The CPI today accused Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh of sacrificing the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 in order to safeguard the interests of the South Korean steel major Posco.

Reacting to the Ministry of Environment and Forest’s (MoEF) clearance to the State government’s proposal of forest land diversion for industrial use by Posco, CPI’s state secretary Dibakar Nayak alleged that the FRA passed in the Parliament, was a “victim”.

Both the Centre and the State governments have turned “predators” instead of being protectors of law of the land, CPI said in a statement adding Mr. Ramesh did not bother to institute an independent inquiry into the claim and counter- claims being made by the State government and the villagers led by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS).

“Mr. Ramesh cannot escape responsibilities of violation of law by stating that he trusted the State government’s versions,” Mr. Nayak said.

Claiming that provisions of FRA were being violated by Orissa government and the company, the Left party pointed out that two central panels - (NC) Saxena Committee and Meena Gupta Committee - had stated that there was gross violation of FRA at Posco’s proposed plant site villages.

Even though the people have already submitted their claims, maps, revenue records claiming that they had been living at the proposed plant site villages for over 75 years, Mr. Ramesh didn’t took them into consideration, Mr. Nayak alleged.

“CPI leaders during his (Mr. Ramesh) visit to Orissa two days ago had handed over a map showing that forest existed at the proposed plant site areas in 1928-29. How can a union minister violate law of the land,” he asked.

Mr. Ramesh also “ignored” the resolution of Palli Sabha (village council) while giving final clearance to the Posco project, CPI said announcing that it would support the people agitating against Posco.

Mr. Ramesh during his visit to Orissa last week had refuted allegations by the ruling BJD that he created hurdles before Posco project and said he was simply implementing the law of the land without any prejudice and bias.

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