Over 300 anti-Posco activists detained in Orissa

April 1st, 2008 - 7:25 pm ICT by admin  


Bhubaneswar, April 1(IANS) Over 300 people were detained Tuesday after they reached the proposed plant site of South Korea steel major Posco in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district to join a rally against the project, an anti-Posco leader said. “The people were detained near Balia village, few kilometres from the Balitutha, where we are organizing a massive rally,” Abhaya Kumar Sahu, chairperson of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), told IANS.

“However, the detained people escaped the police custody and are on their way to join us in the rally,” said Sahu. He led a procession of 5,000-odd people from Dhinkia village, the epicentre of the anti-Posco movement, to Balitutha.

The protestors, including hundreds of women and children, raised slogans like “Go back Posco” and “We will not vacate our land”.

Local administration promulgated an order to prohibit assembly of four or more people at Balitutha that is considered as the entry point to the proposed site, some 120 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

But the PPSS announced it would hold the rally in the prohibited area Tuesday afternoon.

“People are coming in three big processions to the venue. The police obstructed two other processions. But these people broke the police cordon and are on their way to join us,” he said.

“The people detained are outsiders and from various parts of the state. We detained them, apprehending that they might go to the prohibited area,” said District Collector Pramod Kumar Meherda and added that about 50 people have been detained.

“We have not received any information about their rally. They have not taken any permission from the administration. However, anticipating trouble we deployed over 400 policemen around the prohibited area,” he said.

The world’s fourth largest steel maker signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to build a $12-billion plant near Paradeep port in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from here, by 2016.

Over 20,000 people from around 15 villages are 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.

Those opposed to the project said the plant would bring pollution, displace them and ruin their betel leaf farms. On the other hand, people supporting the project say it will bring economic activities to the region and generate employment.

The company needs 4,004 acres, 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 for using this forestland.

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

Posco earlier announced it would hold a ground-breaking ceremony for its plant, the largest foreign direct investment in India, at the proposed site April 1. However, it was postponed citing procedural delays in various sanctions.

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