The Public Hearing was conducted by the state government for setting up of the second alumina plant of Aditya Birla Company   at Kansariguda village under Podapadi panchayat in Kashipur block of Rayagada district, Odisha. A week before, A search about was carried out by police on all roads connecting Kashipur and Kansariguda, Sorish Padar to Laxmipur and Doraguda to Tikiri.

On the very day of Public Hearing, there were Police encampments within 10 km of the proposed meeting site with police check posts at every three kilometers. The entire area was sealed before the meeting, against the will of the people and they were stopped from moving on that road.

The Public Hearing for environmental clearance was held at Utkalmani Gopabandhu High School, Kansariguda on 05/10/2021 for the setting up of Hindalco’s 3-million-ton capacity alumina refinery and 150 MW captive power plant at Kansariguda under Kashipur block. This would be the second such project of Aditya Birla Group’s Utkal Alumina.

The event was organized under the supervision of the Additional Collector, Shri Somnath Pradhan and the Regional Officer of Pollution Control Board, Shri Prashant Kar. The District Superintendent of Police, Shri Vivekanand Sharma was present to oversee the security arrangements. A Public Hearing was held with unprecedented heavy police deployment in the area within a 10 km radius of that site only to favour Aditya Birla Group. This started at 10 am and completed within two hours.

This so-called Public Hearing was conducted and about 200 people were handpicked to attend the same. A total of 600 police personnel were deployed particularly at the site for around 200 attendees of Public Hearing. The police were engaged at temporary check-posts in 18 different places and were detaining hundreds of people on the streets till the hearing end. Prior to it, notices were served under section 107 of IPC against 20 such people, deliberately denying the original participants to attend the Public Hearing. By this, they were detained within their respective villages,

Six months prior to this event, Aditya Birla Company engaged some hirelings and had set up a stooge organization called ‘KSHATIGRASTO Youth Mission’. ‘Mahila Mandal’ and SHG groups were being utilized through that Mission in favour of Company. The list of Public Hearing Participants from each village was prepared by that Youth Mission. The police had to allow these listed persons to attend the ‘Public Hearing’ after verifying and matching their names from respective Aadhar Cards. The head of the Youth Mission and the management people of the company had to decide regarding who, among the participants, would place their opinion at the meeting, who would interact with the journalist(s) and who would speak before the TV cameras.

The company footed the travel expenses and food bill of all the people: from participants to all the organizers involved in the Public Hearing. On that day, Company arranged non-veg meals for all. While Mutton was served exclusively for the company’s brokers, government officials, police, political leaders and journalists, other participants were kept satisfied with chicken-rice.

The whole episode, from the beginning to the end of the Public Hearing, was monitored by Shri Suryakant Mishra, a consultant of Utkal Alumina Company. The Mining Developer, Srinivas Rao who is involved in extraction of bauxites ore from   BAPHLIMALI and   KODINGAMALI BAUXITE MINES and KV Mohan Rao of Maitri Company are one and the same person having many names.

That Srinivasa Rao alias KV Mohan Rao was also all along present there and assisted Suryakant Mishra in superintending the Public Hearing. They used to explain to people that there was no employment opportunity in the area. If the company functions it will alleviate the suffering of the people. They were also saying that had not the locals invited the Company the same would not have come.

If this be true that after being invited by the local people the Aditya Birla Company has come then why there are so much police personnel just for a public hearing! Why only those persons selected by Suryakant Mishra and Mohan Rao were allowed to attend to Public Hearings? People questioned, ‘when Mohan Rao and Suryakant, they themselves are not losing their land, why their presence and involvement is required in this Public Hearing?’ Suryakant said on TV that the company will soon set up its own plant at Kansariguda.

After two months of the Public hearing:

Two months already have been passed since the public hearing is held. In the meantime, the people of Kansariguda area have already started their agitation as the company has not made any efforts to set up its plant for two long months.

On 12/01/2022, the local residents organized ‘ROAD BLOCKADE’ at Rafkana, a point on Koraput-Rayagada road, and closed the traffic through that road, demanding immediate setting up of plant by Aditya Birla Company. It was led by Koraput Lok Sabha member Saptagiri Ulka.

Tragically, 20 years ago, the people of the same area protested against setting up of the same plant of Aditya Birla company and staged a ‘Chakajam’ at same protest point (Rafkana) on  20/12/2000; and now the people of that area have organized road blockade in support of setting up of the plant,  what a tragic end !

Twenty years ago, Kashipur MLA Anantram Majhi, being an all- party leader tried a lot in favour of setting up of Aditya Birla Company. When general people protested against this heinous attempt of the “Sarva-Daliya Leaders”, those leaders with the connivance of police, stealthily organized   Maikanch police firing. Now Lok Sabha MP Saptagiri Ulka is participating in ‘Sit-in-Dharana’ for setting up of that same company of Aditya Birla at Kansariguda.

The leaders are playing their tricks. The company is also cunningly moving forward. Twenty years ago, our people protested against the establishment of this company in Doraguda and the company threatened us that it would move to Kansariguda under Kashipur block, fifteen kilometers away from Doraguda. At that time, the company had purchased a parcel of land by paying Rs 3 lakh per acre to the Kansariguda people.

After that, the unity among the People of Dorguda cleft, and a chunk of people of Dorguda, Dimundi, Nuapada and Karol villages demanded that the same amount of three lakh rupees per acre be given to them also for transfer of their land. Aditya Birla company then stopped acquiring Kansariguda land and renewed purchase of Doraguda land again. Alumina Company was set up with the help of police.

Residents of the area suspect that Aditya Birla Company   arranged Maikanch police firing on December 16, 2000 in retaliation for opposing establishment of its Doraguda plant and the extraction of the BAPHLIMALI Bauxite mine.

Three tribal men were killed and 12 people were injured in that police firing.  False cases were registered against 500 people; of which two were also convicted of assaulting police. Despite three people were killed in police firing, no punishment was imposed for such crime. The Aditya Birla Group has already started running of Doraguda plant and extracting ore from BAPHLIMALI Bauxite mine.

The Aditya Birla Company though has started its operation but has never fulfilled all those promises it had made at time of installation. The company has never been serious about the peripheral development of the area.

The Company though had opened the ITI school in Kashipur but has shut it down just after a year. The company had appointed one teacher in each government school of the area to fulfill the scarcity of teachers in schools. After the alumina production started the Company stopped salary of those teachers and stopped the project.

The company took over some land in the name of opening a primary health centre at Andirakancha village located at the bottom of the Baphlimali bauxite mining hillock. The company distributed medicines for few days. When people started accepting it and stopped their resistance, the health center became the police station as per the earlier plan.

The company provided loan though NABARD and ITDA to a handful of people for purchasing and rearing of goat and chickens. Now the company is cheating the people. Further, the company is hoodwinking the people in the name of providing borewell for facilitating irrigation water for raising of Lemon grass and cashew nuts seedlings. If the people raise their voices for their rights, the company lodges false cases against them and get them arrested.

The same company again arranged a public hearing in its favour with false promises of establishing its alumina plant at Kansariguda. I don’t know when our people would understand the tricks played by these companies and just kick them out completely from their localities!

Shivaram Nayak  had written this piece in Odia for a bi-monthly magazine ‘Ganabhiti’. Lalatendu Samantara has translated it into English. Contact: gassbhubaneswara@gmail.com

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