Dhurli village, Dantewada district, August 30, 11.30 am: Armed police in riot gear stand in clusters around the walled compound where people of this quiet, picturesque village are to gather for a gram sabha hearing. They are to decide today whether they want Essar Steel to set up a 3.2 million-tonne plant on their land for Rs 7,000 crore. The single lane highway connecting this village, lying halfway between Dantewada town and the Bailadila iron ore mines, is lined with cars and jeeps of district administrators, Essar's top brass, Mahendra Karma and bjp public engineering and health minister Kedar Kashyap, and their respective entourages. They are all gathered inside the compound.
This is the second hearing called to discuss the issue. An earlier one, called on June 10, was cancelled because villagers refused to turn up. Police officials say there's a possibility of a Naxalite attack today, since the rebels are anti-development.Essar officials say "outside elements' were provoking the villagers to reject the steel plant, so they needed extra security. Pisda, Dantewada's collector, says villagers were "fighting among themselves', there was "tension in the area' and they wanted people to speak peacefully.
Gram sabhas, as per law, shouldn't be attended by outsiders. Hence, gun-toting policemen keep media personnel