PEOPLE PERISH UNDER PROJECT INDUCED POVERTY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Government is busy in distributing mines to companies from outside States and even to foreign companies such as POSCO. But the people displaced in the process are perishing under utter negligence. The Revenue Secretary T.K.Mishra, admitted before the Assembly Committee that the mining dependent Companies are not adhering to Resettlement & Rehabilitation (R&R) Policy of the State Government.

It is shocking that people displaced due to various projects have not been rehabilitated despite lapse of decades. People ousted from their habitats to facilitate construction of the Hirakud dam fifty years ago are yet to be settled, the Committee heard.

Members of the Committee expressed deep anguish over the Government’s failure to provide PATTA (records of right over land) to those of the displaced persons who were affected by the Hirakud dam, even though five decades have elapsed.

Presided over by Deputy Speaker Prahallad Dora, the Committee on July 22 wanted to
know about the action taken, if any, against the companies and establishments that have been violating the R&R Policy and ignoring the project-affected peoples’ legitimate demands.

It transpired that not only private companies, but also Public Sector industries and mining companies under Central Government like the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL), National Aluminum Company (Nalco) and Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) have contravened the policy.

When members expressed concern over willful failure of MLC to support peripheral improvements, the Revenue Secretary informed that the Company is taking advantage of several flaws in the Coal Bearing Act, but this being a Central Act, the State Government is unable to do away with the defects.

Has the State brought this to the attention of the Center? Has the administration seriously prosecuted any body for contravention of the R&R Policy? Has ever the State fixed up responsibility on any for failure to issue land records in favour of people who are projected to have been rehabilitated? If yes, what punishment are the errant officers given?

One cannot say if these questions would ever stir the Committee for answers.

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