PRESS RELEASE – Fact Finding Report- Scrap Posco Project


We are surprised to see the Supreme Court judgment on mining lease allotment to controversial POSCO Company which has made our lives miserable. At least after the welcome judgment on Niyamgiri where the Gram Sabhas have been given the authority to decide what constitutes their rights, the natives of Khadadhar area should have asked also to decide in Gram Sabha whether such a mining was needed or not. Now asking the central government to take crucial decisions will inevitably harm the interests of Tribals protected under FRA 2006 as the central government is more than favourably disposed towards POSCO. We too strongly feel that our Gram Sabhas views so clearly and so categorically resolved on October 18, 2012 must also be considered while deciding the fate of mining involving POSCO.

The peaceful demonstration is continuing at Govindpur Village against the trench cutting work for boundary wall construction for POSCO. Today more than eight hundred villagers have assembled at the site to peacefully oppose the construction work.

On 9th May 2013, with the help of eight platoons of police forces, the Jagatsinghpur administration along with IDCO and POSCO officials started the trench cutting work for boundary wall construction for POSCO. The district administration indiscriminately axed fruit bearing trees. This shows how the police and the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police in Jagatsinghpur district, Odisha, are colluding with each other to supress our opinion and to serve the interest of POSCO Company with utter disregard for the verdict of National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Our villagers held demonstrations and raised slogans against the illegal constriction of boundary wall. This is a violation of the direction passed by National green Tribunal on 31sr 2013. As a result, the police went back.

Meanwhile a seven-member-team comprising representatives of two human rights organisations made a visit to our area and released a report. The group demanded scraping of the Posco project as it was being set up in violation of guidelines laid down in the industrial policy document of the Union government.
Report is below-
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS FORUM (DRF)

ORGANISATION FOR PROTECTION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS (OPDR)

Posco Issue – A Preliminary Report by DRF & OPDR Team

A 7 member team of two human rights organisations – Orgainisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (Andhra Pradesh) and Democratic Rights Forum is in Odisha on 4,5,6 May 2013 to look into “POSCO problem”. The immediate context of the team’s visit is opening an armed Police Camp at Village Gobindapur and the subsequent reported repression.

The Team met representatives of PPSS, CPI(ML), CPI, SUCI(C) at Bhubaneswar on May 4. The team visited the villages Dhinkia, Gobindapur, Patana, Nuagaon and Gada Kujanga on 5th. The team intereacted with scores of people in those villages, especially in Dhinkia and Gobindapur. The Team had a long talk with Mr Abhoya Sahu, the President and Sisir Mahapatra, the General Secretary of “Posco Prathirodh Samgram Samithi” (PPSS) at Dhinkia village.

We have gone through various documents like i) MOUs between POSCO and Govt. of Odisha in the year 2005, ii) Forest Rights Act, 2005, iii) Judgement of Supreme Court of India CLIA 2134 OF 2007, IV) N.C.Saxena Committee Report, v) Meena Gupta Committee Report and vi) Ray Paul Committee report.

The team members observed the area is rich with Betel vine orchids, Casuarina Plantations, live paddy fields, big and small fish ponds and many water resources, domestic backyard vegetable plots, mango trees, coconut trees, etc. We rarely found poverty stricken people in the area. It is like Nandigram of West Bengal and Kakinara coast belt of A.P.

We are informed the daily wages of agriculture labour varies between Rs.200/- and 350/- per day depending upon the nature of work and the season. It is heartening to learn that the area provides work to thousands of migrant labour from far away districts like Mayurbhanj, Keojhar $ Ganjam of Odisha in paddy fields. So the economic position of the villages in which POSCO Project is proposed to be established is bountiful and all sections of people were leading a peaceful and happy life until the Salvo of POSCO is fired upon them jointly by the Government of India and Govt. of Odisha in 2005.

For the last eight years the people are restless and passing through many sleepless nights and faced severe repression and four persons paid with their dear lives. Our team visited the house of Manas Jena, a martyr of 2 March 2013 bomb blast. This family is the worst affected in 8 years long anti-posco movement Kalandi Jana, father of Manas loosing his right leg in a bomb attack by goons of POSCO, the wife of the later committing suicide and sister of martyr Manas Jana, Kuni going through severe mental depression. According to Prashant Paikray, the spokesperson of PPSS at Bhubaneswar, around 200 cases are filed against 2000 people of the anti POSCO movement.

Issues Involved :

i) The biggest issue involved, we consider, is the life and living of the pople which given top most priority in the two most crucial chapters of Constitution of India, Directive principles and Fundamental Rights.

