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Violence erupts during RPDAC meeting for Bhedabahal UMPP in Odisha

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sundargarh, Oct 18:

At least seven persons, including three policemen, sustained injuries and the car of the Union Tribal Affairs minister’s was also partly damaged when people facing displacement turned violent during the Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development and Advisory Committee (RPDAC) meeting held here today for the Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) at Bhedabahal in Odisha’s Sundargarh district.

Angry protesters outside Sundargarh Collectorate
Angry protesters outside Sundargarh Collectorate

The incident occurred when the villagers likely to be displaced due to the project protested angrily against the relocation of the site for their rehabilitation and resettlement.

Sundargargh SDPO, Sundargarh Town Police Station IIC, a police constable and four others were injured in the incident, reports said.

Union Tribal Affairs minister Jual Oram, Sundargarh Sadar MLA Jogesh Singh, district collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia, the SP, sub collector and senior officials of the district were present in the RPDAC meeting.

Police had to resort to mild baton charging to disperse the irate villagers of two panchayats- Bhedabahal and Lambahuda- who resorted to stone pelting while protesting against relocation of the rehabilitation and resettlement site, reports said. The car of the Union minister’s car was also partly damaged in the stone pelting by protestors.

The protestors demanded their rhabilitation/resettlement along the National Highway as decided at the palli sabha meeting, instead of the present decision to relocate them on the river bank.

“We are not going to budge from our lands if they are not going to resettle us in any place along the National Highway as agreed to earlier at the palli sabha. Resettlement along the river bank as per the new decision is simply not acceptable to us”, said Subash Chandra Sa, a protestor.

Sources said, the aggrieved displaced of UMPP project wanted  to present their grievances before the members of the RPDAC but the security personnel prevented them from entering the collectorate. This provoked the protesters who started pelting stones at the security personnel. Some of the agitators had also attempted to break the security cordon around the collector’s office.

“Some groups are responsible for inciting trouble. We have identified them and action will be taken against them. It was decided at today’s RPDAC meeting to allow 15 days’ time to the villagers to decide among themselves on the resettlement site. On receiving communication from them we will take a final call”, said collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia.

“This is a very unfortunate incident. The Union minister had come discuss on how the project was going to benefit the locals. I condemn it. It’s the people from neighbouring district with vested interest who are fomenting trouble”, commented Jogesh Singh, MLA Sundargarh Sadar.

Union minister Oram who left the meeting after the incident was not available for his comments.