Pradeep Pattanayak

The Odisha government’s decision to return 206 acres, out of land of the total 6,000 acres acquired for the proposed mega steel plant of Tata Group near Chhatrapur in Ganjam district, to land owners has stirred up a hornet’s nest. All land owners are now demanding that their lands be returned as well. 

The government had acquired about 6,000 acres of lands for the setting up of Tata’s mega steel plant in 1995-96. Then the land owners readily agreed to part with their arable lands as the proposed plant was expected to not only create employment but also help improve the financial condition of the local people. 

Meanwhile, 26 years have passed but the construction work for the proposed plant has not progressed beyond a boundary wall. With the proposed plant appearing to be far-fetched, a great deal of resentment has already been there among the land owners and local residents. 

Amid this, the recent announcement of the government to return only 206 acres of land to their owners has only added fuel to fire. 

“Taking the larger interest of the people into consideration, the state cabinet has decided to return 206 acre and 68 decimals land to their owners,” Chief Secretary Suresh Mohapatra informed on October 21. 

The land owners have demanded that the government must return all the acquired lands in case of the plant not becoming a reality. 
“If the government is doing nothing on the acquired lands, they should return the lands to us. We have been opposing setting up of plants other than the Tata’s,” said Chennaya Reddy, a local resident. 

Echoing the same opinion, another local resident P Mohan Patra said, “The entire patch is fertile. Hoping something better, we have given our lands to the government. If the Tata plant is not coming up, the government should return our lands so that we can grow crops.”

CPI leader Narayan Reddy also targeted the government over the Tata project issue. 

“Industry Minister Pratap Deb had on July 15 informed at the Assembly that the government would return 771 acres of land. I can’t understand the recent conspiracy of returning only 206 acres,” said Reddy. 

On the other hand, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) clarified that the government has taken such a decision keeping the people’s demand in view. On the remaining lands, other plants would be set up.

“People are having problem in getting birth certificates and death certificates. They are also facing problems in bearing the cost of their children’s education. Similarly, the landless people are also facing similar problems. Keeping this in view, the government has taken this decision,” said Ramesh Chandra Chau Patnaik, Ganjam district BJD president.

(Reported by Ashok Brahma, OTV )