Displacement fear assumes poll role in Mahakalapada

Deepak Mandal of Pitapatha village in Ramnagar gram panchayat said the state government granted the villagers land pattas in 1976 for which they are paying rent.
Deepak Mandal at his house
Deepak Mandal at his house

KENDRAPARA: The mood in remote seaside Batighar island under Mahakalapada Assembly segment, famous for its 186-year-old lighthouse, is anti-establishment this time. With the state government looking to acquire land for a steel plant, for people of Batighar, Ramnagar and Kharinashi gram panchayats, displacement is the primary issue this election.

Deepak Mandal of Pitapatha village in Ramnagar gram panchayat said the state government granted the villagers land pattas in 1976 for which they are paying rent. But the district administration last year cancelled all the land pattas and refused to receive any rent from them with the ulterior motive of handing over land in Ramanagar, Kharinashi and Batighar gram panchayats to ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel, he alleged.

“The authorities had last year assured us to register our names in the land records after we sat on a dharna in front of the office of tehsildar. But the officials failed to keep their promise due to which around 30,000 voters of the three panchayats will make their dissent known through voting,” Mandal said.

Most of the villages under the three panchayats are surrounded by mangrove forests and under the Forest Rights Act, no forest land can be given to anyone until the rights of the people in the area are recognised and their consent obtained for a project.

AM/NS India, a joint venture of ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel had last year announced to invest Rs 1.02 lakh crore to establish a 24 million tonne per annum state-of-the-art steel plant with sustainable technology in Kendrapara.

Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, who is re-contesting on a BJD ticket from Mahakalapada said Kendrapara district has no big industries. “A large number of youth will get employment after the construction of the steel plant due to which most of the voters in coastal pockets will favour BJD. The government will provide proper compensation money to them in lieu of their land”, he said.

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