West Bengal Pollution Control Board’s public hearing regarding the setting up of 600MW power plant in Salboni got a major push with villagers invoking their support for the plant, seeking “immediate” set up. Held at the Salboni community hall, the public hearing found people’s support even as the support came along with a list of grievances.
“The villagers have agreed to the project while they discussed certain issues. The report on the hearing will be sent to Delhi for necessary clearance. Once the environmental clearances have been received, work on the project will begin. This is definitely a step forward, towards the implementation of the project,” said Alok Bhattacharjee, associate vice-president, projects, JSW.
JSW Group (the private, Mumbai-based conglomerate which has undertaken the project – Rs 5,000 crore power plant and Rs 10,000 crore steel plant) faced protests from villagers who have sold their land to the group, raising demands that the owners get jobs when the plant comes up.
Bhattacharjee said JSW is “commented to the villagers and to the government”. “The medical camps, health centres, training institutes set by the JSW in the area right from the inception are all operational,” he pointed out.
Incidentally, it was the project’s inception from where everything went downhill. In November 2008, a landmine blast on the then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy, which was returning from the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Salboni steel plant, marked the beginning of a three-year long Maoist movement in Junglemahal – and the project’s shift to dormancy.
In later years, the JSW took steps for the project’s revival, but only now appears to be making any headway. Tuesday’s public hearing in the presence of two senior officials of WBPCB has breathed new life into the power plant project, the completion of which will pave way for the steel plant.
But while the presence of 400 villagers – all in support – gives the project a much-needed push, not everything is settled. According to sources in JSW, a total of 1,583 cheques were distributed to the villagers with stakes in the land purchased by the company. It, however, registered 483 families as the owners of the land it purchased for the project. As per the agreement between the state government and JSW, every “khatiyan” (family) will get one job.
The number of cheques distributed was more only because the firm took into account all members in a family as having stakes in the sold plots. But the job will be given to only one member in the family as nominated by the land owner, it was decided.
On Tuesday, however, while the villagers were supporting that the plant be set up as soon as possible, they were also raising demands for a total of 1,583 jobs and not 483.
A company official explained: “The agreement with the state government says that we would give one job per family. And according to the agreement, the number of assured jobs is 483. However, if there are fresh vacancies and if we get a suitable candidate in Salboni, we will hire them”.
For now, however, JSW has received a go-ahead from those who stakes are involves. “The villagers were angry with the company only because they have been waiting for the past seven years. (But) they were never against the project. They want the industry . They want speedy implementation,” Nepal Singh, sabhapati of panchayat samiti, said.
Around 3,500 acres of land were handed over to the company for setting up the project.