Armed policemen accompanying officials return to their makeshift camps

As the agitation continued to intensify over the Posco steel project, the Jagatsinghpur district administration on Tuesday did not acquire any land for the venture but continued the construction of a boundary wall on the land acquired earlier.

While senior leaders belonging to the Opposition Congress and the Communist Party of India visited the agitating villagers who have been demanding shifting of the project site, residents of Noliasahi hamlet opposed to tree felling in the area selected for the project and people from Nuagaon and Gadakujang gram panchayats opposed construction of the boundary wall.

A large number of armed policemen who accompanied the officials returned to their makeshift camps when people blocked the roads and said they would not allow any work on the project until they were paid adequate compensation and assured jobs in the proposed steel mill. The attempts by the administration officials to pacify the villagers failed.

Hundreds of residents of Balisahi hamlet strongly opposed the felling of over 1000 trees in the area and detained senior administration and police officials on Monday.

Opposition Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan, the former Congress legislator Umesh Swain and senior CPI leader Narayan Reddy were among those who visited the agitators, including hundreds of men, women and children from Gobindpur and Dhinkia villages on a dharna for the past three weeks opposing the project.

Mr. Harichandan criticised the Naveen Patnaik government for going ahead with the project work by deploying about 20 platoons of police in and around the project area.

The Congress legislators would raise the issue in the next Assembly session, Mr. Harichandan said.

Meanwhile, Chief Secretary B.K. Patnaik claimed in Bhubaneswar that the Jagatsinghpur district administration was making attempts to carry out land acquisition in a peaceful manner.

The State government has so far not been able to renew the memorandum of understanding that it had signed with Posco for the establishment of the steel project. The MoU had expired in June last year.