Struggle against forcible land grab and displacement by POSCO

Mazdoor Ekta Lehar  strongly condemns the brutal attack by the police and paramilitary forces, in an attempt to crush the resistance of the people in Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur districts of Orissa, against the forcible take-over of their land for setting up a steel plant by POSCO.

Mazdoor Ekta Lehar  strongly condemns the brutal attack by the police and paramilitary forces, in an attempt to crush the resistance of the people in Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur districts of Orissa, against the forcible take-over of their land for setting up a steel plant by POSCO.

South Korean steel monopoly POSCO had signed a MoU with the Orissa state government on June 22, 2005, for a Greenfield 12MTPA steel plant. The project has failed to take off, due to the resolute struggle of the villagers against the forcible acquisition of their land by the government for the project. The affected villagers had put up barricades to prevent entry of government and POSCO officials to the project area. The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti(PPSS), the organization spearheading the people’s agitation, has demanded that the project be relocated, and declared that the struggle will go on, that the peasants will not give up their land, their homes and traditional means of livelihood.

Why is the POSCO project being opposed? First, the land that has been earmarked for the plant is rich fertile agricultural land. Hundreds of families have been living and earning their livelihood from this land for several generations (since 1925). Second, the project would involve handing over captive steel mines and a captive port to POSCO, thereby threatening the viability of the existing Paradip port. Further, water for the project would be taken from the Mahanadi, severely affecting drinking water and irrigation for the people. Thus, not only will the project affect the lives and livelihood of thousands of peasants and tribals, it will also have serious environmental consequences. The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti has demanded shifting the project to another place.

The government has been using brute force to break the struggle against the POSCO plant. Section 144 has been imposed over the area, declaring the protests illegal. On May 15, 2010, nearly 40 platoons of the state police were sent to attack protestors gathered at Balitutha in Jagatsingpur district – the entry place for the proposed POSCO project area – where hundreds of activists of the PPSS have been sitting on dharna since 26 January 2010. The temporary shelter at the demonstration site was set on fire and the police mercilessly beat up the demonstrators, apart from firing on them with rubber and plastic bullets.

More than 100 people, including women and old people, have been injured in this attack. The police are also reported to have used shotguns, causing severe splinter wounds on some of the demonstrators. A huge police force has been permanently stationed in the area to intimidate the people and facilitate the plans of POSCO.

The Orissa Chief Minister has refused to consider any relocation of the project. This has led to intensification of the agitation. On May 25, even as the talks of the state government with the PPSS were going on, the government started a survey of the land designated for the project. Six platoons of police accompanied the survey team. The protesting villagers erected barricades at the entrance of each village connecting Dhinkia (one of the key strongholds of the agitation) and also cut off roads at many points. The PPSS organized mass meetings at Gobindpur, Trilochanpur and Dhinkia. Protests were also held at the project site near Paradip port. Several protestors were injured in the police lathi charge that ensued, while at least two people have been arrested.

The opposition of the people of Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur and other areas to the acquisition of their land by the state, is part of the struggle being waged in many parts of the country against the forcible acquisition of agricultural and forest land by the big monopoly corporations for setting up mega projects and earning fabulous profits. Orissa, rich in mineral resources, wherein big industrial houses are setting up large mining, power and other industrial projects, has become an arena of fierce struggle between the people and the state on this issue. companies.

Mazdoor Ekta Lehar calls upon all those who are working to defend the rights of the oppressed people to come forward and oppose this brutal attack on the just struggle of the people.

 

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