Social activists decry involvement of police in the acquisition process

Support for the agitation against forceful land acquisition for the proposed mega steel plant project of Posco in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa grew larger on Monday, forcing the administration to refrain from acquiring any land during the day.

Many social activists, including Medha Patkar, Banwari Lal Sharma of Azadi Bachao Andolan, and noted Gandhian Amarnath Bhai, visited the agitating villagers at Govindpur village and raised their voice against the involvement of police in the land acquisition work.

The land acquisition officials and armed policemen returned from Balitutha, the main entry point into the area, following instructions from higher authorities not to carry out any more work for the day, official sources said.

Addressing the agitating villagers at a meeting organised by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, Ms. Patkar said heavy deployment of armed policemen in the area made it clear that the people of the locality were not in support of the project.

“CM must visit”

Ms. Patkar demanded that the State government withdraw police force from the area immediately, and that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visit the area and talk to the people, who were against handing over their land, homes and livelihood sources to make space for the steel plant.

“How can the State government go ahead with land acquisition for the company without considering the demands of the villagers,” she said.

About the controversy over involving children in the human chain made to prevent land acquisition, Ms. Patkar said they were very much of a part of the community that was facing displacement.

MoU not renewed

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Posco and the State government for the establishment of the project had expired last June, pointed out the speakers. The government has not been able to renew the MoU so far.

They also assured the agitating villagers that they would take up the issue at the national level and launch a movement against forceful land acquisition for projects.

Members of the United Action Committee staged a walkout at a meeting held between authorities and office-bearers, withdrawing support till their demands were met.