URGENT! Fear of attack on Anti-POSCO movement
Balitutha, Orissa: The threat of state and company sponsored violence
looms large over hundreds of farmers sitting on an indefinite dharna
at Balitutha in Jagatsinghpur district against the Orissa government’s
pet POSCO steel project.
Since 26 January this year the farmers have been carrying out their
peaceful protest against fresh attempts by the Naveen Patnaik regime
to acquire their land on behalf of the South Korean steel corporation.
“We are expecting police action any time soon including an attack on
our leader Abhay Sahoo by goons hired by the company,” said a
spokesperson of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi (PPSS), which has
spearheaded the agitation against the project for the past five years.
Over 30,000 farmers are expected to lose their lands and livelihood if
the US$12 billion project, billed as India’s largest Foreign Direct
Investment, is implemented. POSCO signed an MoU with the Orissa
government in mid-2005, for the setting up of an integrated steel and
power plant, a private port and mining of over 600 million tonnes of
Orissa’s high grade iron ore.
For the steel and power plants alone the project needs around 4004
acres, of which 3566 acres is government owned forest and revenue land
but 438 acres belongs to local farmers who are refusing to part with
it. The PPSS apprehends that over 25 platoons of police are being
brought in to surround the farmers sitting on dharna at Balitutha,
which is at the entrance to the land that belongs to them.
As per a letter issued by the Collector of Jagatsinghpur District on
January 19 this year Palli Sabhas in the project area have been asked
to obtain approval of local bodies about the ‘diversion of their lands
under forest category to POSCO’ by February 10th. On February 3
however, at a meeting of Palli Sabha of Nuagaon village all the 700
participants unanimously disapproved of the move. In a resolution
passed at the Palli Sabha they said that such lands were being used
by people for cultivation and housing since last 300 years and in no
case they can be handed over to POSCO. Other Palli Sabhas in the area
are expected to pass similar resolutions.
PPSS activists say, faced with the firm opposition to the POSCO
project and land acquisition the Orissa adminstration is getting
desperate and plans to remove the farmers by force. On February 1 the
state government issued a notice in various newspapers that if the
people fail to file their claims for compensation within fifteen
days, they will get nothing at all.
The PPSS dharna has found support around the country with leaders of
trade unions and people’s movements visiting the protestors sitting on
dharna. Those participating in the dharna include leaders of leaders
of the All India Trade Union Congress from different states and the
Orissa Bidi Workers and Domestic Workers Associations.
For further information contact:
Prashant Paikray, spokesperson, PPSS at Ph: (0) 9437571547.
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