Anti-Posco group slams Ramesh

June 12th, 2011 - 11:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Reacting to Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh’s concern over use of force against villagers opposing land acquisition in Orissa for the Posco steel project, a pressure group Sunday said that the minister should withdraw the illegal clearance given to the company.

Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) said: “The minister appealed to the Orissa government to respect ‘democracy and dialogue’ and refrain from coercion in taking over land.”

But “democracy and dialogue” were provided for in law, and specifically in the forest rights act, which said that forest land could not be taken away without the consent of the local community and without recognition of their rights, said Prashant Paikray, spokesperson, PPSS, leading a protest against the project.

The proposed $12 billion steel project by South Korean company Posco requires about 4,004 acres of land. Out of the land earmarked, 2,900 acres is forest land which if destroyed will deprive the villagers of their major source of income from the betel vines.

Ramesh called upon the Orissa government Sunday not to use force against the anti-Posco movement and said: “All parties should adhere to democratic norms and procedures… dialogue and discussion, not coercion, is as essential to ecological security as it is to democracy.”

The minister’s statement came a day after thousands of villagers intensified protest against the $12 billion steel project in Gobindpur village of Jagatsinghpur district and used hundreds of women and children as shields to prevent officials from acquiring their lands forcibly.

According to Paikray, the environment and forests ministry gave the land to Posco in violation of the law.

“If Jairam Ramesh and the central government believe in democracy and dialogue, let him withdraw his illegal clearance,” he said.

“It is the courage of our children which stopped them in their tracks. We reiterate neither we nor our children will give up our forests, our water or our lands,” he added.

Another group of activists, Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), also attacked Ramesh.

“He calls upon the Orissa government to not use force against the anti-Posco movement then why does he consistently break every law that requires dialogue and discussion? He wants to have his cake and eat it too,” said an official of CSD.

The process of land acquisition for the project was halted last year after the union environment and forest ministry asked the state to stop all work, including land acquisition, related to the project due to violation of the forest rights act.

The state government resumed the land acquisition recently after the environment ministry gave a final clearance to the project.

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