Centre sets up panel to probe charges against Posco

"We have constituted a fact-finding team headed by former Environment Secretary Meena Gupta to probe the violation of the tribal rights under the Forest Rights Act at the project site," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

The South Korean steel major's trouble started soon after it was given approval for diversion of 1,253 hectares of forest land for setting up a USD 12-billion integrated iron and steel plant along with a captive power plant near Paradip the state.

It has been facing land acquisition problem with allegations of violations of rights of tribals who owns the land there. The panel was formed after the Ministry took a serious note of the Orissa Government's "casual approach" to its direction to supply a compliance report drafted in Oriya in translated versions in Hindi and English language.

Giving the sequence of the matter, a senior Environment official said that on January 8, the ministry had informed the state government that no forest land should be handed over to the user agency (Posco) before the settlement of the tribal rights under the provision of Forest Rights Act.

"But we got a lot of complaints from elected representatives and NGOs against the compliance report which was put on the website of the ministry. But despite repeated reminders, the state authorities are yet to provide us the translated version of the report," the official said. The team comprising Uma Pingle, V Suresh, an advocate for human rights and Devendra Pandey, an IFS official, has been asked to submit its report within two months, he added.

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