For more than seven years, the people of three panchayats in Odisha, India have successfully fought off attempts by the Korean Steel conglomerate POSCO and the government to forcibly acquire their land. At 4AM on 3rd February 2013 in a dramatic turn of events, 12 platoons of police entered villages, Dhinkia and Govindpur and attacked the villagers ruthlessly. On entering, they attacked women and children first. At least six women and elderly people were seriously injured and 50 were detained by the police.
Around 4000 families who will be affected by the project do not want their home and livelihood sources to be ceded for construction of the integrated steel plant. The Gram Sabhas-Assembly of elders in the village/Panchayat, of the concerned villages have time and again reiterated their opposition to any land acquisition of their land. Despite overwhelming evidence of the illegalities and unconstitutionality in acquiring land against the people's consent, the Jagatsinghpur District Collector SK Mallick made a public statement to the media on 28th December 2012 to resume the acquisition. The District Collector of Jagatsinghpur categorically stated- “The state government has decided to start activities from tomorrow. We have already taken the consent of local residents for starting the work.”
The District Collector has no evidence to support his statement: The Collector’s statement is factually incorrect and misrepresents the voices of the most vulnerable people caught in the situation - the affected families.
Under the Forest Rights Act 2006, there can be no diversion of forest land without recognition of forest rights and without obtaining the informed consent of the Gram Sabhas of the concerned villages. Any diversion that does not comply would be a violation of the law. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) also has suspended the environmental clearance granted to the project on 30th March 2012. It is therefore illegal on part of the state government to announce the resumption of ‘activities’. It is no longer a democracy where the elected government overlooks people's rights to their ancestral land and the safety of the environment in order to show undue favor to a corporate entity.
The State Police has already lodged 230 false cases against the people and put six villagers namely Bibhuna Mahapatra, Alok Swain, Tumana Das of Dhinkia village and Achyut Das, Nivaran Das of Patana village and Babuli Rout of Govindpur village in the jail.
From the midnight of 9th January 2013 onwards, the government has deployed 10 platoons of police deployed near these villages. The government is also bringing another 8 platoons of police force to this area. To prevent possible police operations in these villages, the villagers have erected barricades, disconnected the roads to Dhinkia and Govindpur and are determined to thwart any entry of outsiders. Both men and women are keeping a strict 24 x 7 vigil.
Democracy and our right to dissent and protest are being brutally assaulted by the so called democratic government of the state. As opposed to the government's backhanded tactics, the people's movement has been determined, non-violent and democratic. False propaganda, intimidation, false cases and threats of forcible eviction have not demoralized our people and we are doubly determined to take the struggle to its logical end.
Please join us in calling on Shri. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha to withdraw the heavy deployment of police in our area and stop the diversion of forest land. Demand that the people be given the right to land.
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Jagatsinghpur, Odisha to acquire 700 acres of land for the
establishment of POSCO'S integrated steel plant. On 28th December
2012, speaking to the media, the Jagatsinghpur District Collector SK
Mallick said “The state government has decided to start
activities from tomorrow. We have already taken the consent of local
residents for starting the work.” The statement of the District
Collector is totally false and mis-leading. I demand that the District
Collector show the evidence in support of the local people’s consent.
On 18.10.2012, the Gram Sabha of Dhinkia Panchayat passed
a resolution reiterating their demand to stop proposed diversion of
forest land without recognition of forest rights and without obtaining
the informed consent of the Gram Sabhas of the concerned villages
which is a statutory requirement under Forest Rights Act. In this
regard, the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) has issued guidelines
in July 2009 and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs
issued it on 12th July 2012. Further the Minister of Tribal
Affairs in his letters of November 19th and December 7th, 2012 to the
Minister for Environment and Forests, has stated that no forest land
can be diverted without the full implementation of the Forest Rights
Act and the consent of the affected Gram Sabhas.
Since National Green Tribunal (NGT) has suspended the environmental
clearance granted to the project on 30th March 2012, it is illegal on
part of the state government to announce resumption of the process at
the proposed plant site .The environmental clearances granted for the
proposed private port and the proposed POSCO steel plant have already
expired on May 15th, 2012 and July 19th, 2012 respectively.
Hence any further action will be tantamount to be violation of the
provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.
Further, there is no renewal of the memorandum of understanding with
the company which has expired in June 2010.
It is a matter of great concern that ignoring the above glaring
illegalities involved in the project, the State government is
deliberately subverting laws of the land, rights of the affected
communities and decisions of the Gram Sabha and is encouraging illegal
takeover of land in favour of POSCO.
Taking advantage of the undue favour shown by the State government and
in active collusion with the state, POSCO has offered the so called
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) package of Rupees 2000 million for
peripheral development with the clear intention to woo and divide the
people and to weaken the people’s movement.
Police has already lodged 230 false cases against the people
resisting under the banner of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
(PPSS) and put six villagers namely Bibhuna Mahapatra, Alok Swain, Tumana Das of
Dhinkia village and Achyut Das, Nivaran Das of Patna village and Babuli Rout of Govindpur village in the jail.
Democracy and our right to dissent and protest are being brutally assaulted by the so called democratic government of the
state. False propaganda, intimidation, false cases and threats of forcible eviction have not demoralized our people and we are doubly determined to take the struggle to its logical end.
At this juncture, I, along with the people of Dhinka, Govindpur, Patana of Jagatsinghpur district demand
1. Immediate withdrawal of the police force from the area.
2. Withdraw the recent statement to acquire our land in violation of law.
3. The Gram Sabha resolution be respected and the Forest Rights Act be
implemented in letter and spirit in the affected area.
4. The State government must stop diversion of forest land for the
proposed project in violation of Forest Rights Act 2006
5. The state must take responsibility for ensuring that there are is no human rights violation of the affected communities in Jagatsinghpur district and that the people are able to voice their protest to unconstitutional methods adopted in forcibly acquiring their land without fear of being arrested under false charges.