JAGATSINGHPUR: Even as cases of Covid-19 are rising alarmingly across the state, the Special Relief Commissioner’s warning of stern action against safety violations is going unheeded in the ongoing JSW steel plant-related standoff in Jagatsinghpur district. The contentious land acquisition for the project is seeing large gatherings across Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadkujang panchayats with rampant flouting of masking and social distancing norms by people, police, anti-displacement leaders, elected representatives, government and JSW officials.
Many villagers in Dhinkia have complained that they are even reluctant to go to nearby hospitals for testing due to fear of arrest by police. “Police have sealed the village for last 15 days to foil the JSW stir and we are unable to step out to buy masks and sanitisers. But we have vowed to protect our land and don’t care about safety measures,” they said.
As per reports, even though many including the Water Resources Minister Raghunandan Das have tested positive, neither the administration nor the Health department has taken any steps to restrict the demonstrations and gatherings in these panchayats.
Contacted, chief district medical officer Dillip Panda informed that the administration has directed Paradip ADM, the local tehsildar and BDO of Erasama to ensure compliance to Covid guidelines during the meetings failing which stern action will be taken.
Meanwhile, panic prevailed in Dhinkia after a fine of Rs 5 lakh each was slapped on five JSW supporters at a village meeting on Sunday. Sources said, the penalty was imposed on those persons who agreed to give away their betel vines for the land acquisition on grounds of going against the collective decision of the village to oppose the steel plant.
Nearly 700 acres of forest land have been identified for betel vine demolition in Patana, Mahala and Dhinkia villages. However, many betel vine owners who have been convinced to give away their land are now facing the ire of anti-JSW villagers. Earlier, 15 other villagers who had sided with the administration were punished by the village committee for violating the majority decision.