Karnataka: POSCO Suffers Setback

Photo: Flash News

After Orissa, POSCO had set its sights on Karnataka. The plan was laid out in the last year Global Investors Meet (or more correctly Global Looters Meet) that was held in Bangalore (June) and had all the big names in the world of business attending the conference that was organized by the BJP led Karnataka government. Among those present were the representatives of POSCO, the South Korean steel giant (now infamous throughout India for its ruthless attempt in trying to capture Dhinkia & Govindpur villages in Orissa), who had promised investment to the tune of Rs. 30,000 crore. The plan was to set up 6 million tonne per annum steel plant and a 400 mv captive power station in the three village of north Karnataka district – Gadag, which would have affected more than 600 farming communities.

Now all seems lost, with both the company and the Karnataka government having to beat a hasty retreat. Almost from the very start, when the land acquisition notices were issued, the government faced opposition by the peasants. For over two weeks now, the campaign initiated by the peasants has severally dented the image of the BJP and most critically from BJP’s perspective, the opposition to the project had the support and backing of the pontiff of two religious institutions (mutts). A loss of base in what is considered a Lingayat stronghold (given the fact that the entire BJP’s base in Karnataka rests on communalism and casteist equations) would have wiped out any chances of BJP coming to power again in Karnataka. And both the opposition parties (for their own conveniences and not based on principle stance against capitalism) – Congress and the JD(S) were slowly eating into the opposition space, was all simply too much for the BJP, weakened as it is by achieving the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt state in the country, going all the way to the doorstep of the Chief Minister, B S Yeddyurappa.

Of course, as in all the struggle the poor peasants were in the lead against the land acquisition and big landlords of the region were on the opposite fence ready to part with their land in what they expected to be a bountiful compensation for their huge tracts of land in which they themselves never worked, but by landless labourers and those on tenure, who would neither gain from the project nor receive any compensation for their loss of livelihood. The movement also had support from the People’ movement leader, Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM).

While the peasants of Gadag may have achieved a seemingly fast victory, the story of POSCO in Karnataka does not end there. Both the government and POSCO are on the lookout for alternative sites in the Northern Karnataka region, so it would very premature to conclude on anything, as the notorious BJP government can never really be trusted on its words or promises. What the peasants, the tenure farmers and the landless labourers have to learn from all this is that the gangster profiteers have set their target for over 1 lakh acre during the last year summit and no one can really sure whether their lands or their livelihoods can remain safe as long as long as the state and the country continues to be ruled under capitalism – landlordism under the ambit of capitalist globalization.

Anand Kumar

Bangalore