Green tribunal halts land acquisition for POSCO

Anupam Chakravartty
Issue Date:

South Korean steel giant acquired 1,093 ha without waiting for environmental clearance

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) which suspended the environmental clearance to the controversial POSCO steel project in Odisha‘s Jagatsinghpur district last year, has once again stepped in to halt illegal work on the controversial project. In the past fortnight, Korean steel manufacturer POSCO, aided by state government of Odisha, acquired 2,700 acres (one acre equals 0.4 hectare) of agricultural land, including betel vines, in Jagatsinhpur district without waiting for the mandatory environmental clearance. NGT, on Tuesday, took cognisance of the violations by the steel company, which were brought to its notice through a petition filed by activist Prafulla Samantray, and asked the state government and POSCO to stall any acquisition till the environmental clearance is issued for the project. Samantaray and others stated in the petition that since POSCO does not have a valid environmental clearance, the present levelling, trench work and tree felling by the project proponent cannot be carried out.

NGT, while hearing Samantray’s petition, said that the company will not acquire any land before the dispute on the environmental clearance is resolved. NGT had suspended the environmental clearance granted to the project on March 30, last year [1]. At that time, the tribunal had asked an expert committee under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to review the project afresh. The committee headed by former bureaucrat K Roy Paul, in its report, sought for a complete design change of the plant [2].

While POSCO had agreed to reduce the land requirement for the project, private agricultural land was not acquired till recently because of protests by local residents. However, towards the end of April, the plant authorities aided by the state and local administration started land acquisition, leading to violence and an incident of bomb explosion, which killed four protesters… [3]. Paul, while submitting the report in October, had said that many important conditions with regard to the grant for fresh environmental clearance had not been fulfilled. On May 28, NGT found that important components for the grant of environmental clearance are yet to be completed, while the authorities began acquiring private agricultural land.

“The state government is yet to formulate a conversion policy for changing forest to industrial areas while it went ahead with cutting trees and destroying betel vines for the POSCO plant. The NGT’s order is a big relief for us as it has directed the state government to bring out a notification to formulate policy for the conversion of such land,” said Samantray.

International censure

On the other hand, at the international level, POSCO’s funders have been questioned for sponsoring the plant in Odisha, where several human rights violations have taken place in the name of land acquisition for the plant. On Monday, Norway’s National Contact Point (NCP) – a body that oversees the implementation Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines – has pulled up the country’s $740 billion oil fund for aiding POSCO plant. NCP said Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages the oil fund on behalf of the Norwegian government, has refused to cooperate with the OECD Contact Point in its assessment of the fund’s investments in POSCO. “NBIM has violated the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and it lacks a strategy for identifying and handling possible violations of human rights in the companies they invest,” NCP said in a statement on Monday.

The investigation was triggered by a complaint from several organizations about the 12 million tonnes per annum capacity steel plant planned by POSCO, which will displace 20,000 people physically and leave them without any means of living. The complaint to the local OECD contact points of South Korea, Norway and Holland was made by the non-governmental organizations Lok Shakti Abhiyan in India, KTNC Watch in South Korea, Fair Green and Global Alliance in the Netherlands and Norway’s Forum for Environment and Development. These organisations have claimed the stakeholders or funders should have used their influence to prevent or mitigate the damage caused by the human rights violations during the acquisition for the plant [4].

NBIM, in a reply to the allegations stated that the bank was awaiting the conclusions of the investigations against POSCO in South Korea. NBIM replied to NCT that “the OECD guidelines do not apply to minority shareholders, and for that reason refused to give answers to our written questions,” said Hans Petter Graver, chairperson of the Norwegian Contact Point. Graver in a release said that the guidelines do apply; the question is how they apply for an investor with numerous small shareholder positions.

The Norwegian Oil Fund has a 0.9% stake in the POSCO plant; the stake is valued at US $245 million. In Holland, the Dutch pension fund ABP and its pension administrator APG March, which is one of the funders, have agreed to cooperate with the local OECD Contact Point, according to the release by National Contact Point.


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Norway row: ‘Were my parents taken away because I was bad?

by  , First Post, Dec 2, 2012

Seven-year-old Sai Sriram looks up at me with innocent eyes, with a gaze that is clearly searching for answers. He is probably wondering why I am asking for him to be sent inside when so many people and camera crew are inside his home in Miyapur on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

I am worried about the effect the picture of his parents – Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni and Anupama – that is flashing non-stop on the TV screen, will have on his young mind. At least three vernacular TV channels have jumped the gun and are incorrectly flashing that the parents have been sentenced to jail. Monday will be the critical day when an Oslo court could sentence his mother to 15 months and father to 18 months in jail.

The boy and his younger brother Abhiram, less than two and who was still being breastfed by his mother till one week ago, look lost and confused. They are upset. They don’t know why Amma is not back yet as promised.

