Anti-POSCO protesters burn effigy of officials

April 15th, 2011 - 11:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, April 15 (IANS) Anti-POSCO villagers in Orissa Friday burnt an effigy of district officials and a copy of the letter the state government sent to the central government saying there were no forest dwellers in the area where the South Korean steel major’s proposed $12 billion project will come up.

Men and women took out separate processions and assembled at Patana village, the central place of the proposed site, protesting the state government for furnishing “false” information to the union environment and forests ministry April 8 that there were no tribal or traditional forest dwellers in the site.

Carrying posters and banners, the members of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which has been spearheading the movement against the project, shouted anti-government slogans and burnt effigies of the district collector, local block development officer and set fire to the copy of the state government letter.

Addressing the gathering, senior PPSS leaders blamed the state government for sacrificing the interest of the local residents. They also said at least 22 members of seven tribal families have been residing since generations at Polang -a village located on the proposed site.

Sisir Mohapatra, an anti Posco leader said he is having a revenue map of 1928 in which the area was identified by the government as a forest land and inhabited by traditional forest dwellers.

Police said the protests were peaceful

The union environment and forests ministry January granted conditional clearance to the project to be built near the port town of Paradip in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from Bhubaneswar.

While granting approval, the ministry had asked the state government to give a categorical assurance that no traditional forest dwellers are dependent on or cultivating land in the project area.

The state government had reiterated in its reply that there were no tribal inhabitants or other traditional forest dwellers in the proposed site of the project.

Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh Thursday however rejected the argument and asked the state government to re-examine the claim made by the local residents.

“The state government for the third time provided false information to the centre,”PPPS spokesman Prasant Paikray told IANS.

“We have already produced evidences that the area is inhabited by other forest dwellers but the state government was not ready to accept it. The government of India may or may not grant approval to the project, but as far as we are concerned, our protest against the project will continue,” he said.

The integrated steel, mining and port project - touted as the biggest foreign direct investment in the country - has been mired in controversy ever since it was mooted.

While thousands of people who are protesting against it saying it will displace them from their homeland and ruin their farm based economy, the state government has been accused of pushing the project violating rules.

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