The POSCO project in Odisha, India: Against all odds, a struggle continues

STEELY DETERMINATION: A June 2011 picture of villagers protesting against the acquisition of their land for the proposed Posco steel plant, in Jagatsinghpur. Photo: AP

June 21, 2012

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3555520.ece?homepage=true

Today marks seven years of protests against the Posco project

June 22 marks the seventh year of the struggle against the Posco project in Odisha. It was on this day in 2005 that the Odisha government and the South Korean steel company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for what was stated to be the single biggest case of foreign investment in the country. Though the government has acquired over 2,000 acres of land for the plant, and Posco has set up a small office at the site, the project itself has been unable to take off, stalled by people’s protests against the displacement from land and livelihoods that it will cause.

The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which spearheads the struggle, will mark the anniversary with protest meetings in Jagastsinghpur district where the company plans to locate its $12 billion plant. The Samiti has appealed to “freedom lovers,” human rights groups, Dalits, fishing communities and indigenous people all across India to demonstrate their solidarity against the “corporate invasion” of their lands.

Cases filed against protesters

Over the last seven years, the protestors have had to pay a heavy price for their opposition to the project. Several leaders of the movement have been jailed.

The people of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujung — the three gram panchayats that have fiercely fought off efforts by the Odisha government and Posco project to acquire land for the project — say paid goons have unleashed a reign of terror. And hundreds of cases, most of them fabricated, according to villagers, have been filed against them. Continue reading

India: Sanhati Statement condemning the state’s attack on the leaderships of people’s resistances

December 4, 2011

by Sanhati Collective

We strongly condemn the Indian government’s attempts to suppress the various peoples’ movements across the country against the exploitation, oppression and state-sponsored corporate plunder, by attempting to decapitate their leaderships. This seems to be the preferred policy, after having failed to throttle these movements by letting loose repression on the people.

On November 24, Koteswara Rao, alias Kishenji, one of the senior-most politburo members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is involved in an armed resistance movement across India, especially in the adivasi (indigeneous people)-populated forested regions, has been killed by security forces in the state of West Benga in what is increasingly evident as a fake encounter. Such extrajudicial killings to liquidate the top leadership of the Maoist movement seem to be the preferred solution of the government to neutralize this “threat”. The Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, has clearly stated that specific targeting of the Maoists’ leadership is the main task for tackling this insurgency, which has been repeatedly described by the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh (the architect of the neoliberal reforms which have devastated the Indian poor over the last two decades) as the “biggest internal security threat” to the Indian state. That this is in direct contravention of clear directives laid down by the National Human Rights Commission and judgements by various state high courts and the Supreme Court, seems to be of no consequence to this government which hypocritically empahsizes about the “rule of law”. Such extrajudicial killings, which have become the routine practice of the Indian state in countering resistances, are also in violation of the1949 Geneva conventions relating to armed conflict to which India is a signatory. It is even more reprehensible that the murder of Kishenji was committed while his party was trying to initiate talks with the West Bengal state administration via government-appointed interlocutors and had in fact earlier offered a period of cease-fire which the state failed to respond to. The deceptive nature of the state is borne out by the fact the West Bengal chief minister had been publicly maintaining that no operations of the joint forces were being conducted and was urging the interlocutors to proceed with the negotiations. This incident reminds us of the killing of Azad, the spokesperson of the CPI(Maoist), by the Andhra Pradesh police last year when he was similarly trying to initiate talks with the central government. These killings are therefore indicative of the fact that the state apparatus floats the possibility of such negotiations as a counterinsurgency measure in order to track and liquidate the leadership.

The armed resistance movements are not the only ones in the line of fire of the central and various state governments. Just as the news of the killing of the CPI(Maoist) leader was coming in, the Orissa police suddenly arrested Abhay Sahoo, the leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), during the evening of 25th November. For the last six years, the PPSS has been leading the peaceful resistance of the villagers in coastal Orissa against the proposed multi-billion dollar steel plant of the Korean multinational POSCO. This project has received clearance from the Environment Ministry in a grossly illegal manner, in direct violation of the Forest Rights Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment notification, despite two of the Ministry’s own inquiry committees’ recommendations that the granting of such a clearance would be a crime. While the matter is still being heard in court, and the people of the villages are bravely resisting the attempts of the government to forcibly occupy their lands, this arrest of the PPSS leader is a direct attempt by the state to break down the movement by robbing it of its leadership, as a precursor to unleashing the state forces on the villagers in an attempt to deprive them of their lives and livelihoods.

The killing of Kishenji and the arrest of Abhay Sahoo makes it evident that the Indian state is finding it increasingly difficult to suppress the spectrum of resistance that has developed against its neoliberal policies, with the multinational corporations becoming increasingly impatient in their wait for the promised lands and resources. Therefore it has adopted the policy of annihilating the leadership of these movements by killing or imprisoning the leaders. It is of no consequence whether the movements are armed or unarmed; it appears that the Indian state’s only response to them is repression and more repression. What the rulers of India, and the corporate interests they serve, do not realize is that this would just make the struggling people of India more resolved in their resistance and could also result in increased violence across the country.

