Karnataka farmers hold firm, state contemplates moving POSCO to alternate site

The claim by Karnataka minister for major and medium industries Murugesh Nirani that farmers in Halligudi and other villages in Gadag district were willing to part with their land to accommodate Posco Steel Industry, has again set off some ripples in the region.

The farmers in Halligudi of Mundargi taluk in Gadag district are firm with their stand to not part with their land to make way for the Posco Steel plant. They have taken exception to industries minister Murugesh Nirani’s claim that nearly 90 per cent of farmers had volunteered to hand over their land to KIADB in lieu of compensation and employment.

Murugesh Nirani, during his visit to Koppal at the weekend, claimed that 90 per cent of the farmers whose lands were notified for acquisition had expressed their willingness to hand over their lands.

President of Mundaragi Taluk Abhivruddhi Horata Vedike Y R Goudar said, no farmer in the region had ever agreed to the acquisition of their lands in exchange for jobs and compensation as claimed by Nirani. He said, while 167 farmers were opposed to land acquisition, only 115 farmers had agreed to part with the land, that too reluctantly.

“Nobody from the government has contacted the farmers to discuss the issue as on the date. Whatever Murugesh Nirani said is a blatant lie. We oppose land acquisition and we are firm on our stand. Any effort to acquire the lands using force will be opposed tooth and nail,” he said.

Goudar said the lands proposed for acquisition were among the most fertile in the region.

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The Karnataka government is actively considering the possibility of changing the location for a proposed steel plant of Posco in north-central Gadag district; instead offer the South Korean major an alternative land elsewhere in the state. The move comes after the farmers of Halligudi village stiffly opposed plans to acquire their “fertile” land ahead of starting work on the project.

Posco, based at Pohang in the East Asian nation, had signed a memorandum of understanding with the government two years ago to set up a six-million-tonne per annum steel plant with a captive power plant at an investment of Rs 32,300 crore. The state has already sent a recommendation to the central government for allotment of captive iron ore mine to the 1968-founded multinational.

“We have been witnessing severe opposition from some sections of the land holders in Halligudi,” said Murugesh R Nirani, minister for large and medium industries. “A majority of the holders were keen to part with their land, we are not rushing to acquire it yet. We are calling the company officials for a discussion later this week and seek their opinion on changing the location,” he told Business Standard.

Last week, the minister had said that a majority of farmers of Halligudi were willing to part with their land for the proposed steel plant. His statement had kicked off a fresh row, with farmers’ groups raising their voice against the land acquisition once again. In July last year, the government had announced that it would not acquire fertile land. This was after it faced intense protest from the farmers and religious head of Tontadarya Mutt.

Nirani said the government’s wanted to set up one mega project in each of the districts in the state so as to generate large-scale employment.

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Following resistance from farmers to the POSCO steel plant proposed in Gadag’s Mundargi taluk, the State is now contemplating shifting the plant to an alternative site.

The Government is scouting for land in neighbouring taluks in Gadag district for the project, Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani told presspersons on the sidelines of a meeting of the CII Southern Regional Council here on Thursday.

He added that representatives from POSCO will meet him about possible new sites.

“It is left to POSCO to decide where it wants to set up the steel plant,” Mr. Nirani said.

Last year the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) had issued preliminary notification to acquire 3,382 acres of land in Halligudi village in Mundargi taluk, sparking protests by farmers.

Addressing the CII Council, Mr. Nirani said that the mission of the State’s second Global Investors Meet (GIM) scheduled this year is to attract Rs. 6 lakh crore of investment, create 10 lakh jobs and double the States GDP by 2020.

[Sources – Business Standard, Business Standard & The Hindu]


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