OPGC expansion: Govt vehicle torched, officials held captive in protest

Jharsuguda: Continuing their protest against the land acquisition for the expansion of Odisha Power Generation’s (OPGC) two power units at Banharpali in the district, villagers of Lakhanpur under Tilia panchayat today torched a government vehicle and held captive three officials.

The officials were later freed after the intervention of local police.

The incident occurred in the afternoon when a three-member Central team including Ministry of Environment and Forests Director VP Upadhyay visited the village for a field inspection. The locals who have been opposing the government move, blocked the road and didn’t allow the team to proceed, sources said.

Even the officials’ effort to convince the proposal of the power plant expansion went in vain. The villagers dragged the officials out of the vehicle and held captive in a nearby area.

After being informed Banharpali police reached the spot and freed the officials.

It was the fourth such incident in the recent years in which the locals showed resistance to the expansion plans of OPGC, Banherpali.

In July, officials of a contracting firm engaged by OPGC were held captive by members of Mahila Samiti during their visit to the village for a preliminary survey. Though the officials were released following intervention of Banharpali police, the women forced them to give in writing that they would not enter the village without the villagers’ consent.

Similar incidents too had occurred in 2011, 2012 and 2014 in which the locals had drove the officials away.

Sources said, the villagers, who were earlier displaced by Hirakud Dam and have resettled, are in no mood to relent and seeking a categorical assurance on compensation and rehabilitation package. They have demanded a compensation of Rs 30 lakh per acre of land acquired besides permanent employment in OPGC based on educational qualification.