10 March 2008
At a public hearing held by Orissa State Pollution Control Board at Naraj near Cuttack town for the proposed thermal power plant by TATA Power, a Singur-Kalinga Nagar kind of fiasco unfolded in typical Company Raj style with drunk goondas sponsored by TATA and corrupt local policepersons ineterfering in peaceful proceedings of the public hearing and beating the villagers in the presence of some very well respected activists of the state.
It all started after the TATA representative made formal announcements about the proposed project and the local people's turn to air their opinion came. When people started saying that they would not allow the project at any cost in their lands due to issues of pollution, displacement and livelihood; five local goondas in an inabrieted state took over the stage, manhandled the speakers, damaged all microphones and speakers and stopped the people from speaking with slogans - "TATA will happen even if people have to be killed".
At this point the other villagers rushed to the stage to clear off the miscreants but the local police at the behest of the five goondas lashed out at the villagers with lathis including women, senior citizens, handicapped people, and students.
When the people continued to resist the attempts of the police and the goondas to silence them the ADM declared that the piblic hearing had been indefinitely postponed. Saying that the police and adminstration packed their bags and set off but a group of elderly women stood in front of their vehicles refusing to budge, shouting they would not tolerate such oppression and would not allow the project at any cost.
The local police outpost incharge, Anil Beuria, who had personally orchestrated the attack on the people slipped the scene the moment some senior officers arrived. The people alleged that Anil was a corrrupt officer and very pally with the five goondas. The people also alleged that prior to the public hearing the goondas often threatened them to not resist the project else they would get them arrested or bumped off.
The blockade continued for 4-5 hours with the people refusing to let go of their anger until the senior activists intervened and the ADM promised that those guilty of beating the people, i.e. the five goondas would be punished, that the next time the hearing happens the state would bear the cost of transport of the villagers and that he would inform the Govt. that people didnt want the project.
The people of the area are mostly Adivasi and Harijan farmers with the region being known for its fertilty and agriculture. It is located just about 2-3 km away from Cuttack on the banks of the Kathajodi which is a tributary of the Mahanadi. They said they were opposed to the project because it would harm their agriculture as it would cause a lot of pollution (fly ash), there would be an increase in the ambient temperature and there would be water scarcity. There are many people without legal title over their lands and a majority of the people are agricultural labourers. Needless to say they would be worst affected by the project.