April 22 2011
“Thousands of US-based academics will join the mobilization in the next few weeks,” says Faculty Support Group Coordinator for the POSCO Campaign.
In a development that is certain to add a new dimension to the POSCO India controversy, the Mining Zone People’s Solidarity Group launched its POSCO Divestment Campaign this week. In less than 72 hours after MZPSG had written to Roger Ferguson, the CEO of TIAA CREF, its first target, a Faculty Support Group of over 25 US-based academics announced its formation. TIAA-CREF is the pension fund of the majority of US-based academics and research scholars and holds over USD 40 million in POSCO stocks and bonds.
“Thousands of US-based academics will join the mobilization in the next few weeks,” said Jinee Lokaneeta, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Drew University in NJ. “I am personally already in touch with over 100 US academics on this issue. For me it’s very simple; I am confident that a large majority of US-based academics who spend hours teaching their students concepts of social justice and equity will not want their monies invested in a company with the track record of POSCO. Displacing 22,000 peasants and workers and rendering several thousand more without a livelihood is not the kind of activity that we can invest in. I am Oriya, and my family is ancestrally from the Jagatsinghpur area. I have studied the POSCO project’s numbers very closely and have no doubts that it is a scam being perpetrated on the people of Jagatsinghpur and Kandhadhar,” she added.
Robert Prasch, Professor of Economics at Middlebury College in Vermont, who joined the FSG early this week, outlined the task of the FSG in a brief comment- “POSCO has deployed every unethical trick in the bag and US academics deserve to know where TIAA-CREF is investing their money.”
TIAA-CREF has a stated “long-standing commitment to socially responsible investing (SRI)” and has pledged to “incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes.” Writing to the CEO and the Chairs of TIAA-CREF’s Social Responsibility and Governance Committees, MZPSG has challenged the fund to act so that its “endorsement of the international Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is… more than empty rhetoric.” MZPSG has launched a global divestment campaign against POSCO in solidarity with those that are resisting the steel giant’s proposed project in Jagatsinghpur, Orissa. “We will be appealing to investment funds globally to divest from POSCO by calling for socially and ethically responsible investment,” said Murli Natrajan, a member of MZPSG and Anthropology professor at William Paterson University. “TIAA-CREF is just our first target. In the next few weeks we will be approaching other such funds in North America and Europe with POSCO’s record in India- where it has violated every ethical, democratic and human rights norm that we can think of,” he added.
In October 2010, MZPSG published “Iron and Steal: The POSCO India story“ a research report that is the first to undertake an investigation of the local economy in Jagatsinghpur. The report highlights gross violations made by POSCO in obtaining environmental clearance, fraudulent employment projections, its role in unleashing violence on the local population, and the mining scam that underlies the project. MZPSG had earlier also submitted its findings to the Special Committee on POSCO that the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests had appointed. “Our task is clear cut,” said Parvathy Prem, a researcher based at the University of Texas at Austin and a core member of MZPSG’s campaign team. “We will ensure that every faculty member with money in TIAA-CREF has a copy of the Iron and Steal report in their hands.”