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

 

Supreme Court tells Centre to decide on POSCO’s mining license


Fri, 10 May 2013

By Newzfirst 5/10/13

New Delhi – The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the Orissa high court order which had quashed state government‘s petition to allot iron ore license to South Korean steel major POSCO in Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district for a multi-crore steel plant.

A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha asked the Centre to consider all the objections raised by various parties pertaining to the mega steel plant and take a decision.

The court was hearing cross appeals filed by the state government and a mine and mineral company challenging the Orissa high court’s order on the issue of iron ore mines.

The state government of Orissa and Geomin Minerals & Marketing Limited had challenged the orders of the Orissa high court which had quashed the notification issuing iron ore mining in over 2,500 hectares in the Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district to POSCO.

The high court, on July 14, 2010 on the petition of Geomin Minerals, had set aside the state government’s decision.

Geomin Minerals had contended before the high court that it had applied for the prospective licence for Khandadhar iron ore mines much before POSCO.

The High Court had set aside the notification issued by state government in 1962 reserving all mineral bearing land for exploitation within Orissa and take a fresh decision on it.

The high court had further said that all mineral bearing land reserved by the state government prior to 1987, without the approval of the central government would not be deemed to have never been reserved.

The Orissa government, which had moved the apex court, on October 29, 2010 on this issue, had contended that the high court could not have quashed the state government’s grant of licence to POSCO as it was under section 11 (5) of Mines And Minerals (Development And Regulation) Act, 1957.

The Orissa government had further contended that Section 11 (5) gives power to the state government to “grant a reconnaissance permit, prospecting license or mining lease, as the case may be, to an applicant whose application was received later in preference to an application whose application was received earlier”.

The state government in January 2009 had recommended POSCO to the central government for granting prospective licence for Khandadhar iron ore reserves.

This was challenged by Geomin and later 16 other firms who have also applied for mining leases also intervened.

Geomin, in its petition, had submitted before the apex court that the high court “does not take into account the pleading made by it” and “has traversed beyond the pleadings and prayer made by it”.

(PTI)

 

Tension mounts in Posco project area as villagers oppose work


 

BHUBANESWAR, May 10, 2013, The Hindu

 

 Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti activists stage a demonstration

Tension prevailed in the Posco project area in Jagatsinghpur district on Thursday as hundreds of agitated villagers came out to oppose digging of a trench for construction of a boundary wall along the land acquired for the proposed steel plant.

The digging of the trench and demarcation work was carried out by the administration at Mangalapada, Gobindpur and Patana Haat despite the people’s opposition.

Two betel vineyards were demolished and more than 150 trees were felled by the administration even as the villagers staged a demonstration under the banner of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti demanding that the work be stopped immediately. The betel vine owners were paid compensation amount on the spot.

But the trench that the administration had dug up along the land acquired for the project was filled with mud by the villagers after the administration returned from the spot, according to Prashant Paikray, spokesperson of the Sangram Samiti.

Mr. Paikray questioned the administration’s work of digging the trench and felling of trees saying that it was illegal since the environment clearance granted for the project by the Centre in the past had been suspended by the National Green Tribunal last year. He said the administration’s move would be opposed tooth and nail again on Friday.

Administration plan

According to sources, the administration planned to complete acquisition of 2700 acres of land for Posco within a few weeks.

The company brought down its land requirement from 4004 acres to 2700 acres as the administration found it difficult to acquire land in Dhinkia village due to stiff opposition from the locals. As per its changed strategy, the company plans to establish a steel plant with an annual production capacity of eight million tons over a land of 2700 acres instead of establishing a 12 million ton per annum capacity steel mill over 4004 acres of land.

 

Posco project: Odisha to complete acquisition of 700 acres in a week


Business Standard
Jayajit Dash  |  Bhubaneswar 
 May 9, 2013 Last Updated at 17:53 IST

The state government has already acquired 2,000 acres of land for the Posco project

posco1

Moving ahead in its land acquisition spree for the Posco project, the Jagatsinghpur district administration aims to complete acquisition of 700 acres of land for the mega steel project in a week.

The state government has already acquired 2,000 acres of land for the Posco project. In the current phase of land procurement, an additional 700 acres were to be acquired.

