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Odishatv Bureau

Jagatsinghpur: The outfit that almost singlehandedly spearheaded people’s resistance movement against Posco steel project in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district today asked the Odisha government to tread the path of Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal in returning the Posco land to landowners.

The anti-project outfit-Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS)- today voiced its concern over the government move in transferring the Posco land to by Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO)-run land bank and termed it as infringement of law.

Odisha government should learn a lesson for becoming anti-people. Posco has backed away from the project as the steel company could finally realise that setting up the plant amid people’s protest would be detrimental to company’s business interest, said Prasant Paikray, spokesperson of PPSS.

The Odisha government must follow the Supreme Court decision on the pattern of Singur where land of farmers acquired by Tata's Nano plant in West Bengal was returned to them. It’s very unfortunate that Industry minister Debi Prasad Mishra recently announced that land acquired and transferred to POSCO will be kept in the Land Bank, he added.

The Minister Mishra in the Assembly of Odisha had also made an announcement that “Steps are being taken for fencing the land by IDCO.”

This is illegal, undemocratic, anti-peasant and unwarranted. The government must have abided by apex court ruling in the context of Singur land in Bengal or else fresh protests for land would erupt again in Gadakujang-Nuagaon- Dhinkia area of Jagatsinghpur as it was the case in past years, PPSS spokesman Paikray warned.

The steelmakers deciding not to set up its Rs 52,000 crore plant is a victory for the all the peasants, fishermen, forest dwellers who are democratically fighting to protect their land, livelihood and environment. This is a victory against false propaganda, intimidation, false cases and threats of forcible eviction. This is a victory against the invasion by a global capitalist giant like Posco in partnership with the Central and State governments.  Since this Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project was the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) investment in this country, it has to be treated as a symbol of struggle against globalization and India’s freedom, PPSS said.

The government of Odisha must respect the unanimous resolution by Dhinkia Gram Sabha ( Panchayat level assembly of adult members) i.e. on 18th of October 2012 , where more than 2,000 people participated in the meeting and  resolved that the land used for beetle vine cultivation is clearly under the rights provided to the Gram Sabha under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Claims on the forest land approved and recommended by the Palli Sabhas of villages (Dhinkia, Govindpur…) are still pending for recognition and no step has been taken to recognize their rights. We are strongly determined to reoccupy our farm lands and reconstruct our vineyards for the cultivation of betel leaves, said the outfit.

Over the last 12 years, our villagers have had to pay a heavy price for their peaceful opposition to the project in order to protect our habitat for future generations. Several leaders of the movement have been jailed multiple times.

Till now more than 2000 warrants have been issued against the people and more than 400 false cases both men and women have been registered at the Kujang police station since 2005.  There have been also multiple instances where police and the goons supported by Posco have unleashed a reign of terror in the area. Till today, many villagers cannot come out of their villages even for their hospitalization, due to the threat of arrests.

This approach of false arrest and intimidation by the government only perpetuates injustice and ruins the democratic fabric of our country. In the year 2012, The district administration of Jagatsinghpur along with the Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha ( IDCO)  had chopped down the over 1,70,000   trees in our nearby villages for the benefit of a private company like Posco.

The trees like mangroves, cashew nut, betel vines, fruit bearing trees and casuarinas forest. In 1999 Super Cyclone, our villages were not devastated by nature’s fury as the green cover and sand dunes protected us from the surging tidal waves, whereas more than 10,000 persons perished in the nearby Kujang and Earasama blocks of Jagatsinghpur district.

After cutting the trees, our villages became perpetually vulnerable to the cyclones. Though, it’s impossible to substitute the natural forest, we strongly demand that the government must pay compensation to our villagers who are depending on these trees for their livelihoods and start massive plantation of eco friendly trees in our nearby villages, PPSS spokesperson said.

Among other things, the people’s outfit also put forth demands for compensation on humanitarian grounds to the families of the deceased and widow who were killed in the bomb blast and proper medical help for the injured person.

The government has to recognize the people’s claims on rights over forest land as per FRA 2006.

Withdrawal of all fabricated and false cases against our villagers and activists, compensation to the persons whose beetle vines were destroyed by the government also figured in the list of demands raised by the PPSS.

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