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Is Singur headed the Ganjam way?

If Orissa’s Ganjam district are any indicators, people in Singur displaced by the Tata’s Nano project are in for a difficult time if the small car plant is shifted out of West Bengal, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2008 00:44 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

If Gopalpur and the adjacent areas of Orissa’s Ganjam district are any indicators, people in Singur displaced by the Tata’s Nano project are in for a difficult time if the small car plant is shifted out of West Bengal.

In 1995, Tata Steel signed an MoU to construct a 2.5 million tonne (MT) steel plant in Gopalpur and acquired nearly 3,700 acres to build the plant and rehabilitation colony.

The capacity of the steel plant would have been augmented to 10 MT in several phases within six years at an estimated cost of Rs 20,000 crore.

Nearly 1,100 families were displaced. But the project was ‘put off’ indefinitely as the Gana Sangram Parishad, a local outfit in the area, fiercely resisted construction of the steel plant.

Due to the protests, the construction of the Gopalpur port and a reservoir to supply water to the steel plant also suffered. In November 2004, Tata Steel signed a new MoU with Orissa to construct a 6 MT steel plant at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district. With this, all hopes were dashed for the Gopalpur plant.

The rehabilitation colonies that the Tata Group built in Luhajhar and Siteipali areas near Gopalpur town have now been invaded by a thick outgrowth of bushes and shrubs.

A portion of the colony at Luhajhar panchayat has become a grazing field. Many houses remain unoccupied. And the few families who have moved to the rehabilitation colony from the plant site are in an utterly desperate situation.

Sadananda Rana (48) moved from Mansarkota to the rehabilitation colony at Patrapur as his land was acquired for the plant. Rana was working as a skilled house construction worker and was employed as a special land acquisition officer for the project.

He was removed from his job in 2006. His wife Bhagyalata, fighting hard to control her tears, told the ht: “We gave up our land and came here in 1999. My two sons got disoriented in this new place. They even refused to go school. Both failed their class X exams. My husband cannot resume his career as a skilled construction worker again as he has lost touch with his original profession. Had the steel plant been constructed, he would have been absorbed as an employee. We have no income now.”

Many displaced families are facing a similar plight.

The Tata Group has set up the J.N. Tata Technical Education Centre at Gopalpur to train students. Muthuramlingam, the manager of the institute said: “The students training here are getting decent jobs. There is some relaxation in fees and age for children of the displaced people to study here.”

A senior Tata Steel official here told HT, “About 500 acres of land in Gopalpur will be utilised to se up a plant to produce cold rolled sheets.”

But that's for the future.

Till then, the people displaced by the project may have to fend for themselves. Is Singur listening?