Amid the intensifying protests against land acquisition by South Korean company Posco in Jagatsinghpur, Orissa, the resistance got some praise during a debate on “The Posco Betrayal”, which was held here on Sunday.
Sharing his experiences of being part of the Independent Investigation Committee that reviewed POSCO clearances, general secretary of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) V. Suresh criticised the Orissa Government, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and POSCO for their “bureaucratic behaviour”.
“Jugglery of facts” was one method by which they had gained clearance for their steel plant project, he alleged and dubbed the history of the project as “a story of betrayal by technocratic, educated people”. Referring to the working of the committee, Mr. Suresh spoke about the Environment Ministry's initial ignorance of water resources required by the steel plant.
Calling the resistance movement by the agitators “a very unique people's struggle for the past five-and-a-half years”, Mr. Suresh clarified that the primary issue that the Posco committee tackled with was the Forest Rights Act, which were “purposely ignored”. He urged the people from Karnataka “to be on guard”, saying that “many similar projects were looming on Karnataka”.
Also present at the discussion was environmentalist Leo Saldanha, who released his book “Tearing through the Water Landscape”. Mr. Saldanha spoke about the socio-communal problems faced by the agitating tribal people of Orissa, saying the Posco project “raised issues far beyond land, about assets”.
He suggested that the common masses should join in the protest against the “politics of land grab” and praised the movement, calling it “inspirational with a sharp sense of justice”.