Orissa villagers clash over POSCO steel plant

December 1st, 2007 - 12:57 pm ICT by admin  

Jagatsinghpur/Bhubaneswar (Orissa), Dec 1 (ANI): Orissas Jagatsinghpur District continues to simmer with protests over opposition to a proposed 12 billion dollar steel plant being planned by South Korean steelmaker POSCO.
The plant would be India’s single largest foreign investment project, but its take-off has been delayed by months of protests by villagers. Small clashes broke out between villagers in favour of the plant and those protesting in Jagatsinghpur District on Thursday, where authorities are planning to acquire the land for the project.
At least a dozen villagers were injured in the clash, forcing the State Government to deploy a large police force and intensify patrols.
Those backing the setting up of the plant blamed the opposite camp for inciting violence.
“Those protesting against the steel plant blocked the village and did not allow us to go outside, they didn’t even allow us to go to the hospital. They crossed the limit and so our people decided to drive them out,” said Makardwaj Patra, an activist supporting POSCO.
Those opposed said the situation could go out of control if the State Government flexed its muscle to stifle the movement against POSCO.
“If the state government decides some political, forceful measures to enter inside then I cannot rule out that a greater Nandigram and Kalinganagar are going to happen. So the government should be cautious much before it takes any decision to allow the police to enter inside,” said Abhay Sahoo, an anti-POSCO activist.
State Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said efforts are on to end the impasse peacefully.
The state government and POSCO have said they are serious about pushing ahead with the project.
But villagers have erected barricades in the form of huge gates at several entry points to stop government and company officials from visiting the site.
Last month, armed protesters abducted four senior POSCO officials, including three South Koreans, when they were inspecting the plant site.
POSCO, world’s fourth largest steel maker, had signed a deal in June 2005 to set up a four-tranche 12 billion dollar steel project in India, marking what was billed the biggest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.
The company had announced it would start steel production in its plants in India by 2010.
The Orissa Government has granted POSCO mining lease rights for 30 years to supply a total of 600 million tonnes of iron ore to the new plant. The mining lease has been given in phases, depending on the progress of the plant.
The project also includes a dedicated port and power plant, iron mines, a hot-rolled coil mill and possible help to build railway lines between the mines and the plant. (ANI)

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