We demand that the government immediately stop its ill-advised moves to annihilate or imprison the leaders of the peoples’ struggles that are going on in India, as a part of its security operations to crush these movements that are based on the peoples’ genuine aspirations toward a better life and for protecting their lives and livelihoods. We demand the immediate release of Abhay Sahoo, and the withdrawal of the trumped up charges against him. We also demand that the countrywide operations of the security forces going on in the name of Operation Green Hunt be immediately stopped as this is bringing untold misery to the lives of the most deprived and marginalized sections of the Indian population.

India: Maoists respond to new Indian state offensive

[The Indian mass media dutifully reports the government and police announcements.  Frontlines here posts an Indian TV report, followed by an article from The Times of India, (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-06-14/india/29656088_1_narayanpur-maoist-hit-states-chhattisgarh-orissa).  Following these, we post a detailed statement from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) responding to the same events. — Frontlines ed.]

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Orissa govt seeks Centre’s help to counter Maoists

New Delhi, June 15 (ANI): Orissa Government has sought from Home Ministry additional security personnel to counter Maoist menace in the state. After his meeting with the Home Minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi on Tuesday, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that the state needs additional security force to deal with increasing Maoist attacks.

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Anti-Maoist ops on Chhattisgarh-Orissa border to be intensified

Vishwa Mohan, TNN Jun 14, 2011

NEW DELHI: As naxals intensified their attack in Chhattisgarh killing 18 security personnel in three separate incidents last week, the Centre will hold a special meeting here on Tuesday to discuss ‘counter-offensive’ measures with the state chief minister Raman Singh and his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik.

The meeting, to be chaired by the Union home minister P Chidambaram, will discuss how both the states can further intensify operations against left wing extremists along the Orissa-Chhattisgarh border in a much more coordinated manner.

An official said, “Though we have had instances of naxal attacks in Dantewada and Narayanpur last week, Chhattisgarh has eliminated a number of Maoists in the past couple of months during joint operations. The need of the hour is to further intensify it, taking help from bordering states.”

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COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA (MAOIST)

CENTRAL COMMITTEE

Press Release

June 15, 2011

Fight back the new state offensive in Chhattisgarh and Odisha
as part of Operation Green Hunt – Phase II!

Any fascist offensive aimed at looting this country is bound to be defeated by the courageous resistance of the self-respecting people of India!

On 14-06-2011 the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had a high level meeting with the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Odisha and announced a new brutal offensive in these two states to contain ‘Left Wing Extremism (LWE)’. In the guise of his oft-repeated two-pronged mantra of ‘development and police action’, the HM promised full support of the centre for these states in their cruel offensive and egged them on to go ahead in full swing. Naveen Patnaik, the blood-thirsty CM of Odisha whose hands are already stained with the blood of hundreds of people of Odisha offered as human sacrifices for this ‘God of development’ right from Kalinga Nagar to Niyamgiri is now asking for helicopters to bomb the hapless adivasis. Raman Singh who would perhaps go down in history as the saffron fascist who sounded the death knell for one of the most ancient inhabitants in the world in Bastar, tried to cover up his growing alarm at the increasing heroic armed resistance of the people in his state with high-sounding rhetoric on how to go about decimating Maoists. A few days back in the first week of June (within a  week of  another meeting with the chief ministers of ‘Maoist affected’ states led by the PM and HM) an announcement had already been made by the AP and Odisha governments that a three-month long big offensive is ready to be launched on Andhra-Odisha Border region (AOB) to decimate the Maoists there. They announced that they would use modern technology and new methods and tactics of attacking utilizing ‘water, air and land’. They said paratroopers may also be used. And now the whole country knows that the army had already been deployed in Chhattisgarh under the pretext of ‘training’. Continue reading

Orissa, India: Odisha Police arrest 17 people for opposing land acquisition for Posco Project

OrissaDiary.com, Friday, June 03, 2011

Report by Orissa Diary correspondent; Jagatsinghpur: At least 17 persons including PS member, Female arrested for obstructing land acquisition for proposed Posco Project and they have been released from Kujanga Police Station. On the other hand 41 bittlevine farm has been demolished and compensation paid Rs 66 lakh .

As per the information the Police arrested PS member Basudev Behera, Jagu Behera,Fagu Behera, Rangadhar Behera, Sachikanta Mohapatra, Gyan Mohapatra, Sarat Mohapatra, Laxmi Mohapatra, Charu Mohapatra, Beena Mohapatra, Sabita Mohapatra, Rashmi Ranjan Mohapatra, Harihar Behera, nakula Behera, Manoranjan Mohapatra, Meera Behera etc 17 persons were arrested for obstructing land acquisition. Latter they have been released from Kujanga Police Station.