This is necessary since Posco India had sought at least 2,700 acres of land to commence construction activity on an eight million tonne per annum (mtpa) steel mill in the first phase.

The proponent would later ramp up output to full scale 12 mtpa on receipt of its full land requirement of 4,004 acres.

“We expect to complete acquisition of 700 acres of land for the Posco project in a week. Close to 600 acres have already been acquired. Trenching work for boundary wall construction is also going on at Gobindpur”, sad Jagatsinghpur collector Satya Kumar Mallick.

Asked if protests at the project site would impede land acquisition, “The protests would not impact land acquisition activity since we hope to resolve all issues amicably through discussions.”’

Recently, the land acquisition drive for the Posco project had suffered a setback when villagers opposed the process, alleging massive irregularities in measurement of vines.

The affected people also objected to starting trench cutting necessary for commencement of boundary wall construction for the steel project.

The pro-Posco villagers alleged that the company authorities and officials of Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco) have started trench cutting process for erection of boundary wall for the project without finalizing compensation, fixation of land rate, job opportunities, identification of betel vine labourers and other issues.

In a recent status note prepared on the Posco project, the state government said it has already handed over 546 acres to Posco India. An additional 1554 acres were ready to be handed over to the company.

Posco India needed 4004 acres of land in all. The land was to be acquired in eight villages- Nuagaon, Dhinkia, Noliasahi, Gobindpur, Polang, Bayanalkandha, Bhuyanpal and Jatadhar.

The state government admitted that law and order problems at the project site and delay in obtaining approval of forest diversion from the Union ministry of environment & forest (MoEF) impeded progress in project implementation.

While according approval of forest diversion for 2959 acres of forest land, MoEF did not appreciate the swapping clause of the original MoU (memorandum of understanding) signed with the steel major that expired in June 2010.

 

Land acquisition for Posco starts again #WTFnews


Ten betel vine plantations were dismantled in the first few hours without any resistance from locals, official sources said, adding that payments would be made soon
File PhotoFile Photo

Paradip (Odisha), Apr 22 (PTI): After remaining suspended for about two and a half months, land acquisition today resumed for Posco Steel’s Rs 52,000 crore mega project in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district.

Ten betel vine plantations were dismantled in the first few hours without any resistance from locals, official sources said, adding that payments would be made soon.

Meanwhile, anti-Posco members belonging to Dhinkia, Patna and Gobindpur villages took out a procession to Phulkhai temple in Dhinkia where they held a meeting leading to simmering tension.

Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samittee leader Abhay Sahoo, who is spearheading the agitation against the mega project, was away at Bolangir taking part in a protest against setting up of the Lower Suktel project there.

“We have re-started land acquisition involving dismantling of betel vines this morning. The villagers are cooperating in the work undertaken by the administration,” Jagatsinghpur Collector S K Mallick said.

Two teams were dismantling betel vine plantations of consenting farmers in Gobindpur village, Additional District Magistrate (Paradip), Surjeet Das said.

The work, with the use of machines, was being carried out smoothly in groups separately led by tehsildars of Kujanga and Ersama, Das said.

Another team was making a survey of trees and horticultural plants in the area, he added.

Earlier about 250 acre land had been acquired before work was suspended on February 11 ahead of the Budget Session of the Assembly.

The land acquisition had witnessed a nude protest by women at Dhinkia, while a bomb blast led to the death of three persons.

 

Activists Welcome the SC judgement on Vedanta, and mining in Niyamgiri #Victory #Tribalrights


 

vedanta

PPSS welcomes the verdict of Supreme court yesterday (i.e. 18th April 2013)  on  the issues of mining in Niyamagiri hills of Odisha. The verdict said that it’s upto the Gram Sabha (Village-level Assembly) to decide whether to allow mining in Niyamgiri Hills by the Vedanta Group. The Supreme Court has upheld the authority of Gram Sabha to control, manage and use the mineral resources in Niyamagiri hills. This comes as a very welcome judgment where community rights over mineral resources has been protected. This is a victory of long-drawn struggle of the adivasis in Niyamagiri hills and throughout the state.

