Fight is on, says Odisha anti-Posco outfit

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sept 29:

The resistance to the South Korean steel major Posco’s proposed plant near Paradip port in Odisha is on, says Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the local outfit that has been spearheading the agitation since 2005-06.

In a press release issued today the spokesperson for the PPSS Prashant Paikray said, “It is time to reassure you that our people are continuing their protest unabated against the establishment of POSCO steel plant in the Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha, India. We are determined to continue our fight till POSCO withdraws the project from our area.”

File pic: Nuagaon villagers pulling down Posco boundary wall ( pic-Binay K Ray )
File pic: Nuagaon villagers pulling down Posco boundary wall ( pic-Binay K Ray )

On 20th September 2014, villagers of Dhinkia passed a unanimous resolution in their Palli Sabha (legally empowered village council comprising all the electorates of one or two wards) not to divert their forest land for non- forest purpose, the release said, adding, “We believe our villagers will approve the same resolution in the forthcoming Gram Sabha which will be held in the month of October, 2014.”

Here is the rest of the text of the PPSS release:

“When we are facing untold sufferings because of pro-POSCO attitude of the administration and police and we are struggling hard to get out of the situations as major mainstream parties have decided to remain indifferen,” the release said.

“Our people got a shock when the news reached the villages that even the supporters and sympathizers of our struggle have been targeted in some IB report. We believe that this move through the IB is aiming to keep these people and groups away from us so that they make unleash more repression and atrocities on us. We strongly condemn such unethical and undemocratic moves of the state and corporate nexus.

“Seven years back under veiled threat and false allurements 54 families from our villages had been taken to a transit camp built by the company. They suffered a lot in the last 7 years and 42 families out of the 54 now came back to their housed in the villages on June 7, 2014. We treat this as an achievement as they have made resolve to strengthen our fight against POSCO. The PPSS members also have helped them rebuild their damaged structures and houses.

“The Nuagaon gate crisis has been resolved which was created by company supported goons when they made an attempt to break it resulting in high tension in the area. However, it was resolved by the dynamic fighters of the movement who rebuilt the gate. Presently, the Nuagaon villagers are on a 24 hours duty guarding the check gate against the entry of POSCO and government officials.

“By the call of PPSS, villagers of Polang of Gadakuganga Gram panchauayat have reoccupied the land and started the restructuring of their betel vines. In the year 2011, these lands were forcefully occupied by the Government of Odisha and handed over to POSCO. Recently POSCO has filed cases against 32 persons in the local police station mostly belonging to Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang Panchayats. Simultaneously the villagers of Govindpur started the operation to reoccupy the land and restructure the betel vines was forcefully occupied by the Government of Odisha in the year 2013 for the Korean company.

“We hope, you are aware of Mr. Juel Oram’s ( Union Minister of Tribal Affairs) opposition to mining of Khandadhar being targeted by POSCO. He said that the Khandadhar should not be handed over to anyone for mining purpose. Local people are opposing the move, and we have to respect their sentiments. Khandadhar is a beautiful hill and several perennial streams are also originating from there. How long his opposition will hold ground in the cabinet no one knows as the Prime Minister Mr. Modi is fully with the corporations and another Modi colleague in the ministry has already said that POSCO is a necessity for Odisha.

“On September 13, 2014, PPSS made a representation before the high level committees constituted by the Union of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate change at the state capital Bhubaneswar. The committee was mandated to review progress of implementation of important acts in the state. PPSS strongly demanded to withdraw all clearances forest, environment and CRZ to POSCO and review all the files. PPSS also urged to send a central level fact- finding team to the area.

“Peasants of six blocks of Jagatsinghpur district made a demonstration before the district collector office against the diversion of water from agriculture from Hansua River to POSCO. The four parties – CPI, CPI(M), Forward Bloc and SP – in a joint statement said they would not allow Posco to use water meant for farmers and used for drinking by the people of undivided Cuttack district.

“The MOU between state government and POSCO has lapsed since July 2010. But the Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), a state government’s agency have acquired 2,772.05 acres of land and handed over to POSCO. IDCO has invited expression of interest (EoI) to conduct socio-economic survey for rehabilitation of displaced families affected by the POSCO project. It may be recalled here that the CAG report of 2012 has clearly said against IDCO’s middleman ship.

“On the occasion of the World Environment Day observed as Save Khandadhar Day, a public meeting was organised by the Khandadhar Suraksha Sangram Samiti (KSSS) where thousands of tribal communities including the particularly vulnerable tribal groups like Paudi Bhuiyans, gathered at Budhabhui village of Sundhargarh district. They vowed, taking water in their hands, to protect Khandadhar and the bounty of nature it endures from all kind of corporate invasion till their last breath. The head of Paudi Bhuiyan , Mr.Bilua Naik administered the oath in this regard. Mr. Abhaya Sahoo, Mr. Prafulla samantaray , Mr. Prashant Paikray and other PPSS leaders addressed the gathering. There is a proposal to organise another public meeting in the hill up area.

“It’s learnt that in the month of July/ august 2014, Industrial corporation of Odisha ( IDCO) has filed a notice to the 4 villages of the two panchayat of Luhunidpuda block in Sundhargarh district. The IDCO has noticed for acquiring 100 acres of land for POSCO mining area. Villagers have reacted to this notice and made a resolution in their Gram Sabha against the notice and sent it to the concerned authority.

“It is not our area alone. Corporations are eying land, forest and water in most parts of the forest rich Odisha. But if we succeed all others will be inspired to carry on the struggle and if we don’t succeed it will certainly demoralize all others,” the release said while appealing to the people and civil society to extend support to their long struggle.

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