Peaceful protest for land for housing by employees of sugar company at Rayagada

Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: Jeypore Sugar Company(JSCo) having its registered office now in Chennai, one of the oldest Companies of Odisha, was established in Rayagada during 1936. It then diversified into a distillery and ferro-manganese company. All these companies at Rayagada flourished and opened other branches in Andhra Pradesh. Many of the workers, who were very poor and instrumental in making the company highly profiteering, came from outside Rayagada. All of the workers rendered their service sincerely by working day and night to take the company to a new height.

The company became dysfunctional in eighties due to more focus in their Andhra counterparts. During the year 1992, the then Revenue Officer of Rayagada after inspection noticed JSCo to return 507 out of 787 acres of land under Land Ceiling Act. JSCo appealed the higher courts of Sub-divisional Magistrate and Additional District Magistrate who upheld the Revenue Officer’s order. JSCo then went to Odisha High Court where the matter is still pending. The state’s legal counsel is not appearing because of a nexus.

On last Friday, family members of three hundred ex-employees under the aegis of Retired Employees Union staged a blockade in front of JSCo main gate demanding land for housing purpose. “Being assured by the Company three hundred employees deposited Rs.300 each for a housing plot measuring 20 cents during 1971. We waited indefinitely. Since 1980 we have been requesting JSCo authorities to allot house sites in Khata number 46 with Plot numbers 284, 286/1 and 17. Responding to our request, during the year 1985 the MD deputed Sri Rama Chandra Rao, Civil Engineer, Chagallu for demarcation and preparing a lay-out plan. Thereafter she kept silent. Now many of those employees have expired. The remaining employees and the legal heirs of the deceased employees are toiling hard without the basic need of a house of their own. We even went to its registered office at Chennai several times to meet its MD Smt. Raja Rajeswari Rama Krishnan. But she refused meet us.

The above mentioned lands are not subject matter of ceiling case pending in Odisha High Court, Cuttack vide OJC No-2914/85 dated 16-09-1991 against J.S.Co. So for the Govt authorities it will not be difficult to settle those lands in our favour as homeless and landless persons. We have requested in written and approached in person to the concerned authorities of J.S.Co. time and again for the subject cited above. We also had a peaceful protest in front of the non-functioning factory at Rayagada. But unfortunately the management of JSCo has not paid any heed to our request and democratic means of protest”, said Advocate Sri Venkat Rao Senapati, Legal Advisor of the Ex-employees’ Union. Sri Venkat, a son of a retired employee, warned that if the company authorities do not heed to their single point demand, they will be compelled to lock JSCo’s main gate permanently and may go for blockade of Rayagada town.

Rayagada Tahsildar Sri Umashankar Sahu had a discussion with the protesters and assured them to take the matter to Advocate General of Odisha High Court for further necessary action.

Interestingly enough, the Manager of of Jeypore Rani Saheba said to this correspondent that the entire land of 787 acres belongs to Jeypore King and the lands were leased to JSCo. In connivance with the state revenue authorities JSCo has fraudulently managed to make ROR(Record of Rights) in its name. They are now preparing for a legal battle to restore the land in their name. They are also prepared to part the land in the development of Rayagada district including housing sites to the poor landless and ex-employees of JSCo.

Asserting the stake over the land by State Govt, Ex-employees, NCLT and now Jeypore Estate has made the issue very complex. If the issue is not resolved at the earliest it may lead to a sever law and order situation in the future.



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