JAGATSINGHPUR – As the POSCO stir intensifies, the Odisha Government is employing all its power to subdue a democratic and legitimate struggle, which has been going on for the last six years. The recent developments that have enfolded throw light on the State’s complicity in the physical and economic violence being perpetrated against the villagers of Gobindpur, Dhinkia and Patna villages of Jagatsinghpur District of Orissa.
On 14th December 2011, during a peaceful protest against the construction of the coastal road connecting Paradip Port to the proposed site of the POSCO steel plant, was unexpectedly attacked with country-made bombs by hired goons (allegedly backed by the Government and Odhisa police) of the local contractor Bapi Circle, who is a known criminal with many pending cases in Odisha. In the process, many protesting villagers, including elderly women, were badly injured. One of the men hired by Bapi Sarkhel was also killed by being accidentally hit with a bomb thrown by his own associates.
Ranjan, a resident of Gobindpur told Newzfirst that after the attacks on the villagers, 11 activists of PPSS were falsely charged with ‘murder’, along with 184 unnamed villagers. Although, Mr. Bapi Circle, was arrested due to constant pressure from opposition parties, the police did not file Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code i.e. charges of murder in his name. “This shows that the government has adopted all illegal means to sabotage our democratic movement”, he adds.
It should be mentioned in this context that the building of the coastal road was initiated in a completely illegal manner, with no MoU currently existing between POSCO and the Odisha government (it was supposed to be renewed on 22 June, 2010). The fact that the contractor could go ahead with building the coastal road and engineer the attack by hired goons, allegedly with active government support, when these illegalities are well known, speaks volumes about the State Government.
Talking to Newzfirst, Prashant Paikary, Spokesperson of the Posco Protirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) said that almost all villagers opposing the POSCO plant in the villages of Dhinkia and Govindpur are under virtual arrest as their mobility is severely restricted by the imposition of false cases to create sheer intimidation. Any move to secure daily necessities is impossible. People are deprived of the most ordinary medicines and the accumulation of untreated illnesses is on a high. Worse still is the plight of those grievously injured when their protest was overtaken by hired goons on December 14 with the sole aim of physically crushing the protest.
Highlighting the condition of women in these villages, Mr Paikray said that last year a team of doctors visited these villages. The medical examination which followed found out that atleast 30 women needed urgent medical intervention, else their condition will deteriorate. “Since the clampdown on our peaceful movement has surged and any movement outside the villages is impossible, we were not able to mobilize our resources to arrange for gynecologists. Moreover, there are a countless number of people with injuries and severe pain without any recourse to the most basic orthopedic treatment. Women’s need of medical attention for pregnancies and gynecological ailments is on an all time high too.” he said.
Sandeep Patnaik, Research scholar who is also associated with the anti-POSCO struggle said, “The Government has already arrested our leader, Abhay Sahoo, who has been slapped with 52 false cases. Then on 23rd December 2011, they arrested CPI leader and former legislator, Mr. Narayan Reddy, who is supporting our movement. We fear that the arrest of emerging leaders, to make it a leaderless struggle and weaken our movement” Voicing his concern for the critically injured, Patnaik said that, “There is a dire need of medical intervention here as people, especially women, are still struggling for survival in the absence of any government or non-government medical help as there is a strong fear that they will be arrested.”
All the above developments are in line with the entire trajectory of the POSCO project, which has been mired in all sorts of illegal actions over the past six years. Three separate government-appointed committees that investigated various aspects of the POSCO project found that the state and central governments are robbing people’s land in violation of the Forest Rights Act; an official enquiry found that the environmental clearance process was ‘farcical'; and independent economists have established that there is no benefit from this project to the State or the Indian economy.
[Source – Newzfirst]