Protestors break police cordon, hold anti-Posco rally (Second Lead)

April 1st, 2008 - 7:56 pm ICT by admin  

Bhubaneshwar, April 1 (IANS) Hundreds of people broke through the police cordon Tuesday and attended a massive rally against the proposed plant site of south Korea steel major Posco in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district. The local administration had clamped orders prohibiting the assembly of four or more people at Balitutha that is considered to be the entry point to the proposed site. But the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), an organization fighting against the plant, conducted its rally there.

The protestors, belonging to various parts of Orissa, came to extend their support to the people of the area. They are protesting against the plant saying that they will lose their land and their betel leaf farming will be destroyed.

“Hundreds of people came from multiple directions to the prohibited site and held a grand meeting,” PPSS chairperson Abhaya Kumar Sahu told IANS.

In the procession, people carried bows, arrows, sticks and axes. They raised slogans like ‘Go back Posco” and “We will not vacate our land”. Women and children were at the front of the rally.

“Initially we detained at least 150 to 200 people at various entry points but later allowed them to participate,” District Collector P.K. Meherda told IANS.

“They came from multiple directions and we preferred not to stop them,” he said.

“We did this because we do not want any untoward incidents,” he said. “The protestors held the rally in a peaceful way in the prohibited area although they had not taken permission,” he added.

Posco had earlier planned to hold a ground-breaking ceremony for its $12-billion plant - the largest foreign direct investment in India - at the proposed site Tuesday. However, it was postponed last month due to procedural delays in various sanctions.

The world’s fourth largest steel maker signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to build the plant near Paradeep port in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from the state capital here, by 2016.

However, over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages have been protesting the project, saying that it would take away their homes and livelihoods. Posco says the plant would affect only 500 families but would create thousands of jobs.

The company needs 4,004 acres of land out of which 438 acres are in private hands. The state government said it had sought clearance from the central government so that it can hand over to the firm 2,900 acres that belong to the forest department. The company is awaiting clearance before it can use this forestland.

It is also waiting to get a prospecting licence for the Khandadhar mines in the state that will feed raw material to the plant.

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