (No 997/2015) under Section 447 of the IPC (criminal trespass) have been registered against the persons named in the FIR. Besides, they have been served legal notices and directed to vacate the land at the earliest.
With uncertainty looming large over the fate of the mega steel plant, farmers from Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gadakujanga and Gobindpur are said to be regrouping as resentment is brewing among them over the government’s failure to provide the land losers with jobs. Besides, the proposed steel project is yet to take off even 10 years after it signed a MoU with the Odisha government.
“The government has not utilised the land for the purpose they had acquired. They had demolished our betel vines which was our sole source of income. So, we would re-erect the betel vines to eke out a living,” a farmer said.
Meanwhile, the renewed agitation has become a matter of concern for the local administration. It is apprehending trouble arising from the unrest among the land losers.
Hamlets in the Dhinkia area were traditional betel farmers and dependent on farming as their main source of income. The government had assured them to provide with monthly financial assistance till they get alternative source of income and provide employment to betel vine losers on a priority basis. As the proposed steel mill is yet to see the light of the day even 10 years after signing of MoU with the state government, the land losers are uniting to resume betel farming on the acquired land.
The district administration’s legal move has incited heavy resentment among the farmers in proposed project site in Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga areas.
Pro-Posco leader Nirbhay Samantaray has blamed the district administration and the government for this.
“Thousands of people from four panchayats have lost their livelihoods due to government’s lack of foresight. Several trees have been felled including lakhs of fruit-bearing trees. This has weakened the economy of this region. The affected farmers will unite in the future,” Samantaray said.
“The farmers’ move is welcome. The government hasn’t kept its word. So the farmers should get their dues. Instead of holding talks with the farmers, the district administration filed cases against them. This is undemocratic,” Tamil Pradhan, another pro-Posco leader said.
When the Ersama Tehsildar was contacted, he said: “Action has been taken as per the law. The government has initiated strong action as the villagers are reoccupying the government land repeatedly.”