We, academics from various universities and colleges across India, write to express our solidarity with the more than 600 colleagues from US universities who have demanded the withdrawal of your funds from POSCO.
It is our understanding that faculty from universities across the US have taken a public stance against the planned POSCO India project, and sought immediate divestment from the company on the grounds of human rights abuses, the certain destruction of a delicate ecological zone, and large scale subversion of law and procedure in securing approval for the project. We write to you from the midst of a crisis situation. Far beyond the concerns expressed by our US colleagues, the last eight weeks have seen armed police forcibly entering villages, burning crops and robbing people of their land and livelihood – all to secure land for a company that has violated every norm of ethical behaviour in securing project approval, even going to the extent of hiring goons to attack villagers peacefully protesting POSCO's depradations. We are sure you have seen much documentation already, but we want to remind you that the project will destroy the livelihoods of at least 50,000 forest dwelling peasants and coastal small boat fishermen, destroy a very sensitive sand dune system along the coastline- a unique and critical coastal formation which serves as a natural defense against hurricanes. Three national Federal laws - the Forest Rights Act, the Coastal Regulation Zone Act and the Environmental Protection Act - have all been blatantly violated, not to mention administrative procedures. We see this as an ethical failure on your part to have facilitated this situation where the hard earned monies of ordinary workers and retirees in countries far away from India are being used to promote the destruction of livelihoods and eco systems here in India. Just as we would not want our retirement monies to destroy anything in your country, so also we are confident that your subscribers would not want to be linked to a company such as POSCO. POSCO's conduct in India is not unique. It has a similarly dismal record in other countries, most notably in Burma (Myanmar) .
We know that it is certainly not a lack of information that is holding you back in coming to a decision. Therefore, we are writing to impress on you that the situation in Orissa is dire. The level of daily violence is unacceptable. The villages in question are under siege. More than a thousand villagers are being harassed on a daily basis with fraudulent cases and arrest warrants against them. People needing medical attention are unable to leave the village because of fear of arrest and isolation. The local economy is being systematically choked. We are convinced that each one of these facts meets the standards for action required by your own internal guidelines as well as PRI guidelines that you are a signatory to. Taken together, these violations should leave no doubt in your mind that immediate action needs to be taken against POSCO. Not making an immediate and public statement would simply demonstrate that your real standards for action are not what you have claimed them to be.
As a pension fund bound to a code of ethics, you have a historic opportunity, through immediate action on POSCO, to demonstrate your commitment to socially responsible investment. We hope you will not shirk this responsibility and opportunity.
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