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Rediff.com  » Business » Gong-beating at Posco to keep away land grabbers

Gong-beating at Posco to keep away land grabbers

October 26, 2010 10:55 IST

PoscoTwice everyday Dhinkia village in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district, which lies on the periphery of the proposed POSCO steel project site, reverberates to the sound of a beating gong which reminds residents of the land acquisition threat.

Though the fate of the Rs 51,000-crore (Rs 510-billion) project hangs in balance after a four-member Forest Advisory Council filed a split report on withholding environment clearance, people in this coastal village, the hotbed of the resistance movement, are worried about getting displaced.

The resistance movement has come to a halt pending a final decision on the fate of the integrated steel project, but the villagers are wary of the promoters gobbling up their homes and hearths.

"We simply cannot lower our guard. That is why we are continuing with the practice of gong-beating and night-long watch at entry and exit points of the village," Sisir Mohapatra, Sarpanch, Dhinika gram panchayat, said.

Abhaya Sahu, president of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samity, said people of villages adjoining the Posco site were very worried.

The spirited gong-beating is religiously performed every morning and evening ever since the day the state government inked a memorandum of understanding with the South Korean steel behemoth.

"It has become my daily routine. I march forward from one end of the village to the other beating the gong," Narahari Pradhan, a burly youth in his early 30s said.

Pradhan performs the task free of cost, saying it makes him proud to keep the people alert and vigilant.

Apart from the beating of the gong, villagers have volunteered to keep a night vigil to keep 'outsiders' at bay.

Gates have come up at the entry points to the village which are closed after sundown, another villager said.

He said the night vigil has yielded positive results recently.

"Two criminals, who robbed a bank in Paradip, had entered the village with of cash. Our night guards intercepted them and handed over the duo to the police."

The villagers' tight vigilance perhaps went a bit too far when they mistook a four-member South Korean civil society group, which wanted to gauge the people's mood for the project for study back in their country, for Posco officials scouting for land.

They were held back at the makeshift bamboo gates and sent away, the villagers said with a triumphant grin.

The biggest foreign direct investment in India has failed to get off the ground in the last five years, stumbling on the resistance movement and environment concerns.

The Forest Advisory Council, headed by former Union Environment Secretary Meena Gupta, was tasked to find out whether the mega project violated central Acts.

Three members of the central panel sought cancellation of the environment clearance granted to the steel plant and a captive port for illegalities, while Gupta took a dissenting view not willing to revoke the license.

A final decision will be taken by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

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