It may be reminded that Gram Sabha of Dhinkia Panchayat of Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha held on 18th October 2012 had passed a resolution unanimously against the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes. With the spirit of the Supreme court judgement on Niyamagiri hill, the state government should respect the decision of our Gram sabhha and scrap the POSCO project outright.

I would also like to bring your attention to the latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report. The CAG in its latest report, tabled in the assembly has found the Odisha government guilty of extending large scale undue benefits to steel major POSCO in allotment of a piece of land in the state capital Bhubaneswar. The government disregarded all norms in allotting the land with shameless favoritism.  While allotting the land, zonal regulation was ignored and the land was gifted away at an abysmally low premium. The CAG report is very scathing on it.

The CAG report said that the country arm of South Korean steel major Posco-India had applied for allotment of a plot measuring 12,000 square feet for its chairman-cum-managing director’s (CMD) residence-cum-guest house in 2006. However, later it enhanced the requirement twice to 25,000 sq.ft. in April 2007 and later 2 acres for the same purpose. Various committees, including committees appointed by Central Government, have unearthed serious illegalities in POSCO’s other operations earlier. Many more are still buried beneath as vested authorities try their best to hide those and get away with it. While proofs are piling up, our people are bewildered by a complete hijack of governance mechanism to patronize POSCO and connive with the POSCO and harming our basic life and livelihood sources as well as the interest of the larger society.

As the government is unwilling to play the ‘Rajdharm’ we are determined to put up a peaceful-democratic fight against this unholy alliance between the government and POSCO.

On April 12, 2013, the Left parties and various mass movements staged demonstrations at Bhubaneswar demanding withdrawal of police force from the proposed plant site area. Demonstrations were also held in various district headquarters in response to a call by CPI to observe ‘All India Solidarity Day’. The protestors held the placards saying “Posco Go Back” and “Stop Forcible Land Acquisition”.

As we have shared earlier a 12-member team consisting of human rights activists, journalists, academicians, democratic rights and civil liberty activists conducted a visit to our area on March 9, 2013  to take stock of the situation after the March 2 bomb blast in which three of our frontline activists died and one got seriously injured. The report of the fact finding team brings into the fore another evidence of the state’s cruelty. While releasing the report eminent legal luminary Justice Rajinder Sachar was awestruck by the fact that three people got killed in a bomb explosion and yet no inquiry was conducted into the incidence. ‘The incident was ghastly and the action of the government is horrible’, said Justice Sachar. That Committee in its report has demanded a high level judicial inquiry into the incident. You can read the whole report here.

In a separate but bizarre development we have come to know, from media reports, about POSCO’s attempt to influence a section media in its favour by sponsoring a pleasure trip for some journalists to Pune and other such places. But we firmly believe on the impartial character of our media friends who will continue to expose the POSCO’s illegalitiesand the government’s undue favor.

Attaching herewith an e-petition for your endorsement prepared by  an organization SOLIDARITÉ based in France for your information. Here is the petition, in French and English.

Kindly forward this mail widely.

Hoping for solidarity,

Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Mobile no-09437571547
E-Mail – prashantpaikary@gmail.com

 

Odisha – (MOEF) Roy Paul Committee Report Reveals More Illegalities, Exposes POSCO’s Destructive Potential


POSCO

 

At a time when our people are facing bombs, lathis and violence in order to defend their basic rights to their homes, lands and livelihoods, yet another official committee has confirmed that the POSCO project is being pushed through without a thought for the welfare of the people of the area or of this country.

 

On October 22nd 2012, the second official review committee to be constituted on the POSCO project – constituted in May 2012  (this time, on the directions of the National Green Tribunal on March 31, 2012) submitted its report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). This report has not yet been made public but has been obtained by an Right to Information (RTI) request.

 

The POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) wishes to bring the following key points from the report to the attention of the public in this regard:

 

·        The Odisha government and POSCO are lying when they say they have decided to reduce the project size to 2700 acres and “leave out” most of the private and forest lands in the villages of Dhinkia and Govindpur. Till date their plant layout lists the plant’s substation, water supply facilities, main office for phase I, two gates, etc. in the land that they supposedly do not want. The committee has asked POSCO to submit a revised layout and also unambiguously state that this will not affect their expansion plans.

