Thursday, May 03, 2007

CPI fomenting trouble against steel plants: Raman Singh

CPI fomenting trouble against steel plants: Raman Singh
From correspondents in Chhattisgarh, India, 08:30 AM IST

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has accused the Communist Party of India (CPI) of inciting tribal villagers against two proposed steel plants, but says his government is committed to industrialisation and will not relocate the projects.

'The CPI, which is offering land to industries in West Bengal despite violent protests by land oustees, has stoked tension by provoking locals for violence in Bastar's Lohandiguda area where Tata Steel plans to set up an integrated steel plant,' Singh told IANS.

'The same elements are whipping up sentiments and inciting tribals at Dhurli and Bhansi villages, the proposed site of a mega steel plant by Essar Steel. They have largely misguided innocent tribal farmers,' he said.

'The state government is determined to ensure that steel majors should smoothly install plants in Bastar's identified sites'.

Singh said this comes after 10 tribal-dominated villages of Lohandiguda block under the Chitrakot assembly segment revolted against the government decision to acquire 5,098 acres of land for Tata Steel.

As many as 101 families will have to be moved from their ancestral houses while a total of 1,200 families be affected by loss of home or land.

These families told the district administration in April that they would not surrender their farmlands for financial compensation to Tata Steel which got a written deal with the state government in June 2005 to bring in Rs.100 billion for a 5 million tonne per annum (mta) steel plant.

The villagers have threatened that Tata's plant would come up only over their dead body. Even a local legislator of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Lachhuram Kashyap, has extended full support to the farmers.

There has also been strong resentment against Essar Steel that plans to acquire 1,480 acres of land belonging to 69 Muria tribal families for a two-phased 3.2 mta steel plant at Dhurli and Bhansi villages in Dantewada. The company plans to invest Rs.70 billion for the planned steel unit.

The protest against Essar turned violent April 1 when two farmers who were supporting the plant were allegedly killed by Maoists.

Soon after the killings, the residents of the two villages announced that 'Essar officials and their agents will not be allowed to even enter the villages'.

'Everything was going well until recently, but the situation became volatile after CPI national leader Gurudas Dasgupta visited the Tata and Essar project sites in March and made provocative speeches.

'Now the situation is really not conducive and the government has to handle it with very cautiously.'

The developments in mineral-rich Chhattisgarh are significant as they come at a time when the industrialisation drive in West Bengal has suffered a blow due to violent protests against land acquisition.

But Raman Singh said: 'The Chhattisgarh government is committed to industralisation and working for improving the quality of lives of millions of decades old marginalized tribal population of Bastar. I am hopeful the government will persuade farmers to surrender land.'

'Currently, there is no plan to shift the proposed steel plant venues of Tata and Essar in view of locals protest. The farmers are sensible enough to understand their interest. The land deadlock issue will have a peaceful solution soon,' Singh remarked.


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