Bhubaneshwar, December 1, 2011
Former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari and Associate Director, Housing and Land Rights Network, Shivani Chaudhry, visited villages of Dhinkia Panchayat and Nuagaon affected by the POSCO project in Odisha on 30 November. The visit included detailed discussions with community leaders and villagers who have lost their livelihoods or are being threatened to vacate their lands for the POSCO project.
1. Condemn the arrest of Mr. Abhaya Sahoo, Chairperson of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) on the evening of 25 November. The four charges leveled against him are baseless and indicate unwarranted aggression and intimidation on the part of the state machinery. The arrest is targeted to suppress the movement and isolate a reputed human rights defender who has been struggling against POSCO and the state government’s non-democratic and repressive action against the people of Odisha.
2. Highlight the alarming lack of transparency, accountability and due process in acquiring land for POSCO and moving ahead with the project. They strongly condemn the bypassing of local governance bodies (gram/palli sabha) and national democratic procedures as well as reports of independent and government-appointed committees strongly cautioning against environmental and human rights abuses.
3. Note the illegality of operations by POSCO given that the MoU with the Government of India expired in June 2010.
4. Express grave concern at the POSCO-initiated plan to construct a 12-kilometre coastal road from Boscalish Point to Noliashi without an environmental impact assessment or stated land acquisition process.
5. Decry the loss of livelihoods of villagers of Nuagaon and Dhinkia Panchayats due to the destruction of their betel vines and felling of over 5,00,000 trees.
6. Strongly condemn the use of violence, force and intimidation of villagers, including of women, most recently on 26 September 2011. Further, the leveling of false charges, arrests and arbitrary detention of innocent villagers violates their fundamental rights.
The team concluded that the actions of the state government of Odisha and POSCO violate a range of human rights of the affected villagers, especially their human rights to work/livelihood, participation, information, freedom of expression, security of the person and home, food, adequate housing, land, health, water, education, and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment. These actions also violate numerous provisions of the Constitution of India, and national and international human rights law.
Given the enormous damage already evident to the lives and livelihoods of villagers in the POSCO-affected area, the persistent circumvention of democratic institutions and norms, and the multiple violations of human rights, the experts call for the cancellation of the project and the immediate restoration of the human rights of the affected.
For more information, contact:
Miloon Kothari – 98106 42122 / Shivani Chaudhry – 9818 205234