OCL Protest

The Forum for Gram Sabha Committee, a local people’s organization, has been protesting against the proposed land acquisition for limestone mining of OCL India Ltd. at Rajgangpur, Sundargarh. It has also been raising voices against the gross violations of constitutional provisions related to the 5th Schedule Area and LARR Act, 2013 in the process of land acquisition. PUCL constituted a three member team to look into the issue and visited the area from 5th March to 7th March. The team met the affected villagers, elected PRI representatives, lawyers and government officials and consulted various government documents. Based on these, it prepared a report. Broad points of the report are as below:

  1. The OCL India, a Dalmia group company, has been producing cement sourcing limestone and dolomite from Lanjiberna mining in Rajgagnpur Block since 1951. It has expanded its cement plant capacity periodically; so also the mining area. In 2017, it has proposed to expand the capacity of the plant from 4.2 MTPA to 9.5 MTPA and its mining area.
  2. For the expansion of mining, the Government of Odisha has issued notices (in February, 2020 and February 2021) to acquire 990.67 acres of private agricultural land of 7 revenue villages spread across 5 Gram Panchayats under Kutra and Rajgangpur Block.
  3. These are largely Scheduled Tribes dominated villages. Their population range from 94 % to 74% at the village level. Economically, majority of the population depend on agriculture and most of them are marginal and small peasants. According to SIA study report the average landholding of the family is 1 to 1.5 acres only. Owing to mining for the last several decades, agriculture has been badly affected in the surrounding area. Water retention capacity of land has gone down, slowly turning the once fertile land into dry land.  Local people have been forced to leave cultivation in winter season due to excess air pollution caused by limestone mining and cement factory.  Water table is going down in the area and safe drinking water is a big problem in many of the villages. Prevalence of TB is a common phenomenon; people are dying of this disease even after undergoing treatment. A small section of people are employed as drivers, security guards and as casual workers in the mines and factory, not as regular employees but as casual workers under labour contractors.
  4. Thus, disaffection among local communities has already been there due to lack of employment opportunities, the ill effects of mining on agriculture and other aspects of lives in general. Besides, sufferings of Adivasis caused by mining and industry induced displacement in the past and the apprehension of loss of Adivasi identity closely tied to land have led people to protest against the proposed land acquisition.
  5. Protests have remained peaceful and within the scope of the law and the constitution. The government and the district administration, on the contrary, have been openly violating the existing laws and constitutional provisions to facilitate smooth land acquisition for the OCL.
  6. According to the provisions of the EIA Notification of 2006, Public Hearing should have been a consultation process between the project proponent and the people. However, it is clear from the video recordings that the hearing has been a farce.
  7. Similarly, there are many special provisions for the Scheduled area in LAAR Act 2013 and Govt. of Odisha Rules-2016. For example, ‘No accusation of land shall be made in Scheduled areas’ and if it takes place, it shall be done ‘as a last resort’. It further says, ‘in all cases of land acquisition or alienation in Scheduled areas, the consent of the concerned Gram Sabha or Panchayat shall be obtained’. None of these provisions has been adhered to.
  8. According to the Act, it is mandatory to obtain prior consent of the Gram Sabha to conduct Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study. However, the study was conducted ignoring this provision only to fulfill the formalities. When public  hearings were organized on the draft SIA reports, villagers did not allow this to happen. But the final study reports note that public hearings have been conducted “smoothly and successfully”.
  9. Sensing the manipulations, people made complaints before the local police station that their names have been falsely shown in the attendance sheet of the public hearing and their signatures have been forged. The police did not register the complaint. Then they went to the SP. The SP also did not hear them. Then they went to the High Court. The Court ordered the district police to ensure that FIRs are registered. Now FIRs have been registered against the concerned officials involved in the public hearing, including the SIA team leader, for forgery, defamation and under Prevention of Atrocities Act.
  10. Most importantly, the SIA study reports mention that 88% of the affected families do not want to part with the land, whereas the LAAR Act clearly says that prior consent of the 80% of affected families is required for land acquisition for private companies. Ignoring this important provision the district administration has gone ahead with the land acquisition process.

Considering the above, PUCL demands that

  • the established laws and constitutional provisions be adhered to and not be sacrificed in the interest of the company;
  • the government address the genuine concerns of the people democratically;

and also appeal

  • for a serious rethinking on the prevailing development process, which is based on perpetual exploitation and destruction of nature itself.

Pramodini Pradhan, Convenor, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Odisha)


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