Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Utkal alumina refinery project hanging fire

The New Indian Express, April 21, 2008

KASHIPUR: WITH both the displaced and company officials sticking to their guns, the construction work of Alumina Refinery of Utkal Alumina International (UAIL) has been delayed further.

The work of the Rs. 4,000-crore refinery project of UAIL at Duruguda in Kashipur block came to a halt since February last after those affected went on an agitation demanding benefits recently fixed for other projects.

The UAIL refinery was conceived in early 90s but from the beginning, it was targeted by the environmentalists and the project-affected persons.

The construction work started during 2005 and gathered momentum. The promoters wanted to commission the unit in 2010. However, the agitation by those displaced from February has hit the work, including the land acquisition process.

The affected families have been demanding increased compensation for land and permanent jobs. But the company has not obliged them and pointed out that the affected persons had been given ex gratia in early 2005 over and above the compensation paid in 1996 as per the guidelines.

On the demand for permanent jobs, the company claimed that all such persons had already been engaged through the contractors. Still the case can be taken up but only after the plant is commissioned.

According to Nabaghana Pani, a senior official of UAIL, the company has already spent over Rs. 530 crore and placed orders for about Rs. 1,800 crore worth equipment.

Besides, the company has decided to speed up the work by enhancing the workforce to 5,000. The company is also imparting vocational training to the affected persons to enhance their employability.

If all these are taken into account, the benefits given by the UAIL would be much more than those prescribed by the rehabilitation policy of the Government, he claimed. He also said that around 96 affected families had already been resettled in the rehabilitation colony constructed by the company.

Meanwhile, the Rayagada district administration is also making efforts to restore normalcy at the plant site and convince the agitators to withdraw their stir but in vain.

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