Orissa farmers reject new Posco package

What is set to create further obstacles in the path of putting the much delayed South Korean project on right track is the anti-Posco villagers’ decision to renew their agitation more vigorously after the announcement of the package.

The Posco pratirodh sangram samiti (PPSS), the organisation which is spearheading the local villagers’ agitation, had staged a ‘maha sammilani’ (mega convention) in the area last Sunday where copies of the recently announced package were burnt as a symbol of protest. Barricades have also been re-erected to prevent entry of government as well as Posco officials into the area.

The barricades set up by the anti-Posco villagers had been withdrawn a few weeks back following a dialogue between PPSS representatives and chief minister Naveen Patnaik. The withdrawal of the barricades had allowed the Jagatsinghpur district administration to go for a socio-economic survey of majority of the villages that will be affected by the Rs 52,000-crore proposed steel plant which was billed as country’s largest foreign direct investment (FDI).

Handsome compensation
The compensation package announced last week after a four hour long meeting of the rehabilitation and peripheral development advisory committee (RPDAC) included an amount of Rs 17 lakh for every acre of paddy field and private land which is considered double compared to the present market price. Farmers having betel vine and prawn cultivation would be compensated at a rate of Rs 11.5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh respectively for each acre.

Each displaced family will be provided with 10 decimals of land besides an unemployment allowance of Rs 2,250 per month for one year. A pucca house of 443 sq ft will be given to each oustee family in a resettlement colony and they will be provided with Rs 5,000 towards the cost of transportation during shifting. Those who have domestic animals will be given additional space measuring 203 sq ft.

The compensation also included a job to one member of each affected family. However, the most significant feature of the compensation package is that villagers who are encroaching government land would also be eligible for all the benefits.

Though the package sounds impressive, it has failed to attract the anti-Posco villagers — primarily because they have been insisting on shifting of the project to another new location.

However, despite the anti-Posco villagers’ decision to reject the new compensation package and the PPSS’ announcement to launch the agitation afresh, the ruling BJD is very much hopeful of implementation of the project.

“The new package has taken into account all the problems of the local villagers and their interests have been fully protected. It is a very good package and we are sure it will ultimately be accepted by all the affected villagers”, said Damodar Rout, state agriculture minister and the senior most BJD legislator from Jagatsinghpur district.

The rejection of the package by anti-Posco villagers may also further delay the state government’s move to renew the MoU with the company. The MoU, which was signed for five years has already lapsed on June 22.

The delay in the renewal of the MoU, in fact, has provided enough opportunities to parties like the CPI — which had fought the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Orissa sharing same platform with the ruling BJD — to maintain that the fresh package should be withdrawn as the state government and the Posco have not yet renewed the MoU.

Despite being a friendly party of the BJD, the left parties, particularly the CPI, have been openly backing the anti-Posco agitation in Jagatsinghpur.

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