SAMBALPUR: Residents of Balibandha, Ramji Gudi and Kamlibazar staged ‘Jal Satyagraha’ in Mahanadi river opposing the State government’s Samaleswari Temple Area Management and Local Economy Initiatives (SAMALEI) scheme over displacement fears on Thursday.
Protesting the beautification and development plan of the 16th-century shrine, the residents including women and senior citizens carrying placards stood in waist-deep water in the river, which flows beside Samaleswari temple, at Balibandha ghat.
An agitator Susanta Purohit said, “People who have been living near the shrine for decades will be evicted for implementation of the SAMALEI scheme. Already reeling under several hardships due to the Covid crisis, they will now be displaced due to the project. Where will they go? The livelihood of many people is also at stake as they are making ends meet by doing small business in the area.”
Another resident alleged that government officials are yet to hold discussions with locals about the blueprint of the development plan. “We are gripped by the fear of displacement as some people in our area have already received notice for eviction. Government officials should clearly tell the residents about the size of land to be acquired, the number of families to be displaced due to the project and the rehabilitation plans,” he added.
Earlier on September 1, residents of these areas had staged a protest near Balibandha temple forming a human chain of around 2.5 km to show their resistance towards the project. Meanwhile, residents of Ghunghutipara slum, which has been planned to be shifted for implementation of SAMALEI scheme, will not celebrate ‘Nuakhai’ on September 11. The 400-year-old slum is located near Samaleswari temple and is inhabited mostly by people belonging to the SC category.
The residents said as the slum is on the verge of extinction, they will refrain from celebrating the festival and instead visit Samaleswari temple on the occasion to seek blessings for proper rehabilitation and wellbeing of their future generation.