District administration resumed the process on request of betel vine owners who wanted to give up their land for the project
After a lull of one and half months, the Jagatsinghpur district administration on Sunday restarted land acquisition drive for Posco steel plant at the trouble-torn Gobindpur village in the project site without the help of police personnel.
What made the process smooth for the administration was the absence of anti-Posco leader Abhay Sahu from Dhinkia, the headquarters of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS), located adjacent to Gobindpur. This has weakened the moral of project opponents considerably to stage any serious protest against the ongoing drive.
The district collector Satya Kumar Mallick said, the land acquisition took place without the help of police. “We resumed the process on the request of betel vine owners who wanted to give up their land for the project. It will continue with the help of villagers,” he added.
Mallick informed that the administration on Sunday dismantled two betel vines without the presence of police personnel. “We measured 15 betel vines to dismantle, but we could pull down only two vines before 11 am, the deadline set by the government to stop work during the day due to heat wave conditions. There is no need of deploying armed police personnel during demolition of betel vines because there is no resistance,” he said.
On earlier occasions, the administration used to post large posse of police personnel in the project site during demolition of betel vines fearing law and order situation.
The state government, which has conducted the land acquisition for the 12 million tonne steel project of Posco through installments over the past couple of years, has acquired about 2,100 acres of land till date, out of 2,700 acres needed by the company to start the first phase work comprising 8 million tonne capacity. Its land acquisition agency- Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco), is hopeful of acquiring balance 600 acres for the project in the next four months.
This morning, one team led by Kujang tahsildar, Rabindranath Kanahar reached Gobindpur accompanied with officials of Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha (Idco) and Posco and measured 15 betel vines before demolishing two of them. No compensation was disbursed to the vine owners due to shortage of time.
The drive had been stalled at Gobindpur from March 6 to avoid any unpleasant situation during the sitting of assembly session with the project opponents intensifying their stir against the project following the death of three anti-Posco activists in a bomb blast.
Meanwhile, sudden disappearance of PPSS chief, Sahu from Dhinkia has raised speculation about his tacit understanding with the project proponents to smoothen the land acquisition process. Over the last seven eight years, Sahu had led the agitation from the front and mobilised local villagers to resist the project work vehemently. While his absence in this crucial moment is a big blow to the moral of anti-Posco activists in Dhinkia, the project supporters are happy with the development. However, PPSS women leader Manorama Khatua said, “we are optimistic about the return of Sahu to Dhinkia very soon to lead the agitation against Posco project. In his absence, we will carry on our protest unitedly,” he added. The district superintendent of police, Satyabrat Bhoi said, “We had made all arrangement to nab Sahu before he left Dhinkia, but he managed to escape. He is staying out of the state, so effort is on to nab him.”
After remaining suspended for about two and a half months, land acquisition today resumed for Posco Steel’s Rs 52,000 crore mega project in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district.
Ten betel vine plantations were dismantled in the first few hours without any resistance from locals, official sources said, adding that payments would be made soon.
Meanwhile, anti-Posco members belonging to Dhinkia, Patna and Gobindpur villages took out a procession to Phulkhai temple in Dhinkia where they held a meeting leading to simmering tension.
Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samittee leader Abhay Sahoo, who is spearheading the agitation against the mega project, was away at Bolangir taking part in a protest against setting up of the Lower Suktel project there.
“We have re-started land acquisition involving dismantling of betel vines this morning. The villagers are cooperating in the work undertaken by the administration,” Jagatsinghpur Collector S K Mallick said.
Two teams were dismantling betel vine plantations of consenting farmers in Gobindpur village, Additional District Magistrate (Paradip), Surjeet Das said.
The work, with the use of machines, was being carried out smoothly in groups separately led by tehsildars of Kujanga and Ersama, Das said. Another team was making a survey of trees and horticultural plants in the area, he added.
Earlier about 250 acre land had been acquired before work was suspended on February 11 ahead of the Budget Session of the Assembly.
The land acquisition had witnessed a nude protest by women at Dhinkia, while a bomb blast led to the death of three persons.