SAIL expansion project stuck over religious row

November 15th, 2011 - 11:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Nov 15 (IANS) A Rs.17,000 crore expansion project of a Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) plant in West Bengal has been halted after villagers at the site objected to the removal of a tree and some stones worshipped by them, an official said Tuesday.

The proposed expansion has been stuck as a section of villagers of Purushottampur in Burnpur area of Burdwan district is strongly opposing any construction on the small land, about 0.0069 acres, because they said the land is the home of a tree and stones that are considered as ‘Jhorabudi’, idols of a deity.

The company said it has already spent Rs.11,900 crore on the expansion which will expand the IISCO Steel Plant’s (ISP) capacity from 0.4 million tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes per annum.

“Because of a small patch of a land, our expansion process has got stuck. We have already spent a lot of money for the project. We have also spent about Rs.48.44 crore for the acquisition of the 353 acres of land out of 965 acres needed for the project,” an ISP official told IANS, requesting not to be named.

“The company has given high compensation to the villagers for the land. But now some villagers are refusing to vacate the land, stating that on the land there are a tree and stones which they consider as idols of a deity.

“We have constructed an alternative set up for shifting of the deity. But they have not agreed. There are even now opposing the construction of boundary wall around the land acquired,” he said.

He said the villagers are now demanding permanent jobs in the company.

“But it is not possible because there is no provision for permanent employment for villagers in the plant. The modern plant which we are setting up will only require diploma ITI engineers… we cannot recruit villagers,” he said.

The 353 acre of land was acquired by the company in late 1980s.

The company, however, is hopeful of a solution as it has approached the state government.

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