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Posco India project in trouble water

"The major task before the government is to tackle with the situation and the protestors through sincere intervention and interaction. The Gujarat model would be helpful for the Orissa government where the project authorities are asked to discuss directly with people and sort out the problems on the way of their project. Otherwise, in a very short span, the dreamland for investors would turn into the most hated land."

Basudev Mahapatra : October 21, 2007

After the October 19 meeting of Posco Board Members led by CEO Ku Taek Lee with Orissa CM Naveen Pattnaik, Posco officials came up with a fresh date in April 2008 to start plant construction works at the declared site near the port town Paradeep. Few days before, Posco had come up with an official declaration setting October 2007 for commencement of its integrated steel plant construction works which could not be possible because of the serious hostage game played by the anti-posco agitators clustered in Dhinkia Panchayat.

Recently, on October 13, the protestors took 4 posco officials as hostage and freed them conditionally after sincere police intervention.

In the recent meeting Orissa CM Naveen Pattnaik gave assurance to the Posco Board for providing all kind of support and assistance for timely realisation of the project as a display of his and his government’s commitment to the project, although it has been delayed by one year by now due to strong public resistance at the project site.

Posco would be quite ambitious to declare a fresh date for commencement of its project work, but the state of affairs at the site is neither favourable for the project nor there is any indication of any improvement as the body of protestors disagreed to have a meeting and discuss about their issues relating to Posco Project.

On the other hand, Orissa government also has not been very effective in mobilising the mass in favour of the project and, rather, keeping safe distance from the protestors of Dhinkia Gram Panchayat. This fact is clear as Dhinkia was made out of the last Panchayat poll held across the State including Gram Panchayats terrorised by Naxal cadres. There has been no initiation from the government side to hold the poll in Dhenkia so far.

What ever progress is made about the project, the basic issues are still out of government agenda. The protest is mainly based upon the livelihood issues of people supposed to be displaced or affected by the project. As local livelihood and economy is mainly based upon agriculture and fishing, the villagers of Dhinkia are reluctant to submit their lands for the big steel project that required 4000 acres of land for complete institution. The latest rehabilitation and resettlement police has lots of flaws again to address the issues of people supposed to be affected by the project as non-displaced but major land losers are given least benefits in the policy.

The situation at the site is going worse day by day as the place has been a restricted land for the project officials. The protectors have sealed the area for government as well as Posco officials with nine check gates at all major entry points.

In order to deal the situation, government has tried to use its police force but, may be, it has restrained itself from taking any brutal step in fear of another incident like Kalinga Nagar which is still an issue in the hands of opposition political forces.

So the major task before the government is to tackle with the situation and the protestors through sincere intervention and interaction. The Gujarat model would be helpful for the Orissa government where the project authorities are asked to discuss directly with people and sort out the problems on the way of their project. Otherwise, in a very short span, Orissa - the dreamland for investors would turn into the most hated land.

 

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