Tribals in Orissa have vowed to continue their protest against a Tata Steel plant in the Kalinganagar industrial complex in Jajpur, even a year after 13 of them were killed in police firing.
Over 500 tribals had clashed with police January 2, 2006 at the complex, 100 km from Jajpur, to protest against the construction of a boundary wall by the Tata Steel Company. Thirteen tribals and a policeman died in the violence.
"Families of the victims have refused to receive compensation from the government even though they live in penury, making the situation worse for the administration," said a district official.
Surendra Jarika, who lost his wife Janga in the firing, lives in poverty with his four children aged 1-8 years. His income as a labourer is inadequate but he refused to accept the compensation money.
"My wife died fighting for our rights. Now how can we accept the compensation and allow the project for which she died?" Jarika said.
Only one family has taken the compensation money. Other people generally keep away from the family, he added.
Sania Tiria's wife Duigi Tiria also succumbed to a police bullet. Sania, a resident of Champa Koila village, now looks after his three children alone. He too has turned down the compensation offered by the government.
"We will not let even an inch of our land be used for setting up an industry, especially to the Tata Company," he said.
Govinda Laguri, a Class 8 student, was the youngest victim of the police firing. He had gone to the Danagadi market to buy pen and paper. He got off the bus at the Jajpur-Duburi road and was walking home when he was shot.
Asked why he had not accepted the compensation, Govinda's brother Narasingha Laguri said, "We are alive without that money. My brother's sacrifice over the land usurpation will not go in vain. Thirteen of our fellow men died. All 1,300 of us are also ready to die but not even an inch of land will be spared for the industry."
The state government had initially announced a compensation of Rs.100,000 to each family of the victims. The amount was later hiked to Rs 5,00,000. The central government too had announced a compensation of Rs 5,00,000.
The administration hopes that the families will accept the sum one day.
"Some of them have shown interest and we hope they will come forward soon," said District Collector Arabinda Padhi.
"We paid Rs 1 million to a woman who lost her husband and provided her with a government job. Others will also be definitely interested," he stated.
Padhi said the tribals were refusing the compensation because they were scared of taking on the Vistapan Virodhi Janmanch (VVJ), the umbrella outfit protesting against the project.
"VVJ has allegedly imposed a ban on the tribals receiving compensation from the government until their demands are fulfilled," he said.
VVJ activists have also blocked a highway since the day of the Kalinganagar firing a year ago. The police and district officials have failed in lifting the blockade, despite several attempts.
"The situation will not improve unless the government fulfils our demands," said Rabindra Jarika, a VVJ leader.
"The government should pay Rs 2 million compensation for each of the victims and punish officials responsible for the firing," added Jarika.
Kalinga Nagar is a 12,000-acre complex where several industries propose to set up projects.
According to Padhi, the complex has about 10 industrial units and steel plants, and eight of them have already started production. But an official of an steel plant said they lived in fear and anticipated trouble from tribals.