Coal crunch for industries in Odisha's western hinterland has triggered a mass protest. More than 40,000 people from Jharsuguda, Sambalpur and Sundargarh took to the streets Wednesday, protesting the alleged step-motherly treatment meted out to industries in the region by coal miner Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL).
The agitation was led by Jharsuguda Visthapita Sachetana Samiti, drawing people from all walks of life, including industrial workers from Jharsuguda. Apprehending job losses and partial or full closure of industries due to choked coal supplies, the protesters made up by people from displaced families, civic organizations, NGOs and communities staged a dharna in front of the office of chairman, Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL). They demanded adequate coal supplies to local industries before exporting the dry fuel.
The stir was centred on the theme 'Odisha's Coal for Odisha first'. Naba Kishore Das, MLA from Jharsuguda joined the agitation and submitted a memorandum to the MCL chairman on behalf of the local population and industries. The memorandum lists the stress faced by industries because of erratic and deficient coal supplies. It has suggested remedial action in the form of prioritizing Odisha's coal for the state-based industries, enhancing MCL's output, ensuring coal security for industries and stepping up coal allocation by 20 per cent. Representatives have warned that the agitation could grow in enormity if the demands were unmet.
MCL's chairman R R Mishra has assured that there is ample coal and industries would not be starved of it.
Major industries like Vedanta, Hindalco Industries and Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd are suffering as coal is increasingly prioritized to meet the requirement of Independent Power Producers (IPPs).