A four-member fact-finding team of Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan, Odisha visited Gadakujanga, Dhinkia, Noliasahi and Govindapur villages of Jagatsinghpur district on 19th November 2019. The government of Odisha is handing over the land already acquired for POSCO to Jindal Steel Works Ltd for setting up of a steel plant (13.2MTPA capacity), Cement plant (10MTPA), Power plant (900MW) and a port (52MTPA). The POSCO left the place because of the strong resistance of affected villagers. But the government is stubborn enough to hand over the land to yet another corporate body. This is perhaps first such example in the country.
When the team met village leaders, movement activists, villagers and women, all of them expressed their resentment and desire to oppose the company. That was reflected also in action when they narrated how they stopped the work of Jindal employees in Gadakujanga village. The employees were preparing the ground for the public hearing. The public hearing was scheduled to be on 21st of November. Meanwhile, the district administration rescheduled it to 20th December on the plea of ongoing ‘session of Odisha legislative assembly’. The villagers feel that the government shifted the date due to the resistance at Gadakujanga village.
All the villagers the team met are unaware of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Jindal project. The administration has only fixed up notice at Panchayat office for the public hearing and some company persons are moving in the areas inviting villagers to come for the public hearing to make the hearing success. Entire Odisha coast has been cyclone prone and this project would will cause further damage to the ecology. Another port at the mouth of Jatadhara to be built by Jindal would cause flooding of the area belonging to upper part of the river. 250 villagers of Noliasahi who are coming inside the JSW port (as per the map) project would be rendered homeless.
People of the area, even today, have their betel vines, cashew and mango orchards over that 2950 acres of forest land. Hence, they enjoy primary rights as per Forest Rights Act 2006. Besides, the private land owners whose land was occupied by IDCO for POSCO project are entitled to get back those land under the Land Acquisition Act 2013. Because that land remained unutilized for long five years. Instead, the government is handing over both private land as well forest land to the Land Bank formed under Land Acquisition Rules, 2016. This is in violation of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 and is also against the Singur judgment given by the Supreme Court. On 6th December 2017 the villagers of Govindpur have already passed resolution in Gramsabha to return those land to its original owners as POSCO left.
We met 65 – year old Basudev Behera of Noliasahi village who is an example of harassment caused by the government, POSCO staffs and supporters of the project for his involvement in the anti-POSCO struggle. Near about 72 criminal cases have been filed against him accusing him of rape, murder, dacoit, arson, riot etc. Hundreds of villagers like him are appearing in court cases and incurring heavy expenses from their own income to meet legal expenses. Given the number of cases, an Additional District Judge court has been opened in Kujanga panchayat area which is itself a rare phenomenon in Odisha. Can we call it ` peaceful ‘development’ as the Chief Minister often says?
We demand:- a) The govt. should cancel JSW project b) Villagers should be provided forest patta under Forest Rights Act c) the government should withdraw all criminal cases filed during anti-POSCO struggle d) the government itself should provide literature in simple Odia language about the company’s project and its impact on people prior to the public hearing at any place e) public hearing should not be treated as just ‘consultation’ rather should be taking ‘consent’ of all members of the areas in Pallisabha and if required the government should amend Panchayati Raj act also.
General Secretary, GASS
Fact finding Team members: Swati Mishra, Gyanaranjan, Brajendra Mohanty and Deba Ranjan