Engaging school kids in anti-Posco stir illegal

Bhubaneswar: Participation of school children in anti-Posco agitation is "illegal" and action is being contemplated against those responsible for it, official sources said on Thursday.

About 100 school children have joined the anti-Posco dharnas organised by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti(PPSS) at the entry point to Gobindpur gram panchayat area, which falls in the proposed mega steel project site, since the past four days.

This was in violation of at least two central laws – Right to Education Act and Child Right Protection Act, they said.

"Engaging children in the agitation is unacceptable. The government has sought reports from authorities on the matter before taking action against persons responsible for it," revenue divisional commissioner A K Padhee said.

Chief Secretary B K Patnaik reviewed the situation at the proposed Posco steel project site during the day in view of the fresh agitation against it. Padhee, Jagatsinghpur district Collector S K Mallick and other senior government officials attended the meeting.

"Using children as a shield is illegal. We have sought reports on children's participation in the agitation from the district project coordinator of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, district education authority and the labour officer," Mallick said.

He claimed that while the local people are ready to part with their land, a handful of them are putting up hurdles.

 PPSS President Abhay Sahu, when contacted, said children themselves came forward to take part in the agitation along with their parents.

"Children will be there in the agitation till the government withdraws the armed forces. Rather, the children will face police if it tries to forcibly acquire land," he said.

Manika Devraj, a class VIII student participating in the agitation said, "Land provides livelihood of our family. If the government acquires it for Posco, how can we study?"

"We are here to protect our land to further our studies in fact," Devraj said.

Though the state government has acquired 2,000 acres for setting up the proposed mega steel plant by Posco, it requires an additional 700 acres.

The additional land has been identified at Gobindpur area by the state government.