Tikiri (Rayagada): Our last week’s report ‘Dust sold as dream’ (September 26) highlighting how Utkal Alumina has been exploiting local people and how its misdeeds are shielded by the local administration and go unreported by the media was just the beginning of our quest.
The exploitation of people in Dimindi village under Hatiguda panchayat is just the tip of the iceberg. The plant’s surrounding villages are full of such stories.
The metal firm, ably backed by the local administration, media and politicians, is running a well-oiled system to loot local resources and people. In order that its sins are never highlighted, it has kept local administration, press and the politicians on its side. Inaccessibility of locals to media and unavailability of mainstream newspapers in the remote area has rather helped the company. Whatever few newspapers are available, they never report on local issues.
This shows how the company has put in place a well-yielding template of exploitation. Besides various allurements, the fact that the company’s writ runs here, media persons don’t muster courage to question and report the real stories.
This correspondent reached Nuapada, 12 km from Tikiri market September 21. He found no newspapers in local markets. Upon inquiry, the lodge owner said, they do not get newspapers as most of the people living here are non-Odias and do not read Odia newspapers. All lodges and small hotels in the vicinity of the plant are patronized by non-Odias working in the plant. Even lodge and hotel owners are outsiders while some of them are owned by local politicians. Local people have no voice, and even if they oppose, they go unreported.
Felix Behera, a small-time tailor, runs a roadside shop in front of the hospital set up by Utkal Alumina. A tete-a-tete with him revealed that like others he had also lost his land to the firm. He has received only 44 per cent of the compensation. With fear writ large on his face, Felix said he has not received all the benefits that he was promised which includes a job in the plant.
Felix also revealed how the company tried to take his recorded land near the hospital. His repeated pleas before the administration and the police bore no fruits. The tehsildar, who had come to measure the land as per a High Court order, went completely in the company’s favour. “The company has silenced senior administration officials with various allurements,” Felix said. So much for the administration and the company.
People are not allowed to use their own land for 16 years. The authorities know this but they are silent. People have made rounds of DM’s office, tehsildar’s office and police stations but to no avail. Every time they remove the company’s boundary wall, it is erected overnight. “We were beaten up black and blue and paraded naked on roads whenever we tried to demand our dues,” said a co-villager, adding police have cold-shouldered their complaints.
Also read: Utkal Alumina expansion: Dust sold as dream
Many more samples of the company’s exploitations were seen in other nearby villages such as Dimindi, Bagirjhola, Kucheipadar and Di Karala. The situations in these villages are rather more inhuman.
Desperate people crowd every outsider, who visits the village, for a government abode, a pension or even a ration card. They do not even so much as wait to know who the outsider is and why he is there. The company has snatched away their lands through deceit and even turned their ownerships to its name.