Sai Sriram has been diagnosed with mild to moderate ADHD or attention-deficit hyperactive disorder: Firstpost

Sriram says his father is away on work. But “Nanna” (for father) has not spoken to him over Skype for a week now and he is wondering why. He obviously does not know his parents have been arrested in Norway on charges of “repeated maltreatment of their child/children by threats, violence and other wrong”.

Sai Sriram’s doctor Dr Kalyan Chakravarthy who has been interacting with the child for the last three months says Sriram thinks he was earlier punished for “bad behaviour” by being kept away from his parents for many days and now his parents have been taken away because he has been “naughty”. Sriram was taken away by the child welfare agency in Norway for eight weeks earlier this year on suspicion that the child was being `scolded and intimidated’ at home.

Do we ever realise how much children blame themselves for what they see going wrong around them, with their parents?

The developments are clearly having an adverse effect on the emotional and physical health of the seven-year-old. Sai Sriram is diagnosed with mild to moderate ADHD or attention-deficit hyperactive disorder. He had been responding positively to treatment and to the occupational therapy he was undergoing, but the absence of both parents is obviously causing tremendous trauma and the child is regressing and deteriorating.

Sriram, always a fussy eater, has not been eating well all of last week and his paternal grandmother is obviously worried about his health. Abhiram has been running fever and is asthmatic.

The children obviously miss their mothers nurturing and cuddles. Chandrasekhar’s mother Srilakshmi is in tears, unable to console the children, who are longing and crying for their parents. Both children share a strong emotional bond with their parents and that is now showing in their health and well-being, she says. “I don’t think I took as much care of my children as my daughter-in-law always does. She can’t bear to see them hurt in any way”, she said.

Anupama’s father fights his tears as he tries to explain to total strangers the credentials of his daughter as a loving mother and her husband as a caring father.

“My daughter did her B.Tech and is well-educated. But they both decided that the money he is earning is enough and they would focus on the upbringing of their children. So she remained a housewife”, he said.

Sai Sriram was born premature at seven months and from the very beginning, he had been a difficult child, who needed more patience and understanding in handling, the grandfather says.

No one in the family is denying that the elder child would be every now and then reprimanded, scolded or threatened, all of which they feel is part of the Indian style of parenting to try and discipline the child. But seen through the glares of Western perception and cultural values and put in the context of what has been often called a “draconian” Norwegian law, the parents have been criminalised and painted as villains.

Even presuming that the parents were not ideal human beings, with loads of patience and with the capacity and intention to practice progressive parenting values, condemning them to jail seems an excess beyond justification. They may have even crossed the line and committed some wrongs, but surely their intention was not to torture their child or subject him to inhuman treatment.

From all accounts, they seem to be affectionate, caring parents. It is quite possible that their frustrations sometimes broke their patience and they may have acted in a manner that they regretted only minutes later. Doesn’t it happen to all of us?

What they needed then and now is support and counselling on the best way to deal with the child and with their own emotions. Not a sentence behind bars. Friends of the couple in Norway insist there is documentary evidence to suggest that they sought help for their child and themselves. They never got that help. All they got was blame and were labelled criminals.

If putting the parents in jail is punishing a wrong, then who is going to correct the wrong of denying the children the loving care of their parents. Splitting a family this way would be to compound an error.


The Confiscation of the Bhattacharya Children by Norwegian Authorities – A Case Study

The gist of the Norwegian case against the mother was that the children feared and rejected her and were emotionally disconnected from her. This is belied, among other things, by the following home video that Sagarika has now uploaded on You Tube. Do have a look – it speaks for itself.
Why did they take my children

This report surveys the care proceedings faced by the Bhattacharyas in Norway as a case study in the thinking and practices of child welfare regimes in the developed West.The Bhattacharya case was no exception. Social service agencies with the power to separate children from their families and place them in permanent care as a measure of protecting children from parents considered to be unfit exist in many first world countries. These include the countries of Western Europe, the United States and Britain. If the confiscation of children by these agencies is not justified, then we have in the nations that support such action a situation of grave inhumanity.

