Kendrapada: A National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) team visited villages at the proposed Posco steel plant site on Tuesday to investigate into alleged rising incidents of human rights violation in the region.
NHRC member Satyabrata Pal, along with five team members, visited Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Noliasahi, Gobindapur, Gadakujang and other villages under Earasama block of Jagasingpur district where the state government tried to acquire 4,004 acres of land for the South Korean steel company to build a steel plant in these areas at the cost of Rs 52,000 crores, the biggest FDI in the country.
Anti-Posco activists told the NHRC team that land sought to be acquired for the proposed plant would deprive at least 30,000 locals of their livelihood. “We showed all documents on rights of locals under Forest Rights Act to the NHRC team and many evidence of human rights violation by officials and police in a clear nexus with anti-social elements,” said Sishir Mohapatra, general secretary of Posco Pratirodhaka Sangram Samiti (PPSS).
“We told Satyabrata Pal that apart from causing displacement of local people, the company, in cohorts with ruling party leaders and police, have taken to patronizing local hooligans to start a reign of terror by abusing and threatening the people. Police has leveled false charges against hundreds of villagers, as a result of which they are afraid of to go outside the villages. They are not getting proper health services as it is impossible for them to visit neighbouring hospitals at Kujang and Paradip, fearing arrest by police,” said Abhaya Sahoo, president of PPSS.
Sabita Mandal (28), widow of one Tapan Mandal of Patana village, told the NHRC team, “My husband was killed by pro-Posco anti-socials on June 20, 2006 while he was protesting against the project. The authority is yet to arrest the killers of my husband.”
Besides, at least 254 pro-industry villagers of Dhinkia gram panchayat, who have been driven out of the village by the anti-land acquisition brigade during the past five years, narrated their plight to the NHRC team. “Anti-Posco villagers assaulted us and drove us out of the village in 2007 after we refused to join the anti-industry movement. Since the past five years we have been living in a makeshift camp in Badagabapur village, 15 kms from our village Dhinkia. The authority provides Rs 20 each day to each person. But the meager amount is not sufficient for us to maintain our families in this camp,” said Chandan Mohanty (50) of Dhinkia village, who now lives in two small tin rooms along with his wife, two sons and a daughter.
“We will submit a detailed report about the violation of human rights in these areas to the NHRC chairman soon,” said Pal.
Prafulla Samantray, a social activist and state president of Lokshakti Abhiyan, and others had sent letters to the NHRC chairman in 2008, alleging an unholy nexus between the state government and anti-social elements, unleashing terror in the seaside villages of Earasama block, following which the rapportuer of NHRC Dr Damodar Sarangi had visited the areas on July 3, 2008.
A team of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), who ended its five-day long fact-finding visit to the state on Thursday, has raised objections about a private company buying land for Posco rehabilitation colony near the proposed plant site in Paradip.
“When the state government is acquiring land for the plant, why cannot it acquire land for the rehabilitation colony? This is a serious issue and the state government needs to take a closer look at this,” said Satyabrata Pal, member of the visiting NHRC team.
Posco had engaged a Bhubaneswar-based real estate firm, Sandhya Construction, to acquire about a hundred of acre of farm land outside the project area 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.
“The Chief Secretary has agreed that a private party buying land for the rehabilitation project was wrong and said that the people should have got more compensation. We have asked the state government to send a report about it,” Pal said.
According to government estimates, about 417 families would be displaced if Posco establishes its 12 million tonne a year steel plant, out of which 206 families belonged to Gobindpur and Dhinkia village, where most anti-Posco people reside.
The NHRC members also raised the issue of 52 families of Dhinkia and Gobindpur village, who have been living in a transit camp after being ostracized from their villages by the anti-Posco brigade for supporting the steel project.
“Out of the 52 families, five families have returned to Gobindpur while 47 families are still living in the transit camp. I have asked the state government to take steps about their safe return, else the government must pay them the losses they suffered due to the migration,” he said. At present, the families staying in the transit camp are getting a paltry Rs 20 per day sustenance allowance from Posco.
The Chief Secretary of Odisha, B K Patnaik, who discussed with the NHRC members about various issues of human rights violation in the state, said, he will send detailed action taken reports within a couple of months.
“We have discussed with the NHRC members about 32 issues including problems in Posco area. We will send our reports to the commission within two to three months,” Patnaik said after the meeting.