 

·        The Committee notes that – eight years after signing an MoU to start the project – the government and POSCO have yet to carry out the following basic studies:

 

‣      Assessing how much water is actually available in the area and whether this area can support such a huge plant;

 

‣      Impacts on fisheries, which support more than 20,000 people in the area;

 

‣      A plan for management of oil spills;

 

‣      Impact of dredging of material for the private port;

 

‣      Impact on marine ecology and wildlife from the plant;

 

‣      Critical long term study for captive port

 

·        The Committee also says that therefore the project needs to submit a fresh Environment Impact Assessment report for its revised layout. Hence, the entire process effectively has to start again.

 

·        The Committee has also clearly said that expansion of any project in the area (not just POSCO) should be considered only after a carrying capacity study.

 

In short, as per the findings of the Roy Paul committee, this project has never been studied properly and could – in other words – pose a serious risk to the entire area. The committee hence confirms the finding of the NGT 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.”

 

It is a different matter that the Roy Paul Committee has incorrectly limited its own mandate – looking only at “conditions” of the 2011 environment clearance rather than a full review as mandated in their Terms of Reference (ToR) as well as directions of the NGT. It also tries to claim that the revised EIA can be made and the process go ahead without a public hearing or a new environmental clearance – but this is simply illegal. None of this attempt to shield POSCO and their former colleagues changes the facts that the Committee reveals.

 

Three of our people have given up their lives to stop this illegal and unjust project. What the Committee report confirms is that no one – including the government that is unleashing brute force against us – has any idea how many more lives will be lost, and how much more damage caused, if this project indeed comes up. It is time that the State and Central government stopped acting on behalf of POSCO as its agent and instead take the serious social, human rights environmental and legal issues on board to reject the project in its entirety.

 

 

 

Prashant Paikaray

 

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

 

Mobile no – 09437571547

 

E- mail- prashantpaikaray@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

ATTN DELHI- Release of Fact Finding Report on the Bomb Blast in Dhinkia Panchayat


Release of Fact Finding Report on the Bomb Blast in Dhinkia Panchayat

On the 9th of March 2013, a 12 member team consisting of human rights activists, journalists, academicians, democratic right and civil liberty activists, conducted a fact finding visit to Dhinkia and Govindpur villages in Jagatsinghpur District of Orissa. On the 2nd of March 2013, a bomb blast took place in the Govindpur village and three people were killed on the spot. One seriously injured person also succumbed to the injuries in hospital. The police only arrived after 15 hours to Govindpur and took the first assessment of the incident. However, the district administration within a couple of hours of the blast issued the statement that the deceased were involved in the illegal act of bomb making. The villagers and families of the deceased are claiming that the administration want to fasten the process of land grab in favour of POSCO (Pohang Steel Company of Korea) and fear for their lives for opposing the project.

The fact finding team comprised of Mr. Meher Engineer (Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata), Mr.  Sumit Chakravartty (Editor, Mainstream Weekly, Delhi), Dr Manoranjan Mohanty (Retd Professor, Delhi University), Mr.  Pramodini Pradhan (PUCL Odisha), Mr. Saroj Mohanty (PUCL, Odisha), Ms Ranjana Padhi (PUDR, Delhi), Dr Kamal Chaubey (PUDR, Delhi(, Mr. Sanjeev Kumar (Delhi Forum, Delhi), Mr. Mathew Jacob (HRLN, Delhi), Ms Samantha (Sanhati), Mr. Partho Roy (Sanhati) and Mr. Gyan Ranjan Swain (Ravenshaw University)

 

The objective of the visit was to assess the situation in the wake of escalated violence caused by the land acquisition process which again resumed in the area on the 4th of February 2013. During the visit, the team had a detailed discussion with all the concerned stake holders.

The report will be released by Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar on the 16th of April, 2013 at Press Club of India at 3 PM. Looking forward for your participation.

