The agitation by the people in different corners of Orissa against displacement received a shot in the arm at a rally here on Saturday with many social activists and leaders of movements against acquisition of land for industries joining hands to continue their struggle unitedly in the days to come.
Those who addressed thousands of villagers said they would not allow the Naveen Patnaik government to hand over vast areas of agricultural land to companies such as Posco-India and Vedanta Group. “Vikas namare vinas leela chaliba nahinh (destruction in the name of development will not be allowed),” said noted social activist Medha Patkar.
Ms. Patkar said people were not ready to hand over their precious land for industries as those ventures would not help them in any manner and leave them branded as “displaced.”
The State governments should stop acquiring land for different companies under force or pressure. Mega industries were not generating employment and were adversely affecting agriculture and livelihood sources, Ms. Patkar added. This pushed farmers to suicide.
She also pooh-poohed the Orissa government’s claim that their rehabilitation and resettlement policy was one of the best in the country. “How can we believe Naveen Patnaik when many of the oustees of Hirakud dam have not been rehabilitated till date,” she asked.
Like all the speakers at the rally, Ms. Patkar said the agitation against Posco steel plant project and proposed Vedanta University would continue. The State government had blatantly violated the law to hand over more than 6,000 acres of land for the university project near Puri, she said.
Thousands of men and women facing displacement in the villages along the State’s coastline for the proposed steel plant of Posco-India and Vedanta University joined the rally which was named Prakruti O Sanskruti Suraksha Mahasamaveshh.
They began their week-long padayatra from the Dhinkia gram panchayat in neighbouring Jagatsinghpur district where Posco-India was planning to set up its 12-million tonne capacity steel mill along with a captive port.
At Beladala, the residents welcomed the rallyists. Beladala is one of the many villages where people fear displacement owing to the proposed world-class Vedanta University being promoted by Aneel Agarwal Foundation.
Vedanta University was the other name of Vedanta Aluminium Limited and Sterlite that were out to run an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district of the State and mine bauxite from Niyamgiri hills affecting the interests of the members of the local Bonda tribe, Ms. Patkar said. The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti and Vedanta Vishwavidyalaya Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti organised the rally.