BHUBANESWAR: Anti-Posco protestors were back in Dhinkia on Monday with children bunking classes and starting human chain afresh backed by women and adults standing guard behind them.
The agitation resurfaced in the wake of the state government making a renewed move to acquire lands for Posco’s mega steel plant, which has been hanging fire for over five years on various counts, the major being the local peoples’ resolve not to part with their lands. The state government had earlier claimed to have acquired about 2,000 acres, though only on paper, and had to abort its plan in the face of a violence leading to the death of a person. The government earlier this week dispatched armed police forces to the area to start land acquisition works again, forcing the locals to start their agitation again.
Informed sources said a team of officials had planned to enter the proposed plant site on Monday, but had to abort the programme after villagers accompanied by their children began dharna at Balitikra along Govindpur-Nuagaon border. “We have already rebuilt a gate blocking the entry point into the area. The dharna formally began on Monday with announcement by Prabodh Panda, CPI MP from West Bengal. We will continue the agitation,” said Abhaya Sahoo, leader of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS). He said leaders cutting across party lines, excepting the BJD, and functionaries of various civil society bodies will visit the area in the coming days to lend ‘moral support to them’. Monday’s dharna was preceded by a rally and meeting, which was addressed by different political leaders. Sahoo said the government for ‘mysterious reasons’ had been desperately trying to acquire the lands and throw the villagers out of the place before February when the Central government is due to bring the new land acquisition Bill in Parliament. “The new Bill mandates consent of at least 80 per cent people of a village before acquisition of their lands. At present, the state government has violated all laws and gone ahead to dispossess us of our sources of livelihood, which we have been opposing,” Sahoo said.
Government officials, however, were tight-lipped to share the plans to neutralise the ongoing the agitation. “We have acquired nearly 2,000 acres. About 700 acres of more land are to be acquired in Gobindpur village. We are assessing the situation,” collector (Jagatsinghpur) Satya Kumar Mallick told TOI.
Kendrapara: Taking their protest against setting up of mega steel plant by South Korean major Posco and acquisition of their land by the district administration for the purpose, about 500 villagers including school-going children and women started a fresh agitation against the proposed project by forming a human chain at Balitikira in Jagatsingpur district Monday.
Apprehending that the district administration might use force to enter the proposed Posco site at Gobindapur to acquire 700 acre of land and provide cheques to 26 affected betel vine growers, the villagers once again shielded the Nuagaon-Gobindapur border to force the district administration to beat a retreat, said Abhaya Sahu, President of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS) who is spearheading the movement.
Around 250 school children of Gobindapur also participated in the human chain. The children, members of the Baji Rout Children’s Battalion, the children wing of PPSS, are in the front of human barricade, said Sahu. Villagers of Gobindapur, Patana and Dhinkia have asked their children to actively participate in the human chain formed to deter the police and district administration from acquiring land in their locality.
According to 12-year-old Ratikanta Sahu, “We, the members of Baji Rout Children’s Battalion, have taken a vow to squat on the road as long as we have not been able to completely prevent the entry of police and officials into our villages for acquiring land for the proposed Posco project.”
“We don’t want Posco to come up in our fertile land which is suitable to grow ‘dhaana’ (paddy), ‘paana’ (betel) and ‘mina’ (fish),” he added.
Sahu also alleged that Collector Satya Kumar Mallick had recently claimed that 80 per cent of people in Gobindapur village wanted Posco to come up in the proposed site. “If the Collector can prove that 80 per cent of people are in support of Posco, I will leave the protest. Else, he should resign from his post,” thundered Sahu.
Meanwhile, about nine platoons of security forces are camping at the Posco transit camp in Gadabagapur and Balitutha since Saturday, said sources.
As long as the district administration does not withdraw police force from Balitutha and also at the transit camp at Gadabagapur, the human chain will continue for indefinite period, Sahu warned.
“Let the police force come to the site and apply force with the children, women and the elderly to acquire land for Posco. The villagers are determined not to quit the ground and the human chain would continue round the clock at Balitikira,” he added.
“We have taken a vow to fight against the project till our last breath. If the Government uses force on innocent people, bloodshed would take place. Only the district administration and the State Government would be responsible for that as people here are ready to confront the forces till the last drop of blood,” said PPSS Secretary Sisir Mohapatra. PNN