The recent National Green Tribunal (NGT) judgment on the POSCO steel plant in Odisha asking the Environmental ministry to have a fresh re-look, while definitely a welcome relief to the people of Dhinkia and Gobindpur villages, is by no means a guarantee that POSCO is gone for good. If past experience is anything to go by, the government (both state and central) have bypassed all the so called democratic laws of the land in order to set up the steel plant.
If it weren’t for the heroic 7-year long resistance put up by the people of these villages, the government and the company would long ago have destroyed this ecologically sensitive area and displaced its people. But despite the verdict, government it seems only wants to expedite the whole project. Both PM Manmohan Singh’s recent assurance to South Korea government and the new tripartite agreement that Biju Patnaik government is contemplating with POSCO, clearly reveals the mindset of the government that is hell bent on carrying the project forward.
For the government, it is not merely the question of loss of the project that’s worrying them but the fact of a people’s victory against POSCO that will surely have ramifications beyond the borders of Odisha. The mineral rich region of eastern India comprising the states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand (with a significant tribal population) have long been a battle zone of sorts between the oppressed people of these lands and the government vis a vis MNC’s. Not only has the government literally sold these mineral rich areas for a song; but have also made agreements with the companies that neither benefits the people nor the Indian economy in any way.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) latest report clearly puts the Odisha government in the dock over its violation of the otherwise controversial Land Acquisition Act (1894). Not only had the state government under valued the land prices but also used draconian laws to acquire the lands, without the due process of holding consultation with the people (who would be displaced).
In the meanwhile, Abhay Sahoo – the leader of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti- PPSS (the anti-POSCO resistance movement) was released last month on bail after a false case of murder was foisted against him. But once again, it by no means guarantees his safety or re-arrest as he has over 150 such false cases with fresh charges cropping up again and again.
Despite all the hurdles that have been put on their path, the people’s resolve to resist POSCO shows no signing of fatigue and look ever more resolved to continue their struggle. The only way to defeat POSCO or any such ant-people projects for that matter, is to build a solidarity campaign amongst the youth, the working people and oppressed people all across the landmass of India and beyond, to not only win the demands of the movement in the short term but to also build a genuine socialist alternative in the long run.