#India – Locked land of Posco #odisha


POSCO

 

 

Priya Ranjan Sahu, Hindustan Times  Gobindpur, Odisha, June 23, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been an eight-year-long uneven battle between betel vines and a steel plant. And steel hasn’t won yet.

For, eight villages in coastal Odisha’s Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga gram panchayats in Jagatsingpur district, about 150 km east of state capital Bhubaneswar, have put up a stiff resistance against South Korean steel major Posco’s proposed Rs.52,000-crore project.

The reason: It will take away their traditional source of income — betel vines.

Posco signed a deal with the state government for acquiring 4,004 acres (one acre=43,560 square feet) for the project. But the site of the project — backed by the single-largest foreign investment in India — virtually has nothing except some prefabricated site offices in a hurriedly fenced-off piece of vacant land.

The telltale signs of the battle are strewn everywhere in the area earmarked for the project — felled trees, destroyed betel vines and hostile villagers, who have been fighting with the state to protect their vines.

Popular resistance and environmental clearance have made it difficult for the state to push through the 12-million-tonnes a year green-field project, which should have gone on stream by 2011.

Of the 4,004 acres, about 3,000 acres is forestland. And more than 5,000 betel vines dot the sandy landscape in this forestland, each generating an average assured income of R20,000 a month.

Two years ago, the administration had to suspend land acquisition after hundreds of women and children blocked the entry point to the vines near the Gobindpur-Nuagaon border in scorching summer.

In February this year, the administration took a step forward by resuming the process in Gobindpur. Though the state considers dismantling about 300 betel vines in three months to be some success, the drive seems to have lost steam by the end of May.

“They are coming like thieves in the wee hours and trying to dismantle vines before we wake up and protest. We have re-erected several vines dismantled by them,” said villager Tuna Baral.

But the administration is being careful. “Land acquisition continues peacefully. We are trying to convince people to part with their vines and accept compensation,” SK Mallick, collector of Jagatsinghpur, told HT.

The project has split the village community, with a group called the United Action Committee (UAC) — having some influence in Nuagaon — supporting Posco. But that has not helped matters. Today, Nuagaon is a picture of despair, with villagers having exhausted their compensation and are left with no means to sustain themselves.

Kabindra Rout, a betel farmer, said, “The administration dismantled my betel vine in 2011 and I got a compensation of R2.28 lakh. But now I am jobless.”

Many who earlier used to own betel vines and could employ others have now been reduced to daily wage-earners in the vines in Dhinkia, the stronghold of the anti-Posco movement, which the police have not been able to enter during the past eight years.

On June 7, after meeting chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Posco India chairman and managing director Young-Won Yoon said, “We are hopeful the land will be handed over to us soon.”

But ‘soon’ may prove to be far off — or even a delusion — as the 20,000-odd residents of the eight villages are showing no signs of retreating from their betel vines.

 

 

 

Anti-Posco leader Abhay Sahu arrested


By PTI | 11 May, 2013, abhaysahoo
READ MORE ON » tamil nadu | PPSS | POSCO | Patana village | explosion | Abhay Sahu
BHUBANESHWARAnti-Posco leader Abhay Sahu was arrested today in connection with several cases including a bomb blast in the proposed steel project site in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, the police said.

“Sahu, who was to leave for Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu to attend a meeting there, was arrested from Bhubaneswar by a police team from Jagatsinghpur shortly before departure of his flight,” Deputy Superintendent of Police (Paradip), Bhabani Shankar Mishra said.

Acting on an information, the police team reached the state capital and arrested the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) leader before taking him to Kujanga near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district, the DSP said.

There are a total of 54 cases of different nature against Sahu, he said, adding the PPSSleader was on bail in 50 cases and the arrest was made in connection with four fresh cases involving a bomb explosion, obstruction in government work and other offences.

Claiming that he was implicated in false cases, Sahu said he was to leave for Coimbatore yesterday to attend a conference but deferred his visit as his son-in-law fell ill and was hospitalised.

