Posco's Odisha project faces local ire
Slamming the Odisha government's claim that land acquisition for the proposed Posco project near Paradip was complete, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) said demolition of betel vines did not mean taking over possession of farmers' land.
The government demolished 488 betel vines at Gobindpur of which 150 were broken by using force. These people have not received compensation, said Sisir Mohapatra, PPSS secretary and Sarpanch of Dhinkia Gram Panchayat.
Mohapatra, who is leading the anti-Posco stir after the arrest of PPSS president Abhay Sahu, said the farmers would continue their stir against the South Korean steel major. Mohapatra said PPSS would not allow the state government and Posco to enter Dhinkia, considered as strategic for the proposed steel project.
"Unless they get Dhinkia, Posco cannot construct coastal road and therefore may not operationalise its SEZ," Mohapatra pointed out.
Jagatsinghpur district collector S K Mallick had recently announced that land acquisition had been completed with the government taking possession of 2,700 acres. Altogether 1,116 betel vines were dismantled and Rs 16 crore (Rs 160 million) paid as compensation for betel vines, Rs 1.15 crore (Rs 115 million) for farm land, Rs 1.10 crore (Rs 110 million) and Rs 3.50 crore (Rs 350 million) for tree felling respectively.
Denying any use of force, the district collector said on wednesday that land was acquired only from the people who were willing.
Besides, he assured that those who lost their betel vines and labourers working there would be paid Rs 4,500 and Rs 2,250 per month respectively till permanent solution for their rehabilitation was worked out.
Junking government claims, Communist Party of India leader Ramakrushna Panda claimed the locals have not been given adequate compensation.
The paltry compensation given for betel vines and prawn pond failed to satisfy the people facing displacement, he said, adding, the people who are said to be supporting the project are gradually becoming opponents.
Resentment is also brewing over the fact that instead of employing locals, peripheral development work has been entrusted to outsiders.
Even though the district collector said that Posco would complete paying compensation money to those affected by the first phase of land acquisition by August 20, list of those affected in the second phase was yet to be prepared.
The locals now believe that they have been taken for a ride by the government. Several project supporters have also toughened their stand on issues relating to compensation, re-settlement and rehabilitation as well as peripheral development.
While signing MoU with the state government in 2005, Posco-India had sought 4,004 acre of land for setting up a 12 mtpa steel mill, but later it agreed to scale down the capacity to 8 mtpa for the land requirement was 2,700 acre.