Kendrapada: Villagers of Jagatsinghpur’s Dhinkia gram panchayat reiterated their long-standing resistance to Posco at a gram sabha meeting on Thursday. They passed a resolution stating their traditional dependence on forest land and their refusal to agree to the proposed diversion of 342 hectares of forest land for Posco steel plant in Dhinkia, Gadakujang and Nuagaon gram panchayats.
On October 3 too, three villages of Dhinkia, Gobindapur and Trilochanpur under Dhinkia gram panchayat had organized palli sabhas. They had decided not to divert forest land in favour of any industry.
On 18th of October 2012, more than 2000 people participated in the Dhinkia Gram Sabha (Panchayat level assembly of adult members) meeting and passed unanimous resolution stating their refusal to grant consent to the proposed diversion of land for POSCO for its 12 million steel plant covering 4004 acres of land under the rights provided to the Gam Sabha under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. It may be recalled here that Gram Sabha happens to be most fundamental unit of decision making in Indias grass root democracy guaranteed by the constitution.
The resolution that was read and resolved contained the following:
The Gram Sabha of Dhinkia panchayat in its meeting on dated 18th October 2012 hereby decides and resolves on the following matters relating to the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and its implementation the village. This has reference to the letter (No. TD 11 (FRA)-06/2011) issued by the ST & SC Development Department. on 7th September 2012 had instructing Collectors to ensure discussion and planning on the pending claims under the Forest Rights Act and to ensure consolidation of list of claims for further monitoring and disposal.
The villages under this Panchayat have rights over forest lands and have initiated process of claims on rights under Forest Rights Act. Claims on the forest lands approved and recommended by the Palli Sabhas of villages (Dhinkia, Govindpur) are still pending for recognition and no step has been taken to recognize and vest the rights. No information and training on Forest Rights Act have been provided to the villages, forms and necessary records have been supplied by the government to support claim making process, all contrary to its obligations under the Rules. In this regard the Gram Sabha directs the District Level Committee to ensure completion the process for recognition of individual and community rights as per claims submitted by the Forest Rights Committee/Palli Sabha of the concerned villages which are still pending. In this regard Gram Sabha asks the SDLC and DLC to provide the status of claims to the Palli Sabhas and FRCs of the villages.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Amendment Rules, 2012 have been notified on 6th September 2012. As required under the amendment rules the Palli Sabha shall initiate the process for claiming community forest resources rights under Section 3 (1)(i) of the Forest Rights Act. In accordance with the amendment rules of the FRA, the Gram Sabha calls upon the District Level Committee to ensure recognition of the community forest resource rights in the villages coming under this Panchayat as required in the amendment Rule 12 (B)(3).
The Gram Sabha calls upon the government and district administration to comply to decisions of the Palli Sabhas with regard to use and management of the community forest resources in accordance with Section 5 of the Forest Rights Act. The gram sabha reiterates the decision of the palli sabhas of Dhinkia and Govindpur to protect forests, biodiversity and all livelihood resources in the boundary of this panchayat.
The Gram Sabha in particular endorses the resolution passed by Palli Sabha of village Dhinkia on 3rd October, 2012 and asks the SDLC and DLC to complete the process of recognition of rights under FRA and to desist from any proposed diversion of forest land as the recognition of rights is not complete and Palli Sabha of the village has not given consent. Any such diversion will be a criminal offence under section 7 of the FRA.
The Gram Sabha takes note of the disruption of the Palli Sabha meeting of village Govidnpur on 4th October, 2012 which was not allowed to pass resolution on the decisions taken on claims under FRA and on the diversion of forest land. Obstruction of the proceeding of the Palli Sabha amounts to obstruction of the process of recognition of rights and violation of the authority of Palli Sabha under Section 6 of FRA. This Gram Sabha considers this as violation of FRA and an offence under Section 7 of FRA and issues notice to the State Level Monitoring Committee to proceed against the DLC and officials involved. Gram Sabha also takes the decision to hold Palli Sabha again in village Govindpur and directs the authorities to provide necessary support.
The Gram Sabha endorse decision taken by the Palli Sabhas to not give consent to the diversion of forest lands under its customary use and boundary for the purpose of the POSCO steel plant project, or for any other purpose, and directs the District Level Committee and the State government to ensure strict compliance with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, the guideline issued by Ministry of Environment & Forests on 30.07.2009 and the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 12th July 2012 in this regard. Diversion of forest land without compliance to the Forest Rights Act and the above mentioned guidelines is a violation of the Forest Rights Act and a criminal offence.
It may be recalled here that, on 3rd October 2012, the villagers of Dhinkia Gram Panchayat organized Palli sabha (Village level Assembly of adult persons) and Passed resolution not to divert the forest land to POSCO. Under the Forest Right Act 2006 , no forest land can be diverted until all the rights of the people in the area are recognised and their consent of the concerned gram sabha is obtained for the diversion. This is a statutory requirement under FRA, mandated further by a Ministry of Environment Ministrys order of August 3, 2009.
The inhabitants of Govindpur village had organized Palli Sabha on 4th of October and passed a similar resolution stating their refusal to grant consent to the proposed diversion of land for POSCO. However, sponsored goons of the company and the state agencies, created disruption and forcibly took away the resolution paper in a pre-planned startegy. Against this, the PPSS members held a one day protest at Erasama block office. In the end, villagers of Govindpur received their resolution copies.
Peoples resolution sent a strong message to the Government that people are against illegal diversion of forest land for the project and gave a befitting reply to the recent declaration of Mr. Yong Won Yoon CMD of POSCO to start the project soon. This resolution has also exposed the government and POSCOs earlier claim that people are in support of the POSCO project.
The POSCO and the state government are repeatedly announcing that there will be no forcible land acquisition. This Gram sabha resolution has given a strong message that majority of people are against the project. Hence they should respect the decision of people and cancel the POSCO project outright .