Maintaining that he would continue to oppose the mega project proposed by the South Korean steel major, the PPSS leader said he was to take a flight to Chennai to attend the conference but police arrested him before his departure.

Sahu, who has been leading an agitation under the banner of PPSS against the mega steel project since 2005, had been arrested more than two years ago in connection with various offences.

He was released after obtaining bail in December 2011, police said, adding that four new cases were subsequently slapped against the anti-Posco leader.

One of the cases was related to an explosion allegedly during bomb making at Patana village in which three persons were killed on March 2, this year, police said.

Sahu would be produced before a court at Kujanga shortly, the DSP said.

 

Odisha -Protests Against Posco Steel Plant Mount In India


by Freny Manecksha, CorpWatch Blog
April 14th, 2013

Odisha villagers conduct sit-in to protest POSCO. Photo: PPSS

For over a month, villagers in the eastern Indian state of Odisha have been conducting a sit-in to demand the withdrawal of armed police officers at the site of a proposed $12 billion steel complex at Jagatsinghpur, the latest protest in nine years of confrontations to halt the project.

The villagers are opposed to the plans of Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO) of South Korea – one of the world’s top five steel producers – to build a plant with a 12 million ton annual capacity at Jagatsinghpur as well as an iron ore mine and a port. The project will be India’s largest foreign direct investment to date.

The land that POSCO wants is currently used by the villagers to grow leaves for paan, a mild stimulant that is chewed by billions of people in India. This together with fish farming and other mixed crop farming provides the basis of the sustainable local economy.

The protestors have hit the national headlines twice in the last few weeks. First when a bomb blast claimed the lives of three villagers in the area on March 2 and five days later on the eve of international women’s day, when some of the women staged an unusual protest. They began to take off their clothes in front of policemen.

Why have you come here? What do you want to see?” the women shouted at the police officers as they started to take off their upper garments. The police promptly slapped charges of obscenity against three women.

“When everything else failed, the women preferred to bare their bodies so that the government and the public wakes up from their slumber and understand what is happening,” says Abhay Sahoo, the head of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS which translates as Committee Opposed to POSCO Set-up.)

The villagers are incensed because the Indian government seized their betelnut vineyards and razed their crops shortly after the bomb blast claimed the lives of three villagers in Patana in early March.

Almost immediately the police announced to the local and national media that the men were attempting to make a crude bomb. But, according to the villagers and Laxman Parmanik who was injured in the blast, the bomb was hurled at them by someone else.

fact-finding team of human right activists who visited the site after the incident condemned the manner in which the Jagatsinghpur superintendent of police made an announcement to the media even before police had visited the village to conduct investigations. They pointed out that the police took 15 hours to come to the village after the deaths had occurred.

The team quoted family members of the victims who allege that the police came to their houses at midnight and asked them to sign a written statement to the effect that the victims died in the process of making the bomb which they refused to do.

After last rites were performed for the bomb victims in Patana village, thousands gathered for a major rally and a meeting conducted by various opposition political parties on March 6.  The speakers condemned the district and state administration for attempting to stifle the democratic protests of the villagers by using force and private militias.

High among the grievances of the villagers is the fact that the local police filed 230 cases against 2,000 villagers between 2006 and 2012 on charges ranging from arson to rape. “Captive Democracy,” a report on these charges by D Raja and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, notes that most of the complaints do not name specific individuals allowing the police to implicate any person in any case. In some cases entire villages comprising of thousands of people have been implicated. As a result many villagers are now afraid of venturing out of the village for fear of being arrested.

These concerns have caused a number of groups including the Congress party (which is part of the ruling coalition government in India) to write a letter to the governor of Odisha voicing concern over the “continued police atrocities and prolonged repression on the villagers in Jagatsinghpur district.