The argument that the Directive Principles are not maintainable in a Court of Law may be anything but spacious and many a judgements of the highest Court of India testified it. But it is painful to know that none of the Committees appointed by Government of India to study POSCO related problems have not properly investigated and reported keeping in view the Directive Principles.

ii) To whom the land belongs? Much hair-split is being done by various wings of the State including higher courts. The issue is whether the land belongs to the people or Government (s). We heard from Abhay Sahu, Leader of PPSS, the Govt of Odisha did lot of hair-split and now arguing that because the land under dispute is not a forest land between 1962-65(sic) and is saying the Forest Rights Act, 2008 does not apply. We consider this is ridiculous. It is against the reports of various committees appointed by the Central Govt. also. Who existed first on earth? People or Governemnt (s)? Every sane person agree it is People.

iii) Norms of Industrialisation : The paper of Government of India on Industrialisation unambiguously states that the land under cultivation should not be diverted to industrialisation. Everyone including the entire machinery of the state knew that 99% of the land under the three Gram Panchayats is under intensive cultivation. So the law maker has become the law breaker and hence Govt. has no locus-standi to govern. People are totally justified of their revolt from ethical, judicial as well as from Bharatiya ethos stand point of view.

Present situation :

i) In the villages the team toured, we do not come across a single person who is a votary of POSCO. In Govindapur village, the people who were pro-posco and neutral joined anti posco movement very recently and the whole village unitedly demonstrated against posco and police camp on 3 March 2013. They say the experience of the people displaced by the neighbouring oil refinery shows that if POSCO become a reality, they either become beggars in various towns of the State or go away to unknown places as migrant labour in search of work. The people say neither of the two options is acceptable.

ii) State Government established an armed Police Camp of about 10 battalions in Gobindpur Village. The police regularly patrol all the villages and threatening the people not to even sit together. The people, rightfully content, the very presence of the camp is an intereference in their otherwise peaceful way of life. They rightfully demand the immediate withdrawal of Police Camp.

Perceptions of the people about the rulers :

The perception of the whole people of the area about the Governments at the State and Centre is mirrored in the words of Chandan Mohanty, one of the evictee from his land and living in the POSCO transit camp at Badagabapur village for the last six years – “POSCO is like East India Company. There is neither a State Government nor a Central Government. POSCO is the real ruler. The Indian and Odisha Governments are mere agents of POSCO.”

Appeal of the POSCO affected villages :

Now, the trio of Government of India, Govt. of Odisha and POSCO are held bent upon establishing the project at the declared place and hence once again unleashing terror against US. A very strong statewide solidarity movement is the need of the hour. Please save us and thus save the whole people of Odisha wherein the Governments are resorting to destructive industrialisation including wreck-less mining of various minerals and diverting of huge amount of water for those purposes.

DEMANDS OF THE FACT FINDING TEAM :

We demand the State Government :

i) Immediately withdraw the police camp from the village Gobindapur which is disturbing the very peaceful way of life of the people of the 8 villages.

ii) Unconditionally withdraw all the cases filed against the people and leaders who resisted the forceful act of State in favour of POSCO. Identify the agent provocateurs of the POSCO Company, arrest and prosecute. Identify the erring officials and prosecute.

iii) Pay proper compensation to the bereaved families of those people killed in bomb blasts.

iv) Constitute a comprehensive enquiry commission, consisting eminent persons from different walks of life like eminent personalities from socio-cultural field, human rights campaigners and Bar & Bench to investigate into all aspects of the issue.

v) Withdraw the suspension of the Post Master of Dhinkia Post Office, Mr Babaji Samantaray immediately and restore postal communication to Dhinkia, Govindapur, Patana etc which is an established legal and constitutional right.

vi) Repair the road to Dhinkia via Trilochanapur and via Balitutha immediately which has become unnavigable.

vii) Scrap POSCO project because it is the violation of guidelines laid down in the industrial policy document of Government of India on against established well meaning interest of the people.

An Another Human Tragedy Crying For Solution :-

52 families of village Patana under Dhinkia Panchayat were allegedly attacked by the people of other villages immediately after Panchayat elections, 2007. The victims had approached the District Administration for protection and resolution of the dispute. Instead, the administration shifted them to a place adjacent to the village Badagabapur. These people hoped that the administration would send them back safe to their natural habitat, after few days. To their utter shock and agony, the district as well as the State Administration, in spite of repeated appeals, turned a blind eye, they complained to the visiting team. In one hour non-stop narration to the team, these people detailed their distress and difficulties at the transit camp. They stated in a single voice that they oppose POSCO in to-to. They want to go back to their own houses in Patana to live with honour and dignity. They appeal to all the democratic forces of the State to help them in this regard.

