Rights issue may mar Posco dream in Odisha

Agency calls for details on violation of human rights during land acquisition

Rights issue may mar Posco dream in Odisha

The controversial Posco steel project in Odisha seems to be heading for yet another hurdle with a human rights agency working under the United Nations reportedly seeking a detailed note on violation of human rights during the land acquisition process for the multi-crore South Korean steel mill in coastal Jagatsinghpur district.

The Odisha government had recently claimed that it had completed the land acquisition process for the first phase of the mega steel project. It had claimed to have acquired 2,700 acres for the 8-million-tonne per annum capacity plant.

According to sources, the Union home ministry has already sent a letter in this regard to the Odisha government after receiving a note on the matter from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a special rapporteur appointed by UN Human Rights Council. The state government will have to furnish its reply within a month.

The development has turned out to be a major morale booster for the activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as left political parties opposing the South Korean project.

“It will not be that easy to implement the project. We will fight against it tooth and nail. The state government’s recent claim that it has acquired the entire 2700 acres of land for the first phase of the project is only on pen and paper”, said an anti-Posco activist.

The state government, however, is preparing to give a “fitting replay” to queries on the issue of human rights violation. “We have not violated any human rights. Almost all the land acquired for the Posco project were government land forcibly occupied by encroachers. Freeing the government land from illegal occupation is not a crime.

Even the encroachers were paid heavy compensation to free the land. This has not been done for any other project in the country”, said an official in the secretariat here.

The state government, in fact, has already begun preparations to sign a fresh MoU with Posco for the proposed steel plant.

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