Essar Energy downplays 'hostage' report, govt to help settle issue

Land Row 10 officials were 'taken hostage by villagers', but company terms it as minor incident.

The state government as well as ESSAR Energy on Tuesday downplayed the Monday's incident when villagers of Kaksa in Burdwan district allegedly held ten officials of the energy firm hostage over land compensation issue. Both the government and the company termed the incident a "minor one" which will be "settled shortly".

The officials of the company, which has six Coal Bed Methane (CBM) wells in Jathgoria, about 15 kilometres from the industrial town of Durgapur, were allegedly taken hostage by some villagers over a five-year old land-related dispute when they were on their way to the project site on Monday.

The government has now decided to intervene into the dispute by deciding to identify the actual landlosers who will be compensated by the company.

The state government's decision to take up the responsibility of identifying the actual landlosers, according to some officials, might invite trouble in future as they apprehend that if the government intervenes into a dispute involving a private owner and land losers, it would set a precedence. If the state government takes up the onus of identifying the land losers, it will have to intervene into similar disputes in other places too, a section of officials feel.

A team of ESSAR Energy officials led by Project Director Apurba Ranjan and Resident Director of the company's exploration and production division, Manabendra Guha Roy, met Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee at the Writers' Buildings and discussed the issue.

Apurba Ranjan later told the mediapersons: "Yesterday's incident was a minor one for which no FIR was lodged. None of our colleagues were held hostage. There are some compensation-related issues, which will be resolved shortly. We had been in touch with the administration and we are still in touch with the officials. There is no major problem. There is a road leading to the project site and some plots are there on the road. The plot owners demanded compensation," he said.

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