Central and State governments have connived with POSCO by modifying
rules to continually extend its in-principle approval as
multi-product SEZ and violating the requirement that there will be
no forcible acquisition of land for SEZs.
In quick succession two steel projects worth 18b $ have been cancelled
after they failed to acquire land and other clearances. Many in
government are saying its bad for investment, and environmental, labour
and other guidelines need to be relaxed to attract foreign investment in
manufacturing. As people's movements opposing many of these big
infrastructure projects, we feel that these projects are nothing but
resource grab and transfer to private corporations for nothing and in
violation of constitutional provisions. We
need stricter implementation of the existing guidelines to stop such
loot of natural resources and stern actions against those responsible.
The POSCO Steel project in
Odisha is infamous for several illegalities to date:
tree-felling; grabbing forest-dwellers land; incomplete assessment and
deliberate concealment of facts, seizing natural resources without
requisite MoU and environment clearance; criminally beating, arresting
and killing those resisting the project; and flagrantly violating
fundamental rights to life and liberty of local citizens. Now the
Central and State governments have connived with POSCO by modifying
rules to continually extend its in-principle approval as multi-product
SEZ and violating the requirement that there will be no forcible
acquisition of land for SEZs.
The WAR for STEEL
A documentary by Basudev Mahapatra
January 18, 2013 in the 56th Board
of Approval meeting POSCO was given the 5th
in-principle approval extension (Annexure 1)!
A June 15, 2007 letter issued by the SEZ BoA to all state
governments clearly states that no forcible acquisition should be
carried out for SEZs. This was backed up by Instruction 29
guidelines on land acquisition for SEZs on August 18, 2009 (Annexure
2) to all state Chief Secretaries reiterating:
The State Governments would
not undertake any compulsory acquisition of land for setting up of the
SEZs. BoA will not approve any SEZs where the State Governments have
carried out or propose to carry out compulsory acquisition of land for
such SEZs after 5th April 2007.
While acquisition under Land Acquisition Act 1894 has been halted by
the Odisha High Court for process violations, the illegal forcible
acquisition of forest land continues in violation of FRA 2006 and
despite intense local opposition. The villagers have taken several
resolutions in their gram sabha not to divert their forest land for
non-forest purposes in the years 2008, 2010 and 2012. In the gram
sabha resolution of October 18, 2012 (Annexures 3 and 4) the Dhinkia
panchayat gram sabha noted:
The Gram Sabha endorse [sic]
decision taken by the Palli Sabhas to not give consent to the diversion
of forest lands under its customary use and boundary for the purpose of
the POSCO steel plant project, or for any other purpose, and directs the
District Level Committee and the State government to ensure strict
compliance with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, the guideline
issued by Ministry of Environment & Forests on 30.07.2009 and the
guidelines issued by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 12th July 2012 in
this regard. Diversion of forest land without compliance to the Forest
Rights Act and the above mentioned guidelines is a violation of the
Forest Rights Act and a criminal offence.
The POSCO area in
Jagatsinghpur Odisha is the site of intense local resistance. The
repression and violence that villagers in the area have been facing
since the inception of the project are widely documented in the
media, by state bodies and by independent NGOs (see Annexures 5 and
6 for brief overview of repression and links to key documents
The 1620.496 hectare POSCO-India
Pvt. Ltd. multi-product SEZ was given its first in-principle
approval on September 28, 2006 in the 5th SEZ Board of
Approval (BoA) meeting. On December
15, 2009 in the 37th SEZ BoA meeting 11 SEZs whose 2nd
in-principle approval term had lapsed, including POSCO SEZ, were
given special de novo approvals to allow the
developers to complete their land acquisition (Annexure 7)! At the
time, the rules of extension of in-principle approvals did not allow
for more than 2 extensions and the Board noted:
…keeping in view the various
difficulties expressed by the developers and also keeping in view that
under the existing SEZ Rules, there is no provision for grant of third
extension in respect of in-principle approvals, though there is a
proposal for amending the rules which may take some time. After
deliberations, the BoA decided to grant de novo approval… and will
process them at par with the first and the second in-principle approval
It is clear the in-principle
approval extension rules were modified to aid SEZ developers like
POSCO! When the BoA is itself acknowledging difficulties in land
acquisition, which are primarily because locals have rejected the
project, why is it continuously extending the approval for POSCO SEZ?
The Center is hiding behind
false assurances by the state government of Odisha that no
compulsory acquisition of land is being undertaken for POSCO SEZ!
There are daily media reports and documentation of the struggles of
the locals and the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti against the
forcible and coercive land acquisition being undertaken by the state
government. The MoEF/ MOTA committee constituted by the MoEF made
explicit note of the copies of all palli sabha resolutions against
the POSCO project in Gobindpur and Dhinkia undertaken by the
panchayats. It was on the basis of this report that the MoEF
withdrew clearance to POSCO but then renewed it on the state
government’s false assurances!
In the October 2010 report
of the MoEF committee investigating the implementation of FRA 2006 a
majority of three committee members expressly took note of local
opposition to the POSCO project and the violations and lapses in due
process including suppression of facts; violations of the Forest
Rights Act 2006; inadequate R&R provisions; violations in obtaining
the environmental clearance; and compliance of CRZ regulations. The
members recommended revoking the MoEF environmental clearance (see
summary report, Annexure 8).
The National Green Tribunal
has recently taken note of the series of lapses and violations in
obtaining environmental clearance for the POSCO project and
suspended the clearance of 2011. Based on the NGT judgment of
31.3.2012 the K Roy Paul committee was constituted and its
recommendations are being considered again by the MoEF.
Consequently, and given the 2007 clearances for the project have
lapsed, the NGT has once again halted illegal land acquisition and
tree-felling in the area (see latest order, Annexure 9).
The Centre and the State are
colluding to violate laws and guidelines and the decision-making
powers of the Panchayats to favour POSCO. With clear and documented
evidence of opposition, how can the SEZ BOA claim that the land
acquisition for POSCO is not forced? What is the reason for giving
POSCO 5th in-principle approval extension in seven years?
There is no justification
for giving POSCO land and tax concessions against the people’s will.
Not only are the state and central governments violating laws, they
are creating additional losses to the exchequer at huge cost to the
The recent arrests of PPSS
activists by the state are clear indication of the coercion and
violence that the state is resorting to have its way with the
rightful lands and resources of the local people. We demand:
Revoke the in-principle
approval to POSCO SEZ and denotify it immediately!
Release all local villagers
arrested for peacefully opposing POSCO SEZ immediately!
Withdraw all police force
from the area and refrain from using force and intimidating people
to push forceful land acquisition!
fact-finding and document the violence, repression and coercion that
the villagers in the POSCO area have been facing since the inception
of the project!
Provide clear compensation
for the damages and losses of life and livelihood to the locals!
No further approvals should
be granted to the project on environment and forest related grounds
due to the gross undermining of regulatory processes!