The family members and co-workers of 78 suspended employees of a Tata steel plant are on an indefinite strike from Wednesday in Gopalpur, Odisha. The workers are alleging that they were arbitrarily suspended on Tuesday night for “vandalising” industrial equipment in the company’s ferrochrome plant. The workers were staging protests outside the plant’s main gate to demand job security from the firm three years after it had acquired the land of the villagers, displacing thousands in the name of job generation and development of the region.
The local police have lodged four cases against the workers, while the workers have also filed complaints against the police alleging harassment. The indefinite strike of the workers has led to the suspension of all operations at the plant, while heavy deployment of police has been arranged in the area to avoid elevation of the tension.
The workers who have been arrested hail from the villages which were acquired by Tata Steel for the project. Industrial Development Corporation (IDCO) of Odisha, in the past, had acquired 2,970 acres of land near Gopalpur port in Ganjam district for a mega steel plant project of Tata Steel. Later, the steel plant project had been shelved and the company had decided to have an SEZ [Special Economic Zone] named Gopalpur Industrial Park (GIP) on the land to generate 55,000 tonnes steel per annum (TPA). The mega plant led to the displacement of over 1,398 families. Over the course of the last three years, the region has witnessed several protests and mobilisations by the locals against the corporate giant. The villagers have been agitating over jobs and compensation issues.
Following a government approval in 2016, the company tried to initiate a disbursement process worth Rs 350 crore, and announced additional compensation package for families displaced or affected by the land acquisition for project of Tata Steel in Ganjam district of Odisha. The company had also claimed to have provided technical training to 700 youths from displaced families.
Rabi Shankar, an activist from the state, said, “The plant, from the beginning, was clashing with the interests of the locals. Amidst protests over land acquisition the company had to face stiff opposition. Despite that, the corporate firm managed to get its way. However, locals are still resisting demanding their fair compensation and their due.”
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