Anti-Posco leaders win local body polls in Orissa

May 6th, 2009 - 7:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, May 6 (IANS) Two leaders of the protest movement against a proposed steel plant being set up by South Korean steel major Posco in Orissa Wednesday won the local body elections held in the region Tuesday, officials said.
The election in Dhinkia panchayat, the centre of the anti-Posco struggle in Jagatsinghpur district, was postponed in 2007 after clashes between supporters of the project and those opposed to it.

The election was conducted Tuesday and, as per the results declared Wednesday, Sisir Mohapatra and Prakash Jena were elected as the sarpanch (village head) and Panchayat Samiti (committee) member, respectively.

Mohapatra is the secretary of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), an organisation that has been campaigning against the project.

Jena is also a PPSS leader and has been languishing in a jail for the past seven months. He was arrested on charges of attacking supporters of the plant.

Police have registered 132 cases related to anti-Posco violence in the region against 450 activists, including Mohapatra and Jena.

“My first priority is to drive out Posco from our region,” Mohapatra said after being elected.

“The election of two of our leaders is the verdict against the company. It will strengthen our agitation against Posco,” PPSS spokesman Prasant Paikray told IANS.

Posco, one of the world’s biggest steel makers, signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to set up the plant near the port town of Paradeep in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from here by 2016.

There has been no significant progress on the project, the largest foreign direct investment in India, since then due to local opposition.

Over 20,000 people from around 15 villages including Dhinkia, Gada Kujanga and Nuagaon are protesting the project, saying it will displace them and ruin their betel leaf farming.

Posco, however, says the proposed plant would affect only 500 families but it would create thousands of jobs.

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