 

Date – 16th April, 2013

Time – 3 PM Onwards

Venue – Press Club of India

 

For information and clarifications please contact Sanjeev Kumar (9958797409, sanjeev@delhiforum.net) or Mathew (08860110520, mathew.tiss@gmail.com)

 

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- #India -1500 villagers on indefinite fast in Odisha against State sponsored private militia #Posco


Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik
On 3rd April 2013, around 1500 villagers, including women and children, joined the indefinite protest in the Gobindapur village where the armed police forces camping. They have decided that they will continue the protest day and night with the demand for unconditional withdrawal of the armed police camps from the village. Leaders from different political parties like All Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India( Marxist), CPI-ML, CPI-ML( Liberation), CPI-ML ( ND), SUCI ( C), Forward Block, Samajvadi Party, Rastriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal ( U ) Aam Admi Party, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Samajvadi Jan Parishad, Odisha Jan Morcha, Republican Party of India along with a few progressive organizations and individuals of eminence addressed the meeting on Wednesday, held near the police camp at Gobindapur.
We are apprehending that the state government would resume forceful acquisition of our land after the state assembly session ends on April 6, 2013.

As you know, in march first week, three of our villagers Tarun mandal, Manas Jena, Narahari Sahoo were killed when bombs were hurled at them by the project supporters and earlier Tarun’s elder brother Tapan alias Dula Mandal was killed in 2008. The lives of the wives and children of the deceased have been shattered. They are living an life of fear and uncertainty as and they do not know what the future holds for them. Pravati Mandal (26), wife of late Tarun Mandal of Gobindapur is left alone to take care of their two-year-old daughter. Pravati is now relying on the food supplied by our villagers. Jharana Jena (28), wife of late Manas Jena, a betel vine farmer of Gobindapur, faces not only grave financial difficulties but also the challenge on how to save their betel vines and lands from being acquired for the steel mill.

The police instead of taking action against the killers of the three persons are trying to arrest our people and have clamped false cases against us.

We will hold a joint demonstration of all political parties in Bhubaneswar on 12th April to oppose POSCO; we call upon our friends and sympathizers .

On March 26, in a major development, likeminded political forces cutting across party line came together and organized a massive demonstration program in the capital city of Bhubaneswar demanding full stop to ongoing police repression and violence in proposed project areas of POSCO Company in Dhinkia GP of Jagasingpur district. They also demanded full stop to forcible land acquisition and withdrawal of the project from the area. They met the new Odisha Governor Sri Senayangba Chubatoshi Jamir at Raj Bhawan with a list of demands. Attaching below the memorandum to Governor of Odisha for your information. ( Annex -1)

Recently, two human rights defenders as a part of Advocacy mission team visited to South Korea. Please find below the press release for your information ( Annex- 2).

Please find herewith a video statement of Debendra , one of the PPSS activist on the recent human rights violation by the State government. We are expressing our gratitude to the Video Voulnteer for preparing this video. This is the link of the video http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL60GAnFL6tn01CNcvnMkV6elXc3IZhjEJ

Kindly forward this mail widely.

Hoping for Solidarity.

Prashant Paikaray

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Mobile no – 09437571547

E- mail- prashantpaikaray@gmail.com

Annex -1
To
His Excellency Senayangba Chubatoshi Jamir
Hon’ble Governer of Odisha,
Raj Bhawan, Bhubaneswar March 26, 2013

