KANAKWAL: Residents of Kanakwal village in Bathinda district are up in arms against the alleged ignorance by the SAD-BJP government over the health hazards caused by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s pet project--Guru Gobind Singh Refinery (GGSR).
The Rs 20,000 crore refinery is owned by HMEL, which is a joint venture of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) and Mittal Energy Investment Pte Ltd, Singapore, a Lakshmi N Mittal company.
Not able to bear pollution from the refinery, villagers had desired to be displaced. However, the government's initial proposal to allot a block of 100 acres near Talwandi Sabo, also in Bathinda, did not materialise.
As one walks into the village, one can smell Sulphur in the air. Posters and flags of Congress, SAD and AAP are up on the walls everywhere as part of the ongoing election fever.
“We were shown many lands as we gave away our 1,200 acres of green pastures to the government, which set up the refinery. At that time, it looked all good and we were delighted about the project. But our joys were short-lived,” says 70-year-old Darshan Singh.
“Since the inception of the project, many of the villagers have died or scores have left the village for other places due to health hazards. Politicians and parties come in our village once in five years and make fake promises and then vanish in thin air,” Darshan Singh adds.
Another villager Sukh Darshan Lal says, “As of now, we have 1,200 voters in the village but I doubt if they will all be alive until the next Assembly elections. The village is now getting deserted as more than twenty five families have relocated to the neighboring state of Haryana and few other families have shifted to Talwandi Sabo, some fifteen kilometers away.”
“Two years ago when Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had visited our village, he smelt the Sulphur in the air here following which he instructed the administration and senior officers including the chief secretary and official of the refinery to relocate us (villagers) and give us adequate compensation. However, nothing has happened, yet. In the by-election, we had voted for the SAD candidate Jeet Mohinder Sidhu and he had won the elections. We, now realise it was a mistake,” says Jagjit Singh.
Singh says that the villagers were promised that their wards will be given jobs in the refinery but the promise went unfulfilled. “I told the officials to stay for a night in the village, but nobody stays here for a few minutes even,” he says.
The village was earlier divided over the issue of accepting the state government's offer to relocate, but the issue was resolved as Kanakwal residents gave their consent in 2013.