In the meantime the Odisha government has been slowly acquiring land for the project. They obtained rights to 2,000 acres in 2011 but POSCO wants another 700 acres near Gobindpur village where the villagers are protesting.

Villagers say these lands are protected under the Forest Rights Act which empowers them as forest dwellers to deny outside acquisition of the land. This law together with the required environmental clearances have been the focus of a number of government inquiry committees which have issued contradictory opinions.

First the N C Saxena committee, appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forestsupheld the villagers’ complaint that there were gross violations under the Forest Rights Act in July 2010. Then another committee chaired by Meena Gupta, appointed by the same ministry, gave the green light for land acquisition to resume in October 2010 (although several members of the committee dissented). Then land acquisition was halted in March 2012 by the National Green Tribunal, another (permanent) body established by the Ministry of Environments and Forests).

Last week, yet another central government agency – the Comptroller Auditor General which is in charge of auditing government authorities – charged the Odisha government with giving “undue benefit” to POSCO by violating zoning laws and under pricing land that was given to the company.

“The lack of transparency, accountability and due process in acquiring land for POSCO and moving ahead with the project is alarming,” says Miloon Kothari, executive director of the Housing and Land Rights Network. “It is clear that the recent action in Gobindpur village is a result of the government’s insistence on promoting foreign direct investment even though it violates the constitution of India, international law and the human rights of the villagers.”

 

PRESS RELEASE- Peaceful protesters demand withdrawal of police forces in Odisha


PPSS Update : 24th March 2013

PRESS RELEASE

From 22nd March 2013 onwards, more than 200 women of Govindpur village are continuing daily peaceful protest and shouted slogans opposing undemocratic moves of the government and POSCO in the village of Gobindpur in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha.

We are apprehending a police crackdown after the end of the budget session in the Odisha assembly on 6th of April 2013. Mean while, our villagers re-erected bamboo and wooden barricades at Gobindpur, Patana, Dhinkia and Trilochanpur villages under Jagatsinghpur‘s Dhinkia gram panchayat to prevent officials and police from entering the proposed Posco plant site. Addressing the villagers, our women leader Ms Manorama Khatua said that now we can go to any extent to ensure stopping of the project on our fertile land. She said that the women would henceforth guard the entry gate to Dhinkia area with their male counterparts to ensure no more demolition of betel vines takes place. She also said that our people are hell bent on opposing any move of the authorities to enter Gobindpur.

As you know that the presence of policemen was a cause of tension for women and girls at Gobindpur village. The state government has resorted to unethical tactics of jailing and lathicharging the protesters regularly. As women and children are at the forefront of the movement, regular lathicharge on women and children by paramilitary has become a norm. Over last 2 months though the administration declared that land acquisition would not happen ‘by coercion’, this region has just become a site littered with paramilitary camps with more than 12 paramilitary platoons. The constant presence of paramilitary in the area right inside the villages is worrisome and unacceptable in a democratic polity. A large number of people suffering from ailments are unable to visit doctors and nearest markets. Particularly the suffering of women with gynecological problems is deeply disturbing.

Hence we are demanding immediate withdrawal of policemen from Govindpur Village. To restore faith of its citizenry in Dhinkia & Govindpur villages and beyond, the state government must admit its excesses in the area.

We have also decided to launch hunger-strike from April 3, 2013 if it was not done. We call upon all political parties, social activists, intellectuals, and public concerned citizens, leaders to participate in the proposed hunger-strike.

Hoping for Solidarity.

Prashant Paikaray

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Mobile no – 09437571547

E- mail- prashantpaikaray@gmail.com

 

#India- Semi-nude protest: police register cases #Odisha #Vaw #WTFnews


 

PTI

Women protesters during a demonstration in Posco project area. File photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu Women protesters during a demonstration in Posco project area. File photo: Special Arrangement

 

Two days after the semi-nude protest by anti-Posco agitators, Odisha police has registered a case against three women and president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) Abhaya Sahu on charge of obscenity in public.