Sub: Memorandum submitted by POSCO Pratirodha Solidarity Samiti

Respected Rajyapalji,
We the representatives of Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India( Marxist), CPI-ML, CPI-ML( Liberation), CPI-ML ( ND), SUCI ( C), Forward Block, Samajvadi Party, Rastriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal ( U ) Aam Admi Party, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Samajvadi Jan Parishad,Odisha Jan Morcha, Republican Party of India along with the undersigned organizations and individuals crave your kind indulgence on the continued police atrocities and prolonged repression on the villagers in the Dhinkia and Baligotha of Jagatsinghpur District by the State Government machinery and private militia to protect the interest of POSCO India Private Ltd., an Indian subsidiary of Korean conglomerate POSCO. The constitution of India is facing the worst of its crisis in this region as the elected government of the state is subverting democracy and rights guaranteed by the constitution of India just to sub serve the interests of a private multinational company who has come here just for maximizing its profit. Ignoring established laws and procedures and with total disregards to the facts that the company’s environmental clearance has been stayed by National Green Tribunal, Mining case is still pending in the Apex Court and water availability along with port clearance are yet to be decided, the state government is using all its means to forcibly acquire the rich and fertile agricultural land despite strong resistance by the locals who have so far lost four lives.
Though the ways, means and methods of industrialization in the state has remained an issue of contention and contestations which we don’t want right now to apprise you with but we feel that there is no justification for setting up Steel Plant in the fertile agricultural land where rural economy has prospered with multi crop farming and other economic activities like fisheries and betel leaf plantation. The State Administration has not been able to implement the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 for the villagers who are living in those areas for ages, and despite having documentary evidence in favour of existence of tribal’s and other traditional Forest Dwellers. The official Gram Sabha of Dhinkia in the presence of government officials has voted against transfer of forest land for the company on October 18, 2012 and prior to that twice.
But such a democratic move was not respected and rather was responded to with increased violence in partnership with private militia. And as a result of this violence and deaths happening since February 3, 2013 which reached a culmination point on March 2, 2013 when 3 people got killed in a bomb explosion. The armed police have made life miserable for the common villagers and lots of false cases have been files against people forcing them not to move out. The threat of State and company sponsored violence looms large over hundreds of farmer who are protecting their life and livelihood in the midst of hundreds of policemen. We seek your urgent benign intervention. In the light of the aforesaid facts and circumstances we demand the followings before you to instruct the state Government.
Our Appeal:
1. Please ask the state government to stop forcible land acquisition for POSCO project in the Govindapur area of Jagatsinghpur district.
2. Please ask for withdrawal of armed police deployed in Dhinkia Gram Panchayat area and to take positive and proactive measures to ensure peace and normalcy in that village and not to take the pretext of using police to defend the POSCO ‘supporters’ who are being nurtured by the company.
3. All rights violations must stop and your good office may order impartial investigation of all violations done so far which will enlighten you about the magnitude of the problem.
4. Land Pattas should be issued in favor of the people those who have been possessed the government land since generation’s which they are entitled to at least under FRA 2006 by recognizing Rights of the Forest Dwellers and Tribals as per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
5. If the government can’t honor, at least it should not dishonor and do things to harm a democratic peaceful resistance against displacing from life and livelihood resources.

With deep democratic regards

Annex-2

Press Release:

POSCO Undermines Indian Democracy, Democratic Dissent, Rights of Citizens and Justice- All that Guaranteed by Indian Constitution & International Laws

‘Anywhere in the world if democracy exists, they must prevent POSCO-like corporation from going ahead with its assault on the democratic values, principles, laws and rights of another sovereign country even if the host country’s political, bureaucratic and media is seen to be patronizing the company and facilitating its entry in one or the other pretext.’(A senior Journalist in Odisha)

Despite the fact that Indian citizens of the state of Odisha in the lowest unit of their democracy-the Gram Sabha rejecting the proposal of POSCO to establish a steel plant at the cost of their prime agricultural land, rich betel vines and fishery resources which they did thrice by taking majority resolutions in a body sanctioned and respected by Indian Constitution, the company has shown only its ‘determination’ to go ahead with the project at a huge cost to the rights of Indian citizens and by causing untold miseries for the democratic protesters. The Gram Sabhas (a constitutionally recognized body of all citizens relating to the villages belonging to a Panchayat – Local Self-Governing Unit) have rejected three times (March, 2008; February, 2010 & October, 2012) the POSCO project in their villages. For the last seven years they have been peacefully resisting POSCO, in-spite of all kinds of intimidations and harassments by the Indian government and POSCO followers.

Why do Affected People reject POSCO?

Displacements: 4004 acres of land earmarked for the POSCO’s plant project is going to evict an estimated 22,000 people and indirectly disrupt the livelihoods of another 30,000 people, just in Jagatsingphur District. People will lose their houses, homestead and agricultural lands, common property resources and all sustainable sources of livelihoods.

Loss of Sustainable Livelihoods Systems – Degradation of the Standard of Living for Local People: 22,000 people depending on agriculture, fishing, and forestry since generations will directly loss their traditional and sustainable sources of livelihoods and jobs. Small-holding betel vine cultivation provides a steady, sustainable income for people living in the affected area, amounting in some cases to over three times the average Indian income while cultivating land plots less than a tenth the size of an acre.

