An anti-displacement leader Tuesday launched an indefinite hunger strike in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district to protest the take-over of land by the authoroties for Posco’s $12 billion steel plant.
Abhaya Sahu, president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), an organisation which has been spearheading the movement against the project, launched the hunger strike a few kn from Gobindpur area where the land is being acquired. It is 100 km from here.
“He has announced that he will not break the fast until police forces are withdrawn from the area,” PPSS spokesperson Prashant Paikray told IANS.
Besides, Sahu has appealed to all likeminded organisations and people to “extend their support to the protesting villagers”, he added.
Despite Sahu’s fast and protests by hundreds of local people, including women and children and school students, the local administration continued the take-over of land for the project for the third consecutive day under heavy police cover.
“The land acquisition work concluded peacefully for the day. It will be intensified further from tomorrow (Wednesday),” District Collector S.K. Mallick said.
At least 17 betel vines were dismantled and a total compensation of over Rs.30 lakh was paid to the villagers during the day, he said.
Posco’s proposed 12 million tonnes per annum steel plant, the largest foreign investment in India, is to come up on about 4,000 acres of land near the port town of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district, about 120 km from here.
The local administration claimed it earlier acquired about 2,000 acres of land in the region in 2011. It needs to acquire 700 acres more – mostly in Gobindpur area – for the start of the project. However, some villagers and the PPSS have been opposing the acquisition.
The local administration which started the land acquisition in the area Sunday, despite local opposition, said in the last three days it paid a total compensation of about Rs.one crore to the people and demolished 47 betel vines.
Even as the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Abhay Sahu began an indefinite hunger strike on Tuesday demanding withdrawal of police, the administration continued land acquisition for Posco’s proposed steel project in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district for the third consecutive day.
As many 18 betel vineyards were destroyed on the outskirts of Gobindpur village during the day in heavy police presence and compensation was paid to farmers as hundreds of villagers opposing land acquisition and heavy police presence in the village sat on a dharna at the nearby Patana hamlet where Mr. Sahu began his hunger strike in the morning.
Mr. Sahu’s other demand is that an all-party committee be formed by the State government to find out whether there was any truth in the administration’s claim that a majority of residents of Gobindpur supported land acquisition.
He claimed that he was in possession of a recent resolution passed by more than 80 per cent of the villagers opposing land acquisition. “If the administration has any such documents, they must make it public to justify their claim,” Mr. Sahu said.
He appealed to all democratic forces and Opposition parties to reach Gobindpur to oppose the “forcible acquisition of land” for Posco.
When betel vineyards were being demolished at one end of Gobindpur, about 500 children gheraoed the administration officials and police, who were camping at the other end. The children, however, left the place after demanding that land acquisition in the locality be stopped and police withdrawn from the area, said Sangram Samiti spokesperson Prashant Paikray. “The ongoing land acquisition for Posco is illegal as the environmental clearance for the proposed steel plant was suspended by the National Green Tribunal last year, and the State government has so far not renewed its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Posco that expired in June 2010,” he added.