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Protests against buying land boost Orissa Naxals

Posted by Admin on November 23, 2009

Recently L N Mittal, the world’s top steel maker, announced in London that he may shift his 12-million tonne steel project out of Orissa because of the long delay in land acquisition and local opposition to the project. Other promoters of mega projects in the state, such as the Tatas and South Korean steel major Posco, confide the same thing.

Orissa may have attracted investment intent of over Rs 6,00,000 crore (one of the highest among all states in the country), but it has the dubious distinction of not being able to realise most of these proposals. The reason is simple. Almost all the new projects are entangled in protests by locals, particularly in the aftermath of the Kalinga Nagar police firing in 2006, which claimed the lives of 14 people who were protesting against land acquisition for a steel project.

The unwillingness of people to give away land for different projects is not without reason. About 1.5 million people were displaced in the state by various development projects (a majority of them being irrigation-dam projects) since 1951, but pre-2006, when a comprehensive rehabilitation and resettlement (R & R) policy was framed in the state, there is hardly any record of their proper resettlement.

Over the past decade, 32,443 families (about 1,60,000 people) have been displaced in the state for various industrial projects. Of these, 26,594 families (about 1,30,000 people) were displaced before the formulation of a R & R policy in 2006. The districts where most of the displacements ocurred were relatively peaceful earlier, but have seen a substantial increase in Naxalite activities in recent years.

Sources said the state government has allotted 28,392 acres of land to 47 industries which have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with it in the past five years.

The allotted land included 9,454 acres of government land and 18,938 acres of private land, taken over by the state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco).

Taken together for both the MoU-signing and non-MoU companies, the state government, through Idco, has so far allotted 43,214 acres (26,971 acres being private land) to 92 units.

In the case of MoU-signing companies, the government is bound by the agreement to allot land for their projects, while the government role in land acquisition is optional for non-MoU companies.

The total allotment of 43,214 acres was made against the requirement of 1,18,715 acres for 171 projects as assessed by the investment facilitating agency, Ipicol, sources said. Out of it, Idco has applied for acquisition of 1,04,754 acres of land.

In 2001-02, the total investment proposed in Orissa was around Rs 1,00,000 crore. Today, it has swelled to Rs 6,00,000 crore. But while eight years before, only three of the 30 districts were affected by Naxalites, their presence is felt in 20 districts now.

A decade before, only three districts, Malkangiri, Rayagada and Gajapati, in the southern tip of the state bordering Andhra Pradesh, were Naxalite-affected. But over the years, the Naxalites have set up and strengthened their base in Jajpur, Keonjhar, Jagatsinghpur, Angul, Sambalpur, Sundergarh and Jharsuguda, where most of the new investments are concentrated.

What has helped them to spread wings is the rising local resentment against land acquisition and displacement for different industrial projects. BS

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