Acquisition of land for Posco plant resumes

“The process went off smoothly without any trouble,” said Sarojkanta Chodhury, additional Collector of Jagatsinghpur district, who is leading officials from the district administration and state-run Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation. It is after a gap of almost nine months that the land acquisition process for the Rs 52,000-crore South Korean project is resuming. On the first day, land with betel vine cultivation was acquired from 11 farmers. Nearly Rs 16 lakh was paid to the farmers on the spot as compensation.

A list of farmers willing to surrender their land was prepared and acquisition was done accordingly. “No land was acquired forcibly,” an official said.

The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the local organisation spearheading the agitation against the steel project, protested the relaunch of land acquisition, but in a peaceful manner. Nearly 500 PPSS members took part in a rally at Balitutha, near the acquisition site. The rally was addressed by leaders from political parties opposing the project, particularly the CPI and the CPM. About 10 platoons of police were deployed in the area.

While land acquisition was going on in Jagatsinghpur, the Left parties staged a demonstration in state capital Bhubaneswar demanding an immediate halt to the land acquisition process and scraping of the project.

Non-cooperation
Though the government had announced the date for resumption of acquisition works, what had threatened to puncture the plan in the last minute was non-cooperation by members of the United Action Committee (UAC), an organisation supporting the project, till their demands were met. Their conditions included a better compensation package for betel farmers.

The Jagatsinghpur district administration had two rounds of discussions with the UAC which failed. Another round of talks will be held on May 30.

The Orissa government had begun land acquisition for the Posco project in July last year. However, Union Forest and Environment Ministry had halted it following allegations that the state was acquiring land violating forest and environment laws.

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