Shimla: In defiance of local resistance, the government has moved in for compulsory land acquisition to set up a cement plant near Sundernagar in Mandi district, which would uproot some of the very families who had been resettled in the region after being displaced in another project.
Notification towards land acquisition for setting up the cement plant has been issued, says Onkar Sharma, Deputy Commissioner Mandi. Grasim cement which is setting up the plant has already bought 35 percent land through direct negotiations with the land owners at both the plant and mining site, he adds.
Caught up in the turf war is the family of Raj Kumar and about another 100 such families, who were displaced when Bhakra Beas Management Board executed the 900 MW Dehar project in the 1960’s, which diverted Beas River into Satluj for the purpose.
“Within a generation, we again face an uncertain future,” says Raj Kumar. “The authorities are saying that the very land on which we were resettled 35 years ago is now needed for a cement factory.”
On February 4, the government notified issuance of section 6 notice of Land Acquisition Act for acquiring 835 bighas of land in Bharari Ghangal Khatrawari and Chambi areas of Sundernagar for the cement plant.
“The administration has insured that land to be acquired gets the best prices,” says Onkar Sharma. A relief and resettlement package worked out ensures that housing and land for the displaced people, and a job for one member of the affected family, is provided for, he said.
Not succumbing to government assurances or the prices offered by the Birla company, Chunni Lal, whose land comes in the way of the project said, “brokers have been let lose, who are alluring poor people into parting with their land.”
“Prices being offered are different for different people and vary from site to site,” he said.
Opposing the plant Mahila Mandals and other villagers have formed a Sangrash Samiti and held a protest, last month. Company officials out to do a tree count on the land, were not allowed to do so by residents of Keran villagers, last fortnight.
Lalit Sharma, secretary of the Samiti considers the proposed cement plant will environmentally damage the area and lead to traffic congestion.
“We oppose the cement plant in our valley. Have a look at the sites where other cement plants have been set up and we don’t want that to happen here,” he says.
Plans to set up a cement plant in the area were first put forth in 1982 but an memorandum of agreement was only singed in the mid 1990’s with Delhi based Harish Cements. Plans of setting up the plant near a conserved forest were stalled by ministry of forest and environment.
Grasim cement, a Birla company, bought out Harish Cements and is working for setting up a 1.25 million ton capacity unit at the Sundernagar site.