Odisha govt flouts laws to forcibly acquire land for Posco

NGT had suspended green clearance to project in March 2012


Prasanna Mohanty | February 6, 2013

Conflict between the Odisha government and villagers resisting land acquisition for the Posco’s steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district has flared up once again. The state government has begun forcible land acquisition even though the national green tribunal (NGT) suspended green clearance to the project in March 2012.

Read update: Land acquisition halted for the day, police withdrawn

The state government has claimed that the process to acquire 700 acres of land in Govindpur panchayat is going on peacefully, but villagers say 18 people were injured, four of them seriously, when police attacked the people resisting acquisition early on Sunday morning (February 14). The stand-off continues with villagers refusing to let their homes and farm land acquired by using the state police force.

In a letter of protest to the chief minister, governor, prime minister, environment and forest minister and others, the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the banner under which the villagers are fighting for their home and land, has sought help in restoring law of the land in the conflict zone. It points out how it is not only un-democratic but also illegal because NGT has suspended green clearance to the project and the Forest Rights Act mandates settlement of the forest rights first and consent of the people before any land acquisition process can begin.

Here we reproduce their letter:

Dear Friends,

Thanks for your support and solidarity with PPSS. Any single step taken anywhere in the world in extending support to us does inspire us to continue our just and peaceful struggle against a mighty company and its henchmen in our government. Yet, the forcible land acquisition continues despite protests and solidarity expressed with us-just for a foreign company.

Today i.e. on 5th February 2013, our villagers resisted when 12 platoons of police (around 400 police personnel) made a flag march along with the officials of POSCO-India, state revenue department and Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) to acquire a patch of 700 acres of land of Gobindpur village. During the resistance, some of the school children have been injured. These children while staging a rally demanding the removal of police force from the area came face to face with the police force which was on a flag-march. Due to the heavy presence of police force, tension prevailed in the area. The POSCO-India officials are busy in providing food and other logistical support to the Police and other officials.

The Jagatsinghpur district collector Satya Kumar Mallick repeatedly said in the media that “the land acquisition process in Gobindpur was going on peacefully with the consent of villagers and we have deployed police force to protect the villagers from the threat of PPSS”. This is false and misleading. Actually 80 per cent of the people were against handing over their land. If the people are giving their land voluntarily, then why the police is entered in wee hours of Sunday which was a holiday and started beating the villagers in which 18 villagers were injured. Four of the injured including three women were seriously hurt. The way the administration acquired the land without the consent of the villagers is undemocratic and uncalled for. We are attaching herewith the video link http://www.indianexpress.com/videos/business/25/protester-police-clash-at-posco-site--/15258. One Sangram Mohapatra, the land officer with the state-run Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), was seen mercilessly beating a protestor with a stick. The footage also showed the officer dressed casually in a red sweater over a white shirt moving from one place to another and dragging some children across the protest site. He has no police or magistrate power.

On 2nd February, the administration crushed millions of betel leaves as the vineyards came crashing down under tractors. The crushing of beetle leaves is continuing with the presence of heavy police force in the Govindpur village.

On 3rd February, The leaders of six political parties-Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD, CPI, CPM and Forward Block joined with the villagers at Gobindpur and severely criticized the administration for “forcible” acquisition of land for the Posco project.

You may know that on 30th March 2012, the national Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance of POSCO. However the district officials are demolishing beetle-vines and tree felling exercise at Mathsahi locality of Gobindapur in the presence of Jagatsinghpur district Collector S K Mallick, Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi and other officials. This is clearly undemocratic and illegal to make this attempt when the matter is sub-judice.

The chairperson of PPSS, Mr. Abhay Sahu is on an indefinite hunger strike at Patna Hat since this morning with demanding immediate withdrawal of police force from the village. He will not break the fast until police forces are withdrawn from the area.

At this juncture, we earnestly request the concerned citizens, progressive intellectuals, social movements, to join us at Govindpur village and save the villagers from clutches of a cruel, tyrannical, profit-minded pro-corporate state power. If this struggle is crushed so badly we doubt if there will be another struggle anywhere which will be able to drive out such monsters from any part of our country.

Kindly circulate this mail widely.
Hoping for solidarity,
Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti



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