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Welcome to the troubled Posco country

Last updated on: June 28, 2011 12:54 IST

Welcome to the troubled Posco country

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Work at the proposed Posco site in Jagatsinghpur district was stalled for the third consecutive day on Tuesday as locals staged a road blockade at a key junction demanding that their demands be fulfilled including enhanced compensation to land losers.

"People have blocked the road near Balisahi making it difficult for teams to proceed for boundary wall and rehabilitation colony construction. We are looking into the matter," Basudev Prodhan, Tahasildar of Kujang said.

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Image: Villagers and their children lie at the proposed site of a $12-billion steel plant by South Korea's Posco during a protest in Orissa on June 11.
Photographs: Reuters
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Balisahi junction is the place from where roads lead to Nuagaon and Dhinkia panchayts in the proposed Rs 52,000-crore (Rs 520 billion) Posco steel project near Paradip.

As a result of the blockade, armed police force were unable to proceed and are now staying near Mahabirpeetha of Nuagaon, about four km from Balisahi, sources said.

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Image: Villagers hold placards during a protest against Posco.
Photographs: Reuters
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In protest against felling of trees near Noliasahi-Polang area, slogan shouting United Action Committee activists were squatting on the road as a result of which force mobilisation in the area had turned out to be an Herculean task for the administration.

Construction work for boundary walls and rehabilitation colony and felling of trees in Noliasahi-Polang area, where the district administration claims to have acquired about 1800 acre land, remained affected due to road blockade by villagers and absence of deployment of armed police.

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Image: Farmers sort and arrange betel leaves on the doorstep of a house in Gobindpur village, about 75 km east of Orissa's capital Bhubaneswar.
Photographs: Reuters
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Though UAC happens to be a pro-project outfit, its activists and others in the area have been disrupting work saying the government was yet to meet their six-point charter of demands including proper rehabilitation of displaced people, enhanced compensation to land losers and job to one member from every affected family.

Police force was also unable to reach Dhinkia-Gobindpur area where anti-Posco activists under the banner of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) have been sitting on dharna.

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Image: A boy carries his baby brother in his arms at the entrance to their house in Gobindpur village.
Photographs: Reuters
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Earlier, on Monday, the Orissa government declared 'use of kids' in anti-Posco agitation as 'illegal' after redeploying force close to the dharna site at Gobindpur village, the entry point to Dhinkia area.

Armed police force which had been  withdrawn from near the dharna site last week, was again deployed as the state government decided to resume the land acquisition work for the Rs 52,000 crore (Rs 520 billion) project soon, they said.

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Image: A man walks past a Posco logo.
Photographs: Reuters
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"We have asked the agitators to clear the road to enable police and officials to move into Dhinkia area.

Preventing government officials from performing their duties is unlawful," Jagatsinghpur SP Devadutta Singh told PTI, adding that the protestors should respect law of the land.

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Image: Villagers attend a protest at Balitutha village.
Photographs: Reuters
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Chief secretary B K Patnaik said, "It is illegal to use children in the agitation."

Jagatsinghpur MP Bibhu Prasad Tarai, on the other hand, justified children's participation as "normal and legal". "No one has forced children to take part. As their parents are agitating, they come on their own," the MP said.

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Image: Villagers sit at the entrance to a house in Gobindpur.
Photographs: Reuters
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Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, however, dubbed the state government's move as "undemocratic" and "vulgar display of force". "Our people are  democratically  protesting at the Govindpur village border protesting the forceful land acquisition  for Posco," PPSS president Abhay Sahu said.

Holding Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik responsible for redeployment of force near the dharna site, the PPSS leader appealed to all to come to the rescue of the unarmed agitators.

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Image: An activist from the Socialist Unity Centre of India burns an effigy of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as others shout slogans during a protest.
Photographs: Reuters
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While hundreds of armed police were deployed near the dharna site to terrorise agitators, a separate police platoon (30 personnel) had entered into the village through the forest route to demolish betel vines, Sahu alleged.

Meanwhile, tension resurfaced over Posco land acquisition with redeployment of force near the dharna site.

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Image: A woman empties a bucket at a transit camp for villagers.
Photographs: Reuters
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The police through public announcement system asked the agitators to vacate the place and stop using children as "shield".

While the anti-project groups have stepped up their activities, the administration was forced to halt the ongoing work at Polang area for the second day at the project site in the face of agitation by pro-Posco people.

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Image: Children gather at the entrance of their thatched hut in Gobindpur village, which is one of several villages from which people will have to be relocated for the Posco plant.
Photographs: Reuters
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"We will also oppose the project if our six-point charter of demands are not fulfilled," said United Action Committee leader Tamil Pradhan.

Slogan-shouting youths, women and children marched to Noliasahi-Polang area in the Nuagaon panchayat where the boundary wall and rehabilitation colony were being built and demanded halting of work.

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Image: A woman sits on the ground at a transit camp for villagers who have been displaced in Jagatsinghpur district.
Photographs: Reuters
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Land acquisition has been 'temporarily halted' since June 21, while work on land already acquired was continuing.

Three vehicles being used for the work were forced by villagers to drive to Nuagaon as about 200 armed police deployed nearby did not intervene, Pradhan said.

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Image: A farmer arranges betel leaves in a basket.
Photographs: Reuters
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Additional District Magistrate, Paradip, Sarojkanta Choudhury said the agitation was unlawful as prohibitory orders were in force in the area.

The imposition of prohibitory orders were announced over public address system and the protesters asked to leave or face police action.

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Image: Children play a game of hopscotch on a grid drawn into the dirt in Gobindpur village.
Photographs: Reuters
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Soumendra Nayak, samiti member of the Nuagaon panchayat said since the government did not fulfil the six demands made by pro-Posco Unified Action Committee, people stopped the construction work.

The state BJP president Jual Oram visited the proposed plant site area and expressed  solidarity with the people agitating against the Posco project.


Image: A man is seen silhouetted through fabric as he constructs a temporary shelter at a transit camp.
Photographs: Reuters
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