“The case has been registered at Abhaychandpur police station under section 294 (a) and other sections of the IPC,” Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi said on Saturday, adding that appropriate action will be initiated against the women and Sahu.

Meanwhile, the women belonging to both pro and anti project groups, held separate meetings to chalk out their respective strategies.

PPSS’s women’s wing — “Durga Bahini”, at a meeting this morning resolved to take extreme steps to ensure withdrawal of Posco project.

“Now we can go to any extent to ensure stopping of the project on our fertile land,” said Durga Bahini chief Manorama Khatua, who was among the three women against whom the case had been registered. She said the women would henceforth guard the entry gate to Dhinkia area with their male counterparts to ensure no more demolition of betel vines.

The pro-project group of women at a separate meeting condemned the semi-nude protest by members of the Durga Bahini. They demanded immediate arrest of PPSS leader Abhaya Sahu accusing him of instigating innocent women to strip in public.

The meeting chaired by Anju Dalei said the women of the entire district hung their heads in shame for the semi-nude protest by a group of women belonging to Durga Bahini.

Meanwhile, there was calm in the area as the administration had stopped land acquisition activities for two days.

Though police was deployed at a distance from the proposed plant site area, the agitators feared that the personnel might target Dhinkia village, the epi-centre of anti-Posco agitation.

Jagatsinghpur District Collector who had been directly monitoring land acquisition activities, claimed the state government had been taking possession of land with mutual understanding of the dispossessed. He blamed vested interests for misleading the innocent farmers.

“Appropriate action will be taken against the mischief mongers under the law,” he said.

Death of Anti POSCO activists. State is Sponsoring and Promoting Violence not the PPSS


State is Sponsoring and Promoting Violence not the PPSS

Punish the Criminals Halt Land Acquisition

New Delhi, March 3 : In the continuing saga of state violence and oppression, when nearly 6 platoons of police were present in the area for starting the forceful land acquisition procedure, bombs were hurled at around 6:30 pm on a meeting room of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, at Patna Village, Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur, killing Manas Jena – Age 32 died on the spot. Two others Nabanu Mandal – 35 and Narahari Sahoo – 52 succumbed to their injuries, since police didn’t respond to their call for ambulances on time. Mr. Laxman Paramanik was critically injured and is undergoing treatment at the moment.

This act of terror is extremely condemnable and will not deter the spirit of resistance. It is also unfortunate that rather than taking action against the company sponsored goons, who have attacked in past too, the district administration has been spreading canards that the people died while making bombs. The history of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti shows that the movement has been non-violent and peaceful even when the the state forces and goons have attacked them with ferocity on many occasions latest being on February 3rd.

It need to be mentioned that the movement has faced several instances of state repression, document in a recently release fact finding report titled, “Captive Democracy”. The report says that “230 cases had been filed implicating about 1500- 2000 villagers resisting POSCO between 2006 and 2012. Most of the complaints have left the number of accused open-ended, which allows the police to implicate any person in any case, despite not being specifically named therein. A large number of these cases have been filed by government officials during times of peaceful demonstrations by the members of the PPSS.”

Shri Abhaya Sahoo, the President of the PPSS was arrested on two occasions and has over 50 cases registered against him, including cases when he wasn’t present in the villages on the day of the alleged offence. Manorama Kathua, President Women’s Wing of the PPSS, aged about 29 years has several cases filed against her and has been unable to apply for bail due to financial constraints and has not left the village in 6-7 years. These are just few instances of arbitrary actions of the police and the impacts of the same.

Hence, it is unfortunate that the state is again trying to criminalise the movement and forcefully acquire the land. The sacrifices made by the activists to save their land and right to earn a dignified living must be respected. The actions of Orissa government is in complete violation of democratic norms and principles of justice. As of now the environmental clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on January 31, 2011 stands suspended by the order of National Green Tribunal (NGT) dt March 30 2012. The project does not even have a memorandum of understanding with the state government now, with one signed on July 22, 2005 having lapsed. So what is the basis on which the state is acquiring land for the project ?