The permanent separation of children from their families has severe consequences for both parents and children. Parents are deprived of their children; their state of being as mothers or fathers permanently imprisoned by the State‟s confiscation of their children. As for the children, their extraction from their families and re-location as subjects of public care in institutions or foster homes; or being put up for adoption constitutes a radical and complete re-writing of their childhood and of their identity into adulthood by the State.
The care proceedings in this study are revealing of how, despite the drastic and far reaching nature of this form of State intervention, the issuance and review of care orders is almost entirely free of the usual checks and balances against the misuse of coercive State powers. The actions of social services bureaucrats and the decisions of courts operating in these child welfare regimes are largely hidden from public view by confidentiality laws. Moreover, neither the collection nor the assessment of the evidence on which parents are found to be unfit is subjected to the level of scrutiny of even a regular civil suit, let alone a criminal trial.
In the Bhattacharya case, even if the evidence on the record is taken at face value, it does not substantiate the determinations of unfit parenting and breakdown of the relationship between parent and child. Much of the so-called evidence describes normal interactions between the mother and the elder child, such as might be witnessed between any mother and her toddler.
The result is a denial of procedural and substantive justice for parents and children.
Another aspect of the care proceedings that gives rise to concern is the low threshold for the confiscation of children from families. There was no allegation of sexual abuse, child battery or abandonment in the Bhattacharya case. There was no allegation of any criminal act having been carried out against the children. The facts as alleged in the case did not justify the grave and life altering step of permanent confiscation of the children from their parents.
The case record also reveals that there was little attempt to help the family stay together by enabling the parents to overcome their perceived deficiencies. Parenting flaws and mistakes, such as they were, appear to have been identified only to provide the excuse to remove the children. So for all that the system claims to exist for the welfare of children, the children of families caught in care proceedings are given no real chance of staying with their families.
The decisions about the Bhattacharya parents and children in the care proceedings are also revealing of the distorted understanding of the child and family that underlies intervention by permanent separation of children from families perceived to be dysfunctional. In the Bhattacharya case, the home environment and parenting practices were found to be faulty on a number of fronts. The parents were assessed to be incapable of improving. And based on these determinations the conclusion in the logic of the Norwegian child welfare system was that the children should be placed in permanent care.

The response of the care system at each stage in the proceedings to the Bhattacharyas‟ pleas to be given a chance to be re-united with their children, of being allowed visitation with their children, of their offers for improving the perceived deficiencies in their care of the children,of the prospects of the siblings in the case being placed in separate homes and being brought up in a Norwegian rather than in an Indian family, reveal the extent to which the Norwegian approach to child welfare devalues heritage and family ties. There is a pervasive disavowal of filial love in the assessment of parental performance and the well-being of children. The question of what constitutes a good childhood is reduced to a laundry list of care criteria. Not only does filial love find no place in this approach, many of the care criteria are deeply rooted in Western culture. As a result, these child welfare regimes are inherently biased against families from foreign cultures.

Download full report below

Case Study Final

Couples who share the housework are more likely to divorce, #wtfstudy #wtfnews



Divorce rates are far higher among “modern” couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found.

The report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.  Photo: ALAMY
Henry Samuel

By , Paris, The Telegraph

27 Sep 2012

In what appears to be a slap in the face for gender equality, the report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled “Equality in the Home”.

The lack of correlation between equality at home and quality of life was surprising, the researcher said.

“One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite,” he said.

The figures clearly show that “the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” he went on.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” he suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight.”

But the deeper reasons for the higher divorce rate, he suggested, came from the values of “modern” couples rather than the chores they shared.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said. “In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially.

They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said. Norway has a long tradition of gender equality and childrearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers in 70 per cent of cases.

But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The study emphasised women who did most of the chores did so of their own volition and were found to be as “happy” those in “modern” couples.

Dr Frank Furedi, Sociology professor at the University of Canterbury, said the study made sense as chore sharing took place more among couples from middle class professional backgrounds, where divorce rates are known to be high.

“These people are extremely sensitive to making sure everything is formal, laid out and contractual. That does make for a fairly fraught relationship,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“The more you organise your relationship, the more you work out diaries and schedules, the more it becomes a business relationship than an intimate, loving spontaneous one.

“That tends to encourage a conflict of interest rather than finding harmonious resolutions.” He said while the survey applied to Norway, he was confident the results would be the same in the UK.

“In a good relationship people simply don’t know who does what and don’t particularly care. “Unless marriage is a relationship above anything else, then whenever there are tensions or contradictions things come to a head. You have less capacity to forgive and absorb the bad stuff.”

The survey appeared to contradict another recent one across seven countries including Britain that found that men who shouldered a bigger share of domestic responsibilities had a better sense of wellbeing and enjoyed a better work-life balance.

The researchers expected to find that where men shouldered more of the burden, women’s happiness levels were higher. In fact they found that it was the men who were happier while their wives and girlfriends appeared to be largely unmoved.

Those men who did more housework generally reported less work-life conflict and were scored slightly higher for wellbeing overall.

Experts suggested that, while this may be partly because they felt less guilty, the main reason could be that they had simply learnt the secret of a quiet life.


Breivik trial lay judge dismissed over Facebook

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Reuters | Apr 17,2012

OSLO (Reuters) – The court putting Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik on trial for massacring 77 people last year dismissed a lay judge on Tuesday after he posted a comment on a Facebook page saying the gunman should face the death penalty. The trial against Breivik began on Monday, with two professional judges, as well as three lay judges chosen from civil society, presiding over the court. After the killings last July, lay judge Thomas Indreboe posted ‘the death penalty is the only just outcome of this case’ on a Facebook page. The dismissal is not expected to lead to any mistrial verdict and Breivik is still expected to take the stand for the first time on Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in defence of Norway against multi-culturalism. If found guilty and sane, Breivik faces a maximum 21-year sentence but could be held indefinitely if he is considered a continuing danger. If declared insane, he would be held in a psychiatric institution indefinitely with periodic reviews.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi and Walter Gibbs, Writing by Alistair Scrutton)


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