Protest during public hearing on OCL mining area expansion

Sundergarh: Tension ran high at Jampali Stadium area in the district today after clash erupted between supporters and opponents of the public hearing on mining area expansion of Rajgangpur-based cement major OCL India Ltd.

Opposing the hearing, hundreds of locals wielding swords and axes locked up two gates of the stadium. As per reports, the agitators led by Birmitrapur MLA George Tirkey, congregated outside the stadium and did not allow the officials to enter the venue.

Terming the hearing ‘unconstitutional’, the agitators alleged that the gram sabha was not consulted ahead of the public hearing. Although the Sundergarh ADM and Sub Collector tried to hold talks with the villagers, it failed to yield any results.

While 15 platoons of police had already been deployed in the area, more force has been called upon to avoid any untoward situation, informed sources.

As per reports, the OCL proposes to enhance limestone production from 4.2 Million Tonnes Per Annum (MTPA) to 9.5 MTPA and plans to extend its operation over 873 hectares covering nine villages of the district.

Earlier on May 17, the National Commission for Schedule Tribe (NCST) had written to the Governor’s office to allow public hearing only after a social impact assessment study in the area and approval of the affected gram sabhas.

Protesting the hearing, Tirkey and Talsara MLA Prafulla Majhi, Convenor of Panchayat’s Extension to the Scheduled Areas (PESA) Gram Sabha Committee under Rajgangpur and Kutra tehsils, Anil Ekka and others had submitted a memorandum to the Governor on July 26 asking withdrawal of permission for public hearing.

Following the opposition for public hearing, the Governor’s office on August 3 sought a factual report from the Sundergarh district Collector into the matter. Later, after getting necessary clarification from the State Chief Secretary, the Sundergarh Collector on August 4 wrote to the Governor’s office that OCL be allowed to conduct the scheduled public hearing.