Members of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), however, said they would continue their agitation against ‘forcible’ land acquisition.
Villagers resisting setting up of mega steel plant by South Korean steel major POSCO cast their votes after a gap of nine years here on Thursday. They, however, sought to clarify that casting of votes should not be seen as softening of their stand on establishing a steel plant.
Members of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) said they would continue their agitation against ‘forcible’ land acquisition. But Jagatsinghpur district administration considers Dhinkia election a big success.
Despite technical glitch polling started around 8 a.m. Soon brisk polling was witnessed in two booths set up at Dhinkia primary school here. By noon, around 30 per cent voters had turned out to exercise their franchise. There are about 2771 enlisted voters in two booths.
Dhinkia was out of bounds for government agencies including police for past several years. Odisha government had signed a memorandum of understanding with POSCO on June 22, 2005 for setting up of 12 mtpa
capacity steel plant over 4004 acres of land at an estimated cost of Rs. 52,000 crore. Soon people started to agitate against the proposed plant alleging that the land acquisition would snatch away their sustainable livelihood.
The resistance at Dhinkia village was particularly very strong. People had even erected barricade and restricted entry of government officials into their village. For years, government employees including police could not access the village. On its part, police too had slapped several criminal cases against villagers for their reported involvement in violent movement against the steel plant.
Last election (2009), when people’s resistance to POSCO’s steel plant was at peak, a polling booth could not be set up at Dhinkia. Villagers were requested to cast their votes in a booth established at Trilochanpur, a few km away from Dhinkia. Many people did not come out of their village fearing arrests and could not vote. Villagers had last participated in 2005 panchayat election. Government did not notify 2012 panchayat election at Dhinkia due to troubled situation.
“This year, after district administration assured villagers, who are facing criminal charges for protesting setting up of steel plant near their village, that they would not be arrested, we allowed two booths in Dhinkia,” said PPSS President Abhaya Sahoo here.
Mr. Sahoo said, “participation of people in election should not be construed that we are ready to welcome establishment of steel plant. The struggle against forcible land acquisition will continue till the State government drops the idea of a steel plant on fertile land.”
Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi said polling in Dhinkia was peaceful and no untoward incident spoiled a new beginning.