While the entire media spotlight today is focused on the Baba Ramdev fiasco & the big corruption scandals rocking the central govt., hardly any attention has gone to what probably is the biggest corruption scandal involving the land acquisition for the POSCO steel project (India’s biggest FDI) in Odisha. This almost free giveaway of 4004 acres of forest & fertile land for a mega steel plant, a massive coal powered thermal plant & a large captive port is a disaster waiting to happen which would result in a net loss of livelihood of nearly 30,000 people, an environment catastrophe in terms of pollution from the industry, destruction of an ecologically sensitive area & loot of natural resources by a multinational company in connivance with state/ central govt. & the bureaucracy.
And this is not all, the POSCO project will be further acquiring 6100 acres of forest land in Kandadhar Hills at Sundergarh district for iron ore mining plus 2000 acres for a gated township for POSCO employees, a dedicated railway & road lines which would again involve land acquisition & land for diversion of water from the Jobra barrage which would lead to water shortages. In sum, this steel – port – mining – township – railway/ road line – water diversion is of absolutely no value to the people of Jagatsinghpur district nor beneficial to the Indian economy excepting for the ruling classes.
The anti- POSCO struggle that has gone on for nearly 6 years is now dangerously edging to its ultimate climax. On the one side are the people of Dhinkia & Gobindpur panchayat – men, women, children & people of all ages – 3000 in all who have formed a human barricade in the border area against a 26 odd platoon of riot police ready to attack anytime. Denied access to the outside world for nearly 6 years now & overcoming every kind of hardship imaginable, the very same people are today willing to take the ultimate step than give up on their precious land. This uniquely self sufficient & sustainable community of beetle vine growers & fisherfolk who have been blessed with such an favorable environment face complete annihilation in the face of imminent police crackdown under the direct orders of the govt. & their corporate bosses.
Already the police have begun a wave of terror in the Nurgoan panchayat (another proposed POSCO site) arresting 17 people including women & even children acquiring around 500 – 600 acres of land in the process & destroying all the beetle vines & cutting down trees in the area. As the situation in both the panchayats continues to remain tense with frequent police flag marches, intimidation & threats, the government (both center & state) have made a complete mockery of all so called democratic norms of the land. And the blame this time falls squarely on the fake environmentalist, Minister of Sate for Environment & Forest (MoEF), Jairam Ramesh.
Ironically this so called green minister has turned out to be the ultimate executioner for the entire POSCO project in Odisha. The first shock came in the form of environmental & coastal clearance granted for the project on 31st January, 2011 conveniently ignoring the recommendations of the two independent committees set up by the minister which clearly established the illegality of the whole project. But instead of scrapping the whole project the minister granted the necessary clearances expressing “faith & trust” in the Odisha govt! (the very same govt. that violated all the laws in the first place).
And then came the most shocking violations in terms of implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA). In the face of over 2/3rd majority in the Dhinkia & Gobindpur Gram Sabha voting against the POSCO project (as required by the FRA) on what was more or less a referendum in the area, the minister in a sheer act of duplicity accepted the Odisha govt. claim that the Gram Sabha resolution was illegal & has turned a blind eye on all hard evidences proving on the contrary. All this has once again proved that Indian democracy is farcical at best manipulated by the ruling classes on their own wish & will.
We therefore demand,
- Immediate halt of the police action against innocent civilians, fisher folk, poor peasants & withdrawal of police forces from the village area
- All those arrested must be released immediately without any charges or conditions
- Arrange emergency care & aid for those injured in the attack
- Rebuild and compensate those who have lost their homes and farms in the police attack
- Severe action including criminal prosecution of the corporates, central & state authorities responsible for the illegal land acquisition for the POSCO project
- Immediate scrapping of the POSCO project from Odisha
We extend our complete solidarity support in this people’s movement against POSCO, the workers, peasants & poor villagers who are struggling to defend their land, homes and their livelihoods against this violent and brutal assault being carried out by a big capitalist conglomerate in league with the state and national government.