The fact finding team fully appreciate their position and a just demand and appeal to all the pro people political forces of the State to intervene in the matter and to hammer out an amicable and honourable solution.

The members of the Team are :

1. C Bhaskar Rao, General Secretary, OPDR, AP, Mob: 08121743800

2. Ch Sudhakar Rao, President, OPDR, AP

3. Ravi Palur, DRF, WB, Mob: 09433031311

4. Sunil Pal, DRF, WB

5. Sankar Das, TUCI

6. Adv Bibek Ranjan, DRF, Odisha, Mob: 9437215625

7. Pramila, AIRWO

 

Korean Civil and Labour organisations condemn State violence on anti-POSCO villagers


 

 

Dear Friends:

Yesterday, February 07, 2013, 10 Korean NGOs held a press conference in front of the Indian Embassy in Korea.
The co-statement below in the conference was delivered to the Indian Embassy (toward the prime minister) urging them to stop the violence.

Souparna Lahiri

For AIFFM

T0: His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh Prime Minister of India
From: Korean Civil and Labor organizations
Date: 7th February, 2013

We strongly request the Indian government to halt forcible land acquisition immediately, which is for securing sites for project of POSCO.

Korean civil society has strongly argued that the Indian government should push ahead the project with consideration of human rights of the villagers and environment. Some of committees of the Indian government and National Green Tribunal clarified their position that the proposed project failed to obtain villagers’ consent and environment effects should be examined thoroughly.

Despite POSCO Project acquired legitimacy from the Indian government, it is clear that mobilization of police force should not be principal means of resolving deportation cases.

The Indian government must be aware that how much painful the Indian villagers, who are dismissed from their lifelong lands and houses and received unfair compensation, feel. Early in the morning of 3rd February 2013, Indian police attacked peaceful protesters. They attacked women and children, cut the trees and devastated facilities of the village. Furthermore, as from 5th February, police and Indian government employees have conducted forcible land acquisition procedures in the village opposing to the proposed project.

Also, Korean civil society doubt why the police force is involved in POSCO project, which attracts attention of international society, at this time even though the government refrained from putting troops.

As of 28th January 2013, when South Korean Minister of Knowledge Economy visited India, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma referred “We have been concerned about the delays and will be conducting a review. Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) himself has been monitoring this project”

Korean civil society is disappointed in the Indian government if the outcome of ‘review’ and ‘monitoring’ is resorting to violence and brings the armed forces.
Not only opponents of the project in the village, but international civil society including South Korea are skeptical whether POSCO launched the project with villagers’ full consent through ‘valid’ procedures. In addition, we doubt whether the Indian government clings to environment permitting guidance. For this reason, as of October 2012, civil society of India, South Korea, Norway and Netherlands petitioned NCPs of Korea, Netherlands and Norway, regarding POSCO project as an undertaking which has violated OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. In this situation, enforcement of the project with armed forces would never be beneficial to POSCO as well as the Indian government.

Korean enterprises including POSCO have expanded investment in India. However, Korean civil society does not want disadvantaged people in India to go through human rights abuses and discrimination as investment of Korean companies escalates. The Indian government, as a state fully respecting human rights, has to pay attention to Korean civil society and those who are fearful of expropriation of land, instead of focusing on enterprises such as POSCO.

We therefore urge the Indian government to

– Withdraw the police force as soon as possible and prosecute those who are responsible for the assault.
– Provide treatment to the injured villagers and compensate those who lost their trees and other sources of livelihood.
– Reexamine POSCO project and ensure that villagers’ right to partake in decision making.
– Respect villagers’ human rights and protect them from brutality. 
1.  Advocates for Public Interests Law

2.  Corporate For All

3.  Energy & Climate Policy Institute

4.  GongGam, Human Rights Law Foundation

5.  Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

6.  Korean Federation for Environmental Movement

7.  Korean House for International Solidarity

8.  Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights

9.  National Association of Professors for Democratic Society

10.    People’s Solidarity for Social Progress

 

Immediate Release–Green Tribunal suspends environment clearance for POSCO


POSCO Judgment of National Green Tribunal – Briefing Note

On March 30, 2012, the National Green Tribunal held in Prafulla Samantra and Anr. vs Union of India and Ors. that the 31.1.2011 final order of the Environment Ministry – permitting the POSCO project to go ahead with certain conditions – should be suspended until a full review of the project can be undertaken (by specialists with fresh terms of reference). The NGT Bench consisted of Justice C.V. Ramulu, Judicial Member, and Dr. Devendra Kumar Agarwal, Expert Member.

