Once again Trinamool Congress led agitation stopped work at the Essar Oil’s Coal Based Methane (CBM) project in Durgapur. In several occasions earlier also, TMC backed agitations by local villagers saw work of the CBM project being halted.
Over 200 villagers led by the Trinamool peasants’ cell block president Ajijul Middya, stopped production of CBM by Essar Oil yesterday, protesting discharge of effluents contaminating ponds and agricultural fields and demanding jobs as compensation. They also accused the company of occupying vested plots illegally.
The agitating villagers told technicians at the production site of CBM in Akandara village near Durgapur at around 8am to stop the machines. The agitators, led by the TMC leader Ajijul Middya, stopped vehicles carrying CBM gas and effluents.
“The Essar Oil project is damaging our agricultural land and ponds by releasing effluents from the pits. We have repeatedly told company officials to stop this but nothing has been done. We had submitted a memorandum to the Kanksa block development officer in June. We demand that the company compensate the villagers by giving them jobs at the project site or else, we will not allow them to work here. In many areas, the company has forcibly occupied vested land,” Middya said.
Since the beginning, the villagers have obstructed the project on the grounds that it has been occupying vested farmland without any authority or compensation through jobs, and that the submersible pumps installed for the project have allegedly drastically brought down the village’s water-level.
Since January, villagers have stopped CBM exploration work in many pits in Kanksa and Laudoha over demands such as jobs, renovation of village roads, a burning ghat, ponds and streetlights.
However, report from sources suggests that it is group rivalry between two Trinamool Congress factions, who have been at loggerheads over the project resorted to such violent agitation so as to display their individual strength.
Yesterday, one faction led by Middya obstructed the approach road to the project and also forced the workers to vacate the eight wells dug across the village by Essar Oil to extract CBM. Mr. Midya’s aides even slapped those workers who were reluctant to leave their workplace without the company authority’s permission.
The block leader of the party in Akandara, Mr. Prodyut Banerjee condemning Mr. Middya act, said: “We have been cooperating with the project officials following our party’s guideline. We won’t allow any hooliganism in the name of the Trinamool Congress here. The inconveniences of the villagers are being discussed at length with the project officials and the district administration.”
A senior Essar official in Durgapur denied the charge of occupying vested land. “We did not occupy any government plot. The other issues will be sorted out through discussions. We have decided to call the villagers to a meeting on Tuesday,” he said.
The police failed to persuade the villagers to withdraw the agitation.
At a time when Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is trying to send a strong positive signal to the industrial houses, that her government is committed to create an industry friendly environment in the state, agitations like this by her own party cadres must needs to be addressed on an urgent basis.