Burungpal village, Dantewada: Even before a mega steel plant project worth Rs 18,000 crore in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district takes off, it has hit its first road block. The project was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Dantewada on Saturday. But almost 24 hours after that, the tribals on whose land the plant has been proposed to be built have started opposing it.
Hundreds of villagers, worried their land will soon be acquired for the project, are also angry that no one from the administration bothered to inform them.
"We got know about it a month ago through the press, after that we went to the collector. He said he has no idea. We do not trust them, we are not educated so even if the plant comes up it will not employ us as we are illiterate," said farmer Narendra Karma.
The Steel Plant by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) is expected to come up in Dilmili village. The government claims that this plant will provide employment to 10,000 people and also pave the way for development of the Naxal-infested backward area of Bastar.
"It is true that the steel plant project is in its initial stage. We will procure the land required. According to MMDR Act a district mineral foundation has been made and the funds that will come will be spent on the development and welfare of tribals here," Union Minister for Steel and Mines Narendra Singh Tomar told NDTV.
But the villagers are skeptical and say they have heard such assurances before but have not seen them materialise on the ground. More than a steel plant, villagers first want colleges and institutions for vocational training so that the tribals of Bastar acquire skills to get employed in factories.
"NMDC has been working in the area for so long but we have not benefitted. Near our village a steel plant has been set up but locals have not been employed as they are unskilled," said farmer Pandu Vetti.
"We do not care if we die, we rot or get killed we will not part with our land. The land is our god, we have faith in forest, water and land, these trees are our god. We get cured by having herbs, how can we give it up," Shibbu Madkam, a local tribal told NDTV.