Protests, clashes mark resumption of Posco land takeover acqacquisition

Protests, clashes mark resumption of Posco land takeover acqacquisition

Govt pays compensation to farmers

Tension prevailed in the Posco area in Odisha’s coastal Jagatsinghpur district on Sunday as the local administration, with the help of the police, formally relaunched land acquisition process for the multi-crore South Korean steel project after a gap of nearly eighteen months.

According to reports reaching the state headquarters, there was a face-off between the police and the local villagers opposing the project as the former tried to remove the latter who had been squatting in the area for more than a fortnight now in an attempt to enter Gobindapur, the epicentre of the ongoing anti-Posco agitation.

After a minor clash, the police managed to push away the agitators who included women, elderly persons and children and personnel from the district administration accompanying the police began the land acquisition work. About a dozen betel farmers were paid compensation after their betel vine plantations were removed.

The anti-Posco villagers led by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) who began their dharna at another place maintained that the district administration forcibly acquiring the land with the help of police will not be tolerated and their agitation will continue.

The administration on the other hand said that majority of the villagers were prepared to co-operate in the land acquisition process and it was only a handful of villagers who were creating trouble and obstructing the administration from doing its job.

Of the 2,700 acres of land required for the project, 2,000 acres have already been acquired.

The ongoing process is on to take over the remaining 700 acres.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Odisha government and South Korean steel maker in 2005 for a 12-million tonne steel mill in Jagatsinghpur district.

The size of the plant has now been reduced to eight million tonnes per annum.
Activists supporting the anti-Posco agitation have already questioned the state government’s decision to re-start the land acquisition process when the MoU which expired two years back is yet to be renewed and more importantly when a case is pending on the issue in the green tribunal in New Delhi.

Observers, however, believe that renewed pressure from the Central government for the implementation of the prestigious project could be one of the reasons behind the Odisha government’s decision to reactivate its mechanism for fresh land acquisition.

Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had recently assured a business delegation from South Korea that his government would soon review the progress on the project.  The minister had also told the delegation that the Prime Minister’s Office was monitoring the matter.

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