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Tribals attack Tata Steel workers in Orissa

Land surveyors engaged by Tata Steel for its 6-mt plant at Kalinga Nagar were attacked on Wednesday, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2007 20:51 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik
Soumyajit Pattnaik

Land surveyors engaged by Tata Steel for its 6-mt plant at Kalinga Nagar were attacked on Wednesday by angry villagers whose lands have been acquired by the government.

The villagers, who have resorted to a road blockade, banning entry of vehicles into Kalinga Nagar for the past 12 months, reportedly launched a surprise assault on the surveyors with lathis and clubs. Two of the surveyors have sustained serious injuries and have been rushed to the SCB Medical College and Hospital at Cuttack.

Jajpur collector Arabinda Padhi, who reached Kalinga Nagar soon after the incident, said the situation was under control. "A team engaged by the Tatas had gone to Kalamatia village to undertake some survey work without informing me or the SP, where they were suddenly attacked by nearly 20 to 25 people. The Sumo in which they had travelled was overturned.

The injured people received medical treatment locally and two of them were later shifted to Cuttack for further treatment," he added.

However, according to a senior Tata official, the surveyors were not employees of the company. "They do survey work for a number of steel projects in the area, including the Tatas," he said.

The attack took place a day after the state chief secretary convened a high-level meeting to discuss the impasse in Kalinga Nagar, where nearly a dozen steel plants are coming up. The Orissa High Court last week had directed the state government to immediately clear the road blockade, but the government is wary of using force against the agitated tribals.

Kalinga Nagar has been on the boil ever since 13 tribals were killed in police firing while protesting against the construction of a Tata Steel boundary wall on January 2, 2006.

Meanwhile, a new course curriculum is being introduced for the state police to cope with the displacement-related agitations across Orissa. According to Sanjeev Marik, director of the Biju Patnaik State Police Academy (BPSPA), "We have already introduced a new course - "Socio-Economic Change and Its Impact On Law Enforcement" - so that the officers are able to cope with the new problems arising out of industrialisation."

Apart from a road blockade at Kalinga Nagar, unofficial check gates have come up in Dhenkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga panchayats of the Jagatsinghpur district where land has been earmarked for the Posco steel project.

At $12 billion (Rs 51,000-crores), the Posco project is the biggest ever foreign direct investment in the country. Posco officials were also not allowed to undertake topographic and socio-economic survey of the area in Jagasinghpur district.

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First Published: Jan 17, 2007 18:44 IST