32 arrested for obstructing Posco work

Paradip: At least 32 people were arrested on Thursday while trying to obstruct land acquisition for the Rs 52,000 crore Posco steel plant near here even as work for acquiring land progressed amidst tight security.

Activists of United Action Committee (UAC), who earlier backed the mega project, were taken into custody while blocking entry route to Gada Kujanga opposing land acquisition work, resumed after nine months yesterday, police said.

"About 32 people were arrested after effort to persuade them to clear the blockade at Gada Kujanga failed," Additional Superintendent of Police (Paradip), S K Das said adding UAC President Anadi Rout was among those held.

"There has been no untoward incident in any part of the proposed Posco project site and land acquisition work progressed in a peaceful manner," he said.

Among the first to receive compensation for parting with land at Bayanala in Nuagaon panchayat area was Natabar Swain who was handed over a cheque for Rs 3.74 lakh, said additional district magistrate (Paradip) Saroj Choudhury.

Though activists of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) blocked the road to Dhinkia and Gobindpur and supporters of Bhitamati Suraksha Manch staged a blockade near Nuagaon, land acquisition work continued smoothly in gada Kujanga area in the proposed project site, officials said.

Over 700 police personnel were deployed in Balitutha, Gobindpur, Gada Kujanga, Nuagaon and other areas in order to ensure smooth land acquisition work and prevent any untoward incident in view of threat by anti-Posco activists and outfits to oppose the process, police said.

UAC, hitherto considered as a group of villagers backing the project, turned hostile yesterday and announced its decision to oppose land acquisition for Posco plant saying the government failed to meet its demands.

The district administration of Jagatsinghpur in collaboration with revenue, forest and horticulture officials and personnel from the state owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), had acquired about one acre of forest land housing 11 betel vines yesterday.

Rs 17.50 lakh was paid to those who parted with the land for the Posco project yesterday, said Land Acquisition Officer Surjit Das.

UAC`s major demands include hike in the price of land to be acquired for the 12 mtpa Posco steel project, job for each displaced family and hike in rehabilitation package for betel vine workers and others.

Its leaders said the villagers were angry over the district administration which went head with land acquisition process despite their appeal to wait till May 30.

The district administration resumed land acquisition, which was halted on August 6, 2010 following a stop work order by Union Environment and Forest Ministry, after requesting the villagers to join a discussion on their demands with the revenue divisional commissioner on May 30.

District officials claimed that villagers support the project and were ready to cooperate with the administration but a handful of UAC leaders turned hostile as they were keen to fulfil their individual interests.

They were hopeful that more and more people would come forward to receive compensation in lieu of their land.

During the first phase of the land acquisition in July-August, 2010, the district administration had acquired about 10 acres of forest land after demolishing 96 betel vines. Rs 1.26 crore had been paid as compensation, official sources said.