The nation needs an answer for this continued brutality and loss of life and livelihood and constant harassment and complete disruption of normal life. People’s movements from across the country stand in solidarity with the struggle of villagers of Jagatsinghpur and condemn this barbaric action of the state government and company sponsored goons.

Medha Patkar, Dr. Sunilam, Prafulla Samantra, Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey, P Chennaiah, Ramakrishna Raju, Sister Celia, Suniti S R, Gabriele Dietrich, Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd), Anand Mazgaonkar, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Vimal Bhai, Mukta Srivastava, Suhas Kolhekar, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Seela Mahapatra, Madhuresh Kumar

 

Anti POSCO activist shot and arrested in Odisha


DHINKIA – Umakant Biswal a young anti POSCO activist and a farmer from Dhinkia was shot and arrested yesterday when he was working on the farm near the village. Police came on motor cycle in civil dress to arrest him, after recognizing them Umakant tried to run away but was shot in leg and later arrested.

According to the villagers he was tortured in custody after being arrested as well. He was taken to Police Station in Paradip.

Dhinkia is the most ardent center of resistance; Dhinkia movement has given tough fight to State Govt and POSCO. Since few months state govt is trying hard to enter and arrest of opponents are quite common. PPSS leader Abhay Sahoo is also behind bar along with other villagers.

Meanwhile the dharna is continuing in the villages opposing the POSCO project.Earlier yesterday POSCO India has issued statement asking Odisha to lift the restriction on entering the site of its proposed steel plant in the state to carry out project work.

Pleasecall up jagatsinghpur sp , dsp paradip and police staion paradip for immidiate hospitalisation of umakant the nunbers are
sp jagatsinghpur off 06724-220115
res- 06724-220015
DSP Jagatsinghpur, Off: +91-9437026173, 06724-220530

SDPO, Paradeep, Off: 06722-222451, Res: 06722-222007

Police Station, Paradeep: Off: 06722-222027, Res: 06722-222057

Collector & D.M., Jagatsinghpur: Off: 0724-220379, Res: 0724-220199, 220299

The need for global action


By Vinay Bhat

Time Magazine termed “The Protestor” as the person of the year in 2011. Protests in the middle-east overthrew tyrants; the Occupy Movement held the world’s attention spreading like wildfire and Europe was ablaze against austerity measures imposed. Clawing their way through, facing bullets, batons and pepper spray, the protestor influenced global change and made the world stand up to take notice. It wasn’t that the establishment wasn’t prepared for this level of an uproar, but had more to do with the fact that no amount of preparation can subdue the voices when they reach this decibel and in unison. As the Occupy movement has beautifully phrased this – “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come”. Yet there are millions of other voices which have not attained the chorus to cause the fundamental changes they would like to see.

While back home in IndiaAdivasis, Dalits, Kashmiris, farmers, fishermen and slum dwellers continue to fall under the State sponsored bullet, the level of public attention continues to be marginal and the middle class gladly turns a blind eye. While Team Anna managed to become the 24×7 reality show that was soon cut off due to other TRP priorities, protests for survival continue to be ignored.

Children lying on the hot grounds of Jagatsinghpur in the middle of summer were ignored, and the State continues to push the undemocratic POSCO integrated steel plant to completion. Dalits protesting against the heinous casteist act of Made Snana in Karnataka were ignored and caste violence continues to escalate with complete apathy from our liberal champions. Muslims protesting in Forbesganj,Bihar against a road that blocked their access were shot down. Hundreds of people march across states from Kashmir to Delhi against the archaic AFSPSA, and the State doesn’t so much as engage a few words with those who marched such large distances. Perhaps the most glaring case of State benevolence in India is where Soni Sori a tribal teacher is sexually violated, while the perpetrator SP Ankit Garg is honored with a Gallantry award.

Red full article here

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