On the other hand POSCO Pratirodha Sangram Samiti in a statement alleges that on 3rd June 2011 (today), at around 9 am, the Odisha police and administration have brutally beaten villagers of Nuagoan who opposed the forceful acquision of their land to be handed over to the POSCO Company. Basu Behera, the Panchayat Samiti member of Gadkujang Panchayat and vice President of PPSS (POSCO Pratirodha Sangram Samiti) bled owing to the attack. The police destroyed their betel vines.

17 people including women and 6 children (5-12 years old) have been arrested. Police platoons, numbering about 20, are creating an atmosphere of fear to terrorise and force us to obey their dictates. Now the police is threatening, by using loud speakers, that if the villagers do not leave their betel vines voluntarily, then force will be used indiscriminately to destroy them. The administration incited pro-POSCO people to burn down the betel vines of Natha Samal, PPSS member from Nuagaon village.

Orissa, India: Villagers erect barriers back at Posco site

Villagers of Dhinkia in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa, stand behind the bamboo barricades. Telegraph picture

MANOJ KAR, The Telegraph, Calcutta

Paradip, Feb 2: Makeshift bamboo gates are back in villages that lie on the site for the proposed Posco project. Registering their protest against conditional clearance accorded to the Posco project, villagers today erected barrier gates at six places in Jagatsinghpur district’s Dhinkia gram panchayat, which falls in the steel plant’s area.

Pro-plant activists and government officials, however, said areas where villagers are for the project — in Gadakujang and Nuagaon gram panchayat — there would be little hurdle before the steel plant.

Yesterday, protesters participating in a rally had vowed to stop government officials, police and Posco personnel from gaining access to the villages earmarked for the steel plant.

“This is our final phase of resistance against the South Korean steel project. People here will call off the movement only if the government shifts the project from this fertile land,” said Sisir Kumar Mahapatra, a prominent anti-plant leader and sarpanch of Dhinkia gram panchayat. Continue reading

Orissa, India: 1000’s protest govt approval of POSCO steel plant and displacement of villagers

 

Agitation against Posco in Orissa, last May

May 18, 2010–Shooting at locals to help a foreign multinational set up its plant, that spells disaster.  1500 villagers who have fought the POSCO project for years,  felt the force of the Orissa police  as they staged a protest against the Posco project. It seems like a repeat of Singur.

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The anti-displacement struggle against POSCO gathers new intensity this week.  See the following articles about the protests and resistance.

12 February, 2011-Villagers attend a protest at Balitutha, about 120km from Bhubaneswar yesterday against India’s approval of Posco’s plans to build a steel plant in Orissa

Reuters / Bhubaneshwar February 2, 2011
Posco steel project in Orissa
Nearly 3,000 people held noisy protests on Tuesday against India’s approval of South Korean Posco’s plans to build a steel plant in Orissa, underlying the problems that have delayed the mill for years.

Police said men, women and children marched to the site of the proposed $12 billion plant waving placards saying Posco’s plans would disrupt their betel leaf plantations and forest-based livelihoods.While the protests are not likely to force a reversal of the government approval given on Monday, they could make it difficult for authorities to begin acquiring land for the plant that has been a test case for India’s investment climate.

“Posco go back,” protesters shouted, according to witnesses.

“Shame on Jairam Ramesh, shame on Naveen Patnaik,” they shouted, referring to the environment minister and the state’s chief minister respectively. Continue reading

Update on the people’s struggle against South Korea’s POSCO steel project

POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), Nov 11th 2010

POSCO, a large corporation, wants to invest in the mining industry in Orissa (India) and build a steel plant, captive power station and port in Erasama block of Jagatsinghpur district – people’s protest intensifies.

Police oppressionPolice at the 1st April, 2008 rally

A Note of POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsa Samiti ( PPSS), Jagatsinghpur, Odisha

A Brief Background:

On June 22 2005, Pohang Steel Company (POSCO), a large South Korean corporation, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Orissa in eastern India. This MOU outlined POSCO’s proposal to invest in the mining industry and build a steel plant, captive power station and port in Erasama block of Jagatsinghpur district.

For the last five years, people living in the villages of the proposed site under the banner of POSCO Pratirodh Sanghrsa Samiti (Anti-POSCO People’s Movement) have been relentlessly protesting against the land acquisition process. More than 4000 families totaling a population of 30,000 will be affected by the project. These include all those persons directly dependant on the betel vine cultivation, pisiculture, cashew nut cultivation, and fishing in the Jatadhari Muhana (estuary) where the port has been proposed.

Another 20,000 people from Erasama, Tirtol, and Kujang block will be affected if the port comes up at Jatadhari. Loss of self-sustained and thriving local economy, of livelihood and of an entire way of life is the major concern on which the local resistance to the project is based. Continue reading