Kolkata/Burdwan: West Bengal Industry minister Partha Chatterjee Tuesday denied that Essar Oil officials were held hostage by villagers at Jathgoria in Burdwan district as reported by a section of the media.
"No Essar Oil official was held hostage by villagers as reported by a section of media. It was simply a pending case regarding non-payment of compensation to four families which the Essar Oil authority has to resolve through negotiation with the villagers," Chatterjee claimed.
Chatterjee said that the gherao of the company officials and demonstration by the villagers demanding compensation for their land was an issue pending since 2008, when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was the chief minister.
Essar Oil project director Apurba Ranjan and resident director M N Guha Roy Tuesday met Chatterjee after discussing the issue with state Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee.
The minister said that the company officials had reported the incident to the district administration and the police and sought a police picket in the area to avoid disturbances.
District Magistrate of Burdwan and SDO at the Kanksa area had discussion with the Essar Oil authority, the minister said.
"I have advised the Essar Oil officials to talk to the villagers and resolve dispute by paying compensation to four families," he said, adding top officials of the company had held a meeting on the issue with the state chief secretary and home secretary last week too.
Chatterjee said that besides this issue, the Essar Oil officials Tuesday discussed with him relaxation of land under section 14Y for their proposed Rs 5,200 crore expansion programme.
The Essar Oil officials also hoped that the matter would be resolved soon. "We are ready to pay compensation but the administration should identify those whom we should pay," the Essar Oil officials said.
"Land of some villagers were taken for the construction of a panchayat road which is being used by the company for commercial purpose. Those who have not yet received compensation are now demanding it," they pointed out.
Burdwan Superintendent of Police S M H Mirza said that the villagers demonstrated at a pit of the coal bed methane extraction project of Essar Oil demanding compensation for their land and the work was stopped.
Essar Oil has six coal bed methane wells in Jathgoria and took up the project during the tenure of the previous Left Front government in 2008.
Villagers alleged that they were not given the right price for their land.