Joda: A large number of tribals residing under Joda Mining Circle in Keonjhar district were up in arms Sunday alleging breach of agreement by Essel Mining and Industries Limited.
Threatening a stir over the issue, several people of Jajanga, Gurutuan, Kamalpur, Bandhuabeda, Jamirta and Lahunipashi villages submitted a memorandum to the Champua sub-collector as well as to the company authorities.
According to the complaint, Essel company had started laying its rail siding in 2002 blocking Jurudi-Gurutuan main road. The villagers stopped the project opposing the company’s unilateral move. Later, the company held talks with villagers and signed an agreement promising to protect the latter’s interest.
The company had promised to engage the villagers in wagon loading and leveling work. The company also laid a new diversion road on private land belonging to the tribals in Jajanga mouza. The tribals gave away their land in the hope of getting work in Essel’s project. The rail siding became operational April 30.
Meanwhile, the company issued work orders in the name of Panchashakti Enterprises, an agency comprising the affected villagers and land losers. The villagers were happy at the beginning after getting work. But to their shock, the company suddenly withdrew the wagon loading job from them without prior intimation and citing no reason.
On the other hand, some members of Panchashakti including Narendra Hansda, Prashant Ghana and Chittaranjan Nayak alleged that the agency’s letter pad was misused to release payments from the company in favour of another agency. Significantly, the letter pad was signed by Sanatan Mahakud as the authorized signatory for Panchashakti.
Mahakud, in his letter to Essel in 2005, requested that every month some payment (Rs 6 per tonne as loading charge) be deducted from the outstanding payment of Panchashakti and credited to the account of another agency named Narayan Sons. The letter was submitted to the deputy general manager (logistic) of the company.
The members of Panchashakti demanded a high level probe into the incident.
In the meantime, the mine was closed in 2013 and reopened in August 2018. However, the company is yet to release the old payments of Panchashakti. Several reminders to the company in this regard have yielded no results, alleged Shyamsundar Barik, Bhatal Majhi and Keshari Majhi of the agency.
The villagers have now threatened to paralyse the mineral extraction work and block the rail siding if their problems are not resolved in next seven days.