The Union government on Sunday asked the Orissa government not to take precipitate action in the wake of a mass protest by locals against the land acquisition process launched at Govindpur village for the Posco steel plant.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement that coercion was not the way to resolve the crisis. He hoped that the Orissa government would adhere to democratic norms and procedures and acquire land only through peaceful and legitimate means.

Mr. Ramesh said dialogue was as essential to ecological security as it was to democracy.

He expressed his concern at the State acquiring land for the steel-cum-power-cum-port project of Posco on the basis of the environment clearance issued by his Ministry and asked it “not to use this clearance as a licence for forcible acquisition of land.”

The clearance was issued “after a great deal of thought and a careful balancing of various factors,” he said.

He opposed the use of the clearance process “to fight other battles that have to do with important issues such as land acquisition, compensation and livelihoods.”

Mr. Ramesh's caution comes in the wake of the State government deploying security forces in the area after declaring a three-tier human barricade ‘unlawful.'

Samiti criticises Minister

However, the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti lashed out at Mr. Ramesh for his statement, holding him directly responsible for the land given to Posco in utter violation of the Forest Rights Act.

The samiti demanded that Mr. Ramesh and the Central government withdraw the “illegal” clearance for the Posco project.

It said forest land could not be taken away without the consent of the community and without recognition of its rights.

The samiti also slammed the State government for breaking all laws to help Posco and laying a police siege on the people for two days.

It said the fight was for justice and democracy and for the future of “our” children. “We don't want to see them reduced to starvation and destitution, living from hand to mouth on daily wages, deprived of their entire future and livelihood by a criminal state.”

The samiti said the people would not give up their forests, water or land.

Vineyards being rebuilt

Special Correspondent writes from Bhubaneswar:

A day after the administration demolished many of their betel vineyards to acquire land for the plant in Jagatsinghpur district, villagers started rebuilding them on Sunday.

Three of the 26 vineyards destroyed were rebuilt. The rest would be rebuilt gradually, said the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.