Greetings from Anti- Jindal & Anti- POSCO Movement, Odisha, India!
Before I share developments in our area, let me share our grief that the Anti POSCO & Anti JINDAL movement lost a dear and most valuable friend of the movement KP Sasi. The protesting villagers will never forget his contribution and support. We offer deep condolences to his family and friends. We wish to remember his work throughout our struggle.
Our villagers living in Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gobindpur and Noliyasahi village of Ersama block in Jagatsighpur district are continuing their strong protest against the transfer of over 1,173.58 hectares of land to JSW Utkal Steel Ltd. After POSCO India fiasco which ended by 2015-2016, JSW Utkal Steel Ltd came with its proposal to build 13.2 MTPA crude steel, 900MW captive power and 10 MTPA cement along with 52 MTPA Captive Jetty at the same place.. This is happening without even any MoU signed between the government and the Jindal group.
The state government run by Mr. Nabin Pattnaik is using every possible means to break our unity and destroy the resistance. The police is acting in a biased and vindictive manner against the protesters and implicating us in false and fabricated cases.
The Police have turned 11 village of three Gram Panchayats ( Dhinkia, Nuagan, Gadakujanga) in to an open house jail in the last 12 months . Amidst rampant arrests and targeting of activists, residents are now fleeing the village and living in fear. Villagers are now fleeing the village in a bid to escape arrests, the crackdown is brutal. On 13.12.2022, our leaders Ms. Shanti Das, Mr. Abhaya Mallick, Mr.Dillip Kandi, Mr. Narayan Muduli, Mr. Hrudananda Rout, Mr. Megha Das were arrested arising due PS Case No 02/2022 u/s 323, 341, 294, 307, 506, 34, of IPC and 3(1-r), 3(1-s), 3(2-v), 3(2-va) of SC and ST Atrocity Act 1989. Mr. Nutan Das was arrested again on dated 13.12.2022 arising due PS Case No 144/2022 which was registered on dated 10.04.2022 u/s 341, 323, 294, 307, 353, 332, 34 and 506 of IPC. He was previously arrested on dated 11.04.2022 and released by Bail on 18.05.2022 for other cases. On 27th of December 2022, Mr. Ananta Swain of Dhinkia village was arrested. Mr. Debendra Swain, the leader of our movement is languishing in the jail. The police are threatening and beating up those who go out even for their daily work. Even today the police along with the administration are illegally cutting trees, forcibly destroying the betel vine plots, and demolishing the houses and asking people to sign on plain paper.
During the course of the last one year, the police have set up at least three camps in the region – with intent to attack protesting villagers and suppress the movement. Already over-60 arrests and releases of activists by bail has taken place over the last six months. There are estimated 80 criminal cases against a thousand people. This is aside from the over-400 allegedly fabricated criminal cases pending against 2,500 people during the Anti-POSCO Movement.
The activists like Ms. Medha Patekar, Mr. Prafulla Samantara of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) were stopped from visiting the site and taking up the issue with the locals. The company’s goons in connivance with the police forces are attacking villagers and unleashing a crackdown in a bid to benefit the company and take away the land of the community. This is not just a struggle for our land, but also simultaneously a battle for our survival and our livelihood.
The police, administration & project proponent (JSW) are illegally and forcefully demolishing the residential Houses and destroying the betel vineyards indiscriminately which are the only sources of livelihood of around 25,000 people residing in the area. The area has a sustainable, vibrant agricultural economy—and the government wants to destroy it by building a steel plant. The economy of the region is dependent on these betel vines which are sold to major cities. Also, the communities have been cultivating betel vines on forest land and their claims for titles were not settled.
The project also violates India’s legal frameworks. The non-compliance of the requirement of prior consent of the affected families under section 2(2) (b) [of the Land Acquisition Act] also renders the process of acquisition illegal and arbitrary. According to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013 “land acquired and possession taken over but not utilized within a period of five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert back to the original land owner.” Yet, ignoring this provision, the Odisha government on February 7, 2015 declared, “land acquired… but not utilized within a period of five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert back to the state and be deposited in the Land Bank automatically.”
According to the 2006 Forest Rights Act, industrial projects diverting protected forest resources need to secure the consent of the impacted communities, through resolutions taken in the Gram Sabhas (village councils). On several occasions the Gram Sabhas of Dhinkia and nearby villages have passed majority resolutions against any handover of their lands and community forest resources, which are key to sustaining their livelihoods and a healthy environment. These resolutions have been routinely disregarded. You may remember that three different official committees i.e., the Saxena Committee, the POSCO Enquiry Committee and the FAC found that the law was violated in the proposed POSCO area.
As most of the villagers belonged to the scheduled caste category as well, the state has a constitutional responsibility under Article 46 to promote and protect the economic and educational interest of SC and ST groups.
* The administration should take steps for immediate withdrawal of police force from Dhinkia area and ensure that normalcy is restored soon.
* The government should stop all types of repression on our people and withdraw all false and fabricated cases against our people.
* The government of Odisha must follow the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Singur issue in which the land of farmers bought for the Tata Nano plant was returned to them,
* Urgently process individual and community forest rights claims on land it had taken over for a POSCO project instead of transferring the land to a land bank.
* Declare that there is no provision under law or under any act which provides for land acquisition for any land bank for any purpose. Thus the land must return to the original inhabitants as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013.
* Ensure implementation of the judgment of NGT, Principal Bench, New Delhi dated 12- 07-2018 and remove any construction already made on the forest land.
* The government needs to replant the trees in our sensitive coastal areas where more than two lakh trees were indiscriminately cut down by the Government for POSCO.
* A committee consisting of sensitive jurists, human rights advocates, activists, ecologists and ecological economists should be formed to keep a watch on what the government is doing in our area to promote corporate interests at a huge cost to our native people and their permanent sources of livelihoods which are part of an ecologically sensitive coastal zone.
Hoping for your continues support and solidarity.
Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, Anti- Jindal & Anti-POSCO Movement, Odisha , India