Thursday 16 February 2012

Coke for Land - notes from a dharna outside Jindal's factory in Angul, Orissa

Villagers have been sitting outside the Jindal factory in protest for the last 3 weeks.

Sudham Bishal, 51 who injured his head in the attack. As per the rehab offered to him, he was employed at the factory, only to be fired 3 months later.

Ashok was fired after a year and a half, and told that the company was not going to hire any more locals.

Babli Naik 'sold' 12 acres of his land but hasn't received a single rupee.

Villagers allege that the police vehicles were a gift to the police by the Jindals. The Jindals also built the police station down the road from the factory.

Villagers demand the jobs, schools, roads, medical facilities they had been promised.

On the eve of Republic Day, residents of about 40 villages had stormed the Jindal factory in Angul, Orissa. The land that this 'Jindal Nagar' stood on, had belonged to them and when Jindal had started to acquire it for its steel plant and power plant in 2006, the villagers were promised compensation and rehabilitation packages that, as these packages go, turned out to be an eyewash.

The protesting villages were brutally attacked by the security guards as well as the local police and 230 people were hospitalised, many with head injuries. A 2-year-old girl had her leg broken.

 A video of the attack was shot by a villager and uploaded on Youtube titled 'Blood Stains in Jindal Steel, Orissa. 25th January 2012'. Here's the link:

Mysteriously, the video vanished a few days later, only to re-appear as 'Adult' content, for which you have to sign in and state that you are over 18 years of age.  A quick Google search revealed that the incident went largely unreported in the national media.

The villagers have been sitting outside the gates of Jindal Nagar on a day and night dharna since then. One of them, 51-year-old Sudham Bishal had injured his head and arm in the attack. He is a farmer who had to give up 4 acres of his land. In return, along with monetary compensation he was promised a job. For 3 months, he worked as a daily wage labourer, in the horticulture department, carrying stones. He was paid 90 rupees a day, which was raised to 100. Then he was fired. Reason given- old and incapable.

Similarly with 25-year-old Ashok Bhoi. He was hired as a security guard in 2010. He was promised 15,000, but paid 4,000. A year and a half later, when they sacked him, they told him they didn't want to employ locals.

Babli Naik, another farmer who had to sell 12 acres of his land to the Jindals has yet to see any compensation. Apparently, Jindal has given the money to the district administration but where it went from there, is something he has been trying to trace since 2006. And there are another 100 like him, he says.

Huge tracts of forests were cleared, apparently over 3,00,000 sal trees were hacked with dubiously acquired forest permissions. And just last week there was a report in the Wall Street Journal claiming that tribals are responsible for vanishing forests in India.

The local police is practically controlled by the Jindals. The villagers point to a police jeep parked outside the gate and tell me that these jeeps were presented to the local police by the Jindals. As was a police station down the road.

Naveen Jindal flew in this morning and met the villagers outside the gate. They asked him about their compensation. He offered them cold drinks. The largest Indian flag I have ever seen fluttered behind him.


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