The agitation against the steel plant project of Posco-India got a shot in the arm with senior leaders of six Opposition parties joining hands with the villagers of three gram panchayats in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district on Wednesday.
Addressing hundreds of men and women who gathered here under the banner of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, Communist Party of India general secretary A.B. Bardhan condemned the May 15 police action against the agitators and demanded shifting of the project to some other location.
It was at Balitutha, the main entry point to the three gram panchayats of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang, the site selected for the proposed steel plant, that hundreds of armed policemen resorted to lathicharge and firing on May 15 to chase away agitators who were on a dharna.
“If the State government further uses force against the villagers who have been peacefully opposing the project for the past five years, the agitation will only grow stronger,” Mr. Bardhan said.
“If Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wants to set up the Posco steel plant at any cost, he should choose an alternative site,” Mr. Bardhan said, urging the villagers to continue their movement in a peaceful way.
Mr. Bardhan said the State government should hold a dialogue with the protesters to resolve the issue.
The CPI leader questioned a South Korean company's plan to set up a captive port near the proposed steel plant saying it would have an adverse impact on the existing Paradip Port. He opposed the State government recommendation to the Centre to grant the captive mining lease to Posco for sourcing iron ore.
Leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Forward Bloc, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha addressed the agitators.
President of the Sangram Samiti Abhay Sahoo warned State government to stop using the police against the people who were facing displacement and loss of livelihood sources. “Posco can never establish the project in this area as people were determined to make any sacrifice to save their land and homes from being taken over by the company,” he said.
Mr. Sahoo alleged that the State government had furnished wrong information to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on the forest land where hundreds of people had been living for generations together.
Of the 20,000-odd people living in the three gram panchayats, hundreds of families had been using the forest land for their livelihood.