The tribunal has observed that, “A close scrutiny of the entire scheme … reveals that a project of this magnitude particularly in partnership with a foreign country has been dealt with casually, without there being any comprehensive scientific data regarding the possible environmental impacts. No meticulous scientific study was made on each and every aspect of the matter leaving lingering and threatening environmental and ecological doubts un-answered.” (para 7, page 22)

It has also seriously questioned the appointment of Ms. Meena Gupta as the chairperson of the review committee which was set up by the MoEF in 2010. The judgement states that Ms. Gupta’s appointment was “definitely hit by personal / official / departmental bias, in other words, she supported the decision made by her earlier. This is in gross violation of principles of natural justice.” (para 6.9 page 22)

Key Directions of the Green Tribunal

The Tribunal has directed a “fresh review of the Project” (para 8.1) that has to look at the problems noted in this judgment as well as the majority and minority reports of the earlier Enquiry Committee (see list of dates), etc. In particular it has to look at:

Land and infrastructure: The clearance was given for a 4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) steel plant, but the land, water etc. were allocated for a 12 MTPA project (which has been POSCO’s stated plan). The judgment directs MoEF to “consider optimizing the total land requirement for 4 MTPA steel plant proportionately.”(para 8.5) Moreover, the impacts of other infrastructure for the plant have not been assessed at all, even though they were planned for a 12 MTPA plant.

Issues that should have been done now, but which MoEF left for future studies: On several points highlighted by the review committee, the MoEF just said future studies should be done and ignored the issue. The Tribunal finds this deeply unsatisfactory, and notes the following among other issues:

Water: The Tribunal said that “We are all aware that … the drinking water is becoming scarce commodity and at every level precaution needs to be taken for protecting the drinking water supply to human habitation and preventing from utilizing such water for industrial use … alternative water source for the present project, like creating/ constructing a small barrage or augmenting any other existing source at the cost of project proponent to avoid the utilizing the water meant for Cuttack city… could be examined.” (para 7.4, page 29)

Pollution: The plant’s discharge was also left for future study by MoEF. The Tribunal says this is a “serious environmental concern.” (para 7.4, page 30)

Impact on surrounding wetlands and mangroves, as well as cyclone risk: This was left for vague future studies without any time frame or modus operandi. In addition, the Ministry has to frame a policy to ensure large projects are assessed in full for a single clearance (rather than being allowed to get piecemeal clearances for each component, as in this case) and for their full capacity at the start (paras 8.7,8.9). It also has to do a strategic assessment of the ports in Orissa. (para 8.8)

POSCO and the government sought to argue that the case cannot be filed as the original clearances were given in 2007 (and, incidentally, will expire in May/July this year). The Tribunal held that the 2011 order can still be looked at even if the 2007 ones cannot be; it therefore directed review and suspension of the 2011 order.

POSCO and/or the government can appeal this decision in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, MoEF has to constitute a review committee of subject specialists (para 8.3), define timelines for compliance with conditions (para 8.4), establish a committee for monitoring compliance with these conditions (para 8.4). No work can start on the project until the review process is over.

The case was argued by Sr. Adv. Raj Punjwani, Adv. Ritwick Dutta and Adv. Rahul Choudhary for the petitioners.

Key Events

  • June 2005: POSCO, Orissa government sign MoU for 12 million tonne steel plant, private port and captive iron ore mines. Protests begin in steel plant area and area is cordoned off by peaceful protesters.

  • May 2007: Environmental clearance for port granted by Environment Ministry, then under A. Raja.

  • July 2007: Environmental clearance for plant granted by Environment Ministry, then under PM. Secretary is Meena Gupta. Protests continue in the face of violent attacks and numerous arrests.

  • December 2009: Forest clearance granted for taking over forest land by Environment Ministry, then under Jairam Ramesh.

  • August 2010: Forest clearance suspended following complaints of violations of law, and Enquiry Committee constituted under Meena Gupta.

  • October 2010: Three member majority of enquiry committee gives report saying environmental and forest clearances illegal. Meena Gupta dissents, holds clearances legal but recommends additional study and time to ensure compliance.

  • January 31, 2011: Environment Ministry disregards both majority and minority reports, upholds environment and forest clearances, while prescribing some additional conditions (mostly consisting of additional studies to be done in future).

  • June 2011: Prafulla Samantray challenges final order in National Green Tribunal.

  • March 31, 2012: Green Tribunal judgment.

For further information:

Prafulla Samantray, activist and petitioner in this case, 09437259005

Prashant Paikray, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, 09437571547

Kanchi Kohli, activist, 9811903112, kanchikohli@gmail.com

Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, 9873657844, shankargopal@myfastmail.com

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