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
“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
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
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.