It has been decided to organise a rally at Balitutha on March 13
At a time when the State government was preparing to renew the Memorandum of Understanding that it had signed with POSCO for the establishment of a 12-million tonne capacity steel mill, the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti has announced to organise a rally at Balitutha, the main entry point to the area chosen for the steel mill, on March 13.
The PPSS has been strongly opposing land acquisition for the proposed steel project since long on the ground that it would adversely affect thousands of families in the gram panchayats of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang under Erasama Block of Jagatsinghpur district.
The outfit has announced a series of programmes to intensify its agitation against displacement after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests granted conditional clearances to the proposed steel plant and captive port projects of POSCO on January 31 this year.
“The Ministry has cleared the project with 60 conditions. But merely imposing ‘conditions' will achieve nothing when the entire forest and environmental clearance process is illegal and the entire project itself will have serious impacts on environment and livelihood of local people,” says Prashant Paikray, spokesperson of PPSS, in a statement.
As regards to one of the conditions that the State government has to give an assurance that not a single person is entitled to benefits under the Forest Rights Act in the area earmarked for the steel mill project, and then only final forest clearance will be granted for the project, Mr. Paikray has expressed apprehension that the government will make all efforts to argue that there are no other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs) in the project area and no violation of Forest Rights Act 2006 has taken place.
“This is, however, quite incorrect and misleading information. The State administration has not been fair or democratic in implementing the Forest Rights Act. We have been living in these areas for ages and we all have documentary evidence in favour of the existence of tribals and OTFDs,” Mr. Paikray has claimed.
“We are apprehensive that the administration is all set to forcibly enter and acquire our land for POSCO. We have decided to continue and intensify our democratic struggle till the project site is withdrawn from the area,” he adds.
Leaders from different opposition parties are likely to join the March 13 rally at Balitutha to extend their support to the agitating villagers who are opposed to handing over their land and livelihood sources to make space for the proposed steel plant, according to Mr. Paikray.