On the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the TATA Power and the Odisha government for a 1000MW coalbased power plant at NarajMarthapur area in Cuttack district, at least 1200 acres of land was acquired by the Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco), a state government agency, about a decade back. People living in five villages namely Mundali, Talagarh, NarajMarthapur, Ramdaspur and Nuagaon had lost agricultural land to the project.
As the company faced strong opposition from the state forest and environment department and green activists over locating the plant close to Chandaka wildlife sanctuary on the outskirts of the state capital of Bhubaneswar, It changed the location first to Begunia in Khordha district and then decided to make it a shorebased plant at Gopalpur on the state's southern coast, where it already has acquired more than 3200 acres of land for a steel plant.
But, finally, the company decided to shelve the project for reasons better known to the company. "They have not submitted any formal proposal to put up a plant at Gopalpur. As of now, intent to set up any coalbased project by the company is not there, according to Odisha's industry department sources.
However, unfortunately, the land acquired in NarajMarthapur and adjacent villages for the initially proposed project has not been returned to people despite the fact they have remained unused for almost a decade. The onetime compensation paid by the company for their surrendered lands is no solace, say the affected people who are now battling for survival.
With the formation of a protest banner named 'Sidheswar Anchalika Surakhya Committee,' People have started demanding the return of their lands while seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rescue them from the plight.
Inspired by the Supreme Court judgement on land rights of farmers in Singur, "We have decided to launch a democratic, peaceful and nonviolent struggle to get back our land since the land is the only source of our livelihood," Subash C Sahoo, secretary of the committee noted in the letter to the Prime Minister.
The committee has also alleged that the land was acquired forcefully from people and the public hearing was held at a distance of 20 km from the affected villages to ensure nonparticipation of most of the affected people.