Amid growing rage & discontentment, beer bottling plant at Dhenkanal cancelled

Bhubaneswar: Amid severe criticism and discontentment from villagers, green lovers, civil society organisations and uproar in State Assembly, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today ordered cancellation of beer bottling plant at Balarampur village in Dhenkanal district. On Saturday, as many as thousands of trees were felled despite stiff resistance from locals.

The decision was taken following the report submitted by Revenue Divisional Commissioner Northern Division to the Industries Department stating, “Based on the factual report available, the allocation of bottling plant to P Bottlers Private Limited may be cancelled and alternate site may be provided. Unnecessary felling of trees may be stopped forthwith and immediate plantation should be taken up.”

Locals including women have been vehemently opposing the felling of trees as part of the land acquisition by Dhenkanal district administration for the proposed beer factory. On Saturday, while women were seen clinging to trees not allowing those to be felled, lathi-wielding police personnel scuffled with them to make way for the cutting.

As per the villagers, the NGT was supposed to have a hearing on the issue on November 20 but the administration felled trees prior to that. “ We will never get back our trees even if more trees are planted. We guarded the trees like our children and now we are observing their death rituals,” the women were seen wallowing in anguish.

The growing discontentment also made the locals question the efficacy of the CM. “ How can the CM say he was unaware? If decisions are not being taken as per his instructions and VK Pandian is calling the shots, the CM should leave his chair to Pandian,” stated other villagers.

The issue also snowballed in the Assembly with the Opposition up in arms against the ruling party for their decision to fell trees for the beer factory. Congress had moved an adjournment motion today and the Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray was scheduled to reply on the matter.

“On whose instructions, trees were felled? Who will answer whether there was any violation of law and what action has been taken or the government will take against the violators?” questioned Opposition leader, Narasingha Mishra.

“On whom the accountability will be fixed – CM, Forest and Environment Minister or the officials who issued permission for the beer factory,” questioned BJP MLA Pradip Purohit adding that the CM should clarify the issue.

Social activist and Green Nobel winner Prafulla Samantra had also opposed the move of the Odisha government to cut down trees for the beer factory.

Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is scheduled to hear a case pertaining to the cutting of trees on November 27.

According to sources, the case was filed before the NGT by one Bijay Kumar Majhi.

Earlier, former Dhenkanal MLA Krushna Chandra Patra had blamed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s private secretary VK Pandian for the felling of trees.

IDCO had allocated land for the proposed beer factory which is being set up by P Bottlers Private Limited and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the project via video-conferencing on November 3.

However, on Sunday, the Chief Minister had ordered immediate stalling of tree cutting and asked the Revenue Divisional Commissioner northern range to look into the matter following resistance from locals.