An additional 30,000 small scale fisherman also stand to lose their source of livelihood. It is this way of life that people resisting the project are defending and they assert that POSCO-India can never adequately compensate them for it. There is little possibility the purported job creation will benefit the local residents, as they do not have the skills needed to work for a steel plant and offspring industries that is supposed to be created. They might be forced to take low paid, insecure and easily replaceable jobs such as cleaning, manual luggage carriers and the like.

Villagers are anticipating that POSCO’s project will destroy a peaceful and sustainable way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, thereby threatening the livelihoods of local residents and the future of their children. While the project would destroy whole communities and local economies, should this forced eviction proceed it will amount to grave violations of several fundamental human rights, including those related to housing, food, water, health and work. Here it does not include twenty thousand indigenous people who will lose livelihoods due to the proposed mining project in Sundhargarh district ( approx 300 km away from proposed steel plant area at Jagatsinghpur)..

Noteworthy to mention that 42 families who have already moved to POSCO-India’s transit camp demonstrate how the evicted people are leading a wretched life over there without any work, poor housings, moving from economic prosperity into poverty, removal from their arable land has cut them off from their previous means of economic independence, leaving them dependent on a dole-like cash payment of 20 rupees (405 South Korean Won) per day.

Environmental Impacts: The project is going to have negative impacts on the environment and local biodiversity. Construction of the port is predicted to destroy the breeding ground of the endangered Olive Ridley turtle, and remove sand dunes that are a natural barrier against regular cyclones – like the one in 1999 that caused the death of 15,000 people. Local people protected by this natural barrier were spared the worst of the category 5 storm that destroyed other communities. POSCO-India plans to remove these dunes to build their port.

Disastrous Impact on Water sources: The POSCO plant will extract huge quantity of water from a rain-fed river already falling short from meeting the domestic and agricultural needs of local people and will affect 30000 farmers in the district. The disposal of waste waters from the plant will destroy the natural water outlets, canals, sea and affect fishermen and farmers.

Crackdown on people resisting forcible eviction: For the past seven years, POSCO has been morally complicit in state-sanctioned attacks and acts of repression by the Government of Odisha to suppress peaceful demonstrations and opposition against the company’s proposed project. Till now it has claimed five lives as a result of POSCO operations and POSCO was never found condemning any of such gruesome incidents. Rather, it shows collaborations of POSCO with the acts of government and private musclemen to terrorise people.

On March 2nd, 2013, at 6.30pm, a bomb killed 3 local community members, Manas Jena, Nabanu Mandal and Narahari Sahoo, and seriously wounded another, Laxman Paramanik. This is part of a long-running pattern of violence used to threaten and harm local people. For example, in 2008 Dula Mandal, another local person resisting the project was also killed. In 2010 police opened fire on locals resisting the project, causing a widespread public outcry. These people have been violently targeted because they are part of the community of local people resisting the progress of the POSCO-India project in defense of their livelihoods, and access to land and natural resources.

The South Korea’s Ambassador Kim Joong Keun visited Odisha on 6th march 2013. When people in the proposed POSCO project site are mourning the killing of 3 activists of the movement who were killed ina bomb attack on March 2, the Ambassador did not say anything to express his grief. He was obsessed with the progress of POSCO project.

From February 2013 onwards there is continuous deployment of five platoons of police at Govindpur village which has made villagers life miserable. The presence of police is only encouraging the criminal elements to unleash a region of terror in the proposed POSCO area. The villagers are in a constant fear that at any point of time the armed police forces resume the operation and take away their land.

Police Cases against Resisting Villagers – Deliberate Harassment of Local People: To date, the Odisha State Government has registered more than 230 criminal cases against the villagers and issued 1,500 warrants, 340 of which are women. Two individuals, who are under trial prisoners, remain incarcerated. Mostly the complainants are government officials, POSCO staffs and followers. The community leaders have been repeatedly jailed as a result of defending their human rights.

