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Baitarani water row: Odisha govt turns blind eye to Essar’s contract violation

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Keonjhar, Jan 19:

The Odisha government continues to favour Essar Steel even though it has violated many of the terms of agreement it signed for drawing water from the Baitarani River around Basantpur panchayat of Keonjhar district.

The Essar intake well on Baitarani river
The Essar intake well on Baitarani river

As per the clause 3(A) of the agreement signed by Essar Steel and Baitaranai Division of Salapada on December 12, 2012; the company would be held responsible and criminal proceeding can be undertaken against it if a third party member (locals and farmers) gets affected due to drawing of water from the river.

However, the administration didn’t even register the complaint when the water dispute started between the villagers and the steel company. On the other hand, the local police were mute spectators when Essar went broke the bathing ghat of the villagers.

Para 10 of the same agreement asks the company not to obstruct the flow of the river. However, the company authorities have erected a concrete wall inside the river to divert water to its pump house leading to reduced flow beyond the wall.

The local police, however, preferred to impose section -144 in the area and pressurize the protesting locals to retreat while taking no action against the company for the breach of agreement.

Para 13 of the agreement clearly states that the company can’t demand water as per its requirement at any time of the year excluding the rainy season. However, they manage to get it from their pump house while the locals and farmers struggle with a dried up stream.

What is even more surprising is that even after all these terms in the agreement, the district administration has turned itself to be an agent of the steel major and prefers to use strong-arm tactics on the villagers.

When OST attempted to speak to the district collector Bishnu Prasad Sahoo to clarify the stand of administration, he refused to comment.