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Public hearing on Odisha coal block called off following strong resistance by villagers

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Chhendipada(Angul), Sept 4:

A controversial public hearing for the Mahaguj Colliery Limited’s coal block here had to be called off today after angry people of five panchayats including Bagadia, Machhakut under Chhendipada block of Angul district in Odisha dismantled the stage and the tent put up here by the administration for the hearing.Machhakut Mahaguj colliery hearing

There are reports that the senior district officials including the sub-collector and the ADM, who had reached the spot of the public hearing, have had to face the ire of the people.

There was considerable tension at the spot of the public hearing when the villagers confronted a group of people, who were allegedly hired by the company, to terrorise the local people. The stand-off continued for a while till the police deployed there intervened,

The police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.

The people are opposed to a coal mining project in their area as it is a fertile land that offers them subsistence.

The people have been opposing the public hearing ever since it was announced on the ground that following the Supreme Court order declaring all coal block allocations since 1993 illegal, the exercise was redundant and impermissible.

Leading social activist Prafulla Samantara said last year the State Pollution Control Board had fixed the public hearing at a spot far away from the affected villages and responding to a petition by villagers, the High Court had ordered a stay on the hearing.

He said, the case of illegal coal block allocation has been pending before the Supreme Court and the Central government had told the court that it is willing to accept the cancellation of all coal blocks barring 46 which are in operation or ready to operate.

Since the list of 46 blocks submitted by the government of India to the apex court does not include the Machhakut-Bagadia coal block allotted to Mahaguj Power Corporation, there is no justification for a public hearing on it, Samantara said.