Convincing: Krishnappa, a member of the Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti, making a point during a joint awareness campaign by MSEZ officials and samithi members at Delantha Bettu village on Wednesday.
SURATHKAL/DELANTHABETTU: For the first time since the agitations against the Mangalore Special Economic Zone began, things took a slightly aggressive turn on Wednesday morning. Raghavendra Holla, rehabilitation and resettlement officer of MSEZ Ltd., was roughed up at Delantha Bettu village by an irate group of people belonging to the villages that have been notified for the Rs. 35,000-crore project. For the last three days, Mr. Holla and a group of student volunteers from the Srinivasa Institute Management Studies have been distributing two sets of pamphlets in the villages that have been notified for the MSEZ. One pamphlet has details of the compensation package offered to families displaced by the project. The second is an announcement about a public meeting scheduled for November 28 where the environmental impact of the project will be debated and discussed in the presence of the villagers and the general public.
The trouble started when the villagers, led by members of the Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti (KBSS), tried to stall the pamphlet distribution. They apparently took objection to the distribution of pamphlets containing compensation details. The samiti is one of the organisations agitating against the project.
The samiti members are themselves on the campaign trail and are going from house to house and conducting meetings to garner support for their agitation ahead of the crucial November 28 public hearing. They see the attempts by the SEZ officials to spread information about the compensation package as an activity that will derail their efforts.
When contacted, Madhukar Amin, president of the samiti, said: “The officials are responsible for the current situation. The rage of common people cannot be controlled.” A.G. Pai, chief operating officer of MSEZ Ltd., chose to remain silent on the entire fracas. President of Delantha Bettu Gram Panchayat Sundar Salian, who is also part of the agitation, said that the day was saved by the police, who arrived on the scene quickly. “They ensured that the situation did not go out of hand,” he said.In the presence of Mr. Pai, an agreement was arrived at between the two squabbling parties and the pamphlet distribution resumed at 5 p.m. According to the agreement, the objectionable pamphlets will not be distributed henceforth. Also, for as long as the pamphlet distribution is on, the MSEZ officials and the student volunteers will be accompanied by two or more representatives from the samiti. Meanwhile, sources from both sides indicated that they would make maximum use of this opportunity to counter the claims and propaganda of each other. But this unique simultaneous campaigning by the two sides will be monitored closely by the police. Confirming this, Superintendent of Police N. Sathish Kumar said: “A non-cognisable case has been registered on the incident. There will be a police escort at all times during the campaigningfor the security of both the parties.”