A team of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) led by its member Satyabrata Pal visited the Posco affected areas under Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadkujanga panchayats near Paradip on Tuesday to take stock of alleged cases of human rights violations at the site of the company’s green field steel project.
The NHRC team first visited Polang and Noliasabhi villages under Gadakujang panchayat where some villagers alleged that Posco had engaged a Bhubaneswar-based construction agency to acquire hundreds of acres of land outside the project area for aquaculture at throwaway prices. The land was sold by the villagers at Rs 1.80 lakh to Rs 2 lakh per acre in 2009 whereas the district administration has fixed the land rate for Posco project at Rs 17 lakh per acre.
“So, we have appealed to NHRC to consider our case sympathetically,” they stated.
These lands have been handed over to Posco India for construction of its rehabilitation colony at Jokerpada in Polang village.
The human rights team also interacted with pro and anti-Posco activists in Nuagaon where villagers were peeved over the activities of officials of Posco and Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha Ltd (Idco) looking after land acquisition for the project. The villagers complained that these officials were creating ‘divide and rule’ policy in the Posco area.
“The villagers were sore over non-fulfillment of their six-point charter of demands including compensation to betel vine growers whose vines were demolished in 2008, employment to land losers, providing contract work to local people, measurement of betel vine from ‘stay’ to stay’, increasing the share of compensation to labourers working in betel vines to 30 percent of the total compensation paid to the vine owners from 20 per cent. So, the villagers have vowed to protest unless their demands are fulfilled,” said Anadi Rout, president of United Action Committee, a pro Posco outfit.
“After the demolition of betel vines, we are left with no work. Delay in payment of maintenance allowance of Rs 2250 has made our lives miserable. I do not know if I will figure in the list of compensation receivers,” said Nrusingh Behera, a labourer from Noliasahi village.
The labourers complained that while the owners were compensated following demolition of betel vines, they are now without a livelihood option. Though the betel vine workers are eligible for 20 per cent of the total compensation paid to the vine owners along with maintenance allowance of Rs 2,250 per month for a year or till the time they are engaged by the company, they are yet to get the benefits.
After hearing the grievances of project affected people, NRHC member Pal said, “The team has realized the gross negligence to these villagers and we will present these grievances to the state government for redressal. We have also asked the IDCO general manager regarding the stand of Posco and the state government towards the plight of Posco affected villagers.” The team also enquired about allegations of forcible demolition of betel vines in Gobindpur. Anti-Posco outfit Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS) submitted a memorandum to NHRC, alleging use of hired goons by the state government to expedite construction work of the coastal road leading to the Posco site.
[Source – Business Standard]