Seven Years’ Encirclement of Resisting Villagers – Unable to access medical services and children’s Education: Threats, arrests, tortures, harassment by police and POSCO followers, deployment of huge security forces, open challenges by mercenaries have forced the villagers not to cross their village boundary and kept aloof from the rest of the world as if in an open prison. People trying to come outside their village boundary for medical treatment, marketing or for any other urgent purposes are being abused or arrested on their way. Any complaint of victims of abuse or arbitrary arrest is not entertained in local police station. Sick women, children and others are not able to access medical treatment since years together. Children are not able to attend educational institutions outside their villages. At least 14 women are suffering for years with severe gynecological disorders that need surgery. In January this year eighteen police platoons surrounded the area where communities are resisting the project and threatened to forcible enter the village and evict them. On this occasion the authorities did force themselves into the village and destroyed the local people’s primary means of livelihood, their betel vines that they rely on for the bulk of their income. Furthermore, the intimidation methods extend also to legal persecution.

Issues of Violation of Indian Laws with the POSCO-India project: According to the Forest Rights Act (2006) the consent of local people – as expressed during official community gatherings, known as a Gram Sabha – is required for this project to proceed. In this case local communities have officially voiced their rejection of the project in three legally binding community resolutions.

The original 2005 MoU for the project has expired, and on March 30, 2012, India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered a review of the 2011 final environmental clearance for the project, following which the Ministry of Environment and Forests has withdrawn this approval. Furthermore, the captive port construction as planned would violate Indian coastal development regulations.

Many of these violations and irregularities were pointed out in the Majority Committee Report, of a review committee that was set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests , Government of India in 2010. There have been deficiencies in the manner in which the forest diversion for the project was approved. For instance, the decision was based solely on aerial inspection and telephonic verification. The first set of environment clearances granted in 2007 have also expired in May and July 2012. Despite all this, POSCO-India continues to initiate entry into the project area and carry out felling of trees as part of continuing the project construction in the absence of requisite legal approvals, which are mandatory prior to initiating any construction works.

Corrupting and Weakening Democratic Institutions and Functions in India: POSCO – India works an active collaborator with the forces that engaged in corruption, bribery within the administration and weakening democracy. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has unearthed a land scam in Odisha, where the state government acquired land for industrial houses like POSCO by reportedly misusing existing provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. Media people are lured not to write any stories against POSCO.

Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights:

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the ‘Guiding Principels’), requires that all business enterprises respect human rights. Specifically, this means that businesses are required to ‘avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved’. The responsibility of business enterprises to ‘respect human rights applies to all enterprises regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure’.

The Guiding Principles require that all businesses ‘identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships’. In order to execute this duty, the investor relationship that your company has with the POSCO Corporation requires that you apply whatever leverage you have to ensure POSCO management respects the human rights of the people affected by their project in Odisha.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: All companies based in states that are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are obliged to uphold the ‘Guidelines for Multi-National Enterprises’ (the ‘OECD Guidelines’). Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines requires companies to “respect human rights, which means they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved”. The Guidelines are applicable to financial institutions and to investors, including minority shareholders.

Another provision of the OECD Guidelines requires that companies engage with relevant stakeholders in order to provide meaningful opportunities for their views to be taken into account in relation to planning and decision making for projects, or other activities that may significantly impact local communities. In this case, the POSCO Corporation should heed the voice of local communities as expressed in accordance with the Forest Rights Act during Gram Sabhas, which have three times (March, 2008; February, 2010 & October 2012) reiterated the local communities’ demand that the project not proceed.

UN Global Compact
The United Nations Global Compact also calls on companies to respect international human rights standards and avoid complicity in human rights abuses. In May 2012, POSCO CEO, Mr. Joon-Yang Chung, wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. He stated that ‘POSCO supports the ten principles of the Global Compact with respect to human rights’ and ‘with this communication, we express our intent to advance those principles within our sphere of influence’. Evidence from the area impacted by POSCO’s project in Odisha makes a mockery of this promise.

POSCO should honor this commitment to United Nations Guidelines and uphold human rights in general and withdraw its Odisha project in particular as it undermines human rights of local people, the right to democratic dissent and their natural rights to pursue livelihood options of their choice. No project should be imposed on an unwilling population by conniving with coercive state machinery.

Chandranath Dani, Human Rights Advocate
Email: danichandranath@gmail.com

 

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