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Posco: more troubles in the offing


Last updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

Posco, India, Odisha, Steel Plant  
It seems the war for steel is not yet over in Odisha. The recent developments have only added to the woes of Posco in regard to its Odisha project. Once the troubles at the project site are over, the company may encounter bigger hurdles for mining at Khandadhar. Even if it manages to overcome the legal battle over Khandadhar mining lease, who knows if Posco doesn’t have a similar fate as Vedanta Aluminium in case of Niyamgiri - ‘No’ to mining in all gramsabhas (tribal village meetings)!  

Basudev Mahapatra


The dream project of both Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha and the congress led UPA government of India, Posco’s proposed steel plant near Paradip in Odisha, seems to be caught by eclipse. Diplomatic pressure and the green node by union ministry of environment and forest followed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) verdict to carry out construction works at the project site by obtaining a clearance from the Odisha government have brought no major relief to Posco as conflict continues to rule over the project area.

As a recent development, the so called supporters of the project have taken up to agitation against Posco alleging non-fulfilment of promises made by the company and the administration.


While the movement by people opposing to the project has made inordinate delay in execution of the project, this fresh agitation by supporters is expected to stand as a bigger trouble on the way of Posco.

Angry over the callousness of district administration and the posco authorities towards their long pending demands, over a thousand pro-Posco villagers from Nuagaon razed to ground a 300 meter boundary wall in the project area near Paradip on February 16, 2014. They also set the temporary camp offices of Posco and IDCO, the state agency to facilitate industrial development, on fire. The agitating villagers lost their land for Posco’s proposed steel plant project.

“We gave our land for Posco project believing the government that promised proper rehabilitation package and employment to at least one member from each family. It’s more than five years that many families have lost their land for Posco. They have been waiting for some employment to earn their livelihood. Materialisation of Posco project is being delayed for many reasons and we people who have sacrificed our land and livelihood sources are only suffering,” said Tamil Pradhan of Nuagaon who is a land loser and leader of pro-Posco villagers.

“Now, after approaching all levels of administration and realising that neither the company nor the administration is serious about our rightful demands, we have serious doubt about the commitment of Posco in regard to the rights of people and the promises it made to get our land. We are all decided now that we are not going to allow the company to enter the area and start its construction work till our demands are fulfilled,” Tamil added.

The six point charter of demands kept before the Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development and Advisory Committee (RPDAC) meeting of 2010 included assured employment to each land loser family; separate and enhanced price for home, homestead and agricultural land; monthly allowance to the landless labourers engaged in agriculture and betel vines; and, project construction works to be done through local people by engaging members of local communities.

“The labourers engaged in betel vines were promised to be paid with a compensation amount of 2250 rupees a month till the project comes up and employment opportunities open up. But, as we see, most of the labourers are not paid. Those few in Gadakujanga who have received the allowance, their payments have been stopped after one year. The betel vines are gone; they have no job, no allowance as well! How are their families going to survive? Nobody bothers about them,” said a group of land losers at Nuagaon.

“None of the demands are fulfilled. They promised to give allowance to the unemployed youth of land loser families. They haven’t listed anybody till date. Forget about allowance, we haven’t even received the compensation money against the 147 decimal of land where we used to raise betel vine. They demolished the vineyard in our absence and we have been running behind them since last two and half years to get the compensation amount,” said Prabhat Pradhan of Nuagaon.

The company and the local administration made promises after promises in order to acquire land for Posco. Everybody expected that Posco would fulfil all its promises made to people soon after the land acquisition. But people’s demands have never been heeded to either by the administration or by the Posco authorities.

It’s to be noted that Posco signed an MoU with India’s provincial government of Odisha in June 2005 to set an integrated steel plant of 12 MPTA capacity over 4004 acres of land by investing 12 billion USD. Because of continued protest by local people and issues related to land acquisition, Posco changed its plan to start with a 4 MPTA plant on 2700 acres of land with provisions for expansion to 8 MPTA plant. Idco completed acquisition of land required for 8 MPTA plant in July 2013.

Apart from the apathetic attitude of district administration and Posco authorities, these land losers have been victims of the multi-crore chit-fund scam took place in Odisha. “As people received their compensation money, this place became heaven for agents of chit-fund companies like Artha Tatwa (AT) and Seashore. With promises of lucrative growth they took away compensation money from almost 90 percent of land losers. People were just allured by absurd promises made by agents. Now after the scam is uncovered, these people have little hope of getting back their money. Their distress is doubled,” Prabhat added.

So the first benefit of industrialisation has been looted away by the chit-fund companies allegedly operated in Odisha in close connivance with political leadership.

It’s because of these reasons that the discontent is simmering in the supporters’ camps. In January last, a group of supporters staged protest at Gadakujanga for more than 20 days demanding fulfilment of their demands. Nobody responded. On February 16, pro-Posco villagers of Nuagaon showed their anger by razing the boundary wall to ground and setting temporary offices on fire. They have now erected bamboo barricades at village entry points to stop the Posco people and government officials from entering the project area. Now their one point demand is – “Fulfil the promises before doing any construction.”

Taking no accountability for whatever happened in the project area, Jagatsinghpur district Collector Satya Kumar Mallick avoided making any comment by just saying, “We follow all decisions taken in the RPDAC meeting of 2010. Now, for other issues, let’s wait till the RPDAC meeting takes place.”

Scheduled for January last week the RPDAC (The Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee) meeting is yet to be held. Reasons of delay are not known.

Few days back, a senior BJD (Biju Janata Dal) leader and the health minister of Odisha Dr Damodar Rout made open allegation against the company and the district administration saying, “A group of Posco's Indian employees and Jagatsinghpur district administration are misleading the people living in the proposed plant site villages.” He also alleged that “people are not being given compensation as per the decision of the RPDAC. While some people get maximum benefit, others do not get the same.”

A senior leader of the ruling political party BJD and minister in Naveen Patnaik’s cabinet making such allegations makes lots of sense!

Now, the opposition to Posco gathered double strength with anti-Posco body PPSS (Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti) and the so called supporters stand together against the project.

“We have been opposing the project from the beginning because we know it’s a design to grab the land and loot our natural resources. Now the supporters of the project have also realized that the single agenda of Posco is to acquire their fertile agricultural land. They have started opposing the project now. We hope that the movement against Posco will be fiercer in the coming days,” said Prasanta Paikray, Spokesperson of PPSS.

It seems the war for steel is not yet over. The recent developments have only added to the woes of Posco. Once the troubles at the project site are over, the company may encounter bigger hurdle for mining at Khandadhar. Even if it manages to overcome the legal battle over Khandadhar mining lease, who knows if Posco doesn’t have a similar fate as Vedanta Aluminium in case of Niyamgiri - ‘No’ to mining in all gramsabhas (tribal village meetings)!

The facts here, similar to that of Niyamgiri, are that Khandadhar is inhabited by Paudi Bhuyans, a primitive tribal group, and it too comes under Schedule V of Indian constitution that guarantees protection of tribal rights over forest and natural resources.


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