RAJGANGPUR (SUNDARGARH) : The environmental public hearing on expansion of mines of cement producer OCL India Ltd in Rajgangpur block of Sundargarh district, was deferred for the third time on Wednesday due to protests by tribals. A clash also erupted between the pro and anti-groups leaving one person injured.
Demanding declaration of environmental public hearing as invalid, protestors owing allegiance to Sundargarh Zilla Adiwasi Mulawasi Bachao Mancha (SZAMBM) and PESA Gram Sabha Committee under Rajgangpur and Kutra tehsils laid siege to the venue from Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the protestors led by Birmitrapur MLA George Tirkey prevented the entry of officials to OCL’s Dalmia Industrial Training Institute (DITI) at Jhagarpur of Rajgangpur.
With the venue blocked, district administration officials including Sundargarh Additional District Magistrate, Sub-Collector and Regional Officer of Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) started the hearing at a place about 200 metres away. On receiving information, Tirkey and supporters reached the spot and snapped wires of sound system, tore documents and forced the officials to return. Meanwhile, another section of tribals supporting the public hearing arrived from another direction. In the clash between pro and anti-OCL groups at least one supporter was injured.
Shortly after, the protestors resorted to road blockade which was continuing till the report was filed. About 25 platoons of police forces, including OSAF personnel have been deployed. Police DIG (WR) Kavita Jalan and Sundargarh SP Soumya Mishra were present at the site.
Alleging that the public hearing without approval of respective Gram Sabhas is unconstitutional, Tirkey said it should have been scheduled at project affected areas and not on OCL’s premises on a day of tribal festival, Jitia Karma. The road blockade would continue till the administration declares the public hearing invalid, he added. In the evening, the DIG was learnt to have met Tirkey at the agitation site with an aim to restore normalcy.
The public hearing has been necessitated as OCL seeks to enhance limestone production from 4.2 million ton per annum (MTPA) to 9.5 MTPA over its leasehold area of 873 hectares covering nine villages in Rajgangpur and Kutra blocks to meet its’ enhanced cement production plan. On August 23, Chief Minster Naveen Patnaik had laid foundations for OCL’s cement production expansion projects worth `1,994.98 crore through video-conferencing.