The announcement of ex gratia by the State Government for the families of victims of landslide at coal over burden dump of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) in Kulda of Sundargarh district and subsequent politicising of the issue by opposition political parties have come as a shock for the industries. In what they called lopsided justice, the industries wondered how the violators of the law can be rewarded for committing a crime.
Like power pilferage, theft of coal from risky dump yards in the mining areas of western Odisha is a common phenomenon. But unlike power theft in which case the culprit is penalised, the victims of mishaps at coal dumps continue to get compensation.
Though the mining companies follow all prescribed norms to keep the area out of bounds for trespassers, people, particularly belonging to low income group, sneak into coal dumps either clandestinely or by greasing the palms of security personnel. In spite of warnings like sign boards stating the dump yard as restricted zone and poses threat to human life, the pilferers care a hoot. Many a time it has resulted in the incident like Kulda open cast mine in which 10 people lost their lives. What has put the industries and mine owners in a quandary is that some local leaders are seizing the opportunity to take political mileage by sympathising with the victims’ families. Though the emotional quotient goes in support of the victims, the stark reality is that far from being victims, they were in fact violators of law of land.
The business houses maintain that while the incidents are shocking and should not have happened, it is also true that the people must not enter the prohibited zones putting their lives at stake even for livelihood.
In a similar incident in December 2007, five persons were injured in a clash with security guards of Talabira coal mines of Hindalco Industries Limited (HIL) over theft of coal. Peeved over the action of the security personnel, villagers had also set fire to Project Office of HIL resulting in huge loss to properties.
If it is coal in these areas, in Rourkela it is pieces of steel which are dumped along with slag in Uditnagar and Deogaon. People of Sitalpada located inside Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), Construction colony, Deogaon and Tarapur Gate used to pick the iron pieces from the slag dump yards which went to the foundries in the steel city as raw materials.
In a shocking incident, a few years ago, 25 people got buried in the slag dump yard of RSP.